Graduate Student Spotlights

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.

Jared Hulme - M.S. / Ph.D. Student in Electronics & Photonics

photo of jared hulme outside of the engineering science bldg
  • Hometown: Los Gatos, CA
  • B.S. Degree: Brigham Young University (BYU)
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: M.S./Ph.D. - 4th year
  • Professional Memberships: IEEE Photonics Society
  • Main Area of Research: Photonic integrated circuits in the hybrid III/V-silicon platform
  • Research Interests: tunable laser, photonic integrated circuits, hybrid silicon, photonics
  • Advisor and Lab: Professor John Bowers / Optoelectronics Research Group
  • Hobbies: I love playing with my kids more than anything. Especially hiking, camping, bike-riding, pushing them on swings. I also enjoy reading fantasy novels and eating good food.
  • Interesting aside about Jared: I served a mission for two years teaching the gospel in Spanish

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: There is incredible talent here both in the faculty and staff. There are so many opportunities to learn about interesting physics and people's work in challenging fields.
  • UCSB: The bell tower, the lagoon and Technology Management Program (TMP)
  • Santa Barbara: My wife, my kids, and the beach

More about Jared and his research

  • Most important publication to date: "Fully integrated hybrid silicon free-space beam steering source with 32 channel phased array,"  J. C. Hulme, Doylend, Heck, Peters, Davenport, Bovington, Coldren, and Bowers,  SPIE Photonics West (invited paper),  8989-6,  February 5, (2014)
  • Important conferences attended: OFC, Photonics West (where I presented an invited talk this year on two-dimension free-space beam-steering)
  • Dissertation title: Tunable Lasers with Ring-based Mirrors for Photonic Integrated Circuits on Hybrid Silicon
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)

Tell us about your research

My research is focused on tunable lasers with ring-based mirrors and their applications in photonic integrated circuits (PICs) using the hybrid silicon­III/V platform developed at UC Santa Barbara.  After developing a tunable laser I have been working on developing a chip for free-space beam-steering. An optical phased array has been integrated with fast phase tuners, on­chip tunable lasers and amplifiers, and on­chip feedback for a robust fully integrated PIC with more than 100 I/O signals. These PICs are useful for LIDAR and point­to­point communication applications and should be more robust, more compact, and faster than conventional devices.

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

I have always been interested in light and its many applications. I was impressed with the Bowers group and the work they had done and I decided I wanted to be a part of the group. After joining, I did some work on the beam-steering project and got interested enough to continue with it.

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

Originally, when I was looking into graduate schools I was intending to study a different field. However, as I saw the work done in different groups in the field of photonics I kept getting excited by the ideas and the results that I saw. I decided to change my focus, and soon afterward I saw The Institute for Energy Efficiency's "White Room" page. After seeing the focus and vision they had I decided that UCSB was where I wanted to do my research.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

It has been exciting seeing our systems expand as small components are successfully integrated together to create new functionality. Particularly rewarding has been the experience of being challenged in new ways. Research is frustrating and difficult, but I feel like I have grown a lot through participating in it.

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

The Bowers group, and the larger ECE department at UCSB, are incredibly helpful. There is a wide range of expertise, and I have found that everyone I talk to is willing to share their knowledge and spend time to help other people succeed.

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

Working in a group is really motivating. Having other students to ask questions to helps you get through the snags that repeatedly show up in research. Also, an experienced advisor like John Bowers is invaluable. He helps us set a direction and then gives us a lot of leeway on how to pursue it, but he is still involved and asking questions and giving us advice throughout.

Where will your research take you next?

For the future, I plan on taking the entrepreneurial track. I am currently collaborating with two other graduate students from the Materials Science and Economics departments on building a technology start-up in the high-power white-lighting industry.

photo of jared hulme in the Bowers Lab

Jared's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

We have world-class professors here. They know their subjects very well and also have a lot of real-world experience, so nothing is taught in a vacuum. The clean room and lab facilities are fantastic. Also, I have found the Technology Management Program to be very valuable. This program is aimed at teaching students the basics of business and helping them transition their work into industry.

Favorite course

Some of my favorite course have been Larry Coldren's courses on lasers and Umesh Mishra's course on device physics. These are some of the most applicable classes I have ever taken.

Describe your experience as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)

Being a graduate student researcher has been a rewarding experience.  It has allowed me to focus all my efforts on research without worrying about funding or classes.  Research is hard enough without extra responsibilities, and I have plenty of extra responsibilities outside of UCSB.

Experience with the graduate exams

The screening exam was challenging. I spent seven weeks one summer with studying every day for eight hours and then meeting with several friends at least weekly to do practice tests. It was actually quite liberating to have time set aside to study the things that I hadn't quite understood in classes, and I really appreciated it. In the end, the exams were not as bad as I imagined. They did require the study I had put in, but I found that the professors were encouraging and wanted me to succeed. I learned new ways to look at the physics from most of the exams and I went away very happy with the experience.

Life as a graduate student

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

Balancing time is by far the hardest part of graduate school for me. I have a wife and two children under the age of four. I am also involved in service through the LDS church. I always feel like I should be working 12 hours a day to meet my research goals, and when I am taking classes it is even more difficult. Add the company I am trying to start and there simply isn't enough time to do everything I think I should. For much of my graduate career I have neglected sleep to find the needed time. I do not recommend this for extended periods of time as it becomes increasingly difficult to think clearly and is pretty depressing. So now I am simply doing my best, usually just working 8 hours a day and making sure I am spending time with my kids most nights and on the weekends. My social life is mainly through church and the occasional dinner at our apartment with friends.

Where do you live?

I am living in Family Housing because it's conveniently close and it's all I can afford in the area. I enjoy the weather here, but I personally miss most of the benefits of living in such a beautiful location because of time constraints. I do appreciate that my wife and children have easy access to the beach, hiking trails, etc.

What do you do over Summer break?

Most summers are spent doing research at UCSB, and I expect this year will be the same.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Graduate school is hard. Make sure you have a dream or goal or something that will get you through the lows and help you to keep going.

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.