Centre College graduate and Brown Scholar Cate Heine ‘18 has taken her education from Danville, Kentucky, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Social and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Heine was one of four applicants to the social engineering systems doctoral program selected as a Michael Hammer Fellow, which offers exceptional students networking opportunities, independence in choosing the focus of research and generous compensation.
A clear example of hard-work and dedication resulting in success at a young age, Heine has much to say about her time at Centre and how it propelled her on to a remarkable career path.
Q: How did being a Brown Fellow at Centre influence your success?
A: The Brown Fellows program offers summer enrichment projects that provide fellows with resources to explore anything and everything a student may be academically curious about. I spent a summer doing social science research in Australia and a summer in Sante Fe, New Mexico, conducting quantitative research. Both of these experiences showed me what I wanted to do in graduate school and also set me up to be a strong applicant to those types of programs.
Q: Was there a particular faculty member from the College who personally invested in your academic career?
A: Dr. Ellen Swanson deeply impacted my Centre experience and my choices after graduation. She designed a course, which I took my junior year, that sparked my interest in using mathematics to study human-centered problems. She also helped me gather funding to attend two different math conferences, both of which gave me a taste of the type of research I would be doing as a Ph.D. student.
Q: How did your experience at Centre prepare you for such a rigorous program?
A: I was a little bit intimidated going into the program. I was worried that coming from a liberal arts background I might not have as rigorous or technical of training as some of my peers coming from STEM-focused universities. Now, a couple of months into a semester of math coursework at MIT, I am feeling so grateful for my Centre education—the Centre math faculty gave me such a strong foundation. Moreover, the diversity of courses I took at Centre taught me how to write, communicate, analyze, and critically think in any context, which makes me feel prepared for whatever comes my way over my next two years.
Q: What is Centre doing to advance the study of the sciences?
A: I think that some of the best and most interesting research happens at the intersection of disciplines. The way that Centre structures its academic curriculum inherently leads us as students to think across disciplinary divides, placing value in taking courses in multiple subjects and being able to look at problems from diverse perspectives. If we’re going to find answers to the really important questions we face, we need to be able to tackle them from multiple, different angles. I think the scientists (or mathematicians or engineers) who come from Centre will be able to do that very well.
Q: What are your career goals upon graduation from MIT?
A: I hope that after I graduate from MIT I’ll be able to do research that makes people’s lives better in some way. Although this may be the vaguest of goals, I think that, together, my Centre education and my MIT education will help me to do that. In terms of a specific career path, I’ve got five years to figure it out. As for right now, I’m taking things one day at a time.
by Ben Bennett ’20
November 26, 2018