IE student’s summer involved singing in Norway and engineering in Virginia

Samuel Low

One industrial engineering student was busy this summer with two of his biggest passions: music and engineering.

Samuel Low, a senior in industrial engineering (I.E.), started his summer off by touring Norway with the Iowa State Singers, a 72-member mixed choral ensemble consisting of students from various majors across campus. The group visited a handful of Norwegian cities during their recent tour including Oslo, Bergen, Førde, Grodas, Molde and Trondheim as well as some the country’s natural wonders including the Geiranger Fjord and the Olden Glacier.

“The trip to Norway was amazing and a once in a lifetime experience,” said Low, who is originally from Malaysia but also lived in China and Iowa growing up. “The members of the choir got to bond as friends and as a choir.”

Samuel Low and other members of the Iowa State Singers visited Olden Glacier during their tour of Norway. Photo courtesy of Samuel Low.

The group’s repertoire included more than 10 songs, including “Give me Hunger” by contemporary American composer Jake Runestad and “Tafellied” by Johannes Brahms, the German-born Romantic period composer. Low, who sings Tenor I, first got “seriously involved” with music when he joined the choir his sophomore year at Ankeny High School and said that his family both influenced and encouraged him to pursue his musical endeavors.

Low’s family, and specifically his sister Yunnie, were also influential on him choosing to study industrial engineering at Iowa State. Yunnie graduated from Iowa State with her B.S. in I.E. in 2011 and encouraged her younger brother to follow in her footsteps.

“We are very different in personality, but she pointed out that we were both similar in that we can be very analytical and have a good eye for pointing out errors in systems,” Samuel said, adding that Iowa State’s strong reputation and the fact that he was a recipient of the George Washington Carver Scholarship also influenced his decision to attend the Ames-based university.

Samuel spent the latter part of the past summer in eastern Virginia where he worked as an Industrial Engineer Intern at Smithfield Foods’ North Plant. He worked on a variety of projects related to yield improvement, labor reduction, throughput guides, equipment testing and standardizations.

Samuel Low, sixth from left, poses with other members of his internship cohort at the Smithfield Center, next to Smithfield’s Corporate Office in Smithfield, Virginia. Photo courtesy of Samuel Low.

“My projects throughout the ten weeks ended up saving the company about half a million dollars annually and I presented what I worked on and my results to many people in the company including top executives during a presentation day,” he said.

Low has returned to Ames to complete his senior year and plans to graduate in May. He hopes to stay involved with music as he finishes up his I.E. studies and said he actually sees similarities between the two seemingly different fields.

“I think there are similarities in engineering and music in how learning and performing music require an active mind and active listening. I think that working as an engineer requires you to always be thinking and innovating, as well as being an active listener, as listening is arguably half of the job,” Low said.

Samuel Low, front row third from left, poses with other members of the Iowa State Singers inside Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim during their Norway tour. Photo courtesy of Samuel Low.

He said that music always served as a form of stress release for him, particularly with the rigorous I.E. course load coupled with all of the other demands of being a college student.

“It lets me drown out the world for an hour every day during the week,” he said. “I honestly can’t imagine what my life here would be like without the Iowa State Singers.”

After graduating, Low hopes to find a job in either Denver, Colorado or Orlando, Florida so that he can live near siblings that he has in both of those cities. Regardless of where he ends up, he hopes to be involved with either a community or church choir so that music can continue to be a major part of his life.

For incoming or current engineering students who have a demanding schedule but also want to be involved with music, Low offers some advice.

“I think doing engineering and music is possible as long as you keep up with your studies and have good scheduling habits. There are many different ensembles at Iowa State such as the Orchestra and the Iowa Statesmen. It can be hard to schedule classes, so looking up all the times those ensembles meet during the week can really help figuring out what you are able to do.”