Graduate Student Spotlights

Wei "Wayne" Tang - Ph.D. Student in Computer Engineering


photo of Wei Tang on campus
  • Hometown: Yiyang, Hunan, China
  • Degrees: M.S. UCSB, 2009; B.S. Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, China, 2007
  • Degree Sought and Progress: last quarter of Ph.D. work
  • Important Awards and Honors: ECE Outstanding Teaching Assistant 2009 and 2013; Dissertation Fellowship, 2013
  • UCSB Student Organizations:  Vice President of the Graduate Student Association 2010; President of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association 2009
  • Professional Memberships:  Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • Graduate Study Area in CE: Electronic Design Automation, System Level Design, Computer Architecture
  • Group / Advisor: Professor Forrest Brewer
  • Hobbies and Interests: Photography, basketball, skiing, soccer, travel

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: Great people and research environment
  • UCSB: Culture and diversity plus it has a fantastic ocean view
  • Santa Barbara: Small with so many things to explore and trying different cafes in downtown is a great experience

More about Wei and his research

  • Important conferences attended: Electronic System Level Synthesis Conference; Conference on Design and Architectures for Signal and Image Processing. I presented talks at both conferences.
  • Most important publication to date: "A Hierarchical Ant-Colony Heuristic for Architecture Synthesis for On-Chip Communication," 2013 DASIP Conference
  • Dissertation title: Optimization of System Level Design
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Researcher, Teaching Assistantship, Dissertation Fellowship — Spring 2013

Tell us about your research

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.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

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.

Why did you select UCSB and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in regards to your research?

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.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

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.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

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.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

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.

Where will your research take you next?

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".

photo of Wei

Wei's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

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.

Favorite courses

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.

Experience with the graduate exams

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.

Describe your experience as a Graduate Student Researcher and/or Teaching Assistant (TA)

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.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

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.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

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.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Choose your favorite research group, develop some ocean related hobbies, join some clubs. Most important, enjoy life!!!!

Carlos Torres - M.S./Ph.D. Student in Communications & Signal Processing


photo of Carlos Torres at his desk
  • Hometown: San Jose, CA
  • B.S. Degree: UCSB in Electrical Engineering and minors in Bioengineering, Physics, Chemistry, and Math
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: M.S./Ph.D. - in 4th year of program
  • Important Awards and Honors: Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scholarship, National Institutes of Health - Minority Access to Research Careers (NIH-MARC), and National Science Foundation-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minorities Program - Bridge to the Doctorate (NSF-LSAMP-BD)
  • Graduate Study Area: Signal Processing, Controls, and Machine Intelligence/Learning
  • Main Area of Research: Video and Image Analysis and Machine Learning
  • Advisor and Lab: B.S. Manjunath / Vision Research Lab
  • Research Interests: action recognition, activity analysis, sensor networks, computer vision, 3D vision
  • Hobbies: climbing, hill running / ultrathons, backpacking, SCUBA, and surfing
  • Interesting aside about Carlos: I play classical guitar, cello, and some wind Andean instruments

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: the faculty and the people in my lab (labmates and staff)
  • UCSB: location — I can walk to the beach for lunch or drive a few minutes to the mountains
  • Santa Barbara: weather, the ocean, the mountains, and the lively community which has a younger crowd

More about Carlos and his research

  • Most important publication to date: "Silica as a Matrix for Encapsulating Proteins: Surface Effects on Protein Structure Assessed by Circular Dichroism Spectroscopy"
  • Dissertation title: "Healthcare Multimodal Analytics" (tentative)
  • Types of financial assistance received: National Science Foundation-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minorities Program - Bridge to the Doctorate (NSF-LSAMP-BD) Fellowship (2 years), TA ship (4 quarters), and GSR (currently)

Tell us about your research

My current research explores the effective design and deployment of wireless sensor networks for healthcare. More specifically, the title of my current project is "Multimodal Sensor Network: A Systems Approach to Analyzing Patient Well-Being and Disease States."

How and why did you get into your area of research?

As undergraduate research assistant in the Healthcare Robotics Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, I was introduced to a project that combined engineering and medicine to improve, in this particular case, the quality of life of ALS patients. I enjoyed being part of that project, and I loved the feeling of belonging and knowing that my research would impact someone’s life in a positive way.

Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your research?

I came to UCSB in hopes of joining one of the very successful Control groups in the CSSP area at UCSB. That was before learning what controls really is and I realized that controls was not for me. After dealing with the shock (which took me some time and lost sleep), I changed focus which I believe was for the best. The faculty at UCSB are supportive and flexible, allowing students to pick and try different areas of research. I also had a two-year fellowship from NSF-LSAMP-BD through the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) to attend UCSB — funding is always a great motivation to attend a graduate program.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

I am particularly interested in healthcare and the potential short-term application of my research. I believe that with a direct application to healthcare my research can become a great contribution and, perhaps, the basis for providing individualized care and improving quality of life of patients and elderly frail.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

The ideas that led me towards my current research put me in contact with Scott D. Hammond, M.D., and executive director of the Translational Medical Research Laboratory (TMRL) at the Center for Bio-Engineering (CBE) at UCSB and the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Dr. Hammond, my co-advisor, provides me with the medical background advisement and the expertise necessary to identify and tackle various healthcare problems as defined by the current project. My research advisor, Dr. Manjunath, provides me with scientific advisement and mentoring in the engineering field. With the guidance of both, advisor and co-advisor, I am hoping to effectively combine engineering and medicine to improve hospital efficiency and healthcare services. A project that combines engineering and medicine can only be envisioned by a strong collaboration between these two fields. Furthermore, the VR-TMRL collaboration opened Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s doors for potential deployment and testing of the proposed network in real healthcare environments.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

I felt like I was in limbo for some time, after deciding that controls was not for me. Fortunately, my current advisor allowed me to defined my own project and path, which was stressful and time consuming, but I am happy and excited about my new project and the direction my career has taken. My advisor was open to the idea of combining healthcare and engineering and my research group is awesome and supportive. My advisor directs the Center for BioImage Informatics and the Vision Research Lab, together there are about 20 students and we all get along in and out of the lab. We spend a lot of time together talking about research and life,... they have become my second family. Labmates are important, they can be the only support when times get tough (and they will get tough if you are a graduate student).

Where will your research take you next?

I am very fond of academics but I hope that my current path leads towards a successful research career in industry. I envision either joining a start-up company or starting one. I would like to serve as a mentor for younger Latino generations and help to improve my community. I have volunteered to serve as a mentor for summer research programs and have tried various approaches (hands-off and micro-management) in order evaluate my own strengths and weaknesses as mentor and hopefully improve upon these experiences.

photo of Carlos

Carlos' thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

The strengths are approachable faculty and hardworking students. The department has a limited number of classes that are taught by experts on the various fields. In my opinion, the department focuses on quality of graduate courses rather than quantity and I really like that.

Favorite course

Ironically enough, my favorite course was Fundamental of Speech Processing taught by Professor Lawrence Rabiner. It was not my best course, I would go as far as to say that it was my weakest topic (especially the theory). I never did so poorly in a class as I did in that one but I liked it because it forced me to learn and re-learn signal processing basics. It was also a very hands-on class and I enjoy programming and implementing algorithms.

Experience with the graduate exams

Among the ECE students, the screening exam has a nickname “Screaming Exam”. Preparing for the exam and going through it has been a humbling and terrible experience. I would not do that again. Now that my research is moving along, I hope to be able to qualify later in the Summer or Fall 2013. I am currently preparing for it, drafting a plan, and consulting with my advisors.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and GSR

Being a Teaching Assistant (TA) is a humbling experience and I believe it is important to TA earlier in your career as grad student. The TAing experience can make taking the ECE screening exam not as dreadful. The bad side of TAing is that depending on the class and the professor it can take large amounts of time. I have TAed Computer Vision, Image Processing, Multimedia Systems, and Introduction to Programming for Engineers. They were all very fun courses and the Professors very reasonable and approachable. I like teaching, and I assume my students and Professors liked my style of teaching since I received the outstanding teaching award that comes with a nice cash price. I was also a GSR during the Summer 2012 quarter in the Vision Research Laboratory helping on a project that I am not longer working with.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

Graduate school is hard. Long hours, hard and stressful work, and low pay, so it is very important that you like and enjoy what you do and the project that “you decide to work on”. It took me some time, perhaps longer than the average, to pick an area and project I wanted to commit to; however, taking the time is important and it has been the best decision during my graduate education. Graduate student life is full of sacrifices, self-motivation, and hard work with not a lot of free time or money. However, it is essential to enjoy simple things like running on the beach, going out for drinks with friends. I have a relatively set schedule where I lay out how much time to devote to exercise, cooking, lab/research work, and friends. The time is not equally distributed, but it is realistic and knowing that makes me feel fulfilled.

What is your social life like and where have you lived?

When I am not in the lab I am running, climbing, working out at the gym, running, hiking, and sometimes surfing. I spend all of my free time outdoors, but I am trying to get back into playing music. I live in Goleta because is relatively close to campus, cheaper and more comfortable than graduate student housing, I have a yard, and get to pick my housemates. Also, I wanted to have a dog and living on campus was out of the question after adopting a pup.

What did you do over Summer break?

This past summer I was a mentor for two high school students, while working on some grant proposal. I was awarded a seed grant that is currently funding me. I am committed to the project for the next 9-10 months, so I will be at UCSB doing research all summer. However, I hope to squeeze in some major backpacking with my dog in the Sierras. I am planning on touring the 200 miles of the High Sierra Route, which runs parallel to the more famous John Muir Trail but at higher elevation.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Shop around for a good research group. Good meaning a group that is supportive, active, and that has projects that are interesting to you. Do not get group information from their websites, do not trust websites - 99% of them are not up to date. Instead read some of the publications (those are usually current) and then arrange meetings with potential advisors and their students. Ask a lot of questions ranging from research interest and technical question to group dynamics, responsibilities, expectations, and interaction outside the lab.

Samantha Alt - Ph.D. Student in Computer Engineering

photo of Samantha working outside on her laptop
  • Hometown: Palmdale, CA
  • B.S. and M.S. Degrees: B.S. and M.S. Computer Engineering from UCSB
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: Ph.D. Computer Engineering, third year with probably two more years till graduation
  • Important Awards and Honors: Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) Masters Scholarship and SRC Education Alliance (SRCEA) / Intel Fellowship
  • Graduate Study Area: Computer Engineering
  • Group / Advisor: Malgorzata Marek-Sadowska (VLSI CAD Lab) and Li-C. Wang (Microprocessor Test and Validation Lab)
  • Research Interests: machine learning, test, verification, modeling
  • Professional Memberships: Society of Women Engineers and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Hobbies: Snowboarding, swimming, going to the beach

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: professors and the classes
  • UCSB: campus and the people
  • Santa Barbara: weather and the zoo

More about Samantha and her research

  • Important Conferences attended: Techcon (Semiconductor Research Corporation)
  • Most important publication to date: Analog Behavioral Modeling For System-Level Verification
  • Dissertation title: Analog Behavioral Modeling Using Machine Learning Techniques
  • Types of financial assistance received: SRC Education Alliance (SRCEA)

In her own words — Freshman to M.S. student to Ph.D. student at UCSB

My undergrad years as a Computer Engineering Program student at UCSB were awesome! There was a good mix of work and social life (though maybe not as much as other majors). The last year of undergrad studies was the best since the classes were so interesting. The Computer Engineering Senior Capstone Project (189A/B) was an experience that I will never forget... The process of our group taking an idea from scratch to a finished product was a lot of fun.

After receiving my undergraduate degree from UCSB, I decided to continue my education and get a M.S. degree. I chose to stay at UCSB over other schools because of the relationships I made with some of the UCSB professors. I wanted to continue to work with them and their research aligned with what I wanted to pursue. It was not my original intention to continue onto my Ph.D. but I enjoyed research so much that I decided to continue.

Tell us about your research

Analog components in system on chip designs (SoC) have proven to be very difficult to test within the digital design verification flow. These components are simulated and verified using SPICE, which can be time consuming for complex components. We propose a methodology for building System Verilog behavioral models for analog and mixed signal circuits directly from the circuit netlist. We show that it is possible to build models of complex non-linear circuits that can be used within a digital simulation environment for system level verification. These models capture the behaviors for different input stimuli and varying parameters, allowing system-level simulation of circuits composed of digital and analog blocks. In this methodology, a circuit description is converted into a directed acyclic graph that captures relationships among the sub-circuits of the netlist. Each node within the graph is modeled using ν-SVR (Support Vector Regression) and written as a System Verilog module. These modules can be used for system level simulation with and without injected errors as well as for sensitivity analysis.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

My research ended up changing three times since I started. Originally I worked in fault diagnosis of large scale digital designs, then moved to post silicon test program validation using pre-silicon design models, and finally changed to analog behavioral modeling using machine learning algorithms. I ended up in my present research area through numerous talks with industry contacts about how my expertise can be applied to applications that could directly benefit them.

Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your research?

I stayed at UCSB to continue my education because of the professors and the environment. I have built great relationships that I wanted to continue to develop, plus you can't beat the view of the beach and the mountains.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Solving relevant problems facing the industry today. Being able to take the research that is done at school and implement it within a company's flow is very rewarding.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

Our project collaborates with an industry mentor at Intel who provides industry related feedback to proposed projects and ideas. We also collaborate with UCSB ECE Professor Luke Theogarajan's group who provide us with analog netlists and we perform our experiments on them.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

Working in a group environment makes it easier to share ideas and solutions which ends up taking some of the stress out of the work. It has been a real pleasure working with my advisors especially since they provide me with excellent direction and advice while giving me the freedom to explore paths on my own.

Where will your research take you next?

I plan on exploring various aspects to behavioral modeling including design space exploration and scaling. I plan on entering industry but not necessarily in the same area as my research.

photo of Samantha outside taken near a sculpture on the UCSB campus

Samantha's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

In two words — the professors.

Favorite courses

My favorite undergraduate courses were 189A/B (know as the Senior Capstone project) and Digital Design with VHDL and Synthesis (ECE 156A) and Computer-Aided Design of VLSI Circuits (ECE 156B) which gave me the direction I wanted to take for my higher level education. As for graduate courses, VLSI Design Validation (ECE 255) taught by Professor Li-C Wang and Introduction to Design Automation (ECE 256) taught by Professor Margaret Marek-Sadowska because the content and the projects were interesting and both were related to my field of study.

Experience with the graduate exams

The most memorable exam I have taken was the screening exam. I spent months studying for it which ended up paying off in the end. It was a tough and stressful test.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA)

I was a TA for Fundamentals of Logic Design (ECE 15A); Sensor and Peripheral Interface Design (ECE 153B); Digital Design with VHDL and Synthesis (ECE 156A); and Senior Computer Systems"Capstone" Project (ECE 189B) where I taught sections, provided assistance in labs, and graded homework and reports. Aside from the grading, being able to help the undergrads get through their tough classes was very rewarding. Helping them fine-tune their Capstone projects and sharing my experiences and mistakes hopefully made the process a bit smoother.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

It is not too much different than undergraduate student life. The main difference is that you are surrounded by more like- minded and goal oriented people. As far as balance goes, I've had to learn to become a good planner and not save things for the last minute.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

I lived in various places in SB (Isla Vista also known as IV, Goleta, Downtown). Living in IV is great as an undergraduate and living downtown was a better fit once I became a graduate student.

What did you do over Summer break?

I worked at Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon this past summer. I worked in the analog CAD department, which is closely related to my research. It was a great experience to learn how things are done in industry and if I am not close to graduating next summer I plan on going back.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Try to experience everything Santa Barbara and UCSB has to offer, you may never get the opportunity to live here again!

Hong Zhang - Ph.D. Student in Communications & Signal Processing

Hong at the white board in the lab
  • Hometown: Jilin, China
  • B.S. and M.S. Degrees: B.S. - Wuhan University (2003) in Electrical Information Engineering, M.S. - Beijing Institute of Technology in Electrical Information Engineering (2006) and UCSB in Electrical & Computer Engineering (2008)
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering — in 4th year of program
  • Graduate Study Area: Controls - wireless communications
  • Group / Advisor: Professor Upamanyu Madhow / Wireless Communication and Sensornet Laboratory (WCSL)
  • Research Interests: channel modeling, channel capacity, spatial diversity, equalization, multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO), analog multitone (AMT)
  • Professional Memberships: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • UCSB Student Organizations: International Student Incorporation (ISI), Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA)
  • Hobbies: hiking, swimming

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: distinguished professors, responsible teaching assistants and smart PhD students, plus it is a good study and research environment
  • UCSB: fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean
  • Santa Barbara: awesome weather, beautiful beach and nice people

More about Hong and her research

  • Important Conferences attended: International Workshop on mmWave Communications: from Circuits to Networks (paper) and IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference (WCNC) (paper)
  • Most important publication to date: "Statistical Modeling of Fading and Diversity for Outdoor 60 GHz Channels" (pdf)
  • Dissertation title: "Channel Modeling and Network Topology Design for Outdoor Millimeter Wave Mesh Networks"
  • Types of financial assistance received: Teaching Assistantship (TA) and Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)

Tell us about your research

My research focuses on the channel modeling and signal processing for the millimeter wave (60 GHz) mesh network. The increasing demand for high-definition multimedia and high speed computer communications has led to the need for a new generation of wireless networks that support higher data rates. The 60 GHz band is considered to be a promising candidate for building such high speed, short range wireless networks for a number of reasons: it offers large swathes of unused bandwidth (57-64 GHz) and has a high spatial frequency reuse because of significant attenuation due to oxygen absorption. A fundamental understanding of the radio propagation channel of such wireless links becomes the critical requirement to design the network topology as well as the higher layer protocols.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

I selected my area of research because I found it to be a very interesting and challenging topic. I also attended Professor Madhow’s class and I liked the way that he teaches students.

Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your research?

UCSB has a very strong ECE department, which can be seen from its U.S. News& World Report ranking. And also I knew that there are many job opportunities at California, which is also one of the reasons I selected UCSB.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

My research can potentially increase the wireless transmission data rate in our daily life. For example, you might be able to transmit signal directly from your webcam or DVD to your HDTV wirelessly. The data rate of smart phones can also be possibly increased dramatically.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

My research group offers strong collaborative support with lots of novel ideas arising from the discussions with my fellow group members. It is a very helpful environment that enables you to learn from people who have experienced similar research problems as you have experienced. It has also been great experience for me to work with my advisor, Madhow, who is knowledgeable and is willing to devote his time to help. He is a hard-working and nice person who has become a model for all of our group members. Our WCSL group has collaborations with other labs, such as ECE Professors Rodwell and Hespanha, and Belding (ECE / CS), as well as professors in other departments including Psychology and Computer Science.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

It has been a delightful experience working with our group members as well as with my advisor. Our group members are smart and nice people, who are willing to discuss your research problems in detail.

Where will your research take you next?

My personal career goal is to join Industry after my graduation and I am interested in some big companies in communication field. In our lab, the previous group members either joined Industry or Academia. For example, some of them joined different communication companies, such as Samsung, Qualcomm, Broadcom and some other local communication companies, while other joined ECE department at different universities.

photo of Hong sitting on a wall by the beach

Hong's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

ECE department has excellent lab equipment, which provides graduate students opportunities to gain many useful skills. In addition, graduate level courses are well taught.

Favorite courses

Digital Communications (ECE 243A/B) taught by Professor Madhow, in this class I learned the fundamental knowledge of communication system and techniques. I also liked Communication Electronics (ECE 218A/B) taught by Professor Rodwell since I gained hands-on experience with RF circuit design.

Experience with the graduate exams

Screening exam: I recommend working in a study group because I found it to be extremely helpful for this oral exam. I felt confident to take the screening exam after taking some related course at UCSB. While the screening exam focuses on courses, the qualifying exam aims to present your thesis idea/proposal to your committee members. It is very helpful to have some suggestions from your committee members at the middle stage of your thesis research.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and Graduate Research Assistant (GSR)

I was the TA for ECE146A and B. I was holding office hours as well as labs including both MATLAB software programming as well as hardware labs. Compared with TAs from other universities (heard from friends), I think that TAs provide substantial help for the students. Being a GSR, I spend most of my time on my research, and I also take some interesting courses at the same time.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

I am a married student and I have a very young baby. I work hard on the weekdays and try my best to spend weekends with my family, since I don't want to miss any important moment of my baby's growth. I have to admit that I don’t spend enough time with my baby during the deadline time (conference deadline or exams) but I try to make it up after the deadline passes.

Social life and living in Santa Barbara

I live in UCSB Family Housing, which is a very nice community and has the cheapest rent compared to other available places to live near campus. The resident coordinators hold lots of activities including holiday events, sports activity, and parent happy hours, etc. I enjoy attending those activities since I can get to know my neighbors better. As a Chinese student, I also attend activities held by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), such as Chinese Festival Concert, weekend sport activity, etc. For the new students, CSSA provides lots of help including picking up new students, proving temporary lodge and etc. I also attend ISI Friday dinner regularly, where you can know American families and other international friends.

What will you do over summer break?

I will do a summer Internship at Broadcom, where I will work as a system engineer focusing on OFDM wireless communication techniques. In 2008 I worked at Mentor Graphics as a software engineering, focusing on the EDA software development and worked for Denali Software Company in 2009 focusing on the flash memory coding problem. These three companies are all located at Bay area. In 2010 and 2011, I spent my time on my research at UCSB.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Work hard and also play hard!