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CEF Student Interview with Erika Anderson

“I found my passion for science, thanks to the Carlsbad Educational Foundation”.

Erika Anderson is a Carlsbad High School graduate and freshman at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Learn more about how she found her passion for science and her CEF journey to MIT in our Q&A below!

Tell us about yourself:
I grew up in Carlsbad playing softball and loving the outdoors. I attended Calavera Elementary and Middle School and then Carlsbad High School. Currently I am at MIT, studying mechanical engineering. I love hiking, camping, and spending time at the beach.

How did you first get involved in the sciences, and when did you know that it was your passion?
I have always loved math and science. I grew up playing with Legos, Lincoln Logs, and remote control cars. I loved building things and tinker with toys to figure out how they worked.

In middle school, I joined CEF’s Science Olympiad to strengthen my knowledge in science and get a more hands-on experience. I would spend weekends doing my own science projects that I found online just for fun. I absolutely loved learning outside of the classroom and I want to give kids the same opportunity to love it just as much as I do.

Is there anyone/anything that inspired you to embark on your own career?
My parents are my biggest supporters and sources of encouragement. They always pushed me to do my best and have always supported me with my aspirations. I don’t have one defining moment or person who has inspired me to pursue a career in math and science; I think the collection of teachers, museums, researchers, documentaries, CEF opportunities, and personal experiments  have all inspired me.

Every time I go to a science museum, watch a documentary on space travel, see people making robots which can explore the deep ocean, or even see the work my upperclassmen friends here at MIT do, make me say “I want to do that some day!” I don’t quite know how to describe it, I just find math, science, and technology absolutely fascinating.

What is it like to be a freshman at MIT and what are you studying?
I absolutely love it here. I am surrounded by so many great minds and opportunities, it baffles me every day.

MIT is certainly hard and a lot of work, but I know it will pay off. As a freshman just taking general institute requirements (biology, physics, calculus, etc), it’s hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel, but seeing the amazing work professors and upperclassmen do, makes me want to study harder and be like them someday.

Everyone here inspires each other to learn more and more every day, not just during class but outside class through internships, work-study, and traveling abroad as well. College is certainly a new experience, but so far, my time here at MIT has been an amazing adventure. I am so glad I have the opportunity to go to school at MIT and can’t wait to use what I learn here in a career in engineering. At the current moment, I am planning on studying mechanical engineering.

Do you have any advice to give young students currently aspiring to go to MIT or be involved in the sciences?

CEF Science Olympiad motivated me to seek out opportunities to learn. You only scratch the surfaces of math and science in the classroom so, I encourage anyone who is interested in pursuing science to just find a way to learn more. Biology is more than just plants and animals, physics is more than just dropping a ball from the top of a building, and, yes, math is actually applicable in real life!

Of course an elementary school student does not need to go out and find an internship, but I would encourage students to just take a Saturday to visit a science museum or find a fun, simple science project online. CEF also has several resources to help students learn more about math and science. Parents also probably have a friend or two who work in some kind of science-related field. Ask to see what they do! Maybe they’ll give you a tour of a lab or show you around their workshop; there are so many ways to see how science works outside of class, and it is often way more fun to see how what you learn in class helps solve problems in the real world.

As far as advice for high school students applying to MIT goes, I recommend just being yourself. Do what you are passionate about. If you think a kind of science is interesting, learn more about it! Find a way to get involved and share your passion with other people. MIT looks for more than good grades, they want passionate, motivated people who will add to the culture of the campus and inspire others to change the world.