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Kansas State rower and budding nuclear engineer stays focused on the finish line

Molly Ross says the support of her rowing teammates has helped her cope with the rigors of pursuing a master’s and doctorate in nuclear engineering. Submitted by Molly Ross

As a child, Molly Ross played with K’NEX blocks and built robots but thought she wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian. She didn’t shift gears until she got her first car and started doing her own maintenance on it, a hobby that led her to follow in the footsteps of her dad and older brothers and study engineering. 

Today the Kansas State rower with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is finishing her last year of eligibility on the Wildcats team while pursuing dual master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear engineering. Also a graduate research assistant, Ross recently presented research at a nuclear reactor safety symposium in Mumbai, India. The paper she co-wrote, “Neutron Imaging of Percolating Hydraulic Flow Through a Simulated Debris Bed,” provides a glimpse at the complexity of her studies. 

“We pride ourselves on being able to get all our kids to be really good on the academic side,” Kansas State rowing coach Patrick Sweeney says. “Obviously, she’s a bit above the rest, but I think that she’s so well-organized and disciplined that she can just fit everything in.”  

Ross says she fell in love with the camaraderie of rowing, which tracks no individual statistics — “Either your boat won, or your boat didn’t win,” Ross notes — and stays with the sport despite her rigorous academic schedule because of the support of her teammates.  

“I can’t even go into how much they help me out,” Ross says. “They keep me from being too stressed out a lot and are understanding when I can’t make birthday celebrations or if I have to miss things. That’s the huge thing.” 

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.