Meet Min Hwang, this week’s CU Women in STEM subject, budding civil engineer, and musician!

Bwog Science is back with CU Women in STEM, where we highlight the amazing women in science at Columbia. Today’s profile is from Min Hwang, SEAS ’19, who aims to combine her interests in civil engineering and computer science!

Major: Civil Engineering

What subjects are you interested in: Structural engineering, computer science, and the intersections of these two fields

How did you get interested in your subject? Can you remember the moment that got you hooked? Ever since I was three, my mom wanted a lawyer in the family and I did exactly opposite of what she wanted—which is to become an engineer! All semi-jokes aside, I encountered a problem in my calculus BC textbook that informed me that roads are made in parabolic shapes. This is so that when it rains, all the water can go to the side and people would be able to drive safely. In my short life on this earth, I never could have guessed that someone would put so much thought into something we take for granted. The responsibility and capacity to guarantee the safety of others is what attracted me to this field.

Most important research/extracurricular experiences so far: I had the amazing opportunity this summer to conduct research in a three person team at Thornton Tomasetti. I always sought opportunities to merge my two interests in structural engineering and computer science and this project was a perfect marriage of the two. I facilitated transfer learning in a neural network model from Tensorflow detection model zoo trained to detect a dataset of animals and household objects to detect damages in concrete structures. The long term goal of this research is to create an autonomous inspection device that would not only help with annual inspections of infrastructure but also with inspections and assessments of hard-to-reach areas affected by natural disasters.

What are your career goals? I want to end up wherever I can solve interesting problems.

Favorite science building on campus? My favorite science building on campus is Mudd! I have spent so many sleepless nights there ordering Dominos pizza with my friends and regretting eating so late at night.

Favorite scientist? Leonardo da Vinci! He was an engineer, scientist, and an artist all in one and I hope to become a Renaissance (wo)man just like him.

What do you do BESIDES science? I am part of an amazing group on campus called Columbia Pops! I get to play music every weekend which is a great therapeutic break from the daily stresses of school. I truly believe that I am still a sane human being because of the continuous support and love from the great friends I made in that organization.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a STEM major? I was lucky enough to be involved in Columbia’s CEO program (which I recommend strongly!), where I met a number of successful alumni living in Singapore. One thing I learned from hearing their twisty-turny success stories was that I should not let imposter syndrome limit my experiences. I thought that the skill set I acquired from taking my minor-required classes was not enough to conduct my summer research and I almost stopped myself from applying to the position. However, my experiences served as a solid base from which I could propel myself to success. I would say that if you are interested in STEM, you should at least give yourself the opportunity to try it out. Your prior experiences will only help you, even if they are not from STEM. You deserve an opportunity!

Favorite classes/professors at Columbia? My favorite professor at Columbia is Professor George Deodatis who taught a class called “Uncertainty and Risk in Civil Infrastructure Systems”.