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Rose Ridder ’20 Named Laureate of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society

Rose Ridder '20 talks in front of projector screen

Rose Ridder '20 presents her research conducted in the village of Phapang, Thailand, with the support of her Lang Opportunity Scholarship.

Rose Ridder ’20 is now a laureate of the country’s oldest engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi (TBP), in recognition of excellence beyond her chosen field.

The award, which was also given to three other students this year, aims to encourage the pursuit of a diverse range of studies. Ridder received a $2,500 cash award and attended a three-day conference in Columbus, Ohio, last month that celebrated the laureates as well as the 50th anniversary of women’s eligibility to join TBP.

“I was absolutely awestruck by all the engineers that I met there,” says Ridder, a cognitive science and engineering special major from Port Townsend, Wash., noting how many attendees were pursuing community-driven work and pushing beyond engineering.

As president of Swarthmore’s TBP chapter, Ridder holds a special interest in bridging the often-perceived gap between liberal arts and engineering, which she describes as “a sadly disconnected thing.” Much of Ridder’s work seeks to bring a “human” aspect to engineering and science, to show that life exists outside of the classroom, and that, in practice, these studies can be enjoyable social experiences.

In particular, she was able to live with a host family in the village of Phapang, Thailand, in 2017, supported by a Lang Opportunity Scholarship. Ridder not only taught English but also helped add a supplement to a Thai school’s science program for a beyond-the-classroom, hands-on science experiment with a nearby water supply. This project, described as an “experiential science program for middle school students through the lens of water quality,” helped to diversify the students’ test-centric classroom experience.

When asked about the most rewarding aspect of her time there, Ridder gave a short anecdote: When it rains in Thailand, people make a point to stay inside, but it couldn’t deter her students from wanting to go outside to gather data.

“It was really meaningful,” says Ridder.

Among those Ridder credits for her success are Professor of Engineering Faruq Siddiqui, Professor of Engineering and Environmental Studies Art McGarity, Professor of Engineering Erik Cheever '82, and Assistant Professor of Engineering Maggie Delano.

Regarding her postgraduation plans, Ridder says, confidently: “Unknown, and I’m OK with that.” Although she has an interest in working in an industry adjacent to health care, Ridder is happy to continue exploring her interests outside of Swarthmore.

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