My name is Andrew Fecher, and I am a first year student and STEM Exploration and Engagement Scholar at The Ohio State University. I am currently a Chemistry major, but I am in the process of becoming a pre-CSE major. Since I have been coding from middle school, it has been great to start working at a collegiate level and expand my computing knowledge. I graduated as a Salutatorian from Beavercreek High School, and am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist in Chemistry research for two summers before even coming to tOSU. I worked under a PhD Physical Chemist and Senior Scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratories, conducting thermal fuels research using many forms of spectroscopy. I mostly worked with integrating computer coding into the research to optimize experiments. This means that I was able to integrate my two passions for computer science and physical science. It was an amazing experience, and gave we a window into understanding possibilities for my future career.
For my Spring Project, I have decided to learn to shoot a firearm. I have never shot a gun before, and I feel that it is important in order for me to make important decisions in my life. Whether this is for self defense, or in developing a better and more accurate view of gun rights, I feel it is important to have firsthand experience in being able to confidently hold a firearm. Due to this, I will be trying to go to the gun range that is at the OSU ROTC building. To complete this project, I will learn to shoot a pistol to be able to hit targets even semi-effectively. I have not decided specifically what requirement it will be however, as I honestly do not know what would be the best for this case.
The Association of Computing Machinery – Women’s Chapter (ACM-W) has continuously broadened my view on diversity and shaped my understanding of what diversity truly means. It has only been a few months since I first became a member in the chapter, but it is by far the organization I am most involved with. I have been lucky enough to attend many meetings throughout the semester, and have become a lot more comfortable with the organization and the people in it. For a while, it was slightly awkward being one of the only men sitting in a room full of women. This is especially so because the organization is specifically geared toward women and their advancement. No matter how much the girls assured me that I was completely at home there, I still felt sort of guilty for sitting there. Almost as if I was taking resources that weren’t supposed to be mine. Normally, I am not a person to be afraid to speak up in class (I’m sure Jen would wholeheartedly agree with this statement), but even when I had questions during some of the ACM-W meetings, I held back. I can’t even put into words why, but I was genuinely afraid to speak up even to ask a question. I felt that I was somehow being a representation of all men, and that they would somehow think more or less about my entire gender by simply what I said in the meetings. Even being an openly gay man, I have never felt anything remotely similar to this experience. Despite the fact that I am generally the only or one of few gay men in my classes and groups, I still somehow felt even more awkward sitting in the room of women. However, I’m almost glad that I was able to feel some of that awkwardness. The percentage of women in tech is actually incredibly tragic. My software class is easily eighty percent men, and from what I can see in the industry, they do not seem to have better statistics either. Switching up roles and being in a room full of women has allowed me to gain a fresh perspective on diversity. There have rarely been times in my life that I have felt that I was a minority, even if I am a, personally, a member of a minority group. I can now better understand what women, and especially women of color, must feel like when sitting in a room full of white men. In addition, I have been able to overcome a lot of these feelings and become more comfortable in the ACM-W. Though, this is probably due to my open personality, and others would likely not overcome this nearly as fast as I have been able to. This is allowing me to be a part of a group dedicated for the support of women in tech. I cannot imagine working in a company of all like-minded individuals, and feel that having more women in tech is conducive to a better work place as a whole. For this reason, I believe that diversity is incredibly important, especially in engineering majors. In addition, I believe that diversity can transcend just gender, race, sexuality, etc. There is also diversity in thought and background, and I believe that a diversity in experiences and ideas is also important to allow people to break the bubbles that they create around themselves. While it is easy to become surrounded by like-minded individuals, it is also incredibly important to see, talk, and understand people of all backgrounds and experiences.
For the past two summers I worked as a Research Assistant on Wright Patt Air Force Base in a Physical Chemistry lab. I really liked the work there, especially because so the Physical Chemistry that the lab worked with had to deal a lot with quantum mechanics. Every single day I learned something new about the way the universe worked that just absolutely blew my mind. Quantum Mechanics and all of the mystical ways that it works, even if its not really magic, does seem pretty magical. That is why I really wanted to go to a seminar about Quantum Mechanics even if I am currently choosing to study computer science. This is especially true because I knew that this seminar would touch on Quantum Computing, which is actually super interesting to me and could even be something that I am looking into working with in the future. Only time will tell.
I met one of my friends, Cassie, as pictured, a physics major who I knew understood a few things about Quantum Mechanics herself, to go to the seminar with. We went to a seminar called “Quantum Information Seminar Series and Optical Science Seminar – Quantum Weirdness and Quantum Technology.” The speaker’s name was Bill Plink, from the University of Dayton, which just happens to be my hometown so that was a cool connection as well. He made a great analogy for Quantum Mechanics in that it is two connected wizard boxes and that they are able to somehow “communicate” with each other instantly. His analogy was detailed, but I feel that even someone who doesn’t understand anything about quantum mechanics could follow pretty clearly, even if the connection to the real world quantum mechanics to be a little tricky. Never the less, it was a very interesting seminar that gave a good overview of quantum mechanics and was able to also touch on the possible applications of the science. For example, he spoke in detail about how quantum communication could be used to perfectly encrypt information and not allow anybody else to access it. A technology that is actually in the making and one that I believe will be a reality someday. He also spoke about quantum computing and how it can solve some of the worlds biggest questions hundreds of thousands of years faster than any classical computer we have today. Now this might all seem like crazy technology that will never be a reality, but one of the main points of his talk is how this technology is not nearly as far away as it sounds. I was more surprised that the seminar didn’t go into more detail about quantum mechanics though. I thought that since it was given to professors, grad students and undergrads, that it would include more higher level ideas that would go way over my head. But actually, it was a great talk for somebody like me, who knows a few things about the field, but is not an active member in it. Overall, the seminar was a pretty good experience and I did have fun going. Plus I got to see my good friend there too so that made it even better!
Every year the Ohio State University College of Engineering hosts a Career Expo/Fair for the students to connect to employers and create networks. I knew that I wanted to attend and start growing my network, but I was incredibly unprepared. While I’ve held multiple jobs and have gone through application processes, I have never attended a career fair and had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even have a current resume and had little experience with creating a quality resume. This is where I remembered a lecture from my survey class into the many career services that are offered by the university. The Arts and Sciences Center for Career Success offers many different ways to help with writing a resume including an extensive general guide, template, as well as a guide specifically for freshmen. These were very valuable in creating my first draft of my resume. But the Center for Career Success did not only offer guides, they will also review your resume for free by simply walking into their office during the appropriate hours. I was able to walk into Denny Hall and see a Peer Carrer Coach to get my resume reviewed. She first read my resume and quickly made some formatting corrections and told me to change some grammar. This was very helpful by itself, but then she talked to me about my past and goals for the future. I read over my resume to her and told her some of the details of each section. I later told her about what I was using the resume for and what type of internships I was looking for. This is when she told me where I should add more detail and information about certain topics, and where to remove some. She was able to tailor my resume to the Career Fair and the employers there. Those corrections were incredibly valuable in creating a resume that is relevant to the employers. In addition, going over my resume piece by piece with her gave me some experience with quickly explaining the content on my resume and allowed her to give me more pointers on how to highlight content better. I became much more confident with the looming career fair both in having a quality resume to show employers and in my ability to communicate what I can offer. When walking into the Carrer Expo at the Union, I was still incredibly nervous talking to employers, but I could not imagine how bad my nerves would be without the help from the Center for Career Services. I am pretty happy with how the expo turned out, especially as a freshman. I landed an interview with a company and gained even more experience with my first technical interview. I have now realized what I need to work on and what skills to develop in the future. This would not be possible without the Engineering Career Expo and everything that they offered to connect me with employers and have actual experience with the process of interviewing and getting jobs in the real world.
If there is anything that I have learned in these past few weeks of being on campus, its that OSU Engineering and high school are on two different universes. The overall structure of your day, and classes is different in so many little ways that I never expected. While the classes never seemed to end in high school, the days never seem to end in college. I always have a long list of items that I should or could be doing at practically every moment of the day. Finding a rhythm and sticking to that seems to be one of the hardest transitions for me here at OSU. Distractions are everywhere and while there is a lot of time that is not scheduled for a specific tasks, there is a seemingly never ending laundry list that needs to constantly be taken care of. For me, a lot of this is classwork and dedicating time for studying. I have had a hard time with setting aside specific time and being motivated to study. I am a very social person, and because of that am easily distracted from my work by simply talking. However, I also do really well with smaller study groups and other group work environments. This makes it deciding where and how to study a dilemma.
To help me tackle some of these issues, I decided to see an academic coach at the Dennis Learning Center in the Younkin Success Center. Peiliang, a second year, talked to me about my classes, study habits, and stress management. He listened to me, and would suggest some strategies for me to use. The biggest idea he focused on was determining what is important in your day and trying to schedule around it. He suggested that I rank tasks based on urgency and importance, and to complete tasks in a certain order based upon how I rank each task in each category. These ideas seem pretty helpful and so far I have been successful in implementing the strategies in my studying. In addition, he stressed the importance of going to office hours and seeking help even if you feel that you have a good grasp on the subject. For example, learning how my instructors would think and solve specific question could be beneficial to gain a diverse understanding of the topics. This made a lot of sense to me, so I decided to go to my physic’s professors office hours, and ask him if the way that I approached some of the more complex problems was the way he would recommend. He was able to explain other ideas and shortcuts that would help me answer the problem. In addition, I listened to how he explained some questions to other students, and it helped me to know what topics I understood well, and which ones I didn’t understand in full. Overall, some of the tips that Peiliang suggested to me seem to be very beneficial and tailored to who I am as a student. I feel more confident in taking on the immense class load that I have this semester, and am excited about the future.
During the Ohio State Involvement Fair, I quickly realized the sheer number of student organizations and became overwhelmed by all of my options. However, at the same time, none of the organizations seem to be exactly what I was looking for. I knew that the organizations that I was interested in joining revolved around service and/or Computer Science/STEM, so I decided to go to many different organization meetings the first few weeks of being at OSU. The issue became that the meeting times were all around the same time, so I had to make decisions and choose which organizations were really important to me. I went to many computer science clubs, and I liked a few of them, but I was never really sold on any one of them. I always felt that the rooms were full of people trying to flex their skills and boost their ego, more than trying to help and be a mentor to underclassmen. To me, it was a toxic environment that I was not incredibly interested in being a part of. But luckily, I was convinced into going to an ACM-W meeting. I had seen the posters and have had people talk to me about the group, but I did not initially think the club would even accept me. This is because ACM-W stands for the Association of Computing Machinery – Women’s Chapter, so as a man, I did not think that I would fit in and did not think I was even able to go to a women’s club. Nevertheless, some influential people convinced me to go, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made here at OSU. The group was very accepting of men joining their group and I realized that most of the awkwardness I was feeling was being put on by myself rather than the women in the room. In contrast to the other clubs I went to, the ACM-W was focused on helping everybody succeed and was a organization created to uplift. The people are a fantastic mix of being mentors as well as also showing technical aptitude and share a general goal of coming together to collectively achieve our goals. The goal of the ACM-W is to help women get jobs in computer science, and I never realized until now how necessary achieving this goal is. There is a clear lack of diversity in computer science that I can see not only from my classes but from the other computer science organizations that I went to. If the club was a generic club, it seemed that the entire room was full of the exact same people wearing different outfits. They had the same mindset and there was not only a lack of diversity in race and gender, but in thought and action. I have realized how devastating the lack of diversity is in tech fields, and I want to do my part to change that, even as a white man. The ACM-W is a great place for me to work on increasing diversity, by empowering women to feel that they can succeed, while also gaining experience and networking in a tech club. In the end, finding the ACM-W has incredibly surprised me by really helping me find a group that I can connect with and share a love for Computer Science with.