In Conversation

Graduate Genevieve Sertic: a combination of skills ‘unique and rare’

Genevieve Sertic
Genevieve Sertic

In her four years at Yale, Genevieve Sertic has installed experimental solar panels on the rooftop of Kline Geology Laboratory, co-authored journal articles on new renewable energy technology, volunteered in science outreach for local children, and written on numerous topics for the student magazine Yale Scientific.

Having completed her senior project, which used the sensors in a smartphone to autonomously navigate an electric scooter in an outdoor environment, Sertic now heads to the University of Michigan for a master’s program in electrical and computer engineering.

This month she was awarded the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science Henry Prentiss Becton Prize, which goes to one graduating senior at Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science “for rewarding and encouraging outstanding student performance.” One of her nominators, Mark Reed, the Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Electrical Engineering, wrote that she “has a combination of experimental skill, analytical depth, physical insight, and interpersonal skills that is unique and rare.”

YaleNews spoke with Sertic recently about her research interests and impressesion of Yale. An edited version of that talk follows:                     

What drew you to Yale?
I chose Yale for a couple of reasons. The low student-to-faculty ratio is something that is really unique to Yale. I have one-on-one meetings with the professors and get to really know their research, and the small class sizes have given me a chance to develop close bonds with the other students.

I also chose Yale because I wanted a liberal arts background. I wanted flexibility in my classes to learn about the history major’s perspective on science, or about how science changes depending on your cultural lens. Those different perspectives are really interesting to me, and I think students should know about these things if they’re going into STEM, to understand different viewpoints and to interface with people from other disciplines.

How did you come to focus on energy?

I’ve always been interested in the smart grid, electric vehicles, renewable energy, energy efficiency — any way to help the world through technology — and Yale’s great at that. The multidisciplinary framework Yale provides allows students to go beyond the technological side. It forces you to take classes outside your comfort zone, and that’s where I really stretched myself.

What are some things you’ll miss the most about Yale?

The people — that’s mostly what I’ll miss. I’ll miss all the great professors here. I’ll miss the other electrical engineering students — we’ve gotten really close over the years. They’ve been such a great group and I’m going to miss that close collaboration.

Some of what will stick with me the most are the classes I took outside of my major. I took a class called “Global Catastrophe Since 1750,” and it was a wonderful history class that taught me different perspectives outside of the technical field. The “History of Chinese Science” was also a great class, because that taught me that the meaning and application of science depends on your cultural lens. For example, in Chinese medicine, if the treatment works, the result is what matters. In Western medicine, there’s more of an emphasis on trying to figure out what made the treatment effective. Those different viewpoints sometimes clash, but I think that if you come from one culture and get to know about the other, it’s a really powerful thing, especially in communicating with scientists across the world.

Are there things you wish you knew when first coming to Yale?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors if you need help. If you’re an electrical engineering major — and I think this is true for most majors — you can’t go it alone. Reach out to other students, and it will be rewarding for you to see how other people think and how you can incorporate all those different types of approaches to problems into your own problem-solving methods. It’s great to learn how to work as a team. Certainly, in most STEM majors, whether you go into research or industry, that’s what you’ll be doing after you graduate.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Meet some of Yale’s outstanding graduates of 2018

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