Short Feature with Softball Rising Senior Rae Lasko

Rae with her hackathon team that won Google's innovation award
Rae with her hackathon team that won Google's innovation award

Rae Lasko will be a senior at Carnegie Mellon in the Fall of 2018 and is excited to be a member of the inaugural softball team for the Tartans. A cognitive science major from Diamond Bar, California, Lasko answers a few questions about student life at Carnegie Mellon, how she decided on her major, what classes she's enjoyed, and what she's learned about CMU that she'd pass on to new students.

1. What do you enjoy about campus life?

At Carnegie Mellon, campus life is pretty much whatever you want to make of it. During my 3 years here, I've had the opportunity to make friends with students from a variety of fields of study who each have a unique take on life. 

2. What activities have you participated in?

I've participated in a wide variety of research, projects, and clubs at CMU. During my first 2.5 years, I was heavily involved in research.

During my freshman year, I was on the board of Project Rwanda. Project Rwanda is a joint effort between Carnegie Mellon Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon Rwanda (a satellite campus) to promote cross-cultural exchange between the campuses and run a local service project teaching technology and arts. I joined the team as the only freshman and co-led the development of the technical portion of our curriculum.

Oh and Pittsburgh Connections is really cool. CMU subsidizes off-campus outdoors adventures every weekend. I've been whitewater rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, and rock climbing.

3. Tell us about your internship experience.

I'm currently at my third internship at Apple in Cupertino, California. After my freshman year, I interned as a software engineering intern on the Notes App team where I worked with a team of engineers to design and implement a feature. 

After my sophomore year, I worked as a Product Design Engineer on the Siri Home Automation team where I redesigned the end-to-end user experience of a particular home automation device and then implemented it. This included deciding what types of user inputs would trigger the behavior, determining the user's intended behavior, and then finally Siri's response to the user. 

This summer, I'm working on the Siri Advanced Development User Experience team. We generally work on prototyping tools and user experiences for Siri that are a number of years out, and often work with other teams within Apple. My role this summer has been to apply cognitive science and behavioral approaches to design more streamlined user experiences for several different projects. I'm also designing and prototyping some exciting future Siri experiences.

I can't say much about the day-to-day life besides that I generally spend my days researching, designing, or prototyping. I also spend a lot of time working with engineers, designers, and project managers to scope projects and end experiences.

4. What are your summer plans?

Outside of my internship, I took a week off to visit Taiwan with my family.

5. What are you excited about next semester?

I'm so excited for the upcoming semester that I don't even really know what I'm doing yet because I can't decide what I'm most excited about! I'm going to be doing some combination of the following: 5 classes, neuroscience research in learning and development, HCI research in software environments that make environments, CMU CS Academy, organizing the Cognitive Science class I helped design, running/co-running the advisory boards, and curriculum/student engagement work for 15-110.  

And softball, definitely softball! Especially my future teammates :)

6. Why did you select your course of study – what class have you enjoyed the most?

I really love thinking about how people think, how they interact with their environment, and how they communicate. So Cognitive Science with a minor in Neural Computation it was! But I didn't just want to think about these things, I wanted to do something, and make something that could improve people's lives, so I added a double major in Human-Computer Interaction and a minor in Design. I actually may or may not finish either of my minors, but I really love the classes. I'm not sure I can pick a favorite, though Applications of Cognitive Science with Professor Roberta Klatzky, and Document Design with Professor Karen Bernsten come to mind. Although I really also enjoyed Neural Correlates of Learning and Memory, and 15-110 (Principles of Computing) changed the course of my life. 

7. What have you enjoyed about living in Pittsburgh?

The bus system makes it really easy to get around. 

8. What have you learned about Carnegie Mellon that you would pass on to your new teammates?

Leap! Just do it! Whatever it is that you love. At Carnegie Mellon, faculty and classmates are more than ready to support you as long as you're willing to take a chance and work hard. Send cold emails to professors you look up to for a quick office chat and upperclassmen you aspire to be like. They'll be happy to help more often than you expect and it's a great way to develop long term relationships. People will trust you if you trust yourself.