College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Hannah Nelson: Outstanding senior in electrical engineering

Hannah Nelson


Ankeny, Iowa 

Clubs and activities 

I have been involved in Engineers Without Borders, and Engineers for a Sustainable World, served as a peer mentor for EE 185, and have been very active in the Salt Company, a student ministry through Cornerstone Church. 

Valuable hands-on learning in class 

My senior design project has been the most valuable experience because it incorporated many aspects of “real life” engineering. We designed a photovoltaic system to be built on a covered basketball court in Puerto Rico—so we learned a lot of practical skills like connecting to the grid, calculating and selecting power infrastructure, and developing communication between my team, advisor, and outside contacts.  

Out-of-classroom engineering experience 

I had the opportunity to work at MISO this past summer, an organization that operates the grid, manages the energy market, and plans for the future. I learned how to use their long-term planning software and how electrification, green energy goals, and public policy will affect the future of the grid. Working at MISO was a cool experience and gave me a glimpse of the impact I can have as an engineer shaping the future of energy!  

Most influential mentor 

My most influential mentor was Mani Mina. He was my professor in EE 185 and EE 311, and I had the opportunity to work with him as a peer mentor for two years. Having Dr. Mina as my professor for EE 185 shaped my view of engineering because it was the first engineering course I took at Iowa State. Learning from his unique approach to education taught me critical thinking skills, problem-solving and empathy. I have learned that engineering (and education) is so much more than good grades and sounding smart. There is a “humane” side to engineering that centers around problem-solving with people in mind, and I will carry that perspective with me in my future endeavors.  

Best memory 

Some of my favorite memories are from my semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. I had the opportunity to take engineering courses, live with a Spanish host family, and be immersed in Spanish culture. It pushed me far outside my comfort zone, but it was so fun, and I gained a lot of perspective.  

Plans after graduation 

I will be staying at Iowa State to pursue a master’s degree in EE with Vikram Dalal at the Microelectronic Research Center.  

Making my mark on the world 

I am excited to be a part of the energy transition to renewable resources because electricity is essential to society, and it relates to many other global issues. We have this gift of plentiful resources such as wind and sunlight, and it’s inspiring to think about how that will change the future of energy. Also, as a woman in engineering, I look forward to encouraging and mentoring other women looking to become electrical engineers.  

Engineering like a Cyclone Engineer 

What I’ve enjoyed most about being an Iowa State engineer is how you really can choose your adventure and it’s unique to just you. Studying abroad and getting a minor in Spanish are two things that were important to my education, and there were a lot of power system courses that fit my interests as well. There is something for everyone between clubs, study abroad experiences, coursework, etc., and I appreciate how I had the support to make it all happen.