Mechanical engineering senior Katie Adams was in the fourth grade when her father took her to her first public policy debate. One of the main issues of the debate — school finance — was what drew her to the life of public policy. At that debate, she realized her cousins went to a worse school than she went to because of the district in which they lived.
“It was a really defining moment,” Adams said. “Up until that point, I assumed everyone’s experiences were identical to mine. It wasn’t until I realized that there were these discrepancies all over the state, and the quality of education depended on where you lived.”
Adams has been heavily involved in politics while keeping a stern focus on engineering since coming to college. In her free time, Adams can be found volunteering for University Democrats or putting her engineering knowledge to work making objects with 3-D printers at the Longhorn Maker Studio.
“I’m definitely more active in the political organizations than I am in the mechanical engineering ones,” Adams said.
Adams said the issue of school finance is what got her interested in working for political causes in college and, in particular, progressive causes. To her, progressivism is about making sure everyone has access to the same opportunities.
While in college, Adams has interned for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and worked on state Rep. Celia Israel’s re-election campaign. She is the president of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan progressive group, and is the communications director for UDems, a Democratic group on campus. Adams has written editorials for The Daily Texan on behalf of UDems.
“She’s phenomenal,” said Michelle Willoughby, government and liberal arts honors junior and fellow member of UDems. “She’s been such a great asset, and she’s very, very committed.”
Adams currently works under Eric Taleff at the Pickle Research Center every week and has just finished her senior design project. Senior mechanical engineer Vincent Lau worked on the project with Adams. They are attempting to design a way to cool high-performance servers for Dell.
“[Adams has] been the liaison between our group and pretty much everyone else,” Lau said. “She talks. She emails. She’s in contact with all of our different faculty advisers that we need. She’s been pretty on top of things.”
Adams said she would like to find a way to combine her two worlds. She said the 3-D printers give her a way to combine her progressive idealism and love for science.
“I like using the printers because there is something very appealing to me about how they’re available to anyone with an idea,” Adams said. “It’s pretty egalitarian. If you’ve got an idea, it’s available to any student who wants to use it.”
She plans on going to graduate school next fall. Although she has applied to a number of engineering schools, she also applied to the LBJ School of Public Affairs. If accepted, she said she would consider going there to study policy.
“I think I’d be happiest if I could find a way to merge the two,” Adams said. “There aren’t enough people in the government and in public policy areas with a STEM background. I think by having a more traditional government job, I would benefit from having my STEM background.”