Trine grad excels at Rolls-Royce

April 16, 2024

By Ian Hoffman
Communication ’26

Erika KendallFor many elementary school students, Earth Day can be a time to learn about trees, flowers and the environment.

However, for 2022 Trine University chemical engineering graduate Erika Kendall, that interest went far beyond growing plants or getting a tree to take home. Her desire to learn more about protecting the environment led her to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.

Erika grew up in rural north central Indiana with two biofuel facilities about 10 miles from her childhood home. She remembers visiting these plants as a child and always found the process particularly interesting.

“Oftentimes, for Earth Day, we would go to these plants and learn about what they did. It was those trips that taught me how we took crops that grew in my backyard, corn and soybeans, and turned them into fuel for our cars,” she noted.

While there are multiple types of biofuels, ethanol is the most well-known. One of the plants, POET Bioprocessing, is part of the largest biofuel production company in the world. Learning about these processes as a child “blew her mind” and is one of the biggest reasons why she wanted to study chemical engineering in college.

Kendall chose Trine because the campus was friendly, with multiple opportunities for hands-on learning. During her time at Trine, she did research on algae as a biofuel. As part of the honors program at Trine, she presented her findings in a project called “Maximization of Lipid Production in Chlorella protothecoides Using Light Wavelengths,” with the goal of growing algae with a high fat content for conversion into biodiesel.

Outside of her work in biofuels, as an undergrad, she was able to build connections with classmates, professors and companies. She would meet with Rolls-Royce at the career fair during her first two years at Trine, eventually, landing an internship there for the summer of 2020. Her internship, like many things in 2020, was postponed until her junior summer because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Erica worked as a Special Process Engineer Intern at Rolls-Royce.

Erika looks back fondly on her time as an intern. She was particularly interested in working at Rolls-Royce because of their Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Development Program.

She noted, “Through this internship, I was able to apply to their Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Development Program, which allows recent grads to rotate through different departments within Rolls-Royce over a two-year time span.”

However, chemical engineering wasn’t listed as one of the preferred degrees for the position.

“I knew going into interviews that I would need to sell my chemical engineering degree and apply it to the job,” she said.

Erika succeeded and landed a full-time position with the company in the development program. She currently works in Indianapolis, home of the Rolls-Royce Corporation, the largest Rolls-Royce manufacturing site in the United States.

During her short time there, she has worked in various departments, including heat treating, chemical processing, metal casting, CNC programing, fixture design and product support. She has enjoyed her time everywhere, but noted working in the special and chemical processing groups was her favorite because it related most closely to her chemical engineering degree.

Erika’s ability to sell her degree and apply it to a position that many wouldn’t commonly associate with a chemical engineer helps showcase the versatility of a chemical engineering degree. Her alternate education path allows her to provide “a completely different perspective” in comparison to her mechanical and aerospace engineering colleagues. She also has a willingness to learn, which allows her to better apply her degree to the various positions.

While Erika noted the versatility of her chemical engineering degree, she notes it is also important to understand what the employer is looking for. “I would suggest thinking about the skills and experiences you currently have and finding ways to apply them to the position you are applying for. The application process is all about selling yourself, so it’s important to show what you offer and how that provides benefit to the company,” she said.

She also suggested identifying areas where you may be less qualified but express your willingness to learn more in those areas.

Erika gives a lot of credit to her time at Trine for her success. Her technical knowledge in classes like Thermodynamics, Fluid Dynamics and Statistical Analysis gave her information she now uses every day.

She uses many other skills she learned daily, including root cause analysis, project management and team collaboration. She also credits her professors, who pushed her to present technically and always consider process safety.

Erika will complete her time in the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Development Program at the end of the summer. She will begin as a Manufacturing Engineer sometime in August or September 2024, although the location is still being decided. Regardless of where she ends up, she is very excited to see what the future holds for her at Rolls-Royce.

News Information


Erika Kendall
Manufacturing engineer, Rolls-Royce
BSChE 2022

News Story Type

Trine-Built Story


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