Undergraduate Student Spotlights


ECE Video Interviews from the College of Engineering


L. Rocha headshot Luis Rocha, Class of 2012

Carpenter headshot Chance Carpenter, Class of 2012

Akametalu headshot Kene Akametalu, Class of 2012

Stephanie Johnson, Senior - Class of 2015

photo of stephanie johnson
  • Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
  • Favorite Class: Circuits and Electronics I & II (ECE 137A/B)
  • Student Organization Memberships: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society
  • Interesting aside about Stephanie: Both my parents and older sister are all Electrical Engineers

Stephanie's favorites

  • Band / Performer: Fleetwood Mac and The Who
  • TV Show: The Biggest Loser
  • Movie: Mean Girls, Top Gun, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile
  • Hobbies: Hiking, Running, Swimming

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: Everyone at UCSB seems to be pretty laid back. The general mood of the campus seems to be a good one and most people seem to be generally happy here. Another great thing about UCSB is the size of the campus. It's not a super big campus like some other schools, so getting to class is fairly easy whether you're biking or walking. The weather here is beautiful, the campus is beautiful and we have beautiful people...what more can you ask for?
  • Electrical Engineering program: The thing I like most about the ECE program is how small it is relative to the rest of the school. There is a better chance of getting to know the people in your classes and you'll probably see them for a good portion of your time here. Most of the students here are willing to help one another out which can be unique in a competitive environment.
  • Santa Barbara: SB is a beautiful city with a lot of things to do from the beach to the mountains. There are a lot of great hiking trails close by that make for nice weekend hikes. If you like the beach more, there's plenty of that around. Not too far away is State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, where it can be fun to go shopping, eat, or walk around.

Why Stephanie chose UCSB

I chose UCSB’s Electrical Engineering program because the department has continually increased their rankings among other schools. I felt that I wanted to be a part of a program that displayed advancements.

How did you hear about UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

During my application process I had decided that I wanted to do Electrical Engineering, so when I was applying, I looked at the different schools' websites to look at the specific major and what each school had to offer for the major. When I toured the campus, I made a point to talk with someone from the College of Engineering to get more questions answered in order to make my decision easier.

Why Electrical Engineering and UCSB EE?

Math and science were always my strong subjects as a kid. I wanted to do something that would apply both of these. My parents are both Electrical Engineers, and my sister was in her first year of Electrical Engineering when I had to make the decision, so I thought this was a reasonable choice. I absolutely love it and wouldn't change my major for anything else.

UCSB has a highly ranked Electrical Engineering program and continues to increase in the ranks amongst other schools. This was something that obviously caught my eye and appealed to me. Since the program is kept small, getting classes that are necessary for your major are almost guaranteed which is unique these days.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

There are so many things you can do with an electrical engineering degree. Many industries require electrical engineers so there's plenty of jobs once you graduate. It depends what you specialize in and what field you are interested in. From government contracting to medical device companies there are plenty of opportunities with this degree.

Advice Stephanie gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: If you are unsure of whether or not you want to do Electrical Engineering, just apply for it and give it a try. It's much harder to get into the College of Engineering if you're not in it than to switch out.
  • Parent Advice: Help your kid with the application process, but let them ask the questions and do the talking when they come to visit the campus. You're not going to be here all the time for them when they start college.
photo of stephanie johnson in the lab

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

I would have wanted my parents to know that UCSB's Electrical Engineering program is highly ranked amongst other similar programs in the world. The Professors here are truly amazing and they all have something to offer. Also, the resources here to get help with classes are very helpful, so you're not alone when it comes to school.

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?

I have really grown as a person throughout my time here at UCSB. College is really the time where you find who you are and make some really incredible friends at the same time. Aside from constantly being busy with school, you learn a lot about yourself in the process and that has really surprised me the most.

What has your experience been like taking the Math & Physics core classes?

The math and physics core classes can be frustrating at times, but they're really setting up the fundamental basics that you're going to need to know later down the line in your studies. Some people think, "I'm not going to need to know this", but it will always come back. Take them more seriously than others and really understand what's going on in those classes, and you'll be better off in the long run.

What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it?

ECE 137A/B was definitely one of the most challenging but rewarding courses that I have taken here at UCSB. The amount of time that was put into each lab project was significant, but the end result was extremely rewarding and the amount of knowledge gained in the end made everything worth it. Putting in sleepless hours, being dedicated to the class and having an awesome lab partner is what helped get me through it.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the ECE 145 series, Communication Electronics. I really enjoyed the electronics classes that I have taken in the past and the freedom for design in these classes is what makes them challenging, yet fun.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I want to specialize in the area of Electronics and Photonics. There is so much to learn and I feel as if I have only touched on the surface of these fields.

Have you done an internship?

I have interned at Raytheon in El Segundo for two summers now. I applied online and talked with the main recruiter to get my resume in the door. For my job, I was in charge of editing schematics, stress and strain analysis, and power and signal integrity.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

After graduation, I will be staying to complete the 5 year MS/BS program that UCSB has to offer here in Electrical Engineering. My emphasis is going to be Electronics and Photonics because I have enjoyed the classes I've taken in these fields so far and would like to further my studies. Hopefully after my fifth year, I will be ready to join industry and become a real adult!

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My mentor was my AP Physics teacher. I learned a lot about myself from him and through his class. Even as a young junior in high school, he believed that I was smart enough to go into a major such as engineering. This really gave me the motivation I needed to work hard enough to achieve my goal of one day becoming an engineer.
  • Favorite class in high school: AP Spanish 4 was definitely my favorite class in high school. I had never taken a language before high school so it was something different. It required a different way of learning than the previous math and science classes I was used to taking. I enjoyed it and learning spanish became more of a hobby than just a required class.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search was pretty straight forward. I knew that I wanted to stay in California and I wasn't interested in applying to any private schools. That left the UC and Cal State schools.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Being a competitive swimmer my whole life prepared me for studying engineering in college. With engineering, time management is very important. There is a lot to do in what seems to be a short amount of time. Swimming every day, while keeping up with my school work, really taught me how to manage my time and prioritize the things that needed to get done first. This same mentality transferred over to college and it's been really helpful.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? AP Calculus BC and AP Physics are definitely two classes that ECE students should take before entering UCSB. By passing the AP Calculus BC test, you have the possibility of skipping 1 or 2 math classes when you come to school here. While the same does not apply for AP Physics, you have an advantage over the kids who never took physics and the first two physics classes that you take here end up being almost a review of what you learned in high school. If the high school offers any computer science courses, students should also take those before entering UCSB. A lot of students have never been exposed to computer science before college, like myself, so having that advantage becomes very helpful.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? It's important to understand that when you're coming to college, you need to be in the right mindset. School should definitely be your first priority because that is what you're here for. There are going to be social events in your time here that you won't want to miss, but sometimes you have to sacrifice one thing for another and it's important you make the right decision.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? Depending on how social the student wants to be, the social scene can be the same for ECE students as it for others here at UCSB.
  • Describe your housing situation: Freshman year I lived in the dorms, but for the past 2 1/2 years I have lived in Isla Vista. Living in the dorms was a really awesome experience as a freshman. You get to meet a lot of people, which makes integrating into college life much easier. I have also really enjoyed living in Isla Vista since moving out of the dorms. It's nice being so close to campus, so even if you want to run home for lunch or you leave something at home, it's not far at all.

Matt Thornton, Sophomore - Class of 2016

photo of matt thornton outside of webb hall
  • Hometown: Manhattan Beach, CA
  • Favorite Class: ECE 15A
  • Student Organization Memberships: Regents and Chancellor's Scholars Association
  • Interesting aside about Matt: I am the only one in my family who has studied engineering

Matt's favorites

  • Band / Performer: The Killers
  • TV Show: Parks and Recreation
  • Movie: Pulp Fiction
  • Book: Game of Thrones Series
  • Activity: Hiking
  • Sport: Water Polo and Volleyball
  • Geeky Possession: Tyrion Lannister Poster

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: In the best way of its meaning, "everyone does their own thing." You can volunteer with elementary school students, join a fraternity or sorority, participate in university-related research, go to the beach everyday, study in the library past midnight on Friday nights, and the list goes on...No one activity or interest defines a person at UCSB. There is no pressure to do one thing and there is no judgement passed in doing another. There are also no real preconceptions on how an engineer (or any student) should be. You can choose to keep a busy schedule or to take advantage of the myriad of possibilities, but the choice is entirely yours. Don't forget to the East of the campus is a beach, in the middle a lagoon, and to the South another beach.
  • Electrical Engineering program: There are always many available routes for learning. Professors and TAs are very approachable and are willing to spend extra time to elaborate on concepts in class and during office hours. I was most surprised and pleased with the level of peer collaboration: nearly every student will give up some time to explain a concept as he/she understands it or to give some direction to a different approach to a problem or part of a lab. The general mentality is that we are all in the learning process together and it is more about knowledge than it is about competition.
  • Santa Barbara: I really like the geography of Santa Barbara. The mountains and the beach are separated by a few miles. It is easy to go for a hike or go surfing when you have some free time.

Why Matt chose UCSB's EE program

The department has continually increased their rankings among other schools. I felt that I wanted to be a part of a program that is advancing.

How did you hear about UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

I heard about the program's high esteem from a close family friend who works in the engineering industry. There is also a ton of information online about what the program has to offer.

Why Electrical Engineering?

My favorite subjects in high school were calculus and physics and I had been told that EE studies and applies those subjects, so I decided to apply as an EE. However, I really did not know the extent of what I would be studying.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

Having an electrical or computer engineering degree is a huge advantage in the professional world because it gives an insight into our modern age of technology. Computers and microelectronics define modern life; however, a lot of people do not understand how they work. An EE or CE degree prepares you for industries ranging from robotics and communication to finance and consulting.

Advice Matt gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: I will be honest, for whatever reason in high school I could not have imagined myself at UCSB and never would have thought I would go here. Now, after being here, I cannot imagine myself at any other university in the country. I can't name one school I would rather go to than UCSB. Lesson learned — do not make any assumptions about a school or any assumptions about yourself. The College of Engineering at UCSB is separate from Letters and Science and is incredibly competitive. It is not an easy task to transfer into the college; if you are interested in engineering you should definitely apply as an engineer. That being said, when I applied as an EE I had no strong feelings that I wanted to be an "engineer," let alone be an electrical engineer. All I was sure about was that I wanted to study math and science. I have been overwhelming pleased with my decision to study engineering here. It is not just that the engineering courses are interesting and stimulating, but I continue to see how an education in engineering is invaluable and leads to many opportunities. I recommend that if you are even just considering engineering that you should you go for it when you apply.
  • Parent Advice: It is easy to get sucked into the trap of becoming attached to universities by statistics and rankings. I think the number one priority is to give your kid information and help him/her to look at the university holistically and how he/she would fit in.
photo of matt thornton in the lab

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

After looking at a lot of different colleges it was hard to tell what I wanted and expected. I would have wanted my parents to know how much I would enjoy being at UCSB and studying EE.

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?

I would say one of the most interesting and surprising things I have learned is that periodic functions can be represented as a Fourier series, an infinite sum of sines and cosines.

What has your experience been like taking the Math & Physics core classes?

I have loved taking math and physics here. For those who are interested in learning math in a more abstract way look into taking the "i" series (Math 4Ai, 4Bi, and 6Ai), not many people know about these classes. Each physics class I have taken was taught by a different professor, which is refreshing because we take 5 quarters of physics. My advice is to pay attention in class and try to understand how the equations are derived.

What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it?

So far it has been Math 4Bi, a class about differential equations. The entire course was built around peer collaboration. We were presented with topics, ideas, and projects and were given some guidance and from there we had to develop theories and explain our thought process. Instead of learning from a textbook we learned from collaboration and then worked together to write an online, wiki-style textbook.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?

There is no class in particular, but I am looking forward to taking a bunch of upper division classes next year and learning more about specific topics in EE.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I am not sure. I will have a better idea next year after taking more upper division classes.

Have you done an internship?

I started working at Kollmorgen, an engineering company in Goleta, at the beginning of this year and I fit in a work schedule with my class schedule. I help manage product quality by evaluating datasheets and researching the lifecycle of electrical components. Another great part about working there is that as I continue my role will expand and change. I first came in contact with Kollmorgen when I did an interview project for a writing class during my freshman year. Before starting my sophomore year I contacted them again and it so happened that they were looking to hire an intern.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

I still have a couple of years before I graduate but, as of now, I think it would be interesting to pursue a career in electrical engineering and finance. Gadgets and new technologies have always intrigued me and I want to work in a cutting edge field. Graduate school is definitely on the table, maybe to continue studying engineering or to pursue an MBA. Right now I would prefer work in industry rather than continue in academia, but nothing is set in stone.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My mentors, who are also both Gauchos, were Mr. and Mrs. Geczi, my history/economics teacher and my spanish teacher, respectively. Each of them passionately encouraged me to think and apply myself in different ways.
  • Favorite class in high school: I enjoyed calculus the most because it exposed me to a new way of thinking.
  • Share what your college search was like: It was more stressful than it needed to be. Throughout high school I had been competing with a certain group of peers who all wanted to go to the top colleges. Applying to college felt like an extension of that competition.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Taking classes that were both challenging and out of my comfort zone helped me prepare for studying engineering in college. I would say that the work ethic, rather than the material, I learned from harder math and science classes prepared me the best. I also played two sports, on competitive teams, throughout most of high school and that along with a difficult course load forced me to learn how to manage my time effectively.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? My school only offered "AP Physics C: Mechanics" and I had zero formal introduction to electricity and magnetism. If there is a class I would suggest to take it would be a physics class that covers E&M to see if you are interested in the subject (as that is the basis of what you will be studying in ECE), but I don't think it is necessary.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? I had very strong expectations about the type of college of experience I would have. It is very important that when you go off to school that you have an open mind and do not let your expectations interfere with your experience.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? The social scene is whatever you make of it. There are a ton of opportunities including club sports, Greek life, and engineering interest groups. Personally, I like to be involved in a lot of activities, but I think it is best to push out of your comfort zone and try new things and see what you enjoy the most.
  • Describe your housing situation: Living in the dorms freshman year was great. I got to meet a lot of people I would not normally have met. I recommend trying to live in one of the dorms that is in the middle of campus. Now I live in an apartment in Isla Vista. It is nice to have more space and have a kitchen, but the only downside is that I am further from my classes/campus.

Azim Muqtadir, Senior - Class of 2014

photo of azim muqtadir
  • Hometown: Corona, CA
  • Favorite Class: ECE 124B - Integrated Circuit Design and Fabrication
  • Student Organization Memberships: Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
  • Senior Project: Thermal Imaging Grenade
  • Hobbies: Cycling, Running, Slacklining, Video games (unstoppable in Super Smash)
  • Interesting aside about Azim: Both my parents have doctorate degrees. My mom has a Ph.D. in English and my dad has a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering.

Azim's Favorites

  • Band / Performer: Lana Del Rey
  • TV Show: Game of Thrones
  • Movie: Gladiator (2000)
  • Book: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Geeky Possession: Game of Thrones Poster: House Martell

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: The UCSB campus is amazing! I find myself looking out to the ocean a lot. I also enjoy the different buildings we have. My favorite spot is the courtyard in the Music Building.
  • Electrical Engineering program: I enjoy having so many research opportunities and great professors.
  • Santa Barbara: There's so much to do in Santa Barbara. The bike routes are very scenic and the closeness of the mountains is great for hiking, bouldering and rock-climbing.

Why Azim chose UCSB

UCSB's Electrical Engineering program was highly ranked and numerous online resources said that the program had potential to get even higher rankings in the near future. The location of the UCSB campus was also a major component in choosing this program.

How did you hear about UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

In high school we had representatives from different colleges come and talk about the programs their respective colleges had to offer. UCSB sent someone to talk to us and that's when I first considered joining UCSB's Electrical Engineering program.

Why Electrical Engineering?

At the start, I knew I wanted to be an engineer since I was always fond of the practical side of science. Choosing the specific engineering major was a process of elimination. Since biology and chemistry were not my strongest subjects, I moved away from Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. I was tempted to do Mechanical Engineering for a while but my dad did civil engineering and I felt mechanical engineering was too close to civil engineering. I wanted to explore something new. I was left with two choices: computer engineering or electrical engineering. I liked computer programming but I liked physics and math more, so I picked Electrical Engineering.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

The possibilities are endless. Electronics and computers are ubiquitous in our society. With an electrical and computer engineering degree a graduate can create the next generation of mobile devices or research new methods to overcome current computer limitations or even create a quantum computer!

Advice Azim gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: When applying to colleges it seemed like only test scores and grades mattered but in order to excel you have to be excited and motivated about your subject. Try to look inward and find what inspires you.
  • Parent Advice: It was very hard for my parents to let me go to college away from home. Attending UCSB and being exposed to so many new things has helped me grow as a person and appreciate what my parents have done for me.
photo of azim-muqutdir

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

I would have wanted my parents to know how great the professors, TA's and my classmates are, so they wouldn't have worried so much about me.

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?

Before college, I heard about there being billions of transistors in a computer and I believed a transistor would be extremely complex and very hard to understand. I was shocked to learn that transistors are so simple.

What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it?

ECE 137B — Circuits and Electronics II. It was difficult since I would always use mathematical relations to understand circuits without trying to grasp a physical understanding of circuits. You need both math and physics to fully understand circuits. I overcame this lack of understanding by working out problems, reading, and going to office hours. In the end, I did really well on the final and passed with flying colors.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to ECE 162B, Fundamentals of the Solid-State since I like understanding the physics of the devices used in circuits.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I want to specialize in Solid-State Physics. With a solid understanding of Solid-State Physics, I can be involved in creating new ways of fabricating electronics.

Have you done an internship?

I did a UCSB Center for Energy Efficient Materials (CEEM) internship last summer. I helped research novel semiconductor materials by extracting material parameters from different measurements. I found out about the internship on a flyer and applied online.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

Right now, I'm leaning towards going straight to industry after I get my BS degree. I'm hoping to get a job related to Solid-State Physics. I want to first see what a job in my field is like before I become fully specialized in it. I'm planning on getting a Master's degree later on in my career.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: It may seem strange but my photography teacher, Ms. Bustany taught me a lot about being an engineer. When I walked into her class I wasn't good at photography. She was very honest with me, sometimes a little too honest but she helped me conquer my pride and focus on what I had to do to improve my skills. I feel self-improvement is a very important quality for an engineer to have and being in her class taught me that.
  • Favorite class in high school: Photography — this was the first class I had where the teacher had expectations for me to improve. I had no idea how to take a good picture but I paid attention and learned photography by the end of the course. It might seem like a small accomplishment but it means a lot to me.
  • Share what your college search was like: I searched colleges by attending talks from representative from different colleges at my high school. My search also consisted of looking at rankings and talking to people who graduated from the colleges that interested me.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Most people will say that taking the harder math or science courses will prepare you to for college but I believe doing courses or attempting things that are out of your comfort zone will help more. No matter how much you study, you will eventually face a problem that is out of your ability and you'll have to learn new skills and be able to grow in new ways.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I recommend taking AP courses in high school because the college credit you can get from AP exams can save a lot of time and money.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? Just try to be adventurous, you'll meet amazing people and have fun!

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? The social scene on-campus and off-campus seems pretty diverse. I have to admit I haven't been to many events but there are many advertisements for amazing things. I went to a salsa dancing club meeting one time, I was a horrible dancer but it was lots of fun dancing with strangers and laughing at friends who also can't dance. I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll find something great to do.
  • Describe your housing situation: I lived in a triple in the Anacapa on-campus dorms freshman year. The Anacapa dorms aren't the most modern of all the dorms but they are the closest to engineering classes. During my sophomore year, I lived in the San Rafael on-campus dorms. In my junior year, I lived in the Santa Ynez off-campus apartments. Currently, I'm living in a house in Isla Vista. If you want to live in Isla Vista make sure to start looking for a place and have roommates set before winter quarter starts. With school housing, the process is really simple and the school emails you about all the deadlines. That being said, I prefer living in Isla Vista since it is relaxing being away from a school environment after a long day in class or lab.