ASU alumnus returns to Arizona to help guide students after graduation

By

Rachel Bunning

Growing up in the cold Northeast, Paul Padegimas did not think much about what the desert could offer until he was looking at graduate programs.

“I didn’t know much about Arizona State University,” said Padegimas, who received a Bachelor of Arts in geography from the University of Connecticut. “But my undergraduate advisor recommended it because ASU had the best geography graduate program in the country.”

In 2011, Padegimas received his Master of Arts in geography from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He said the program helped him learn how to be constructive and how to tackle big projects, which have been useful skills in his career.

“I knew I wanted to help develop transportation systems, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it entailed or how I might go about it,” he said. “With the help of guidance from the faculty in my program and other programs, I ended up focusing on land use and transportation planning.”

After graduation, Padegimas became a data analyst at the U.S. Department of Transportation. He lived in Boston at the time and missed the warm weather. After a year and a half, he left Boston and moved out to San Diego, where he took a role as a transportation analyst with Turner Engineering, a small company focused on reliability engineering and electromagnetic compatibility engineering for rail systems. Recently, Padegimas was able to move back to Arizona to work on the light rail. 

“I found my way to Turner Engineering,” said Padegimas. “They worked with trains. I wanted to work with trains. That was all I knew about the company at first, which left plenty of questions as to what I might be doing.  But, it provided me the opportunity to work on some interesting and exciting projects, such as the California High-Speed Rail and, in the future, on extensions of the light rail here in the Valley, so it worked out to be a great match.”

At Turner Engineering, Padegimas works on behalf of transportation agencies and companies that build trains, power systems and other aspects of rail transportation. In essence, his work helps the companies ensure trains show up on time, don’t mess up cell signals and don’t shock passengers when they step onboard.

“It’s sometimes a little over my head,” joked Padegimas. “We will work with companies to set the performance goals for the equipment they are buying and to develop a plan that they can pass on to the people they are buying from to make sure it meets those performance goals. Luckily, ASU prepared me to pick things up quickly.”

Padegimas is also one of the founding members of the Emerging Leaders program, a group of young professionals who serve on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council to find new ways for the college and community to succeed.   

“I was interested in getting a little more involved with things going on at ASU,” said Padegimas. “Helping people go further in their education than they otherwise could is something I’d like to be part of. I think the college has done a lot of big things and has a lot of great programs.”

Padegimas urges current students and recent alumni to be adaptable.

“If an opportunity arises, always be willing and flexible to tackle it,” said Padegimas. “It’s important to go after something you are very interested in and you love, but don’t let it hamstring you and be the reason you don’t do something else.” 

Looking to the future, Padegimas wants to continue to grow and develop skills within his career. He hopes to take the skills he learns to start his own business in the same field. 

“I’m very much looking forward to getting involved and seeing where it takes me,” he said.