Make an app or a rap: Eva Snyder ’17 blends music and technology in senior thesis project

Photo by Kathy Hu '19 Snyder’s senior thesis project blends her love for music and technology.

Photo by Kathy Hu '19
Snyder’s senior thesis project blends her love for music and technology.

BY NAIEKA RAJ ’19

Eva Snyder ’17, a computer science and music double major and founder of HackHolyoke, is creating a small album and recording the entire process as part of her senior thesis. By using the program ‘Logic’ to create music electronically, this thesis project blends her love of music with her love of technology, while reflecting Snyder’s entrepreneurial spirit.

In high school, Snyder had no interest in computer science and was adamantly pursuing a career focused solely on music. However, after some persuasion from her “techy” family, she enrolled in computer science and iDesign courses. The classes were challenging and forced Snyder to develop a new way of thinking — “it re-routes your brain to think in code,” she said. Snyder thrived in iDesign, where she developed ‘Music Touch’, a tool that teaches people to read music and sight-sing. This class let Snyder turn her ideas into reality and mitigated her reservations toward the “nerdy” subject (she also enrolled in music courses that provided a much needed balance to her schedule).

Fast forward to her first year in college, and Snyder began to realize that ever-present misogynistic attitudes in the tech industry make the environment less friendly, less accessible and less profitable for women. She attended numerous hackathons around the country where she regularly encountered “men who didn’t expect [her] to code.” Her teammates would tell her she could find a job in the tech industry, but only “so that the male employees could get laid.” Snyder was determined to help level the playing field by introducing “the Mount Holyoke culture and spirit” to the coding world.

In 2014, Snyder founded HackHolyoke, a 24 hour hackathon that invites participants to collaboratively solve “problems found in various fields” using computer programming. According to its website, HackHolyoke is the first of its kind to achieve a one-to-one gender ratio. Snyder believes that more than four hundred students have registered for this year’s hackathon, a significant increase from previous years.

“I never felt like I was being babied,” said current co-director Zineb El Mechrafi ’18. “I was supposed to be working for one hour, but I ended up staying for the whole thing.”

After graduating, Snyder will take a full-time position at Google, where she interned last summer as a software engineer at YouTube Music Insights. At YouTube, Snyder worked with artists face-to-face and got the opportunity to design rapper Hoodie Allen’s website after replying to a post on Facebook. “He gave me VIP tickets to his concert in NYC and now we’re friends on Facebook” she said.

“Make an app or a rap” is Snyder’s unofficial motto. Music is a huge part of her life, and after being overworked for the past few years — “HackHolyoke was a ten to twelve hour weekly commitment,” she said, “It was like planning your wedding day!” — Snyder feels it’s important that she give herself time to compose songs for her senior thesis, upload more work on her YouTube channel and start building her brand. She has started uploading videos onto her YouTube channel again to help secure a fan base. Snyder sees her senior thesis as not only an artistic project, but also as a “promotional adventure.”

Snyder encourages others to actively take initiative in pursuing all of their passions, while being open to discovering new ones. She believes that, especially now, Mount Holyoke students have the resources to achieve all their academic and professional goals. 

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