Hannah Schroeder is a senior in Electrical Engineering at the University of Houston. She grew up in the suburb of Friendswood, Texas, and has had a lifelong penchant for patterns and computers. When Hannah originally entered college, she pursued a major in Vocal Performance (i.e. classical singing). Although she loved the study of music, she discovered that pursuing a career in either music education or performance was unappealing. She decided to change her major after two semesters. Since then, Hannah has found more peace and success in an analytical field. Although it was not her initiative to restart the Epsilon Epsilon Chapter of IEEE-HKN, which had been inactive for roughly 10 years, Hannah was the first Chapter President to direct the planning of any Chapter events, establish regular meetings between officers, and set up several long-lasting Chapter practices and documents to support future members. The Epsilon Epsilon Chapter has grown rapidly since its inception. Its first new members were inducted in December 2019, and by October 2020, the Chapter was hosting an event roughly every two weeks. The Chapter is now reaching out to students outside of the Engineering college in Engineering Technology and Computer Science, and aims to establish a well known, welcoming, and exciting presence on the UH campus. In addition to her work with HKN, Hannah is also a National Merit Scholar and the recipient of two UH Engineering Alumni Association awards. She also is an active writer and actor in the Honors College theater club.
What has it meant to you to be inducted into IEEE-HKN?
Quite a bit! At UH, many of our engineering student organization meetings can be large and intimidating, but with HKN, it’s much easier to get to know people. It’s especially beneficial to be around people who are in the same major, at the same level, and who have similar personalities to you. I have also gained an incredible amount of resourcefulness and self-confidence by taking on a leadership role in HKN, and I believe I would be a dramatically different person today had I shied away from this position.
Do you have a best HKN story to share?
I have two! I thoroughly enjoyed the 2019 Student Leadership Conference (SLC). At that point, I was the Vice President of the Chapter, and we were still figuring out what our HKN Chapter should look like. We had our first induction later that semester. I talked to so many people during the SLC, and got some great ideas and advice about how to run an HKN Chapter. We hung out quite a bit with the Kappa Psi Chapter from UCSD — special thanks to them! My other favorite event is Epsilon Epsilon’s first real event: a tutoring and study session for Circuits 1 and 2 students that took place in February 2020. We had roughly 25 members at the time, all inducted in December 2019, and about half of them showed up to volunteer at our first event. It warmed my heart so much to see that much enthusiasm, especially when we were such a young chapter.
Why did you choose to study the engineering field?
I grew up around engineers, so engineering always seemed like a viable career path for someone who was, and is, a big nerd. However, I wanted to pursue a career that I loved emotionally, so I initially chose to study music in college. I eventually realized, though, that I missed the more analytical thinking of one of the STEM disciplines, and that I could still love music without tying it to my personal finances. That’s not to say I don’t love engineering, I do! I just didn’t realize until later that the satisfaction of working on a problem was an emotion worth exploring. I had often dismissed that satisfaction as pretentiousness or conflated it with the feeling of success in general. I didn’t realize until later that I did like solving problems, even if that realization felt very nerdy to admit.
What do you love about engineering?
I love nitpicking a design and fine-tuning it until it works seamlessly. I also really like looking at things that have some kind of intuitive symmetry, or solutions that are elegant and simple. My favorite projects are those that require my full imagination and usually involve writing some code, such as my FPGA projects. You can tell I’m enjoying a project when I have several barely-comprehensible sketches next to me, I spend too much time making tiny changes to it, or I lose track of time while working on it.
What is your dream job?
I’m hesitant to pick a definitive or narrow field right now. I tried that with music. At the moment, I love learning about computer hardware, especially processors, and I know I would find success in a fast-moving industry. My dream job is one that is exciting enough to keep me learning new things, but comfortable enough so that I can have confidence in my own work.
Whom do you admire and why?
I once told one of my high school music teachers that I had been very frustrated with a passage of music, but had kept practicing it anyway. He gave me a funny look and said something similar to “Why? If you’re frustrated, put it down and come back to it later.” He was a very accomplished musical professional, so at first it struck me as odd that he was not constantly pushing through frustration and stress to become successful.
What is the next BIG advance in engineering?
If the scientific community can get nuclear fusion figured out, we could seriously reduce the effects of energy generation (especially burning fossil fuels) on the climate. However, if we want to tackle climate change, there are a variety of political and economic solutions that we could implement immediately. I don’t think we have to wait for a big advance in engineering to solve this problem.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in school?
After going through four years of engineering, I have become more comfortable with being in new situations or dealing with new information. When you’re a perfectionist with a long history of success in very structured environments, discomfort in new situations is normal, and even expected. Being the President of a Chapter with zero established structure definitely forced me to put my anxiety aside and forge into unfamiliar territory, using my intuition and guidance from others. I even discovered a great deal of freedom in the ability to write the rules yourself. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot better at researching topics outside of class, picking up new hobbies, and pushing myself outside my comfort zone.
What advice would you give to other students entering college and considering studying your major?
Say yes to things as often as you can, even if they are intimidating! My Physics 1 professor asked me to do research with him my freshman year, and I said no because it wasn’t my field. I still regret that. I was a freshman in Physics 1, nothing was “my field!” Also, take the time to get involved! It will take effort and may be uncomfortable, but you will pick up a lot of second-hand knowledge not taught in class, as well as make good friends and study buddies.