Portrait of Abby Bechtel ’22
“Chapman isn’t just about getting through and getting your degree. It’s about community.” Abby Bechtel ’22

Engineering Major Finds an Internship and More at Chapman, Even During COVID-19

She always loved math and relished puzzles. But Abby Bechtel ’22 hadn’t imagined that those factors could add up to a degree in computer science. Until she arrived at Chapman University.

“Coming to Chapman has changed my life in so many ways and opened opportunities that I wasn’t even looking for. It has even given me a second major – computer science,” Bechtel says.

Her other major is physics and the Wisconsin native plans to use that ambitious combo to pursue a a career in computer science and employment in software engineering. It’s a journey made possible by scholarship support from the university and faculty mentorship, she says.

Such energy hasn’t been derailed by COVID-19, either. A class taught remotely during this semester of hybrid instruction turned out to be a favorite. Innovation out of Failure taught by Andrew Lyon, Ph.D., dean of the Fowler School of Engineering, features guest speakers from across the country, ranging from cancer researchers to software engineers.

“We hear these talks from people who’ve had failures and how they’ve come out of that,” she says. “It’s really timely, especially these days when it feels like a lot of things aren’t going exactly as you expected.”

In a recent interview, Bechtel shared other insights about her Chapman experience.   

What support have you received at the engineering school?

“I receive so much support in having really solid relationships with professors through research and their willingness to take time. I can set up a time to talk or go to office hours. Classes are manageable size. I know all my professors and I know them well. Dr. Erik Linstead has been really instrumental in helping me succeed. He brought forward the opportunity of stepping into computer sci when I wasn’t really thinking of that. That’s kind of the biggest tangible change.”

Were you able to pursue an internship during COVID-19? 

“I worked at an aerospace corporation as a software engineering intern. All the interviews were done before the COVID-19 craziness started, thankfully. But they adapted it to a completely virtual internship. They extended the internship, too, so I’m still there. It’s helped me see what a career in computer science might look like on a day-to-day basis and how I can fit into that in the long term.”

What have been some of your most rewarding experiences?

“I’m involved in two research labs that have given me experience in physics and computer science. One is related to optical metrology. We get to work with lasers and it’s very hands on. I’ve been doing that since my freshman year and have presented a few times on our work at student scholars research events.”

What surprised you about your college experience?

“Chapman isn’t just about getting through and getting your degree. It’s about community, family, a group of people who will help you throughout all your life through graduation and beyond.”

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Scholarships are made possible by donations to the CU Safely Back Fund. To learn more about ways the university is supporting students and providing resources they need for a meaningful educational experience, visit the CU Safely Back Fund page.

Dawn Bonker

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