Typical light-matter interactions have size scales in which the wavelength of light and the size of the object it is interacting with are very different. When light interacts with objects that have sizes similar to the wavelength of light, then interesting things start happening and we can actually start to control the way light behaves. In this size regime, objects exhibit a series of resonances at certain wavelengths, known as multipolar resonances. By manipulating these resonances, researchers have created new materials with very interesting optical properties beyond those of naturally occurring materials, known as metamaterials. Typically, researchers manipulate these multipolar resonances by changing the physical properties of the objects (e.g., size, shape, material, etc.). Instead, my research focuses on manipulating the properties of the light. This enables a completely different way of manipulating multipolar phenomena.
When I started college I wanted to be an engineer, but didn't know what kind. I initially wanted to be any kind of engineer except an Electrical Engineer, because that's what my father is and I wanted to do something different. But after I started taking college classes, I realized EE is actually what I really like. I enjoyed physics in high school but never wanted to be a physicist, and EE is a happy medium between physics and engineering.
I selected the ECE department at UCSB because it has a fantastic reputation and because I had lived in Michigan my whole life before then, and I wanted to experience living somewhere different. I had applied to the Master's program at first as I wasn't sure I wanted to do a PhD, but that quickly changed after I arrived at UCSB.
When things go right in research, it's one of the most satisfying feelings in the world!
Although our research group is the only one at UCSB that works on metamaterials, we collaborate with other groups for a variety of purposes. One of my labmates is working on building a specialized measurement setup, and he gets his samples from a group in the Materials department. Another labmate of mine is working on a reconfigurable metamaterial that requires a lot of semiconductor device design, and he collaborates with the Mishra and Palmstrom groups to figure out his design and to get material to actually fabricate his design. We also have collaborations with Brown University and UCSD.
I really enjoy working with my research group. We fit really well together. They are all really interesting people and I enjoy learning from them and being exposed to things I normally wouldn't be exposed to. Many of my labmates possess important research skills that I lack, and it's extremely beneficial to be surrounded by them so I can learn from them. Additionally, when I started out with Jon, my advisor, I didn't have a background in this field. Jumping into something completely new was intimidating, at first, but partly because our research group is so new (Jon joined UCSB in 2012), we were all new to the field and all learning together.
I plan to transition into a career in which I can more directly see the impacts of the work I do by bridging the gap between science and society. I don't think there are enough scientists in positions where they are regularly interacting with and impacting the public in meaningful ways, which has contributed to a disconnect between the scientific realm and the public. Specifically, I plan to go into a career related to science education or policy.
There are many knowledgeable students and professors who excel at a wide variety of research. If there is any question you have about some type of software, or some type of circuit or device you are trying to design, a useful conversation about it is just an email away. Also, many students in ECE research groups are actually from other departments which naturally encourages multidisciplinary projects.
My favorite course at UCSB was Digital Circuit Design taught by Luke Theogarajan. I doubt I would have said that at the time I was taking the course, and even though I learned only half of what was taught, even that half was an incredible amount of information. A lot of my appreciation for that class was because Luke was teaching it. He is one of those rare professors who actually takes a personal interest in the success of the students he encounters.
Preparing for the screening exam was pretty stressful at the time. I was preparing for the screening exam over the summer, when I was also doing a full time internship. I was grateful when it was over. The qualifying exam was far less stressful, since it is a presentation about my research, which I already knew. There is less room for the unexpected in a qualifying exam.
It's a see-saw. Sometimes research is extremely busy and I have a ton of deadlines and there is no balance, and other times I can breathe a little and there is time to have fun. I try to take advantage of that time when it comes.
I lived in San Clemente my first year, which was fun as I got to meet many grad students in a variety of departments. However, I have since moved into an off-campus apartment which I also very much enjoy. I am in an apartment complex where plenty of UCSB grad students live. Santa Barbara public transportation is great and it's easy to get around by bus. I also really appreciate the location of Santa Barbara in terms of where it is in the state of California. SB is about equidistant from both Yosemite National Park and Las Vegas. There are so many places to explore in this region of the U.S. and they are all a road trip away, which also makes SB a great place to live.
This summer I stayed in SB and did research.
The typical advice is to make sure you and your advisor get along and have a good relationship, but I would say it is equally if not more important to make sure this is true for your labmates as well. They are the people you will see and interact with the most often. Being friends with them and genuinely liking them will make grad school life much more bearable. Also, after you stop taking classes, realize that there is no longer an externally imposed structure on your life. Recognize this and impose your own structure so you make sure you get things done.
My fascination with computers began at an early age. The more I learned, the more complex and intriguing further learning became. As a high school student, I chose UCSB for the location and its prominent social scene. What got me to stay for grad school were UCSB's excellent academic standings and the beautiful campus which provides a relaxing atmosphere.
Very large amounts of data are produced during manufacture and test of semiconductors, but analysis techniques applied in practice do not utilize all the information available in that data. Our research focuses on applying state-of-the-art approaches from the machine learning field to advance semiconductor testing, as well as developing novel techniques suited for the specific problems at hand. The goal of test data analysis is to find the right balance while attempting to improve quality, reduce test cost, and increase yield.
I took Professor Li-C. Wang's courses as an undergraduate and was quickly captivated by his way of thinking and approaching problems. I reached out to him to learn about his group's research and was so fascinated by it that I eagerly decided to try to join the group and help move the research forward. I think what persuaded me the most was how clear the application of the research was to real problems.
Doing my undergrad at UCSB exposed me to our phenomenal faculty. The professors in our ECE department are great mentors and are some of the top experts in their fields. I also looked at PhD program rankings in ECE across the country, and at the time UCSB was ranked 5th so that was a huge plus.
Since we work closely with industry, we actually get to see our methodologies applied in practice. It's very exciting to see our ideas come to life, and getting praise from engineers for helping them solve critical problems is very rewarding. This close industry partnership is rather unique for academic research groups, which pushes us to do our best to maintain it.
From what I've seen so far, collaboration is the single most important element of successful research. The atmosphere in the ECE department is always very encouraging towards collaborating with peers and faculty. I feel very comfortable discussing my research with students from other groups, and I also find it interesting to hear about the research they are working on. Such discussions often lead to exchanges of ideas which help to uncover new perspectives of the problem at hand.
The collaborative aspect of research is what truly enables rapid and meaningful progress. I consider every single one of my group mates a good friend. We often spend time together in all kinds of social situations, and new research ideas sometimes spring up at the most unexpected times. Our advisor, Li-C. Wang, is very hands on with all our research. He is always very closely involved with all the little details of our projects and is available for consultation at virtually all times.
Throughout my research, I've had the privilege of working with companies which are considered technology leaders in semiconductor manufacturing. This experience has opened many doors for jobs in the industry. As of now, I believe after graduation I will go directly into industry, and I will choose the company where I feel I can make the biggest contribution.
The main strength has to be attributed to the outstanding faculty. The research conducted by all of their groups is cutting edge and they strive to always be the leading researchers in their fields with their continuous involvement in global research communities.
Having taken most of the offered undergrad and grad courses related to Computer Engineering, it is very difficult to single one out as the favorite. I think an honorable mention definitely has to go to the CE Senior Capstone project (ECE 189B) that I took with Professor Steve Butner. That course really helped tie together a lot of the concepts learned throughout my first four years, but also made me realize how much I still didn't know which contributed to my decision to continue on to grad school.
The screening exam sounded very scary at first. The idea of being orally examined by five professors sounded more stressful than any exam I had taken in the past. However, I found that with thorough preparation it was not as bad as I anticipated.
I have been a GSR for almost every quarter, and I was a TA for two courses (Digital Design with VHDL & Synthesis — ECE 156A and Computer-Aided Design of VLSI Circuits — ECE 156B). The GSR experience can sometimes truly push you to your limits. It taught me a lot about self-motivation and organization, both of which are absolutely necessary to make it as a GSR. The TA experience, on the other hand, was less hectic but just as rewarding. Although I did get overwhelmed with questions at times, especially near project deadlines, the experience was always positive. It is a great feeling to have students look up to you and to be able to help them truly grasp the concepts taught in class.
Work-life balance does get out of hand at times, but usually only around important deadlines. During those times, it may feel like every waking hour is spent on research. However, when there are no imminent deadlines, even as a grad student I get plenty of time to socialize and take part in fun activities. Getting the most out of life may require slightly better time management skills than back during undergrad, but it's definitely achievable.
I lived in IV for a while and enjoyed my stay there, but after becoming a grad student and focusing more on my work I moved to Family Housing, which is probably the best housing deal available in the area.
This summer I will go to Phoenix, AZ for an internship. My advisor's close relationship with industry has made finding internships every summer very easy. This will be my third summer interning for research related work and I did not have to interview for any of them.
Don't get consumed by research and academics. Try surfing, check out the many hiking trails, see a movie at the drive-in theater, go wine tasting, join an adult sports league, or just try something new. Venturing beyond what you're normally comfortable with can really help with personal development which ultimately reflects back on your research.
My research is related to computational photography and computer vision. My aim is to develop algorithms and if possible, hardware, to make smarter cameras with better functionality. Specifically, I have worked on projects related to High Dynamic Range Imaging, Light Field Processing and Image Animation until now. All the projects are in the pipeline for completion and publication. In my latest project on image animation, I worked in collaboration with my advisor and two experienced researchers from the Imaging team at Nokia (in Sunnyvale) to develop an efficient and accurate algorithm that requires minimal effort on the part of the user. I recently submitted a paper on this project to Eurographics Symposiumon Rendering. This project started during my internship at Nokia in Summer of 2014.
The course on Signal Processing taught during my undergrad came very naturally to me, it was very easy to be the best in class without putting in much effort. I knew the subject was tough because everyone around me was struggling with it. And so it occurred to me that I might be good at this. Image processing, computer vision, computational photography depends heavily on signal processing. In addition these fields seem very cool and impactful to me. So, after the realization of my natural expertise in signal processing, I leaned towards understanding these related fields and decided to choose these for my research.
I interviewed with Professor Pradeep Sen before I received a decision letter from UCSB. During the interview, Pradeep was enthusiastic, encouraging and full of energy. UCSB's ECE department was popular among my fellow undergraduate students and Pradeep seemed like a good person to work with — so I decided to go for UCSB. Plus the location needs a mention as well.
The ability of cameras to capture the world in a manner that we do as humans and the possibility of computers being able to perceive, understand and learn from pictures just like humans fascinates me. The idea of being able to contribute to this very fascinating and quickly advancing field motivates me. The nature of this field of study also makes it possible to convert research into product-ready technology without years of delay. It is very gratifying for me to be able to foresee that it won't take way too many years for the technology I or anyone in my field creates to reach the hands of consumers. I like the fact that it is possible to have an impact sooner, rather than later, in my field of study.
In keeping with UCSB's tradition of a collaborative environment, my lab as a whole also enjoys a highly collaborative work process. My advisor, Professor Sen, encourages collaboration among students and with experts from outside the lab as we truly believe that great ideas are not born in isolation. Outside of UCSB, as a part of Nokia-UCSB collaboration, I have worked with experts at Nokia, Sunnyvale, on High Dynamic Range imaging and Image Animation projects. This collaboration has proved very instrumental in helping me mature as a researcher in the past year at UCSB.
This is my first ever research environment and the transition from being an undergrad to becoming a Ph.D. student in fall 2013 was difficult. This was in addition to adjusting to a completely new culture in United States. It took time to find my footing, but now I am much more comfortable and productive. Working in a group research environment has been very fulfilling so far, especially because of the weekly lab meetings and discussions. My advisor has been kind and supportive.
Research is unpredictable. So it is hard to answer where my research will take me next. I would like to work with Computational Imaging and novel camera designs. My personal goal is to be the best and one of the most impactful people in my field of study. This is somewhat vague, because I have not quantitatively defined what I mean by best, but I will know I have become the best when I am convinced.
Collaboration with industry, very useful graduate coursework, freedom and flexibility for graduate students to find and work on problems that excite them the most.
Pattern Recognition (ECE 277) taught by Professor Kenneth Rose in Winter 2014 was my favorite. I couldn't complete the course due to personal reasons, but I attended almost all the classes. It was so exciting to see a professor always smiling and teaching the subject with so much energy. It never troubled him if someone asked a tough question, on the contrary, he would actually smile, as if grateful to the student for having asked the question. He is the only professor I have met this far who has a knack at teaching some really complicated mathematical concept so very beautifully and simply. If I ever become a professor, I want to be as great a teacher as him.
I recently took the Ph.D. screening exam and succeeded in it. It can be a stressful experience, so it is important to be well prepared. I was somewhat nervous throughout the exam, but the professors understand this and they help you out. The aim is not to intimidate the students, but to see if they have the necessary skills and minimum required knowledge to be Ph.D. students. Overall, it helped me realize how much I know and how much I still need to do.
My experience as a GSR has been great so far. I have worked on a variety of projects and also had the chance to collaborate with industry and witness first-hand what it takes to convert a research prototype into a product.
It is a little challenging to manage personal life and work, I started to realize that when I came to the US. Sometimes I get too engrossed with work and my personal life suffers and sometimes it is the other way around. Research is not easy, and as young students just beginning to understand this, it is often overwhelming. But I truly feel I have gotten better at it in the past year. So things are going smoother now.
I live in Goleta, previously I lived in Isla Vista (in student housing on El Colegio) but I soon realized it is not a very grad-student-friendly environment, especially for grad students who wish to simply enjoy some quiet time after a day's work. So my friends and I moved away from Isla Vista.
I plan to intern in the Bay Area for the summer, it is a beautiful place to be in summer. Looking forward to it!
Always start from basics and build each concept from ground up. Very few people practise this very effective strategy, since it seems to be slow initially. Personal: It is important to stay in touch with family, especially if the students are coming from very far away countries (like India) and it is not quick and cheap to travel back home. I strongly advise all grad students to be mindful of their health. It is not good to loose your health to your work while you are in your 20s.
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.