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Student Commencement Speaker Hopes to Use Computer Science Skills to Teach, Improve Public Health

By Liam Farrell

Commencement speaker Hannah Rhee portrait.

Photo by Christine Lee

Hannah Rhee, a computer science major determined to use her technological skills to create a better world, will be the student speaker at Friday's commencement ceremonies.

While Hannah Rhee was researching colleges, she came across a question on a University of Maryland website that stuck with her: Do you want to change the world? Yes, she did, and the Minnesota native’s campus tour convinced her that she could make that happen in College Park.

“I could really sense the community,” she said. “My time at Maryland has really given me time to decide my own identity.”

Rhee, the student speaker at Friday’s commencement ceremonies, is graduating four years later with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. She said the ongoing pandemic has only affirmed her confidence that she gained the tools at UMD to help build a better world through technology.

“I can use my computer science skills to have that kind of impact on people’s public health,” she said. “We are so interconnected and dependent on each other.”

One of the most formative experiences for Rhee, who earned a 3.921 GPA while minoring in nonprofit leadership and social innovation, was participating on a research team as part of the Gemstone program in the Honors College. Under the guidance of Jae Kun Shim, professor of kinesiology in the School of Public Health, Rhee and her teammates researched musculoskeletal disorders that can develop in musicians. While the impact of COVID-19 limited the amount of in-person work that could be done, Shim said, Rhee was a leader in identifying how these problems affect women more frequently than men, a vital foundation for future research.

“She has excellent work ethic and is very dedicated to any task given to her,” Shim said. “She is very sincere and warmhearted.”

In addition to her academic work, Rhee was a software engineering intern for Orbit Logic in Greenbelt, Md., a student advisory board member for the Department of Computer Science and a mentor in the Girls Excelling in Math and Science program.

After graduation, she plans to undertake a year of volunteer work before entering the software industry and eventually becoming a high school computer science teacher.

“I really like the problem-solving aspect of it, and how logical the whole process is,” Rhee said. “There’s a lot of reward when you finally have that breakthrough.”

 

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