Krista Kalac met Matt Limmer in the summer of 2008, while the two were working as interns for Owens Corning’s research and development facility in Granville, Ohio. She was studying materials science and mathematics at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y., and he was majoring in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University.
Their internship courtship — what Krista describes as “a summer fling that stuck” — turned into a long-distance relationship that grew closer when the two selected Missouri S&T for their graduate studies. “We talked a lot about the long-distance thing and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we were both in the same place?’” Krista says.
Today, Matt and Krista are married and thinking about life after doctoral studies.
Stories abound about former S&T students who met their future spouses while studying at Rolla. But not many tie the knot before finishing their degrees — and fewer still arrive at S&T with plans to marry while balancing graduate studies. Being married while in grad school presents some challenges, but the Limmers agree that the benefits outweigh the problems.
“It’s a good time to get married,” says Matt, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in environmental engineering. “We probably have more flexibility now than we will have in the future.”
“We understand each other’s schedules and the demands of our research, but we’ve also been fortunate to be able to attend conferences together,” says Krista, who is studying for her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. While one attends sessions and presents a paper or a poster, the other can take in the sights of the conference’s host city. Or they can also present, as Matt did at TMS 2011, the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society’s annual meeting.
“It’s nice to have another engineer to talk to,” Matt says. “You can bounce ideas off of each other.”
The Limmers’ decision to come to Rolla began with a list Krista prepared of potential grad schools. She included S&T on the list, because she had visited campus while a high school student. She almost chose S&T for her undergraduate studies, but Alfred was closer to her Medina, Ohio, home.
With a minor in horticulture, Matt was interested in environmental engineering. He decided S&T’s environmental engineering program would be a good fit because it offered a less structured approach to research. “I like the academic freedom and the flexibility” of the research program, he says. He works with Joel Burken, professor of civil and environmental engineering, in phytoforensics, a technique that uses trees to characterize and remove contaminants from soil and groundwater.
The two stay active with other campus projects beyond their research. Matt helps take care of Missouri S&T’s Green Roof, an experimental section of roof on Emerson Hall, the electrical and computer engineering building. Krista is president of the Council of Graduate Students, the governing body for master’s and Ph.D. students, and is the three-time Frisbee golf champion in S&T’s intramurals program.
Both hope to complete their Ph.D. work next May and eventually teach at the university level. They suspect they might again have a long-distance relationship in post-doctoral positions at different universities. But they look forward to the day they’ll hold faculty positions at the same university.
“Or maybe I’ll be a stay-at-home dad,” Matt says.
“We’d have an awesome garden,” says Krista.