College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Evan McKinney: Outstanding senior in computer engineering

Majors: Computer Engineering and Physics, with a minor in Mathematics

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Clubs and activities: President of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu, co-founder of ECE Skill Development Event Series, University Honors Program, ECpE Student Advisory Council, Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Student Council, Phi Beta Kappa

Award and honors: U.S. Steel Dean’s Fellowship (University of Pittsburgh); selected for 2020 Research in the Capitol (cancelled due to COVID); Physics Entrepreneurship Scholarship (ISU Dept of Physics & Astronomy); Legvold Award (ISU Dept of Physics & Astronomy); Central Chapter of the Iowa Engineering Society Scholarship; Seward, Ratcliffe, Galloway Merit Award (Iowa State University); Campbell Scholarship (Tau Beta Pi); Cardinal Leadership Scholar Award (Iowa State University); President’s Award for Competitive Excellence (Iowa State University)

Who was your most influential mentor while at Iowa State?

I feel very privileged to have worked with so many amazing people during my undergraduate career. In particular, Grant Johnson, who is the cyber security research manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, taught nearly me everything I know about the world of professional research. Grant has been supporting me for the last 2 years and so many of my accomplishments are directly due to that support. In addition to all the professors that I worked alongside on research projects, I’d also like to shoutout Katie Brinker, an electrical engineering Ph.D. student at Iowa State, who has been a role model to me as one of the most hard-working and dedicated graduate students I know.

What would you consider your greatest accomplishments at Iowa State?

I’m really proud of everything the officer team of IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu has accomplished in the last year. We grinded through a lot of difficulties together and ultimately improved ourselves in a lot of ways. I worked hard to become a leader in my department because I am passionate about supporting students and educational programs, and our organization did a lot to give that kind of support. In particular, our peer tutoring services and professional development opportunities really shined during the virtual semester.

What’s your favorite memory of your time at Iowa State?

One of the most rewarding experiences I remember was completing the CPRE 381 computer architecture final project. My lab partner Leo and I were at the TLA nearly every day that dead week, many hours past midnight. It must have been around 3 a.m. when we finally found the very last bug and passed all the test cases. We had been stuck searching for a really subtle and confusing error in our code for so long. I really loved working on those big projects, especially for that class which was super enjoyable problem-solving content.

What’s your favorite place on campus?

I absolutely love the TLA in Coover, and I’d bet this is probably the answer you’d get from most people in my department. I spent so much time here (before COVID) to study, to take breaks, to hang out between classes, to meet with friends or chat with strangers.

What’s your advice for first-year Iowa State engineering students?

Always be learning. Whether it’s picking up a new technical skill, like learning a new programming language, or just a random new hobby, like getting good at a card game, spend time improving yourself. I think it must be good for your brain to find things that you like to do and to put a good deal of effort into that activity. Also, go to office hours when you get stuck on homework.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I got pretty into rock climbing when I came to Iowa State. I met most of my friends at the climbing wall and went on some awesome camping trips with them. I also like to spend my leisure time biking, watching movies (Star Wars), and reading (also Star Wars).

What are your plans for after graduation?

I’ll be attending the virtual Undergraduate School on Experimental Quantum Information Processing hosted by the University of Waterloo. I’ll also be working at the Los Alamos National Lab as a Quantum Computing Summer School Fellow over the summer. In the Fall I am starting my Ph.D. in computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.