By Ann Singer
From her hometown in Puerto Rico to the Infinite Corridor of MIT to the labs of Princeton, Victoria Davidjohn has always been a problem-solver working to empower others. Currently a sophomore at Princeton University pursuing computer science with minors in dance, musical theater and theater, she shows that everyone can pursue their passions, no matter how varied they are.
Six Weeks Can Make A Difference
Growing up as an only child, Victoria says she has always been a leader because she was “the big fish in a small pond” of her hometown. Attending Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)—a six week science and engineering summer program—at MIT in 2014 changed her perspective. “There’s a lot of big fish out there, and they’re surrounding me right now,” she says.
Victoria describes MITES as the hardest experience of her life, but the academic challenges helped build a support system and camaraderie among students. “Just to be surrounded by seventy-two other students that were just as excited and as passionate about science, technology, and engineering as I was, was incredible,” she says.
Before MITES, she never thought about applying to a school like Princeton or MIT. The program leaders, however, “told us that they knew—not hoped, not believed, not thought—they knew that we could get into a top-level university,” she says. “That was the first time I had ever heard something like that.”
It was not only the people, but the courses, that affected her. She was enrolled in the genomics elective—her first high school research experience—and she was hooked. “I ended up writing my college essay about latex gloves and lab coats, and how much I love them,” Victoria says. She knew she wanted to pursue some type of research career because of her MITES experience.
In her first year at Princeton, Victoria pursued a variety of interests ranging from research with the computer science department to pioneering an organization for women to explore roles in engineering.
This past summer she spent six weeks working in a research team to create an educational gaming app by using a new game engine. She was also a teaching assistant for an engineering course for low-income, first-generation freshmen and worked to show them all the possibilities and opportunities they have access to.
Victoria is now working to help people apply engineering coursework to practical, real-life situations by creating an organization that spearheads student-led projects on campus. She is also working with other students to change the engineering curriculum to allow more flexibility instead of requiring freshmen to declare their specific major at the end of the year.
Outside her studies, Victoria is directing a musical on campus and is a member of the nationally-competing slam poetry team.
So with an arsenal of experiences and an extensive support network, what does Victoria plan on doing in the future? “I don’t know how this is possible, but I really love theater, and I really love engineering. Somehow they have to connect,” she says. Her goals are centered around finding the intersection between arts and technology to see how she can bring her knowledge of those two genres together.
Even with such specific interests, Victoria still believes in keeping options open. “Never lose sight of your goals, but also don’t be afraid to let them change.”
She also believes in living by the same advice she gave the students she worked with this summer: “Don’t do things just because they seem like good things to do on your resume, because you’re not going to have a good time doing them. Do things that you really, really, love. Listen to your gut, and everything will be okay.”