From computer science to linguistics and kickboxing to baking, this month’s undergraduate student spotlight, Noelle Merclich, is driven to creating a welcoming environment in the Allen School, serving others and always being kind and compassionate. During a month when people are making and struggling to stick to new resolutions, the Maple Valley, Wa., native and junior computer science major resolved long ago to do her best and try new things every day.
Allen School: Why did you choose to major in computer science?
Noelle Merchlich: After taking a couple years of programming in high school, I realized I really enjoyed the puzzle solving nature of it and how computer science impacts nearly every other possible career. Also my dad constantly jokes about how his return on investment for my college education is my ability to pay for him to take trips around the world, so the financial stability doesn’t hurt either.
Allen School: What do you like most about being an Allen School student?
NM: Definitely the people. Some of my favorite memories of the last few years include playing card games in the labs until 2 a.m. after barely finishing an assignment before the deadline and baking a surprise birthday cake in the residence halls. My experience at UW wouldn’t be the same without the friends I’ve met in the Allen School, and I know I definitely wouldn’t have survived most finals weeks without their help.
Allen School: What do you like about being a TA for the CSE Startup course and Direct Admission seminars?
NM: I’ve had the opportunity to be a TA for CSE Startup for three years now. It’s been exciting to see how the course has changed and grown over time. I enjoy working with the instructor, Lauren Bricker, and undergrad adviser Leslie Ikeda to improve the curriculum to best fit the needs of our students during their first experience in college and at the Allen School. I appreciate how I’m able to help the curriculum evolve along with my own experiences at UW. As for the DA seminar, I like how I’m able to help a larger scale of students with their transition to the Allen School. Realistically, my experience in computer science has always been a positive one since my parents have always supported my aspirations. And it’s never seemed abnormal to be a woman in the industry since my first two computer science teachers were women. However, I realize this is definitely not how everyone is initially exposed to the field, so I try to use my role in the DA seminar to help make each incoming student feel as though they have a place in computer science in whatever way I can.
Allen School: Why did you choose to minor in linguistics?
NM: My interest in linguistics began after giving a presentation on Noam Chomsky for a psychology class. When I took Ling 200: Intro to Linguistic Thought, I was really fascinated by the universality of how we break down language, so I took a few more classes in the linguistics department. I committed to completing my minor because over the past two years I’ve developed an interest in natural language processing, and understanding concepts like how syntax and semantics work together to form meaning is helpful with that.
Allen School: What are some of your favorite experiences or activities at the UW?
NM: I started taking kickboxing classes my freshman year because I’ve always thought it seemed really fun. Now it’s become a way for me to punch my stress away. Also, before I decided on pursuing computer science I thought I would go to culinary school to become a pastry chef. It’s safe to say that I don’t just like desserts, I love them. I’m constantly trying out different bakeries around campus and Seattle to find the best macarons, tres leches, or anything sweet. I highly recommend Cubes and Le Panier.
Allen School: Who or what inspires you?
NM: My grandmother, Rosa. In spite of all the drama and tragedy she faced throughout her life, she maintained such kindness and compassion for everyone. When I was about 14, I remember helping her make homemade spaghetti and meatballs to give to the construction workers doing renovations on her neighbor’s house at the end of the block. Although she passed away at the end of my freshman year, she has always motivated me to be more kind, patient, and helpful to those around me. Her example is part of why I’m so passionate about computer science outreach. I try to find ways to connect students to computer science who normally wouldn’t have the resources to get started themselves. As a result, when one of the Allen School advisers sent out an application for HCDE’s alternative spring break group, I jumped at the chance. For two years I’ve had the incredible opportunity of being part of a team that created curricula for teaching introductory programming concepts to middle and high school students in rural Neah Bay, WA. It was definitely one of the more challenging and fulfilling college experiences I’ve had.
We are inspired by Noelle’s contributions to the Allen School and her outreach work!