Using math and art to design a future in visual analytics
In her last year at St. Olaf College, Kate Arneson ’19 went from an internship focused on national security to a study abroad program exploring architecture and graphic design — and along the way, helped a Danish team win the country’s national softball championship.
She’ll continue building on those interests as she begins a full-time post-bachelor’s research position at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, this July. She’ll be working in the Applied Statistics and Computational Modeling (ASCM) group within the National Security Directorate, and hopes to have the chance to work on some visual analytics and communications design projects as well.
A double major in studio art and mathematics at St. Olaf, Arneson spent last summer participating in the National Security Internship Program at PNNL. During that time, she worked on four different national security–related projects ranging from airport security to nuclear nonproliferation.
“One of my biggest takeaways from the internship was having the opportunity to work with MATLAB, R, and Python in an introductory research setting,” Arneson says. “I was fortunate enough to land the internship on a pure math background alone, without any statistics or computer science background — so of course this led to a large learning curve for me once I arrived at the Lab, but it was rewarding as well. It was interesting and insightful to network with many research scientists there, and to see how their research was driven by the goal to benefit the general public.”
Arneson was also able to network with scientists in the Visual Analytics Group — a potential field to combine her mathematical and design-related interests, and one she hopes to explore more in her full-time position.
To further her design studies, Arneson spent the fall of her senior year studying abroad in the Architecture and Design program at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS). Her core course was the Graphic Design Foundations Studio.
“The activities we got do with our studio were amazing: we had two study tours — one to Western Denmark and one to the Netherlands — where we had site visits to museums, design studios, and architectural sites,” Arneson says. “It was incredible to have courses there that truly integrated the surrounding landscape of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Europe!”
Aside from her courses and joining the competitive tennis team through the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark — practicing with Danish, Finnish, and Swedish players — Arneson played with the Hørsholm Barracudas softball team, based just outside of Copenhagen. Arneson, a member of the St. Olaf softball team, sought out the opportunity to continue pursuing one of her passions while abroad.
“I was lucky enough to find them last spring by digging around on the DIS website until I found an old PDF listing local sports teams,” Arneson says. “Just a few emails later, and I was booking my flight to Copenhagen to arrive two days before the official DIS arrival date — one of my new teammates picked me up from the airport in the afternoon, and we had a game that evening!”
The Hørsholm Barracudas softball team won the season’s Danish National Softball Championship.
“One of my biggest highlights was winning the Danish National Softball Championships with the Barracudas — it was an awesome two weekends spending time with such wonderful teammates and people,” Arneson says. “It was amazing to be part of this Danish softball team. They were so incredibly welcoming, hosting me at one of their apartments until my DIS housing started, driving me to games and practices outside of the city, and teaching me a few Danish phrases. The softball culture in Denmark is a lot different than in the States, and it really puts things into perspective! I learned a lot about the Danish culture through my teammates and made some wonderful friends as well.”
Arneson says that her experiences in both the Pacific Northwest and Denmark helped her explore paths to pursue after St. Olaf.
“Being in the DIS program gave me the opportunity to study graphic design intensively, and this has encouraged me to explore further the broader field of design in the future,” she says.
Kate Arneson ’19Being in the DIS program gave me the opportunity to study graphic design intensively, and this has encouraged me to explore further the broader field of design in the future.
While at St. Olaf, Arneson also explored her creative side through her studio art major. She showcased the culmination of her work through a deeply personal project displayed in this May’s Senior Art Show — which she says she put together with the support of her family, including St. Olaf Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History Wendell Arneson.
“My dad retired from being an art professor at St. Olaf the year that I graduated from high school. Coming to St. Olaf, I definitely did not think that I would be a studio art major — perhaps because I always saw art as ‘my dad’s thing,'” she says. “But I’ve always enjoyed photography as a hobby, and my first year at St. Olaf my dad encouraged me to take a foundation class in new media through the Art Department … and the rest is history.”
Now that history is guiding her future.