Senior Class Speaker: Samantha Cheng ENG‘21

“The SOE provides a great collaborative community.” – Samantha Cheng

Electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and English double major Samantha Cheng has served as an Engineering Ambassador, the chair of the First Year Integration Peer Mentor Program, and a MATLAB learning assistant. She took part in the Aresty Summer Science program, where she studied the effect of climate change on the Mackenzie River Basin. She also had a software development internship with MITRE, where she worked on several government-related projects, as well as a systems engineering internship with Lockheed Martin. An Honors College Scholar and SoE Class of 2021 convocation speaker, she will be joining Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Akamai Technologies’ Platform Rotation Engineering Program after graduation.

Why Rutgers?

I chose it for its perfect balance of having the resources of a large school, while still having smaller, tight-knit communities. The SOE provides a great collaborative community, while the university offers research and career experiences. The different campuses, schools, and people contribute to the diverse experiences I have had here. This semester, I even took a class on Animal Handling, Fitting, and Exhibition on the Cook Farm – and worked with goats.

What drew you to computer engineering?

I’m interested in how hardware and software work together and I liked that the computer engineering track is part of the broader, interdisciplinary ECE department, which means I could obtain experience in both hands-on lab work involving circuitry as well as coding software. I appreciate the versatility of being able to take ECE skills and knowledge and apply them elsewhere, such as in biomedical or environmental sciences.

What about your English major?

I’ve always loved reading and analyzing literature, so I knew I wanted to take a few literature classes in college. On my first day of school at Rutgers, I sat in on an English lecture and that class solidified my interest and made me want to study English more formally. Studying English has also improved my communication and critical thinking skills, which are important in any field.

What do you most value about your Rutgers education?

I value the community the most. I’ve learned so much in my four years here, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my classmates and professors. Rutgers SOE has given me a large network of people – and the people are truly what makes Rutgers SOE unique. As graduation comes closer, I’m comforted by the fact that I have so many people I can rely on or reach out to in the years to come.

Did any professors make an impact on you?

Many of my professors have made profound impacts on me as a student and as a person. One in particular is industrial and systems engineering professor Dr. Elsayed Elsayed. I took his Introduction to Reliability Engineering class as an elective. I’m so appreciative of the time he took to talk to each student – he is clearly invested in his students’ futures. I greatly admire his passion for his work, and hope one day to have a passion and expertise similar to his.

How did the coronavirus pandemic affect you?

The switch to online learning was a challenge, but I adapted with the help of professors and other resources. Many professors were even more accessible through online learning than before, and it was a great help to still be able to schedule meetings and have face time with them.

I was also able to take trainings through the learning assistant program, that helped me both be a better student in my classes and to be a better MATLAB learning assistant. These trainings covered topics such as metacognitive skills, time management, and online resources.

What did it mean to you to be selected as the SOE Class of 2021 speaker?

Being the SOE convocation speaker is an exciting and meaningful experience for me because I want to share a message that can resonate with the whole class. Graduation is a time to look back on the great memories we've made at Rutgers, as well as to look forward to new beginnings. I hope this gives everyone a moment to reflect on their own paths, and celebrate themselves and their achievements.

Do you have any advice for incoming students?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is a typical piece of advice, but I was still afraid as an incoming freshman to ask too many questions. It turns out that people – whether they’re fellow freshmen, upperclassmen, professors, or anyone else at Rutgers – are more than happy to help you out. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions – as long as you ask and listen.

What will your job at Akamai Technologies involve?

I’ll be rotating through four tracks – information security, platform engineering, global performance operations, and networks – during Akamai Technologies’ two-year Platform Rotation Engineering Program. I’ll be taking on different roles depending on the track, so I can gain exposure to these fields before fully committing to one. I’ll also be learning general technical and soft skills that I’ll be able to apply in any role.