Engineering student Hannah Goodspeed is changing the climate, both in the environment and STEM.

By Cindy Hollenbeck

Washington native Hannah Goodspeed remembers when she was still in daycare, and she got into a fight with some boys who said Legos weren’t for girls. Perhaps that early love of Legos and ability to advocate for herself foretold her choice of career. Hannah is a civil engineering major who researches climate change at Washington State University Pullman.

As she came of age in the small town of Ephrata, Washington, Hannah was interested in just about everything. She wanted to be a professional dancer, volleyball player, teacher, counselor, and at one point, a physician’s assistant. Because she has always appreciated a challenge, Hannah believes that is why she gravitated toward STEM.

Hannah comes from a family of Coug alumni, including her uncle and two stepbrothers, which is partly why she chose WSU. She also said that WSU Pullman reminds her of Ephrata. “Being a Coug gives me a strong feeling of pride. When I’m at the football games in Martin Stadium, I feel a rush. It’s as if I’m truly home.”

Being a Latinx woman in civil engineering has tested Hannah’s mettle. “I had no idea these aspects would be an issue,” she said, “until I was in a class of fifty. There were only six other women there.” This unequal representation, which can obviously lead to feeling intimidated and/or outnumbered, is a great point of discussion for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) where Hannah serves as the Activities Coordinator.

According to Hannah, the SWE encourages men to get involved in the club because it can open their eyes to what many women deal with and endure daily, especially in STEM fields. “Although the club is called the Society of Women Engineers,” Hannah said, “back in 1950, the club was founded by women and men.”

When she’s not advocating for a change in climate, Hannah’s researching climate change. Over the summer, she attended the leadership conference at the National Center of Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. She was one of the only sophomores accepted after being nominated by her supervisors. “The WSU faculty is very helpful,” Hannah said. “They really want us to succeed, and they want us to learn.”

Recently, Hannah took on a project where she analyzes the economic- and emissions-stand point of methane. She wants to discover whether farmers will save money by having cattle graze their fallow fields with cover crop versus having them feed on alfalfa chips. She and colleagues compare the amount of methane emissions from the cows’ burps from both the feed and grazing the cover crop.

In the end, the researchers hope to have a win-win: the farmers will save money by feeding the cows alfalfa chips, and the cover crop will put nutrients back into the soil. Even better? This solution will cost less money.

Hannah is a 2019-2020 Auvil Fellow. The Auvil Fellowship was established in 2006 with a gift from the estates of Grady and Lillie Auvil, who were Wenatchee tree-fruit entrepreneurs. Auvil awards are granted to undergraduate researchers in all majors, at all levels, and at all campuses. As part of her fellowship, Hannah receives mentorship from a post-doc in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, Eric Russell. “These scholarships assure me I am capable,” Hannah said, “and belong, in engineering. They give me confidence, provide financial support, and motivate me to stay in STEM.”

Hannah plans to attend graduate school at Montana State University and settle in Montana. From there, she will seek a career in research or industry.
“It makes me proud when I tell people I’m a civil engineering major,” she said. “Their eyes pop.” Something tells us Hannah’s days of impressing people are just beginning.