Meet Hannah Joo, 2023 Brooke Owens Fellow

Hannah Joo '24 (Computer Science and Cognitive Science) has been recognized as one of 47 undergraduate students appointed the Brooke Owens Fellowship.

This nationally acclaimed fellowship recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and gender minority students in aerospace,  matching them with intern positions at one of the top organizations in aerospace—including Zipline, Blue Origin, SpaceX, and many others. Brooke Owens Fellows also receive senior mentorship and access to a lifelong professional network. 

Hannah spoke with us about her passion for cognitive science coming to fruition at Berkeley, her excitement to join the dynamically innovative SpaceX team, and so much more.

More information about the Brooke Owens Fellowship and other Prestigious Scholarships is available on the UC Berkeley Scholarship Connection website(link is external)

April 19, 2023

Congratulations on winning a Brooke Owens Fellowship! How does it feel?

I feel immensely honored to have been selected as a Brooke Owens Fellow for the class of 2023. As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated engineering field, I'm really excited to grow alongside and be inspired by a large and vibrant community of talented and tenacious women and gender minorities in aerospace. Additionally, as a first-generation college student for whom mentorship opportunities have been few and far between, I'm especially grateful to be able to receive executive mentorship from the leaders of the industry.

How did your experience as a Berkeley student prepare you to both apply for and be awarded this fellowship?

Prior to my interest in engineering, I thought it was really neat that you could pursue psychology, neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, and linguistics in an interdisciplinary major—I hadn't heard of cognitive science prior to Berkeley, and I most likely wouldn't have taken my first computer science class if it weren't a requirement. From the coding skills I learned, I was able to contribute to the student-run rocketry team I joined, to which I owe all of my rigorous real-world engineering experience.Above all, the students I've met as part of the team have taught me the most important skills and values, among them being ambition, resilience, and innovation. The ability to make the most of limited resources and take charge of your own education has been a really valuable skill I learned here at Berkeley.

How do you plan to utilize this fellowship to further your passions for robotics and space exploration?

Currently, I perform research in cognitive science-inspired robotic learning, so I hope to explore opportunities to apply this to robotic space exploration by getting to learn about other Brookies' work in robotics and consulting my mentors for their expertise in the field. More broadly, I'm also interested in human-system collaboration, so I hope to gain more exposure to the field. It can be a bit more difficult to find people working in these relatively new interdisciplinary fields, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to gain both depth and breadth of knowledge within the field to narrow down my interests.

What is it you are most looking forward to while interning at SpaceX?

That's a tough question! I'm immensely excited about everything—I can't wait to contribute to SpaceX's challenging yet exhilarating journey to the stars, to learn from brilliant and passionate engineers in a fast-paced, dynamic, innovative environment, and to get to know other interns from all over the country. I have no doubt that it will be a summer full of meaningful work, valuable lessons, and vibrant experiences. I've had a great deal of respect for the company and those who work there for a while, so I'm ready to both absorb and output everything I can.

Do you have any advice for students similarly pursuing computer science, cognitive science, or for those interested in applying for this fellowship?

You can do anything if you set your mind to it—keep going! I had no programming experience prior to taking 61A in the spring of my freshman year, and it was really challenging for me. I ended up with a fairly abysmal grade, and I questioned if computer science was for me. I decided to take 61B the following summer, and I had a much better experience, from which I learned a couple of things: asking lots of questions, actively reaching out for help from course staff, using all of the resources provided in the class, and studying for exams with other people helped me out a lot. Everyone is super nice and is there to see you succeed, so don't be afraid to go to office hours! Explore the interesting classes offered here and apply to unique opportunities like this fellowship—you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

When you learned about your fellowship, who did you tell first?

It was 2 am in Korea over winter break when I got a call from Caroline Juang, one of the members of the fellowship's executive team. She broke the good news to me, and I went through so many emotions—I was utterly shocked, then overwhelmed with joy, then intensely curious about my host company. As soon as the call ended, I practically ran over to my mom's room to wake her up and tell her I got in! It still felt very surreal for the next couple of weeks, and I was very humbled to be chosen.