"When I first went to Wesleyan, I really didn't know what I wanted to do," he said, "so I got a degree in engineering physics."
For graduate school, he majored in mechanical engineering at Purdue University.
"He's always been really good in all the math and sciences," said his mother, Dottie Kuhl, who still lives in Winfield.
"I don't know where that came from but it wasn't from me," she said with a laugh.
Kuhl flew to California last Friday from Hampton, Va., where he now lives and works for NASA's Langley Research Center. His two kids stayed up to watch the landing on TV.
"I got a text from my daughter the next morning that said, 'you did it," he said.
Dottie Kuhl meant to record the NASA Channel to watch the landing on Monday, but hit a wrong button. She's watched reruns, though.
Now that the landing on Mars is completed, going back to a regular work routine might be challenging, Kuhl said.
"Realistically, not everything we do is going to be like Sunday."
Still, he hopes the Mars mission excited a younger generation about space exploration.
"It's very math- and science-oriented, but it really takes everything -- knowing history, culture," he said. "And with so many thousands of people working on it, it brings in the best of society and puts them together to produce something like this."
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.