Shout out!

Squee! I got a little shout out on my new favorite podcast, The Amp Hour. I have to admit, it was a little weird listening to two strangers discuss my decision to go into electrical engineering but I’m always open to opinions. I have a brief discussion of my story in my inaugural post, but I wanted to address some of the questions posed in the podcast.


Many reasons. I went into undergrad convinced that I wanted to be a medical doctor and so I majored in biochemistry. I loved DNA and genetics and I thought that this would be the best fit. Little did I know that biochemistry was mostly horribly confusing cycles like this. I worked in a lab researching chemokines for about a year and a half and realized that my options were some sort of professional school, a PhD in Biochem or going into something like pharma sales. I spent a summer working at a large law firm and really enjoyed it so to law school I went.

Then, I learned what lawyering was really about. It was not the shiny 9-5 internship that I did over the summer. It was a job of long days, long nights and minimal weekends. In big firms, most of the clients are large companies and cases drag on for years, sometimes decades. I spent a summer in law school working at a local non-profit and loved the work but couldn’t see myself lasting very long before getting really burned out.

My husband likes to tell the story of one day during my first semester of law school, I was so frustrated with the socratic method and the “grey logic” that I pulled out an old differential equations book and started working problems. I craved the simplicity and beauty of pure math. I craved the notion of a “right answer.” I was too stubborn to recognize that maybe that was an indicator that law school was not the best fit for me so I finished law school.

Did I work as a lawyer?

I did a variety of internships during law school and clerked for a judge but never worked as a lawyer. Due to hefty scholarships and family support, I managed to get through undergrad and law school without loans, which gave me the freedom to head back to school. I was a little nervous about the experience but it’s just as magical as I thought it would be. I’m actually really good at it so far.

Did I tinker much as a kid?

Not really. I was more of a bookworm/math geek. I read . . . a lot. Anything and everything I could get my hands on. I had older brothers so I loved legos and such and I made various contraptions but I didn’t have anything as dramatic as Feynman’s propensity for fixing radios as a teeny lad. I LOVED “brain teasers” and those kind of problems that really made you think. I remember reading the “Sideways Stories From Wayside School” in second grade which introduced verbal arithmetic and I was hooked on that for a while.

Anyway, I really need to go study for my programming exam, so I’m going to end this fairly abruptly. I went to a lecture on robotics last night and I plan to address that later today, get ready!


Rough week

I had one of those weeks where life got in the way of education. I’m not ready to talk about it here, so I’ll share some of the engineer related things that did happen. I ordered two books that I’m really excited about reading. I ordered “To Engineer is Human” by Henry Petroski and “Code” by Charles Petzold. Look forward to book reviews on these two in the coming weeks.

In my programming class, we’re finally starting to get beyond the programs that print “Hello World!” on the screen. Some of the programs we’re making now are actually useful! Our last assignment was an assignment to teach loops that had to accept an unknown number of inputs and calculate the mean, standard deviation, maximum, minimum and SEOM. Of course all of these things could be done in something like Excel, but this program had a real purpose.

The only foundation course that I’m wishing I had done before this semester is logic. I didn’t realize how integral logic is to programming and apparently later on in systems. So, does anyone have any suggestions for a great beginner book on logic? Obviously, the stuff we’re currently working on is pretty self-explanatory but I can just sense that it will begin to obfuscate itself.

My math professor handed out a short survey with our last homework assignment and I was pretty surprised with the sentiment of many of my classmates. A majority of them were griping about the pace of the class being too fast, the professor not explaining her examples and also that the class was “worthless.” My only complaint was that the book was pretty terrible but the professor herself has said this many times and often provides lengthy online notes to supplement the book. I’ve found the class to be very useful, taking principles from calculus III and taking them to the next level. She expects quite a bit from us but is also really good at explaining things in a way that my brain just “gets it.”

Still looming, the group project. Ugh. Thankfully, it’s a small portion of our grade so even if it turns out a little iffy, I’ll still be okay grade-wise. I just want it to be over. I like to work in teams and I consider myself a good team-player but this particular project is difficult because of the varied commitment levels of all the members. Again, we’ll see how this plays out.

Solder on, Solder off

Well, after I finished my physics and programming homework, I got out the solder kit & started the exercises. My initial thoughts? Simultaneously I thought that this is super fun and this is super scary at the same time. Second, this kit is listed under “Toys and Games” on . What kind of parent lets their kid play with 800 degree molten metal? When I was attempting to tin the tip for the first time, the solder popped and freaked me out. So far my practice solder patches and such look alright but it doesn’t really matter. The whole point of this is just to get some practice before I try a “real” project.

I set up a sorta sketchy ventilation system that involved a box fan and an open window but I’m not really sure how to do it correctly. I felt like most of the fumes were going right out the window but it still made me a little nervous. I also began to realize the tools I need such as good needle nose pliers, a better wire cutter/stripper, better safety glasses and such. Can’t wait to try again though!

Self Taught

Before I decided to go into engineering, like any good lawyer-to-be, I researched the heck out of engineering, electronics and careers in the field. One thing I kept hearing from successful engineers is that they learned the most from tinkering around. So far, this approach has been incredibly successful in my quest to learn my first programming language (java). I’ve learned so much more from just sitting around and writing programs based on examples from the book.

Our programming book has lots of sample programs that I always go through and physically re-type, run and then mess around with. Is this tedious? Yes. Has it taught me invaluable lessons? Yes. Often you retype the program and see just what happens when you forget a semicolon there, or put a semicolon after something that isn’t supposed to have one. I’ve seen what happens when you accidentally put a char in double quotes or forget brackets after an if statement. Once you actually make the mistake, it really sticks in your mind how to fix it and how to avoid it in the future.

So, this weekend, I plan to make my first foray into PCBs and soldering. I bought a cheap beginner kit where you build an alarm so if I fry the tips of the basic soldering iron, or nuke the multimeter that’s included in the kit it’s not that big of a deal. So many engineers that I’ve talked to say that playing around with things like this helps so much with the learning process. It also seems like it might be pretty fun! I’ll post some pictures of my disastrous attempts later.

Lifetime Learning

I love to learn. I sometimes do crazy things like read books that aren’t assigned in school. I had a classmate today that was AMAZED that I would pick up a book on my own that was related to my schoolwork but not required. A few weeks ago I started (and finished! I couldn’t help it) a biography on Paul Dirac. To explain why I would pick up a biography on a British physicist/mathematician, I have to first explain my adoration for Richard Feynman. When I was in high school, I read Richard Feynman’s book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and adored it. The book is full of the most wonderful anecdotes and gives the reader an inspired, almost giddy love of math and science. I then got my hands on his physics lectures and other books and generally learned all about Feynman. Feynman had great respect for Dirac and so I wanted to learn more about Paul Dirac. I marched down to my local bookstore and picked up “The Strangest Man” by Graham Farmelo. I loved the book. Dirac is one of those physicists of the time that often gets overlooked for more flamboyant characters like Schrodinger , Heisenberg and Feynman himself.

Right now, I’m in my physicist phase but if any of you have any great recommendations of books on great engineers, send them my way!


So I already bragged a little on Twitter but I thought it was only fair to subject my blog readers to this as well. First round of tests was a success! I’m talking, A on a test with an average of 66 and a 95 on a test with a 77 average. This is exciting, oh so very exciting. I worked hard and it paid off. Now, not too long ago, I worked hard in law school and I was mediocre. I was smack in the middle.

Now, before my law school experience, I was what some might call a “high achiever.” In elementary school, I regularly won the monthly Continental Math League competitions. In middle school, I was a member of our Math Counts team (and yes, that is just as cool as it sounds. We had t-shirts, and got pizza at our practices, scoped out the one cute boy that would show up at competitions, it was awesome.) I was a National Merit Scholar. I was an officer in college in the Biochemistry and Genetics Society.

As I was finishing up my undergraduate studies, I realized that I had a few choices with a biochemistry degree. I knew I didn’t want to do med/vet school. I briefly considered pharmacy school but then decided that law school would be a great choice because I could work on biomedical patents. Then I realized that every patent attorney working in the “bio” field had a PhD or at least a M.S. So, I went back to my true love, math and engineering. It’s so exciting and I really do love it.

Now I do realize that I have a totally unfair advantage over these 18 year olds in my classes. I have some “life” under my belt. I’ve learned how to deal with difficult people, I know how to manage time, I file my own taxes every year, I know what a dollar is, I know how much each class costs and therefore how important it is to do well, I know when to ask for help, I know how to deal with emergencies and crises, I know what’s important and what isn’t. I put in the time I need to succeed in these classes and magically it’s working.

Let’s hope I sound this optimistic in a month!


Today in our Intro to Engineering class we talked about internships. I giggled a little inside when one of the speakers stressed that being engineers, we needed to have something on our resume that indicated that we know how to communicate to others. Does law school convey that? I sure hope so.

I started thinking about getting internships and what my future will look like. to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the rest of my years will look like. I would really like to work in industry for a little while but I’m not sure what a prospective employer will see when they skim down my resume and find that J.D. and B.S. in Biochemistry. Will that elicit a response akin to “Wow! Those sure are nice extras!” or will it be closer to “Huh. Why would she want to work for us? What on earth made her go back for an engineering degree?” I’m going to seek out some of the better connected professors so I can try and get those questions answered. I love this new path so much and I don’t want my past to hurt my chances. I’m hoping that I can demonstrate that my prior degrees are just icing on a very well-rounded cake.

The speakers on internships also stressed having a high GPA. As if I needed that reminder. However, I was reminded of a few things. When speaking of GPAs, the magic number seemed to be a 3.0 in engineering. Here I am, freaking out at the possibility of getting an A- as opposed to an A or A+. Calm down, Katie. Take a deep breath. Study hard but remember that you can only do your best. As I said earlier on Twitter, compared to the bar exam, my physics test tomorrow will be easy as pie.

First Round of Tests

Well, the title of this post is pretty straightforward.  I have my first round of tests next week. I’ve been working really hard and generally I’ve been doing well on homework assignments and quizzes but the first tests? Eek! I’m just a little nervous, I guess. It shouldn’t be that surprising but I actually feel more confident in my more difficult subjects because I’ve spent more time working on them. Physics in particular was kinda easy-peasy so I didn’t devote very much time to it. Now the first test is sneaking up on me and I’m feeling a little behind. Hopefully I can get down to it and still do well.

So, other than tests, what’s going on? Well. Bar results are about a month away. I’d really like to pass. Nothing we can do about it for now so I’m trying not to think about bar results at all. I’m just going to focus on this engineering adventure (!!!) and keep going. Well, off to perfect projectile motion and Newton’s laws.

School is cool

So school marches on. So far (*knock on wood*) I’m keeping up with my goals in terms of grades and so I’m relieved about that. However, I obviously haven’t had any tests yet and the quizzes I’ve had have been pretty short and simple. I’m not so sure I’ll be able to maintain my current grades since I’m aiming for, well let’s be honest, perfection. I’m trying to be realistic. I know I can’t get A+s in every class, but I really want all A+s. I’m pretty sure that everyone has the same goal but I’m trying really hard to achieve it.

Ugh. I need someone to talk me down. If I get a B, my world will not crumble. You would think I would have learned this lesson in undergraduate degree #1 or even law school. Nope. I’m still aiming for the stars. I guess this difference this time is that it might be possible to achieve my goals. Here (unlike law school) hard work gets you EVERYWHERE. There’s a little bit of natural talent and ability but you’ll get 95% of the way there by simply putting your nose to the grindstone and keeping at it.

Oh, so the other thing. In my intro to engineering class we have to do a group project involving an egg. So cliche I can barely stand it. We were given the option of putting together our own 7 person teams and then the leftovers would be lumped together on a team. Well guess who doesn’t have a team? Me. This is where I’m starting to feel the sting of not quite fitting in while in a class of all freshman. I’m also kinda nervous about being in a group. I’m very efficient with my time and committed to hard work and doing a good job. It is very unlikely that the rest of my group will feel the same way. I also have skills that many of these freshman do not possess. My natural inclination is to be really bossy and just make them do it my way but my husband seems to think I need to be nice and let these kids learn on their own. Fine. But if they spend more than 10 minutes socializing at each group meeting, I’m breaking out the teacher voice. Okay, fine, I’ll give them 20 minutes. See? I’m nice!!

Week 4: And school marches on

Well, I survived the first 3 weeks (really 2.5, I’m re-learning precision and accuracy, I can’t be going all willy-nilly on the blog). So far things are trucking along and I’m really, really enjoying it. I have a few complaints, but they are tragically minor. Complaint #1: There is no vending machine in the two buildings where I spend most of my time. At least once a week I forget my water bottle and then get all crazy parched and have to venture over a building to get a bottle of water. On the upside? All 20 oz. beverages are $1.00. That’s pretty cheap in my experience. Complaint #2: The wifi is sketchy in one of my classrooms. On the upside? I shouldn’t really be on the internet anyway so it forces me to study.

So the good things?

1. I found an awesome study area. It’s the “Engineering and Computer Science Reading Room” but all it seems to have in terms of “reading” is outdated journals from the 90’s. Weird. There’s also this older woman who looks like the slug from Monsters, Inc who seems to do nothing but shush people in this room. Whatever, it keeps things quiet.

2. My hardest assignments of the week by a mile are my math homework and quizzes. I was super worried about the math quizzes because the class is hard but then I found out something wonderful. She gives us the question for the quiz during the previous class. Now the question is usually something fairly involved. This week we have to prove that e^(i*theta)=cos(theta)+i*sin(theta) and that abs(e^(i*theta))=1. Both of those proofs are a little bit involved so we still have to study and redo the questions a few times to get them to “stick.”

3. I’m attempting to get involved with a few organizations (IEEE and Society of Women Engineers) but they have meetings at 8:30pm. Uhhh, what? I go to bed at 9. I don’t live on campus. How is this going to work? I’m not sure it will. Hmm, that’s not a good thing, that’s another complaint. Oops!

Well, off to my work!