A student on campus

Samantha Harris is a graduate student at the University of Florida earning her master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. Her hometown is Arlington, Virginia and she received her bachelor’s degree from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.

We asked her about her experience at UF, her perfect day on campus and her advice for students deciding where to go to college. 

Q: Why did you decide to come to UF?

A: I used to be interested in self-driving cars, and that’s what I wanted to do for research. So, I looked at programs that had self-driving car research and applied to a bunch of different schools, but UF is the only one that gave me enough financial aid.

Now I’m doing synthetic biology, which is completely different, but I like it a lot. Typically, you don’t move around a lot in graduate school, but I didn’t like the research that I was in before and so I wanted to open my mind to other research fields. It was hard because I didn’t know a lot of biology and chemistry, but it was so much more fascinating and so I was more motivated to do it. 

Could you describe what a perfect day on campus might look like for you?

Probably getting here at a reasonable time in the morning on a nice sunny day, doing some research in the lab and then coming to the Plaza of the Americas and eating Krishna lunch. Then, I go back to the lab and do an experiment, be really productive and go home.

Do you have any advice for high school students deciding where to go to college?

It’s hard because sometimes you don’t even know what you want at that age. Start thinking really early if you even want to go to college in the first place, and then start visiting some places that you have in mind and seeing if you can picture yourself living there. Also, just try to find what you’re interested in and if certain schools have a solid program in what you’re interested in.

For graduate school, I didn’t know what I was interested in at first and so I was kind of lost for my first year. But once you figure out your interests, then you can figure out which research projects you want to join and which advisors have those projects.


Students were photographed in accordance with CDC guidelines and UF policies on masking and physical distancing.


Learn more about the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.