Behind the Dores: Madison Eaker

A senior from the suburbs of Houston, swimmer Madison Eaker has made the most of her Vanderbilt experience, excelling in the pool and in the classroom, traveling abroad, and gaining valuable experience with an internship that has led to a full-time job after graduation.

I’ve lived in Pearland, Texas my entire life. We’ve been in the same house for 20 years. I have the same room, same everything. I have so many stuffed animals in my room. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to get us Build a Bears all the time. I think I have 25. I just brought my boyfriend home for the first time and he said, “Does a child still live here?”

My parents threw me into every sport when I was younger. I did dance, figure skating, soccer, so many different things. And swimming just kind of stuck. I started swimming at the YMCA when I was six. My mom and my best friend’s mom just threw us into the Y while they went to work out. We ended up loving the sport and both of us went to club swimming together when we were nine years old. I stayed with the same club team from then on.

I love the competitiveness of swimming, and I love that it’s that it’s an individual sport but also a team sport at the same time.

It’s also the one sport that can save your life.

My first trip here to Vanderbilt, I thought the campus was beautiful and everyone on the team was so nice. I went on two trips after that to other schools, and it made me realize even more how much better it was here than the other places.

I’ve always been into math and science. I loved physics and calculus in high school. My dad is an electrical engineer. My uncle is an electrical engineer. A lot of my cousins are engineers. It’s definitely a family thing. I knew coming in to Vanderbilt that I wanted to be an engineer.

The last two years I’ve been taking more design-experience courses. I took VLSI last year, which was industry-specific coding. In another class, they gave us a problem and told us to come up with a solution. We had to create an amplifier with certain bandwidth requirements. It took half a semester to create.

I also did research with Dr. Bhuva. I had taken his digital logic class as a freshman. We worked on a lot of projects related to space. If you go into space, the radiation effects things. A one turns into a zero, a zero turns into a one, which changes a ton of things. And we don’t need that happening to our satellites. So, we would take a little alpha radiation, put it on a chip, and see what happens.

I interned with Texas Instruments last summer. I was in a really cool group and learned a lot, and I have a full-time offer now so I’m going back.

Everyone thinks about the calculators when they think of Texas Instruments, but TI only keeps them now because it’s a legacy and that’s how everyone knows them. It’s such a small, small division of the company. I worked on medical applications. Like with the Apple Watch, the LEDs on the back side are the heart-rate monitors. We make those chips. We also make the little sensor on your phone that dims and brightens the screen whether you’re in a dark room or outside.

I really love shopping for clothes. I worked part-time at a retail shop in Hillsboro Village called the Impeccable Pig. I love talking about clothes, and I love styling people when they come into the store. I’d pick out outfits for them and style them with shirts, clothes, shoes and jewelry.

After my sophomore year, I did a Maymester in Vienna and Prague. It was an awesome experience. It was a small group of 14 of us. We went to museums every day, just learning in the museums. I stayed an extra two weeks after the class was over and went to a whole bunch of other places in Europe, including Paris.

My brain thinks very logically because of engineering, so I find art fascinating because it’s different way of thinking. When I was in Paris, I went to the one Musee d’Orsay, and it has all the impressionist art like Monet. That’s my absolute favorite.

I’m not very funny but I like to laugh at other people. I smile and laugh a lot. I’m also very sassy and savage sometimes – in a nice way. My close friends know that about me.

I’m so excited to be in my final semester. It’s nice knowing I have plans for the future. It’s a new chapter in life to be excited for. I’ve loved my time here at Vanderbilt, so it’s a good parting. I’m ready to move on.

Swimming at Vanderbilt gave me an amazing friend group. That’s what I’m going to remember most about being here, the people I’ve been with.

One thing I really want to do before I graduate is to go to the Bluebird Cafe. But most of all I really just want to enjoy time with my friends before we scatter across the country again. 

Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss