Kahryn Buchanan didn’t like math until she started taking a college-level course. At age 13.
Now she can’t seem to get enough. After earning enough credits in high school to earn an associate degree from Kodiak College, she came to UAF.
She’s studying mechanical engineering, computer science and math, seeking degrees in all three within four years.
She’d like to work in space exploration.
“I knew I liked math, and I was like, well, the people they hire like at NASA or SpaceX, they have degrees in mechanical engineering, or electrical,” she said. “Mechanical makes more sense to me intuitively, so that’s how I chose.”
Kodiak Island, where she grew up, has a rocket facility run by a state-owned corporation.
“That was awesome. Me and my mom used to drive out there all the time. That was definitely a motivator,” she said.
She never quite got to see a launch. They were canceled each time they tried.
Because Buchanan attended Kodiak College through her high school years, she had her first two years of credits complete by the time she arrived at UAF. So she can focus on her engineering, computer science and math classes.
She loves the math.
“Math can be rough, but I love the feeling of solving an equation, and realizing I understand, from the back, what’s going on and I can replicate this as much as I want to,” she said during the spring 2020 semester.
She also got a job as a tutor with the Math Department.
Buchanan got her early start on college partly as a result of an experiment in home schooling.
“I was going to regular public school, and my mom pulled me out in seventh grade and I homeschooled for a year, and I was just bored,” Buchanan said. “So before the fall of my eighth-grade year, she had me take the Accuplacer and the ALEKS (college placement tests for English and math), and I placed into the freshman level courses, so I just started taking them.”
Buchanan also credits her mom, a business and accounting professor at Kodiak College, for her love of learning.
“She showed me how valuable education can be and how it’s way more than just a piece of paper,” Buchanan said. “Even if doesn’t seem like it, it completely changes the way you think and the way you make decisions.”