17:00 PM

The Universal Language of Music and Math

ChemE rising sophomore Helayna Baer receives the Thomas R. and Laura Ridge Scholarship

Helayna Baer, a rising sophomore in chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is studying abroad in coastal France this summer, but she misses serving her regular customers at her hometown Sheetz. 

Baer, a native of Cheswick, Pennsylvania, has been working at the popular convenience store chain since high school. She really likes her job – so much so that she was recently awarded the $2,500 Thomas R. and Laura Ridge Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association for the 2023-2024 school year. Baer was chosen after a panel of judges were impressed with her academic record, community involvement and personal essay.  

“People don’t realize how hard customer service jobs are, so it feels really good to be recognized and supported,” Baer said. “But, it’s rewarding just making someone’s sandwich and improving their day.”

Helayna Baer

The music of math 

Baer has dedicated herself to strengthening both the artistic and logistical sides of her brain for as long as her memory serves. 

Baer, who’s also working toward a double major in French at Pitt, began cello lessons more than ten years ago. 

She’s pretty good at it, too, and even received the opportunity to perform in Italy; however, Italian wasn’t the Romance language with which she fell in love. 

“When I started taking French classes in high school, I knew I wanted to study there someday,” Baer said. 

Jill Harvey, one of Baer’s mentors and the director of first-year advising at the Swanson School, said Baer’s interests separate her from her engineering peers. 

“She’s constantly seeking options that allow her to learn, grow, and bring her many talents together,” Harvey said. “It was so much fun to advise Helayna because she is so inquisitive and enthusiastic about learning.” 

Before even departing on her international adventure, Baer tried to decode why she loves engineering, French, and music so much. She hasn’t come up with an exact answer yet, but she has a few theories. 

“It’s all just language,” Baer explained. “All of these things – including music – have their own alphabet, set of rules, and logic.” 

Baer hopes to take all of her interests abroad. 

“I really want to come back to France, but I hope to learn even more things throughout the world,” Baer said.