Mechanical Engineer Sets Sights on a Career as a Doctor
Hana Keller (Class of 2018) grew up in Seattle surrounded by a family of geologists. Driven to experience a challenging and exceptional academic environment in which the best science is pursued and discovered, Hana applied to Caltech. After her acceptance, she was awarded a Caltech Associates Endowed Scholarship, which allowed her to explore the colliding worlds of mechanical engineering and biology.
Now a Caltech sophomore, Hana is pursuing a joint mechanical engineering/premed major with the dream of becoming a doctor or creating innovative medical robotics. In her spare time, she enjoys playing water polo and soccer for Caltech, and a few of her passions beyond science are horseback riding, hiking, and drawing.
Why did you choose Caltech?
I chose Caltech because of my high school, Tesla STEM, a new public school in Redmond whose small environment, brilliant peers, and dedicated teachers pushed me to be better every day. Caltech reminded me of that atmosphere.
Both my parents are geologists, and I grew up in an environment where science explained everything. I was driven to know the truth, and Caltech is a perfect place to explore the most important questions facing society today. I knew that Caltech would be difficult and challenging, but I wanted to see if I could succeed—and so far, so good.
How important was it to receive the Caltech Associates undergraduate scholarship, and what would you say about the difference it made or will make in your life?
The scholarship I received has been extremely important to my academic and personal goals. I wouldn't be here without the support from the Caltech Associates scholarship.
I hope to attend medical school after college, so I have plenty of big spending in my future in order to reach my goals. My parents are amazing and they help me as much as they can, but my dad is now retired, and they have already put both of my siblings through four-year colleges. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to pursue my dream of finding a career in medicine or the medical robotics field.
Can you share one of your most memorable Caltech experiences?
My most memorable Caltech experience was last year during a late-night math set, when a few of my peers and I were sitting in Fleming House, working hard and getting nowhere on our problems. A group of upperclassmen came in, a couple of sophomores and two seniors. They sat down with us and looked at our set. One of the girls who had passed out of the class the year before started to explain the problem we were stuck on. Together, we worked on the problems and shared stories from inside and outside the lab. My favorite part of this experience was being able to interact with a group of upperclassmen and having them go out of their way during a time when they were trying to relax to help us with our work.
Caltech's unique house system breaks down age and grade levels. As a freshman, I would not otherwise interact with seniors, as we don't have the same classes, but living in Fleming House, I have the opportunity to get to know other students in different years and majors. Caltech's unique culture makes you feel that every person you meet is a peer, and even though people here are all super smart, they don't come off that way and you don't feel judged.
I have also had wonderful experiences participating on the Caltech water polo team. I had not played the sport before coming to Caltech, but now it is part of who I am. I feel so close to my team and coaches. They are all committed and supportive. The training also provides a fun escape from problem sets.
Where do you see yourself in the future as a result of your Caltech experience?
In the future, I see doors opening up for me that would otherwise be closed. Very few colleges allow a mechanical engineer to take the core requirements to be able to go on to medical school, but at Caltech there are no boundaries.
I hope to be able to choose between two job paths: work designing prosthetic limbs or as a doctor. Even with the classes I have taken as a sophomore, I would feel confident about conversing with scientists and engineers in almost any field and that comes from the rigorous and thorough Caltech core.