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  • Posted 6 years ago


Why Electrical is Special

Not just any old engineering.

By Alena Rott

Back when I was a little freshman, I knew I wanted to study engineering. And not just any old engineering! I wanted to be a rugged spelunker tackling the world’s problems with math, programming, and elbow grease. However, by the end of freshman year, I was still lost in the big world of the School of Engineering, taking a disorganized sequence of classes with some sort of “E” in the title. I took a class in the BioE core, I took CS, I even took… a Chemical Engineering class! (I kid, it was very interesting).

Then, I took E40M. This is great, I thought, squinting at the soldering joint I’d just lovingly crafted. As I was huddled over my lab bench, I envisioned myself instead working out some wiring at a huge, flashy solar farm. I love soldering, I thought happily. I’d picked the major that would enable my MacGyver-esque dreams: Electrical Engineering.

Exactly one year later, I was sitting in a different windowless lab room on the first floor of Packard: the infamous Packard 128, Digital Systems Lab. As my lab mates and I were searching through our Verilog modules for whatever had turned our functional music player into static, I asked myself “Why did I choose this life?”

Why did I choose this life? Because, at the same time, I was taking a class that enabled me to see inside my classmate’s skulls (EE 169, Intro to Bioimaging). Because of the satisfaction that comes with understanding something all the way down to the semiconductor physics. Because once you get a little taste of the signal processing behind wireless communication, you stop complaining about dropped calls and remain in awe that cell phones work at all, ever. Luckily, not all EEs need to be digital systems designers. (Shoutout to the ones who are. Y’all are amazing). I didn’t love every core class, but I came out with a hefty amount of knowledge, wonder, and respect.

I am continuously in awe of my classmates. My classmates are the kind of people that make plasma speakers for fun, find time to send balloons into space, and somehow TA two of my core courses while being in the same graduating class. I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten to learn with such talented, hard-working, intense people. We know it isn’t the easiest major at Stanford, but we’re in it because of the powerful things that we learn—concepts that allow us to manipulate the technology we rely on straight down to its core.

In collaboration with Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi is the only honor society representing the entire engineering profession across the nation. Their chapter at Stanford strives to promote academic excellence, leadership, and continued service to the larger engineering community. They host events and organize initiatives including peer mentoring, K-12 outreach, alumni panels, CEO dinners, project fairs and more. For more info, check out

Alena Rott

Alena enjoys learning languages, yoga and design. And she absolutely loves swing dancing.

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