Aniyah Richardson Finds Her Calling as an Optical Engineering Student

Aniyah Richardson, a first-year student majoring in optical engineering, was in high school when she was diagnosed with photophobia and astigmatism. Through her struggles with light sensitivity and learning of the optical engineering profession, Richardson knew she wanted to be a light engineer.

“We can’t become a technologically advanced society if we can’t even look at the [electronic] screens we need to do that without hurting ourselves,” says Richardson. “I want to help people with photophobia because rather than modifying our bodies with things such as implants and contacts, we should be modifying the electronics we use.”

When it came time to research universities, Richardson looked for schools with high accreditation, that had stellar, near-Ivy League reputations, and that offered the optical engineering major. In what she describes is an act of faith, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology found her. Ultimately, Richardson is seeking a career in which she can help alter technology and make light safer and less harmful.

Richardson, from Montgomery, Alabama, came to Rose-Hulman with an open mind and without expectations. While the optical engineering program has been challenging, she’s enjoyed her first quarter three laboratory experiences and had quite a bit of hands-on work with equipment such as hot plates, petri dishes, forceps, sterling rods, and other items. 

Richardson is involved in Student Government Association and National Society of Black Engineers. She was selected as a Noblitt Scholar and serves on the steering committee for the program. She is also the Noblitt Scholars social activities subcommittee chairperson.

One of her memorable experiences as a first-year student was working as a professional notetaker during her first quarter. As a notetaker, Richardson scanned her lecture notes into a PDF document and sent them to the Office of Student Affairs. Students are chosen for this if they are in a class with another student with a disability that prevents that student from taking notes in class. Richardson admits to feeling very blessed to have the position. She was able to meet with the student for whom her notes helped, and the two had a deeply thoughtful discussion.

Richardson works hard to make her mental health and social wellbeing a priority along with her academics. She joined the Rose-Hulman paintball and anime clubs. She also enjoys activities within Terre Haute — roller staking, laser tag and bowling — that help her unwind from academic work. Her favorite stress reliever is the rock-climbing wall in the campus Sports and Recreation Center.

Richardson admits that while she loves exercise and student clubs, she’s also perfectly happy sitting around a table talking to the handful of friends with similar goals she’s met at Rose-Hulman who continue to push her to meet her own goals and be her best person.

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