Makenzie Lystrup

Makenzie Lystrup - 2022 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Vice President and General Manager
Civil Space, Ball Aerospace, USA

SPIE Senior Member

Makenzie Lystrup

Born in the US
Resides in the US
Educational Background: BS in Physics; PhD in Astrophysics

I was always curious about the natural world, particularly space. I was also always interested in environmental issues. Once I learned the scientific process as a way of understanding the world, I was hooked. Examining the world through a scientific lens became my worldview, and then my career.

I lead our Civil Space division, which includes science missions in Earth observations, planetary exploration, astrophysics, and the physics of the sun, and also terrestrial weather and space weather satellites. Our work ranges from technology development in the lab to missions to the outer solar system, and everything in between. I have many talented scientists and engineers on my team, and we get to design and build missions that will help us understand everything from climate change to black holes.

I did not come from a family of scientists, engineers, or professionals. One of my challenges is that I sometimes felt out of place with people who grew up with more privilege and role models, and there was a lot about college and careers that I just didn’t know. I had excellent mentors along the way who helped me bridge that gap.

I wish someone had told me earlier on in my career to always get enough sleep! Taking care of your physical and mental health is critical to success.

My advice to women interested in STEM is to exercise your creativity and stay curious. Engineering and science often require creativity, new ways of thinking, and innovative problem solving. Art, music, and fashion are some of the ways I exercise my creativity daily. Creativity is like a muscle; it really does get stronger with use. I enjoy reading literature, history, and philosophy—it challenges the way I think. Constantly learning new things and challenging your assumptions primes your mind for thinking in new ways, and that can really help technical thinking.

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