My goal is to develop algorithms to allow a robot to walk dexterously over rough terrain while requiring as little human input as possible. We work closely with the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), who built the robot used in my research, named RoboSimian. There are several aspects of RoboSimian’s design that make it an interesting research platform with unique capabilities. In particular, its legs are highly articulated because they are also its arms. This makes planning walking motions for RoboSimian a challenging research problem. My research is part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), which has us compete against other universities and companies to intervene in simulated industrial disasters. The long-term goal is to advance robotics to the point where robots are intelligent and robust enough to intervene in real disasters where the environment is too dangerous for humans.
I was always interested in robots and computers. When I had a chance to study it in graduate school it seemed like a great opportunity.
UCSB and the ECE department both create a great environment for research. But, I think the most important reason I came here was because in particular I wanted to work with my advisor Professor Katie Byl.
I enjoy that my research is ultimately motivated by humanitarian goals, and that it could make a real difference in people’s lives in the future. In the shorter term, I also enjoy the research process itself. Figuring out a solution to a problem is always rewarding. Traveling to conferences is also an important perk of graduate school. I recommend staying for a few days before or after the conference to get a chance to explore, especially when the conference is on another continent.
I have the opportunity to collaborate within my lab group at UCSB, with my advisor and other students in my lab (in the ECE and ME departments) on a daily basis. These colleagues have tremendous expertise in diverse areas that has proven invaluable many times in solving research problems. I also enjoy learning about other research projects, even if they don’t really have a direct connection to my work. My project has also given me the opportunity to work closely with JPL, who deservedly have a reputation for engineering excellence. I have learned an incredible amount from this collaboration, in particular experience with writing (and debugging!) high quality software for a very complex system. I draw on (and grow) this experience every day to support my research.
I think having an advisor or a mentor is a great way to learn new things. Graduate school and research can be complicated, and there are lots of important soft skills and institutional knowledge required to be successful. An advisor is a great resource for these kinds of questions. I have also found my advisor to be a great resource for questions and advice more directly related to research. These can be anywhere between a very small scale problem such as an indecipherable error while writing a paper in LaTeX, to getting a broad understanding of how a research field has evolved over time. There is no substitute for experience, and a good advisor has a lot of experience to draw on.
I see myself working in industry on cutting edge robotics research. I expect that my independent research skills, as well as the depth of my knowledge of my specific research area, will be attractive to future employers.
Although the ECE department is quite large, it often feels smaller because it is subdivided into different research areas. There are advantages to small and large departments, and I think this structure gives some of the advantages from each. There are the resources and greater opportunities for collaboration available in large departments, but also the familiarity, sense of security, and depth that comes from a smaller size. It is also hard to overstate the importance of the ECE department's high-impact faculty and strong rankings. I think this reputation has repeatedly helped facilitate our collaboration with researchers at other institutions, and I expect it to continue to be valuable after I graduate.
My most memorable class was Digital Speech Processing with Dr. Rabiner. This class wasn't directly related to my research area, but ended up using many of the same mathematic and software tools. I took the class because I heard from other students that it was very interesting. We started out studying the physiology and anatomy in the throat and ear that allow humans to speak and understand speech. This progressed into modeling using physics to make models of these systems, and then how to use signal processing techniques to synthesize and understand speech with a computer. It was really fascinating to see how the (fairly abstract) mathematics connected so cleanly with something so deeply rooted in the particular details of throat and ear anatomy.
I think the screening exam was fairly stressful for many students, although it was not surprising what was asked. It forced me to review material that I hadn't seen for a while (or at all), and I did figure out some things that I had missed before. I think the qualifying exam was much less stressful, and preparing for it was clearly productive. It was really much more about crystalizing what exactly will go into my thesis, and how it relates to other work in the field. It didn't feel like a traditional exam, but more like a big progress report with a friendly (but critical) audience.
I was a TA for two quarters. Both times it was an upper division course in robot dynamics and control, with a lab component. The mathematical background of the course was quite challenging, and students used real-world software tools (Matlab and Simulink) to solve problems with real hardware. What made this a lot more fun was that the hardware was actually LEGO Mindstorms. I enjoyed being a TA for this class, because I had the chance to be involved with designing the lab activities. There were evenings where my to-do list was to build 5 copies of a robot out of LEGO to prepare for the next lab. We built the robots in advance (rather than have the students build them during lab) because the focus of the class was on the mathematics and algorithms, not the LEGO. This also had the benefit of leaving the fun parts for the TAs. Don't get me wrong, being a TA can be very time consuming. I had to be very familiar with different problems and errors that could come up during the lab, be able to explain why they had happened, and how to avoid them. I found the best way was to do the lab on my own, imagine different mistakes a student might make, and then see what happened. This obviously cannot be done quickly, and sometimes students were more creative than I was. Grading homework also takes a very long time. But, it was not overwhelming. Overall I enjoyed the experience.
I think work-life balance and quality of life as a grad student at UCSB vary a lot depending on the personality of the student and their advisor, but overall it is more relaxed and healthy than what I've seen and heard about at other schools. I am very lucky that my advisor gives me a lot of flexibility. I also believe that graduate school is fundamentally a creative endeavor, that stress and fatigue kill creativity, and that overwhelming yourself with work is therefore ultimately a form of self sabotage. So, I make time to see family and friends, exercise, make healthy food, etc. This does not distract from my research, but rather enables it.
My social circle is mainly other graduate students, but certainly not exclusively. I have lived mostly in San Clemente (graduate housing), but also spent some time in downtown Santa Barbara and Goleta. San Clemente feels a bit institutional, but very convenient and avoids many of the risks involved in living off campus (by dealing with the university instead of potentially wacky landlords, having individual leases, being able to easily change apartments in case of a roommate issue, etc). Living in Goleta tends to be cheaper, but it is very suburban and spread out. I found myself feeling isolated I enjoyed living in downtown Santa Barbara because there is easy access to shopping, entertainment, restaurants, etc. It is also easier to get around by bike or on foot than in Goleta. It was nice living in a place that had some personality. Counter intuitively, I found it easier to get to campus from downtown than from Goleta, even though Goleta is technically closer.
I spent summer at UCSB doing research. I also traveled during the summer for conferences, and also to visit family
I think it is very important to pick the right advisor. This probably has as much to do with academics as it does with personality.
My research is focused on developing intelligent hardware which can make processing information easier and more accessible. Such intelligent systems resemble human brain in the way that they can learn things and later perform tasks on their own. More specifically in Strukov’s lab we are interested in a special class of hardware implementation of such networks. This hardware is the best candidate among its existing counterparts as it has the potential to reach human brain in density of connections. My work is to study and custom design methods by which we can train these systems.
When I was in high school I was good in math and physics so I chose to study electrical engineering with focus on electronics in my undergraduate. After graduating I moved to Santa Barbara and had a chance to take some graduate and upper level undergraduate classes at UCSB. This helped me to explore some of the graduate research topics. Also I worked at few research groups such as Strukov’s lab and decided to continue my studies there towards PhD.
My PhD advisor was an important factor in my decision to pick UCSB for my research topic. Prof. Strukov is one of the best researchers in his field. His publications and works are among the most cited and influential literature. Also he has great relationship and connection with other researchers in this area, which is very helpful when it comes to collaboration.
It is not only cool to try to create a smart machine but also has a great impact on information processing. We are living in the information era and data processing is one of the biggest challenges of technology. Smart machines can reduce this load and result in faster, safer and low power data processing.
The nature of research in our group is very interdisciplinary. Our group members come from different backgrounds such as computer engineering, electrical engineering and material science and together we are usually working on projects that require knowledge of all such fields. This promotes collaboration within the group. Also some of our projects are joint projects with other universities.
Graduate studies require a lot of self-motivation and self-derivation. Also research usually involves finding novel solutions for a problem. However, in a research environment such as ECE department, it is easy to collaborate and seek advice from advisors as well as other fellow researchers.
At this point I am more interested in seeking opportunities in industry after graduation. However later in my career I would like to work in academia. I think it would be great to come back with a new perspective and more experience.
ECE's faculty is the strength of the program. Under their supervision, we have some of the best research groups in our department that conduct cutting edge research.
I have taken several classes since I started my graduate program and they were all great classes however ECE 594BB stands out for me. It is an advanced topic class and taught by my advisor, Professor Dmitri Strukov and was recently offered under the title: “Novel Devices and Circuits for Computing”. As the name implies this class reviews existing technologies and ongoing research in the field of hardware for computing which helped me a great deal in studying my field in greater depth as well as learning more about related research topics.
The screening exam requires a good understanding of the basics. You need to prove to five different faculty that you have a solid foundation as well as a good problem solving attitude. Qualifying exam is more of an opportunity to present your research topic and your strategies to solve it. If you have done your part, the Ph.D. committee is there to help you polish your ideas and get you closer to your goal.
I have mostly worked as GSR but had the opportunity to be a lab TA once. It was a joyful experience to help students to complete their assignments and at the same time I feel like I learned things from them. Although sometimes it was a demanding task when the project was challenging and there were 8 groups of students who needed help simultaneously!
In my experience, graduate school in engineering is more like a career in the field. I spend my weekdays working from morning to evening and usually relax and socialize during weekends. However, as a graduate student you need to know how to manage your time in different situations. Around deadlines and project dues work/life balance is tilted towards work and it is a necessity to meet a deadline.
I have a great network of friends in Santa Barbara and UCSB. Sometimes we go outdoors during weekends and enjoy Santa Barbara beaches and mountains doing BBQ or going hiking. Until recently, my husband and I used to live in UCSB family housing. I consider it to be a great housing option for family students given the proximity to the beach and beautiful scenery and also the fact that you are surrounded by your fellow students and scholars and friends. Not to mention that the apartments are subsidized and very well match a student budget.
Since I have joined the ECE department, I have spent the summers preparing for my exams (screening and qualification) as well as conducting research. Also, I have taken the opportunity to travel in summertime when I am not busy with classes. However summer is a great time for doing an internship in industry and this is what I have in mind for summer 2015.
My research is focused on tunable lasers with ring-based mirrors and their applications in photonic integrated circuits (PICs) using the hybrid siliconIII/V platform developed at UC Santa Barbara. After developing a tunable laser I have been working on developing a chip for free-space beam-steering. An optical phased array has been integrated with fast phase tuners, onchip tunable lasers and amplifiers, and onchip feedback for a robust fully integrated PIC with more than 100 I/O signals. These PICs are useful for LIDAR and pointtopoint communication applications and should be more robust, more compact, and faster than conventional devices.
I have always been interested in light and its many applications. I was impressed with the Bowers group and the work they had done and I decided I wanted to be a part of the group. After joining, I did some work on the beam-steering project and got interested enough to continue with it.
Originally, when I was looking into graduate schools I was intending to study a different field. However, as I saw the work done in different groups in the field of photonics I kept getting excited by the ideas and the results that I saw. I decided to change my focus, and soon afterward I saw The Institute for Energy Efficiency's "White Room" page. After seeing the focus and vision they had I decided that UCSB was where I wanted to do my research.
It has been exciting seeing our systems expand as small components are successfully integrated together to create new functionality. Particularly rewarding has been the experience of being challenged in new ways. Research is frustrating and difficult, but I feel like I have grown a lot through participating in it.
The Bowers group, and the larger ECE department at UCSB, are incredibly helpful. There is a wide range of expertise, and I have found that everyone I talk to is willing to share their knowledge and spend time to help other people succeed.
Working in a group is really motivating. Having other students to ask questions to helps you get through the snags that repeatedly show up in research. Also, an experienced advisor like John Bowers is invaluable. He helps us set a direction and then gives us a lot of leeway on how to pursue it, but he is still involved and asking questions and giving us advice throughout.
For the future, I plan on taking the entrepreneurial track. I am currently collaborating with two other graduate students from the Materials Science and Economics departments on building a technology start-up in the high-power white-lighting industry.
We have world-class professors here. They know their subjects very well and also have a lot of real-world experience, so nothing is taught in a vacuum. The clean room and lab facilities are fantastic. Also, I have found the Technology Management Program to be very valuable. This program is aimed at teaching students the basics of business and helping them transition their work into industry.
Some of my favorite course have been Larry Coldren's courses on lasers and Umesh Mishra's course on device physics. These are some of the most applicable classes I have ever taken.
Being a graduate student researcher has been a rewarding experience. It has allowed me to focus all my efforts on research without worrying about funding or classes. Research is hard enough without extra responsibilities, and I have plenty of extra responsibilities outside of UCSB.
The screening exam was challenging. I spent seven weeks one summer with studying every day for eight hours and then meeting with several friends at least weekly to do practice tests. It was actually quite liberating to have time set aside to study the things that I hadn't quite understood in classes, and I really appreciated it. In the end, the exams were not as bad as I imagined. They did require the study I had put in, but I found that the professors were encouraging and wanted me to succeed. I learned new ways to look at the physics from most of the exams and I went away very happy with the experience.
Balancing time is by far the hardest part of graduate school for me. I have a wife and two children under the age of four. I am also involved in service through the LDS church. I always feel like I should be working 12 hours a day to meet my research goals, and when I am taking classes it is even more difficult. Add the company I am trying to start and there simply isn't enough time to do everything I think I should. For much of my graduate career I have neglected sleep to find the needed time. I do not recommend this for extended periods of time as it becomes increasingly difficult to think clearly and is pretty depressing. So now I am simply doing my best, usually just working 8 hours a day and making sure I am spending time with my kids most nights and on the weekends. My social life is mainly through church and the occasional dinner at our apartment with friends.
I am living in Family Housing because it's conveniently close and it's all I can afford in the area. I enjoy the weather here, but I personally miss most of the benefits of living in such a beautiful location because of time constraints. I do appreciate that my wife and children have easy access to the beach, hiking trails, etc.
Most summers are spent doing research at UCSB, and I expect this year will be the same.
Graduate school is hard. Make sure you have a dream or goal or something that will get you through the lows and help you to keep going.
My current research focuses on high level abstractions and methods. In digital system design, high level abstractions and methods become more and more a necessity due to the increasing system complexity. They are crucial to design productivity and enable designers to keep up with the trend of industry. However, current high level methods have a hard time balancing between high quality and low algorithm complexity. Current state-of-the-art methods have at least cubic complexity which is not acceptable for large designs. In my research, we propose hierarchy-based stochastic algorithms which are scalable and can generate high quality designs. Compared to the state-of-art algorithms, ours can generate better results while having a complexity which is one magnitude lower.
When I was an undergraduate, I always wanted to build some real working systems. I had a lot fun experiences using single-chip microprocessor and wanted to look more into this field. When I got to UCSB, I did not hesitate to join the computer engineering group because I knew I could learn what I wanted to learn. After exposing myself to different research fields, I found that the research opportunity that Professor Forrest Brewer offered was a perfect match for me. I was attracted not only to the projects, but also Forrest's enthusiasm, passion and wisdom. Also, the open and free research environment of his lab made me believe even more that this was the lab I had been looking for.
UCSB's ECE department has a great reputation in the world. There are a few professors doing great research in Computer Engineering. The job market for UCSB students is great. One can choose to work in big/small companies or become faculties in prestigious schools. Finally, it is the unmatchable ocean view that made me push the button.
Research is all about finding the right problems, solving them using the right approaches and presenting them in a clear way. It is not easy to get. You need to be smart, creative and persistent. However, once you get there, oh man, life can never be better.
Ph.D. students have no difficulty finding new ideas. The problem is about which ideas are the right ones. We don't have enough time and energy to try them all. This is where your advisor comes to play. My advisor can provide insights on these problems and ideas and guard me in the right direction. However, no matter how good and knowable your advisor is, there is always something that you need to decide yourself. You need to come up with new ideas, choose the right one from a smaller pool of them and find out the right way to solve them. This is how you become a real Ph.D.
Choosing an advisor and a research group is crucial to a Ph.D. student. I really think this should draw all Ph.D. students' attention. Ph.D. is a long time commitment, five years on average. During this period, you need to work with your advisor and your lab mates a lot, if not every day. The way they think and behave will unconsciously affect you. Finding a great advisor is as important as finding a great project. A great advisor is an advisor whose research attracts you and whose thinking and working styles match yours. My lab has always been a lab which is open to new ideas, new challenges and new people. The lab is always full of new exciting ideas both from our advisor and students.
After graduation, I would like to work in industry. For engineers, the ultimate goal is to solve practical problems. In my field, I believe most of the valuable and interesting problems come from industry. It's time show my "weapons".
I believe the faculty and staff are the strengths of the department. Professors love what they are doing and are always there to teach, help and encourage students. I sincerely believe getting the job done is not their primary goal. Their goal is to get things done to the best benefits of students. Staff are always there to help, too.
It is hard to select one favorite course because I have had so many fun classes. Introduction to Design Automation(ECE256A) was one of them. I took this class the first quarter I was at UCSB. Back then, my English was extremely bad. I could not follow professors in classes and was afraid to ask questions. The consequence was that I needed to spend at least twice as much time as other students, if not more. However, the idea of using mathematical algorithms to solve practical problems kept motivating me, and the final project was a lot fun.
For the screening exam, join a study group. If there is not one, establish one. A study group is so great and brings so much efficiency and fun to your study. For qualifying exam, presentation is about everything. Also, make sure you can describe your research clearly within 40 minutes.
I've been a GSR and a TA several times. A GSR has to be highly self-motivated, creative and hard working. Besides, GSRs need to train themselves with presentation skills. No matter how good your research is, its value will be jeopardized if you don't know how to present it. I TAed Digital Design Principles (ECE152A) and Hardware / Software Interface (ECE153A/253). In both classes, I led lab sections. In ECE153A/253, I held discussion sections too. I am an international student. English is my short slab compared to native speakers. However, one can always work out something else to compensate their disadvantages. Patience coupled with my teaching philosophy is my secret. A TA is a teaching assistant — we are there to assist with teaching. Grading homework and leading labs are basic work. So, why are we doing this? We are doing this not to fulfill our TA 50% duty but to make sure students understand class materials. If they are not, help them.
The most important thing about graduate school is study. The knowledge you require from school and the way you think. You need those in order to be competitive in the job market. However, study is not everything. Socialization is important too. I found that planning ahead helps a lot with balancing between school and work. Graduate students all have busy lives. It's quite often that when you have time, others might not. Planning ahead can minimize this conflict.
I live in Goleta because it is close to school. From Monday to Friday, I spend most of my time in school. However, I will have casual lunch or dinner with my friends during work days. In the weekend, I will hang out with my friends, holding parties, potluck, shopping or karaoke in LA. If weather permits, we sometimes go hiking. Seven Falls and Red Rock are favorite hiking trails.
Choose your favorite research group, develop some ocean related hobbies, join some clubs. Most important, enjoy life!!!!