Geek of the Week: Marie Hrdlicka, Senior, Chemical Engineering

Most Chemical Engineering majors are buckled down with homework all the time, but Marie Hrdlicka manages to balance her activities and social life despite being in two of the most difficult majors in her time at Mines. Between TA-ing and attending all the other meetings she has, “The Oredigger” managed to catch up with her to discuss her time at Mines.

[Oredigger]: Why did you choose Mines?
[Hrdlicka]: Well I was actually looking into nursing school, and my grandpa was a doctor, and so he told me, “You should do something to your full potential.” And so I thought, “Yeah, that would be engineering.” And so after he tried to convince me to be a doctor I decided I wanted to be an engineer. And when I came to this school I just fell in love with the campus and it just felt like home.

What is your favorite thing about Mines?
I really love the education here that’s offered. I think it’s really valuable. I really like the people I’m around; I like that it’s a small campus. But mostly I just really appreciate the education I’m getting and love that everyone’s in it for the same thing. And I like being involved in a lot of things, like being a TA and a peer mentor, and just getting to know people because it is a small campus.

So you’re a Physics II TA and a peer mentor?
Yeah, so I’ve TA’d for three semesters and I’ve been a peer mentor for two years. I absolutely love it. Being a TA has actually really inspired me to maybe teach some day, just because I really love teaching students and getting to know the students on campus. And with being a peer mentor, it’s nice to be able to get to connect with freshman and make them feel welcome. Just because it’s such a small school I think it’s really nice for them to have an upperclassman being able to say “hi” to them or ask “how’s their day” and being known on campus rather than just being another freshman.

Any interesting physics exam proctoring experiences?
I see people pick their boogers and eat them on a regular basis. Or when they use their left hand for the right-hand-rule, I’m like, “NOOOOO!”

Why a Physics II TA?
I loved Phys II, and actually after I took Phys II I decided I wanted to be a physics major. But ended up going into Chemical Engineering my junior year.

How did that happen?
Well, I really loved Phys II, but the next semester I took Thermo and Modern Physics, and all my physics friends helped me with Modern Physics, and I helped all of them with Thermo. So right away I liked Thermo more than physics, but I kept continuing on every semester to see if it would get better, and then it eventually became that I wanted to graduate on time, and it was a pride thing, like I wanted to graduate with all my friends that I came in with, but I just really enjoy physics and I didn’t really see a future for myself in it. So when I realized that, I decided to change my major to Chemical Engineering because I liked the material better and I saw a future for myself in it.

What are things about yourself that make you geeky?
I collected Pokémon cards when I was younger. My best friend played with me, so I just liked whatever he liked. My favorite was probably Pikachu. Actually, no, I liked Dragonite, but I played that game on the GameBoy, and I named him Spitball. But I had a lot more Pokémon cards than all of my friends when I was little.
I don’t feel like I’m a geek here. But when I’m with normal people like my family, my nerdiness totally comes out. I talk with my finger [demonstrates], “Well actually…”
When I was taking Organic Chemistry, I went to dinner with my family at a restaurant and I was drawing compounds on the table. I was just making them up, but I was able to name them for some reason.
I could also be a geek because I went from Engineering Physics to Chemical Engineering which was the worst decision ever, going from a really hard degree to another really hard degree.

Which is harder?
Hmm, I think Physics wants you to achieve and ChemEs are really mean. There was a time when I thought Chemical Engineering was easier. But I think there’s more work in ChemE.

What is your favorite class this semester?
Honestly, I really like Ethics. It’s been a really interesting class and a nice break from the technical mind, as I’ve been having to think in a different way. That’s been really interesting hearing different philosophies and different theories that I can take with me after college. And a lot of the ChemE classes, I do and did like, because it’s puzzle-solving.

What do you do in your free time?
When I have free time… I try and hang out with friends. I actually really love playing music. I play guitar and piano, mostly self-taught. I write my own music. So when I actually get free time, I find a lot of joy for the rest of the day. Hmm… I also play peanuts with my roommates.

What superhero would you be?
Well, I love Batman. But mostly because of Christian Bale. You know Green Lantern? I’d just have a green ring. He can make anything out of green light… and we know from physics that you can’t get something from nothing. But technically it’s an energy source I guess…

Do you have any advice for fellow Mines students?
I would say that learning the balance between academics and social life is really important because I don’t think you can get through school if you just focus on school. You have to have the social aspect: it’s really important to have both. If you can figure those two things out well, you can get through school. Also, make friends in your department. And make sure you get to know your teachers.

Favorite quote?
“Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.”
– Philippians 4:6

Copyright © 2020 The Oredigger Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.