Kaitlin Huben, Senior, Computer Science

(Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Huben)

In examining Kaitlin Huben’s diverse set of extracurricular activities—teaching assistant, research assistant, campus tour guide, and, even, teacher for Columbia Bartending Agency & School of Mixology—one gets the sense that when she says she was drawn to engineering because it was the application of mathematics and science, she means it. Her zeal for what she describes as the intersection of technology and people compels her to be out in the world experimenting with principles of the field, not behind a desk studying them.

Huben came to Columbia seeking the well-rounded education ensured by the University’s famous Core Curriculum requirements. Part of the Engineering School’s prestigious Egleston Scholars Program, she entered her first year intent on pursuing a mechanical engineering degree but quickly found herself hooked on computer science. When she began working on homework for her Intro to Java class before any of her other assignments, she realized a passion and switched her focus.

Now a senior, Huben is an accomplished research assistant. Currently working with Computer Science Professors Martha Kim and Stephen Edwards, she has the noble task of teaching children about hardware principles in a research project called FPGAs4Kids. She has found the experience invaluable and grasps the social importance of the project. “While some schools have programming classes,” she says, “it’s rare that you find classes that discuss the logic and hardware underlying the software.”

The ability to share her knowledge is definitely a common thread in Huben’s interests; she is enlivened by spreading her passion for science and technology. “So many people are intimidated by the very idea of math or coding. I genuinely enjoy breaking things down in a way that anyone can learn.” To simplify a subject to the point of easy comprehension, a person must be able to understand it in totality. Huben’s perfect grade point average indicates she possesses this kind of mastery. But beyond a brilliant aptitude for the subject, she is also able to see how her passions fit into the context of society.

“Making tech topics accessible to people with nontechnical backgrounds is something that I not only enjoy but also think is essential in this increasingly technological world,” says Huben. “Engineering isn’t just about math and science; it’s about applying that knowledge in a way that makes the world a better place.”

If ever there was a company that embodied Huben’s effervescent energy towards tech, it’s Google. And upon graduating this spring, Huben will join their team as a software engineer, returning to her native California to code with some of the best technological minds in the world. She remains characteristically unintimidated, and instead is thrilled by the opportunity to grow in a dynamic setting, energized by a seemingly limitless environment.

“Being an engineer today means you can do anything. If you want to try something, even if it seems impossible right now, you can be instrumental in developing the technology to make it happen.”

Huben can look forward to a bright future with unbounded potential, and she intends to keep her “eyes, ears, and heart” open for opportunities to keep learning, discovering, and sharing with others—a strategy that has served her well thus far.

—by Elaine Rooney