A Graduate’s Reflection with Ellie ’22

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Wow! Four years at Mudd, three years that started on campus, two that didn’t end on campus, and one degree later, I have (somehow) graduated from Harvey Mudd College. 

My name is Ellie, and for the past four years, I have had the honor of calling myself a Mudder. This past May, I walked across the stage, shook hands with the President of the College, and was handed my degree.

As I go through my camera roll, I find myself reflecting on all the moments I’ve been able to capture through the years. Let’s take a trip back to the Before Times of 2018…

…to Frosh Orientation! Orientation was packed full of activities, ranging from placement tests to trips around LA, called Orientation Adventure Trips. One of the highlights was the Frosh Talent Show. My new dorm got together to put on the Cup Song, with increasingly interesting “cups” that included things like a jar of nutella, a trash can, and chairs. While I didn’t know everyone in the photo at the time, I now can name everyone pictured. Some of them even became my closest friends! What a fun way to start off my time at Mudd!

After orientation, the real work began in the form of classes, homework, and all of the normal school activities. 

Jumping ahead to the holidays, this photo comes from Hochmas, which is Mudd’s dining hall’s Christmas dinner. At Mudd, we have a saying: “n+1?” The origins come from a math unit that I’ve long forgotten, but whenever someone asks this, Mudders know that they’re asking if we can fit another person at the table—and that the answer is always yes. We crammed as many friends as we possibly could around this table, eating elbow to elbow and sometimes, holding the plate in our lap just for the sake of adding another friend to the table. 

To relax after our very first round of college finals, my friends and I took a trip to Santa Monica to spend the day on the beach and in the sun. There’s a train station just past Pomona, so getting to LA through Union Station is fairly easy. That opened up the world of possibilities and activities!

By my second semester at Mudd, I had already been hired by Prof. Hawkins and joined her lab, where we study atmospheric chemistry and climate change. Research is extremely common on Mudd, and a lot of students even get research in their first year, like I did. We get to perform hands-on experiments, take the lead in projects, and learn what it means to fully invest in a field. Fun fact: one of the projects that I worked on during this semester resulted in a paper that was just submitted for publication!

One of the ways that the lab studies atmospheric interactions is by using a cloud chamber, which is a giant metal cylinder where we can simulate the conditions of an atmosphere and analyze the transformation of various compounds. This project occurred during the summer of 2019, as I was a rising sophomore. Cloud chambers are expensive and rare, and it just so happened that the cloud chamber we were working was located in…

Paris, France! Along with Prof. Hawkins and my labmate, Lindy, I lived and worked in Paris for one month, learning about cloud chemistry, performing relevant research, sightseeing historic sights, and eating delicious food. 

After a phenomenal summer, sophomore year began, and we all dove right back into classes.

E79 is the core course offered by the engineering department, typically taken in the first semester of your sophomore year. One of the main projects of this course is a practical application of the concepts we learned about in lectures: building an underwater robot! My partner and I named ours Piper, and we were very proud when she was successfully able to retrieve a ring.

Another highlight of first semester sophomore year was my first chemistry major course, physical chemistry or PChem. In PChem lab, one of the units involved learning how to glass blow our own tubes! We learned how to make joints, how to make connectors, and more. While this might not be something done in every chemistry class, it was definitely a highlight of the class!

During my second semester that year, a class that I particularly enjoyed was OChem. We did a lot of partner work in the class, and Prof. Vosburg was always available to answer any questions. Since Mudd is such a small school, the class was small enough and we were always able to get the attention of the professor when we needed it in order to fully understand the material.

Unfortunately, this was also the semester that we were all sent home. After finishing the school year on Zoom, I made plans with friends so that we could have our own mini Mudd somewhere else for my junior year.

Even off campus, working together on homework was a part of everyday life. Despite most of us being in different majors with completely different problem sets, we still preferred to work with each other whenever we could. In lieu of study rooms and dorm lounges, the dining room table became a common place for us to attend class, do homework, and eat meals together! 

As you might remember back in 2021, Among Us was one of the ways that we kept in touch with friends. CAP, which is a part of ASHMC, subsidized snacks for games of Among Us with other Mudders, resulting in many games (and a few betrayals). CAP subsidizes many events in normal years, like movie tickets and amusement park trips. While we know that it was hard to keep up many of the normal activities during quarantine, we appreciate everything that CAP did to help maintain Mudd’s community all across the world!

Zoom classes were as good as they could be with my fellow chemistry majors, and we still got to have some fun online. I got some quality photos of Zoom classes the day I did an Instagram takeover for the Admissions Office. Here, I asked my group in Inorganic Chemistry and Prof. Johnson to say hi!

Summer research was back on campus in 2021! Here, we have the newly expanded Hawkins Lab up on the roof of Jacobs by our sensors. Summer research is always a highlight, and having more people to work with made it all the more exciting. As a senior member of the lab, I was responsible for training and mentoring the new students.

Senior year arrived faster than I expected. Most of my time was spent with the community I would be leaving, working with my lab, and making the most of my last year. 

That year, sushi nights became a tradition with one of my friends. There are multiple sushi places in the Claremont Village, along with a number of other restaurants. We rotated through them in an attempt to try every single roll. Just a 20 minute walk from Mudd, fun meals in the Village are a staple of every Mudd year. 

Senior year, I got to present my research at the American Chemical Society conference in San Diego. While this wasn’t my first professional conference, it was my first in-person conference! Being able to interact with professionals in the many sub-disciplines of chemistry and hear about their research was extremely rewarding. It was also very gratifying to be able to contribute to the conversation with my own research and realize just how much I had learned. Conferences are just one of the many opportunities research at Mudd has given me!

Before I knew it, graduation was upon us. These four years have been some of the most rewarding years of my life, all because of the wonderful people I met at Mudd. As I sat and watched my peers walk across the stage, I couldn’t help but be grateful. Mudd was the most wonderful community that I had the honor to be a part of.