Hopkins Engineer Sara Weill says summer engineering programs in high school led her to STEM field
Sara Weill, a computer science and computer engineering double major, was inspired to pursue STEM after participating in various summer engineering exploration programs in high school. When she came to Hopkins, Weill, who is also a combined bachelor’s/master’s program student, narrowed her interests down to computer science and cybersecurity.
“With computer science, it just feels like the possibilities are endless,” said Weill.
Weill is advised by Avi Rubin, professor of computer science and technical director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. She plans to graduate with her bachelor’s this spring, and her master’s in May 2022. She is president of JHU Women in Computer Science (WiCS), and is also a member of the JHU Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
To learn more about Weill, check out this brief Q&A.
Where are you from?
I’m from Medford, New Jersey.
When did you first discover the STEM field?
I have many family members who are engineers whose careers piqued my interest in STEM, including my dad who is an electrical and computer engineer. I also excelled in math and science in high school, and so my parents and teachers encouraged me to consider the STEM field for college.
In high school, I participated in a few summer programs at different universities, which gave me a taste of what engineering would be like in college. I really enjoyed those programs; they were opportunities to experience innovative engineering applications of math and science, in addition to my traditional high school classes.
What has been your favorite course or most memorable research and why?
Last semester, I took a security and privacy course with Avi Rubin. That course exposed me to the fundamentals of security, classic attacks, and how to protect against those kinds of threats. It ended with a really fun project of designing a voting machine to hack and exploit. It also made me aware of the immense need for security professionals in the field of computer science.
What are your summer plans?
This summer, I will intern remotely with Apple’s information security team. The opportunity was a dream come true for me; growing up I always admired how elegant and beautiful Apple products were. I also loved going into the Apple Store and seeing all of the ‘Apple geniuses’ at work. I thought that maybe I would go to college and major in engineering and ultimately work at Apple one day. Looking back on it, I still can’t believe I actually did just that.
What advice do you have for incoming first year students?
My biggest piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s related to classes, internships or attending office hours for additional support. During my first year at Hopkins, I made such close relationships with professors because I spent so much time in their office getting help. When I needed recommendation letters or advice, the professors all knew me and were able to support me.
I also encourage students to get involved in organizations like WiCS. The upper-class students in the group have all faced the challenges that you may go through and are an invaluable resource when it comes to getting advice on classes, internships and life in general.
What are some extra-curricular activities that you have participated in during your time at Hopkins?
Last spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad before the pandemic shutdown at the University in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s an awesome program that has allowed many JHU computer science students to study abroad, which can be difficult in an engineering program. Even though my time was cut short because of the pandemic, I was still able to have many incredible experiences and make some wonderful friends from all over the world.