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Exploring engineering through applied sciences helped Ren, who graduated this May with a degree in computer science, unlock her creativity at Carolina.

Lucy Ren holds a laptop in a gym at a hackathon
“My experience at UNC-Chapel Hill is an example of the power of interdisciplinary learning,” Ren said.

Lucy Ren was drawn to UNC-Chapel Hill for the computer science program’s stellar reputation, but one course in her minor in applied sciences and engineering — Introduction to Design and Making: Developing Your Personal Design Potential (APPL 110) — made her entire educational experience fit together.

“Computer science provided a theoretical foundation,” said Ren, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and another minor in data science, “but applied sciences and engineering gave me an understanding of physical phenomena and how to merge it with the conceptual to create things.”

In APPL 110, she had the opportunity to use UNC’s BeAM makerspaces, where she mastered a laser cutter, 3D printer and various power tools to create a book-size pinball machine made from metal, replete with functional levers, plunger, holes and bumpers.

“The actual process of designing something and making sure that it actually worked was fun,” she said. “It taught me a lot about the engineering design process and all the steps you need to take to actually produce a final product and fully test it.”

Ren’s passion for computer engineering was sparked early on by her father, an electrical engineer, and nurtured in a high school robotics class. She believes that programming is more than just writing code.

“It’s about using creativity to solve problems, design engaging applications and express ideas,” she said.

Ren was able to parlay her experience organizing HackNC, a student-run hackathon at UNC-Chapel Hill, to secure an internship as a software engineer with Atlassian, a multinational company known for its project management tool, Trello. There, she developed search filters for Trello, which uses boards, lists and cards to help teams track tasks and monitor project progress. Her exceptional performance led to a full-time job offer before she even graduated.

Ren said that she has found at Atlassian what attracted her to Chapel Hill — a sense of community and a phenomenal culture.

“My experience at UNC-Chapel Hill is an example of the power of interdisciplinary learning,” she said. “I’ve been lucky so far to have had a well-rounded and deeply fulfilling educational and professional journey.”

By David DeFusco, computer science department

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