Graduate Student Spotlights

Sebastian Siatkowski - Ph.D. Student in Computer Engineering

photo of Sebastian Siatkowski
  • Hometown: Wyszkow, Poland and Los Angeles, California
  • B.S. and M.S. : B.S. in Computer Engineering and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, UCSB
  • Degree Sought from UCSB and Progress: third year Ph.D. candidate
  • Advisor / Group: Professor Li-C. Wang / Mining Test and Verification (MTV Lab) data for EDA & Test applications
  • Graduate Study Area in CE: Data Mining in Test
  • Research Interests: Adaptive Test, Failure Analysis, Yield Optimization, Big Data
  • Hobbies: soccer, hiking, mixed martial arts, running, video games

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: brilliant and easily approachable professors, ocean view from our lab
  • UCSB: beautiful campus, friendly people, great recreation center
  • Santa Barbara: perfect weather year round, relaxed culture, tons of breathtaking hiking trails

Why Electrical & Computer Engineering and UCSB?

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.

More about Sebastian and his research

  • Important Conferences Attended: the International Test Conference (ITC) and the International Conference on Computer-Aided Design (ICCAD)
  • Most important publication to date: "Yield Optimization Using Advanced Statistical Correlation Methods"
  • Master’s Thesis: "Abnormality Search for Predicting the Screenability of Customer Returns "
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and Teaching Assistant (TA)

Tell us about your research

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.

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

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.

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

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.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Where will your research take you next?

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.

photo of sebastian by the campus bike path

Sebastian's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

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.

Favorite courses

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.

Experience with the graduate exams

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.

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

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.

Life as a graduate student

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

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.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

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.

What will you do this summer?

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.

Advice to prospective graduate students

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.

Ekta Prashnani - M.S./Ph.D. Student in Communications & Signal Processing


photo of ekta in the lab
  • Hometown: Jabalpur, India
  • B.S. Degree: Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT), Gandhinagar
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, 2nd year
  • Important Awards and Honors: patent awards from Nokia (in Sunnyvale) and Ricoh Innovations (in Bangalore, India), Excellence in Internship at Ricoh Innovations (in 2012), Dean's List for Academic Excellence for last two semesters of undergraduate studies
  • Graduate Study Area: Communications & Signal Processing
  • Main Area of Research: Signal Processing
  • Advisor and Lab: Professor Pradeep Sen / UCSB MIRAGE Lab
  • Research Interests: computational photography and imaging, computer vision
  • Professional Memberships: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student member
  • Hobbies: running, robotics, photography
  • Interesting aside about Ekta: I was one of the former leaders of the IIT-Gandhinagar student organization called "Sakar" — a group that aims to teach Mathematics and Science in innovative ways to girls in 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade at schools located nearby the IIT Gandhinagar campus. This was a part of the social outreach programs of IIT Gandhinagar and an attempt to increase the interest of women in STEM from a young age. I was also Captain of the Women's Athletics team of IIT Gandhinagar for the 46th inter-IIT sports meet.

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: the diversity of the ECE community, excellent and inspiring professors, and the location of the ECE buildings (i have a view of the ocean from the lab!)
  • UCSB: the location, vibrance of the student body and enthusiastic professors
  • Santa Barbara: the downtown looks worthy of a postcard; lots of places to hike and hang out with friends; perfect weather; and there are mountains on one side and the Pacific ocean on the other

More about Ekta and her research

  • Important Conferences you have attended: Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH)
  • What types of Financial Assistance have you received? Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)

Tell us about 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.

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

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.

Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your 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.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Where will your research take you next?

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.

photo of ekta outside of ESB

Ekta's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

Collaboration with industry, very useful graduate coursework, freedom and flexibility for graduate students to find and work on problems that excite them the most.

Favorite course

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.

Experience with the graduate exams

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.

Describe your experience as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)

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.

Life as a graduate student

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

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.

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

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.

What did you do over summer break?

I plan to intern in the Bay Area for the summer, it is a beautiful place to be in summer. Looking forward to it!

Advice to prospective graduate students

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.

Brian Satzinger - M.S./Ph.D. Student in Control Systems


photo of Brian Satzinger
  • Hometown: Springfield, Missouri
  • Previous Degrees: B.S.in Computer Engineering, University of Missouri, Columbia
  • Degree Sought from UCSB and Progress: M.S. / Ph.D. — 5th Year
  • Graduate Study Area: Control Systems
  • Main Area of Research: Robot Locomotion
  • Advisor and Lab: Professor Katie Byl / UCSB Robotics Lab
  • Research Interests: Robot Locomotion, Planning
  • Hobbies: Cycling; Hiking, Camping and Backpacking; Open Water Swimming; Photography

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: Faculty and other students (and staff!) are friendly. Office doors tend to be open. There is a casual atmosphere that makes it easy to feel comfortable.
  • UCSB: Besides the obvious geographic assets, I enjoy having access to talks and presentations on campus. These include the obvious engineering related presentations, but also talks that are completely unrelated to my research. There is also something about the campus atmosphere that is positive, healthy, and active.
  • Santa Barbara: People sometimes say that Santa Barbara feels a bit like an island. I enjoy this because there is a definite sense of community and place. But, when I want a change of scenery, Los Angeles is not too far away. I enjoy being able to visit my family there.

More about Brian and his research

  • Important Conferences Attended: Dynamic Walking 2012 (Pensacola, FL); IEEE/RSJ International Conference on
    Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2012 (Vilamoura, Portugal); International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER) 2014 (Marrakech, Morocco); IROS 2014 (Chicago, IL)
  • Dissertation title: Dexterous Rough Terrain Locomotion with a Quadruped with Kinematically Redundant Limbs
  • Types of financial assistance received: I have mainly been a GSR, but I was a TA for two quarters.

Tell us about your research

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.

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

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.

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

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.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Where will your research take you next?

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.

photo of Brian Satzinger

Brian's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

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.

Favorite course

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.

Experience with the graduate exams

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.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA).

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.

Life as a graduate student

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

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.

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

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.

What did you do over Summer break?

I spent summer at UCSB doing research. I also traveled during the summer for conferences, and also to visit family

Advice to prospective graduate students

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.

Elham Zamanidoost - M.S./Ph.D. Student in Computer Engineering


photo of elham zamanidoost
  • Hometown: Esfahan, Iran
  • B.S. and M.S. Degree: M.S. University of California, Santa Barbara in computer engineering (2013) and B.S. Shahid Beheshti University a.k.a National University of Iran in Electrical Engineering (2007)
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: Ph.D. in Computer Engineering, starting forth year
  • Graduate Study Area: Computer Engineering
  • Advisor and Lab: Professor Dmitri "Dima" Strukov / Strukov Research Group
  • Research Interests: Artificial Intelligence, Neural Network, Memristor
  • UCSB Organizations: Member of Iranian Graduate Student Association (IGSA)

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: Great faculty, Friendly and super helpful staff, Building located at the edge of ocean
  • UCSB: Beautiful campus and cultural diversity
  • Santa Barbara: living so close to ocean and mountains encourages outdoor activities and healthy lifestyle

More about Elham and her research

  • Most important publication to date: Alibart, Fabien, Elham Zamanidoost, and Dmitri B. Strukov. "Pattern classification by memristive crossbar circuits using ex situ and in situ training." Nature communications 4 (2013).
  • Dissertation title: "Pattern Classification with Memristive Crossbar Circuits"
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Research (GSR), Teaching Assistantship (TA), Graduate Student Fellowship

Tell us about your research

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.

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

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.

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

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.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

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.

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

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.

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

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. 

Where will your research take you next?

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.

photo of Elham Zamanidoost

Elham's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

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.

Favorite course

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.

Experience with the graduate exams

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.

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

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!

Life as a graduate student

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

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.

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

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.

What did you do over summer break?

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.