By Nadia Tahsini, Senior, Chemical Engineering

Nadia is a chemical engineering senior with an interest in nanomaterials for energy applications. (Catch her doing a PhD at MIT in the fall!) In her free time, she likes to binge TV shows, read, and watch gymnastics videos on Youtube.

Why did you choose to be an engineer?

I liked science, but wanted to do something applied. Plus, engineering sounds cool!

As a chemical engineering senior, I’ve spent far too many hours in the Stanford engineering quad. From countless long days in my research lab in Shriram, to tiring late-night pset parties in the Huang basement, the engineering quad has been a prominent fixture in my four years at Stanford. But it took me way too long to appreciate it.

A friend from home came to visit me in my junior year. Wanting to see what my day-to-day life was like, I took him to Shriram and gave him a little unofficial tour. I vividly remember, as we stepped off the stairs onto the second floor, he turned towards the communal kitchen and said, “Wow, this looks like an IKEA!”

I burst out laughing, and he said, “No, but seriously, that’s such a nice kitchen!” As we continued walking around, he ooh-ed and aah-ed at almost everything: the modern style, the cool designs on office windows, the extensive amount of natural light. I didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t really understand why he was so impressed. All I could think was, It’s just Shriram…? After a while, this memory went to the back of my head.

Then came the summer. I was set to do visiting research at UCLA. On my first day, I walked into the engineering building. It was…meh. Multiple STEM departments were coalesced into one building. There were 9 floors, all arranged in a labyrinthine structure. The hallways were bland and windowless. There were no nice study spaces. The elevator was old and kind of janky; in fact, in my first week there, the elevator broke down on me and I was stuck, having to get rescued by some firefighters. (This scared me enough that I took the stairs for the entire summer.)

When I returned to Stanford in the fall, I relished in the aesthetic (and functional) appeal of Shriram, and the engineering quad as a whole. It’s cliche to say “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” but dang, my time at UCLA certainly made me appreciate the Stanford facilities much more. And if you think my sample size of Stanford versus UCLA is too small, let me tell you this. I’ve since visited several more universities for grad school visits, including Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, UC Berkeley, UCSB, and MIT. And, not to insult any of these places, but all of these schools were similar to UCLA in that the chemE buildings were unremarkable, unable to match up to the standards set by Stanford’s own Shriram.

So, I’ve come to appreciate what I have much more. The engineering quad gives us quite some beautiful spots. We can definitely be grateful for having these newer, modern buildings situated in the natural California splendor. I’ll take studying on the Shriram terrace surrounded by palm trees over studying in a monochromatic windowless room any day.

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