Fast 15: Lauren E. Kegley

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Lauren Kegley was an accomplished pole vaulter in high school, and before every attempt her coach would give her the same, simple instructions — run fast, jump high. She is still following that advice, and by most measures would be considered a rising star at APEI.

“She is an internally driven go-getter,” president and CEO Alex Lostetter said.

Kegley started a year-long internship in May 2011 with APEI, which designs, markets and manufacturers high-power electronics using silicon carbide conductors.

She was hired full-time the following May after graduating from the University of Arkansas with an electrical engineering degree. She’ll earn her master’s in microelectronics and photonics this fall, and is already working toward a Ph.D in those two subjects.

If Kegley’s academic pursuits don’t quite jibe with her age, there’s a reason. She graduated from high school when she was just 15, and was 16 when she began her freshman year at the UA, which likely made her the youngest athlete to ever compete in the Southeastern Conference.

She also began college with some advice from a family friend — get an engineering degree, and you can be anything you want.

At APEI, she started as a wireless electronics engineer, working in the company’s extreme environment systems division.

“Basically, what we do is put electronics where electronics have never been before,” she explained.

Kegley is project manager for a nearly $1 million program to develop scavenging solutions within jet engines, funded by the U.S. Air Force.

After showing an interest in business development, Kegley started working in both divisions last year at APEI, developing an understanding from both sides of the business in a way that usually takes engineers a career to understand.

Outside of work, Kegley said STEM outreach is a calling, working with different organizations to advance STEM-based education and activities in high schools and young women’s conferences.

“I believe that we should have a lot more engineers, and that we should make engineering more accessible,” she said. “A lot of people think engineering is very analytical, but really it’s one of the ultimate forms of creativity.”

Kegley is also a yoga practitioner and licensed instructor at Yoga Deza in Fayetteville.

“I try to do a little yoga ever day; even if it’s just remembering to take deep breaths,” she said.