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Real People. Real Friends. Real Life.

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: May 17, 2017

A double major in mechanical engineering and math, Katherine Shih came to Notre Dame knowing she liked to create things and work with her hands. She also enjoyed math and physics, so mechanical engineering seemed like a great fit. And it has been. But it has not been easy. Shih says, “People talk about how hard engineering is, and it is not a cakewalk. But it’s worth it, especially if you go out of your way to find new friends and new experiences.”

She stresses how important it is to seek things off a more obvious path and push past your comfort zone for both academic and non-academic interests. In addition to being a member of the Notre Dame Marching Band, which she says provides a great social group as well as a “mental break” from engineering, Shih spent a semester living in Budapest and working in the RobotLab at Pázmány Péter Catholic University. While there she worked with graduate students and other researchers to teach computers to recognize handwritten signatures and distinguish them from forgeries using touch sensors. “This is just one avenue of the research being done with sensors, and like others it has potential in biometric authentication. While it is relatively easy to forge someone’s signature visually, it is much more difficult to emulate the speed, force, and other dynamics of writing. That’s what the touch sensors help us capture.”

Shih’s lab family was important, but it’s her Notre Dame family she will take with her. “I have friends at other colleges, seniors like me, who feel like they’re caught in a rat race or in a competition with classmates.” According to Shih, whatever a person is going through, Notre Dame students lift one another up instead of bringing each other down. “You’re not alone. There’s a focus on the whole person instead of a single dimension, and it makes a difference.”