By Juliana Palomino
As a high school senior, Abby Styer found herself in a common predicament—she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. So she signed up for a University of Kentucky College of Engineering workshop. That decision altered the course of her life.
Designed for women interested in engineering, the event offered a variety of activities related to engineering disciplines. Abby’s unequivocal favorite was mining engineering. She visited mining facilities in Georgetown, Kentucky, helped detonate ten different types of explosives, and heard from a professor who tested military equipment.
“I thought engineers only built bridges, which didn’t interest me at all. Learning about the options in mining engineering made me so excited,” she says. “I realized I could definitely blow stuff up for the rest of my life.’”
Abby also loved feeling recruited as a woman.
“I’d lived in a man’s world my whole life. My dad was a high school football coach, so I grew up on the sidelines, yelling at the boys on the team. When I was on drumline in high school, I was the only girl,” she says. “I didn’t know how much I needed to be around women, and how much I would enjoy it.”
Leaving her northern Kentucky roots to study her newfound passion, Abby quickly found a home in Lexington. She joined the Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration and female engineering social sorority Phi Sigma Rho, as well as UK’s chapter of the International Society of Explosives Engineers, of which she is now president.
These organizations have given her a wide range of opportunities, from connecting with industries and attending national conferences, to participating in date parties and formals. They’ve also advanced her career.
A mining organization event during her freshman year connected her with Hinkle Contracting Company, with whom she has interned for the past two years in their quarry division. She’s worked with explosives and also experienced processing and development. This has made her certain that she wants to enter into this field upon graduating in December 2020.
“If you’d told me when I was a freshman in high school that I would be doing this, I would have said that you’re crazy. But I wore a hard hat to work all summer, and I absolutely loved it,” she says.
Abby is grateful to UK for the opportunities it’s given her to find herself.
“I had no idea that I would be the president of an explosives organization or in a sorority. I didn’t think that I was the get-dirty-at-work-every-day type,” she says. “But I definitely am. UK has helped me find that out.”