A Winning Combination: Computer Science and Psychology Help Husky Chart Her Own Course

Hunter Malinowski ’24, computer science/psychology

From Stories from Husky Nation Published April 16, 2024.

Hunter Malinowski followed in the footsteps of family members who attended Michigan Technological University, but also found ways to blaze her own trail.

Malinowski made her Michigan Tech experience unique by pursuing dual degrees in computer science and psychology, and diving into research experiences. A meticulous planner, she also learned that embracing the unexpected can lead to exciting opportunities. 

Deciding to Attend Michigan Tech

Malinowski visited Tech during her sophomore year in high school to explore degree options in person. At the time, she was set on a psychology major. “I toured the psychology department and I really enjoyed it because they had a ton of cool research going on,” she said.

The summer before her senior year of high school, Malinowski attended Women in Computer Science, a Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs exploration, to get a taste of college life and other course options. “I felt at home on campus. I liked the area and I thought the dining hall food was really good!” Malinowski said.

In her ensuing years at Tech, Malinowski, now a graduating senior, has explored relationships between psychology and computer science, discovering how the two disciplines enhance each other. 

“The more I’ve done with psychology and computer science, the more I realize how many connections there are, from designing a website to the user interface and user experience,” Malinowski said. “I want to go into the data science/machine learning field. I think there’s a lot to be said about the psychology perspective for that.” 

“The simplest way to understand the goal of machine learning is that it is simply a program that analyzes data and uses that data to make classifications or predictions. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes on technically, but at the end of the day, it’s not magic — just math!”Hunter Malinowski ’24, computer science/psychology

Research Opportunities Begin Right Away

Malinowski became part of the research community that excited her when she visited Tech as a high school student. She has conducted research with several faculty members in the Department of Computer Science and Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, and received a research internship through the Pavlis Honors College’s Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP). “It goes to show how supportive the professors are here, which is one of the best parts of my college experience,” she said.

“My first year, I went to Dr. Shane Mueller during his office hours and asked if I could be involved with his research lab. I was able to work on a few projects on Explainable AI; it was wonderful to be able to have that experience starting my first year here at Tech! I was able to be a part of the URIP program the following year, and work on an independent project, ‘Assessing the Effectiveness of Visual Explanations for AI,’ as well as present in the Undergraduate Research Symposium, with the guidance of Dr. Mueller,” said Malinowski.

In summer 2023, Malinowski took on another research project on a topic that’s near and dear to her. 

“I worked on a project with Dr. Briana Bettin, Dr. Laura Brown and Dr. Leo Ureel to create a College of Computing Resource Hub for students. This was one of my favorite projects, as it created a resource that was immediately useful to the community around me,” Malinowski said. “There’s a lot of disparity in pre-college programs in terms of computer science. I was lucky enough to have many choices for computer science programs in my high school, but not everyone has that same advantage or knows that they want to go into computer science.” 

“Making computer science more accessible is something that I’m passionate about, so the impact of working on a tool that can do that was really important to me.”Hunter Malinowski ’24, computer science/psychology

“My favorite part is analyzing the results of the research project. It’s really interesting to be able to see all of the data and use it to gather insights and draw conclusions,” she said. “I think considering the impacts of the results is also fascinating, as it shows the ways the research can be used in the future.”

In addition to her URIP award from Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College, Malinowski was also honored for her innovation and scholarship, with Pavlis naming her a University Innovation Fellow. In 2023, she was presented with the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences’ Department Scholar Award

Pursuing Innovation and Internships 

Malinowski tapped her inner entrepreneur during her first year on campus, developing a startup idea linked to her passion for fashion. “Recirculate – The Future of Sustainable Fashion” took third place in Michigan Tech’s Bob Mark Business Model Competition. The idea also received an MTEC SmartZone Breakout Innovation Award and an honorable mention in Central Michigan University’s New Venture Challenge.

“Being a part of Pavlis Honors College, I learned a lot about the innovation experiences at Michigan Tech and was very interested in exploring that pathway further. One of the key Pavlis Honors abilities is ‘Welcome Challenge,’ so I figured I might as well step outside of my comfort zone and participate in the Bob Mark pitch competition,” said Malinowski. “I came up with an idea to reuse the old T-shirts that everyone has sitting around by turning them into T-shirt yarn and crocheting new pieces. I learned a lot about starting a business and different business topics, which was a very unique experience. Ultimately, I ended up focusing on other activities, but it was a learning experience I recommend to anyone remotely interested in entrepreneurship.”

Malinowski’s experiences led her to participate in other innovation opportunities, including the University Innovation Fellows program. “It’s probably one of the coolest programs I’ve participated in! Above all, the Husky Innovate community is so welcoming, and there are advisors, professors and peers who will support you every step of the way,” she said.

In summer 2023, Malinowski was presented with another opportunity: an internship aimed at making the internship experience more valuable for students.

“Throughout my summer internship at Realogic Solutions, we began the development of InStep, a multifaceted platform — one of those facets being improving the internship matching and onboarding experience for students and employers,” Malinowski said. “I learned a lot about the business process as a whole through speaking with stakeholders, gathering requirements and seeing the entire development process firsthand. I was able to learn new technologies, including using React for web development and Amazon Web Services for data management. We gathered feedback from potential users of the platform as well as reflecting on our own experiences finding internships, which helped us to optimize the platform for all users.”

Along with a fellow Husky — Kelsey Hagebusch, also a computer science major — Malinowski continued to work part-time for the company over the academic year. She plans to continue her work with Realogic this summer, after earning her degrees.

Leading, Learning and Other Life Lessons 

“I am a person who loves to plan ahead,” said Malinowski. “Before attending Michigan Tech, I planned my entire course schedule for the time I would be here, looked through the Involvement Link to pick what clubs I was interested in and set a number of goals I wanted to achieve at Michigan Tech. While I did follow through on a majority of the things I had planned for myself, some of my most fulfilling moments have been ones that were unexpected and unplanned. For example, this semester I was able to take Nature Psychology and Wheel Throwing (pottery, not throwing actual wheels, although that does sound fun!), which have ended up being two of my favorite classes I’ve taken at Michigan Tech — and if I had stuck to my original plan, I never would’ve been able to experience them.”

Malinowski also found herself responding to a call to leadership as she became active on campus. She’s a former president of the Delta Zeta sorority, served as the 2020-21 College of Computing representative for Undergraduate Student Government and has served as president, treasurer and secretary of Tiny Knitz, a student group that crochets hats for premature babies. Besides those activities, Malinowski also volunteered for Copper Country Coders for two years and helped teach an online computing class to students in Bahrain in the 2021-22 academic year.

“The majority of the leadership positions I’ve taken on, I did not originally plan on holding,” she said. “Throughout my time on campus, I found organizations that I cared about and wanted to see continue to thrive and grow in the future. It wasn’t something I went out of my way to find — rather, it found me. When there are projects, clubs and people that you feel passionately about, it encourages you to spend a lot of time working to improve those organizations, which I was able to do through leadership.”

Schedule juggling taught Malinowski other valuable life skills. 

“Time management is definitely an issue I have faced, and I know many others have faced as well,” Malinowski said. “Personally, I live by my Google Calendar and use it to block my time. There have been multiple instances where I have overcommitted myself.”

“There are so many awesome experiences here — it’s hard to not want to try all of them! But over time, I have learned to prioritize what means the most to me and where my time is best spent.” Hunter Malinowski ’24, computer science/psychology

Malinowski has packed unforgettable experiences into her time at Tech. “It’s hard to pick just one memory,” she said. “I think some of my favorite memories have been the little things. Ironing snow on our statue site with my sorority — never in my life did I think I would have a need to iron snow. Spontaneous late-night trips to see the northern lights. Weekend trips to Drive-Thru Depot and Keweenaw Coffee Works. Attending summer music festivals with my friends from Tech … All of those smaller things have truly added up to be the biggest moments.”

There are more Tech memories in the making as Malinowski embarks on her next adventure: She’ll start an accelerated master’s program in data science next fall. “I’ll be continuing my education at Tech for another year. This summer, I plan to continue my work with Realogic Solutions and spend some quality time with family and friends in the Metro Detroit area,” she said. 

Originally, Malinowski planned on completing an accelerated master’s degree in computer science at Tech. “While I was here, I discovered that there was an accelerated master’s in data science, which I don’t believe existed when I began at Tech, and exactly matches my interests and career goals,” she said. “So, while I do still enjoy planning ahead, it’s definitely important to go with the flow sometimes or you’ll miss out on experiences!”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.