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Where Are They Now: Kayra Hopkins

The Spartan fingerprint can be found many places all over the globe, but one Spartan alumna’s was a little easier to see, should you have looked closely at the credits of Pixar’s most recent hit film, Coco.

Kayra Hopkins, now a Technical Director for Pixar Animation Studios, once frequented MSU’s ivy-covered halls while she pursued her master's and doctorate degree in computer science and engineering. She’s also MSU Technologies alumna.

“I was an IT Commercialization intern,” Hopkins said of her internship that began in 2011. “So I worked with patents and companies on campus.”

Hopkins also interned at NASA in 2005 and Intel in 2010, and held many positions in between.

Her time at MSU Technologies, she said, helped her professional journey to Pixar in a lot of ways. “As a commercialization intern, a lot of my job was to get the basic information about that technology,” Hopkins said. “It was a lot of learning how to digest new information, and gaining skills to ask those inquisitive questions in order to get to the heart of the technology. I’ve found that was really helpful in the film industry where you’re always taking in new information that you may not have an extensive background in.”

Hopkins described the Innovation Center workplace environment as “unique,” saying there’s few that spaces that rival it across MSU’s campus.

“There were so many moving parts and pieces giving feedback to one another,” Hopkins said. “It was cool to be in that space at that time, with the startup culture and innovation. To have a space like that, on campus, was really interesting.”

Hopkins started at Pixar in 2015, while still pursuing her doctorate at MSU, and worked extensively on the animation mechanics behind Coco.

“(Working at Pixar) was always a dream,” Hopkins said. “I’ve loved Pixar movies, and have always been interested in the technology behind them.”