Undergraduate Student Spotlights

Ryan Calloway, Junior – Class of 2017

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  • Hometown: Pacoima, California
  • Favorite Class: Digital Design Principles (ECE 152A)
  • Student Organization Memberships: National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  • Last Book Read: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Interesting aside about Ryan: I can play the flute, alto saxophone, and bass drum

Ryan's favorites

  • Hobbies: Reading, Watching TV, Learning new programming languages
  • Band / Performer: J. Cole
  • TV Show: Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Arrow
  • Movie: All Marvel movies
  • Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Activity: Hanging out with friends
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Geeky Possession: Arduino Yun

 

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: The fact that everyone can do their own thing. UCSB has a ton of clubs and organizations that appeal to a variety of interests. You are very likely to find people that share the same hobbies with you, or even discover new interests that you're passionate about.
  • Electrical Engineering program: One thing I really like about the ECE program here, besides the great faculty, is the sense of camaraderie you get with your classmates. If you're ever struggling with a concept, you can walk up to someone from class in CSIL (our computer lab) and ask them to help you out with it.
  • Santa Barbara: You can't talk about Santa Barbara without talking about the beach. Living so close to it is amazing, and it makes for some nice scenery when you're biking home or to class. Beyond the beach, Santa Barbara gives you a lot of places to explore: you can go hiking in the mountains, shop a little on State Street, or watch a movie in the Goleta Marketplace outdoor shopping center. There are a ton of options available to you.

Why Electrical Engineering?

I actually came to UCSB as an Undeclared major. I knew I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, and I spent my first four quarters on that pathway. During that time I took ECE 2A, and I fell in love with EE. Something about applying the material you learned in class in a lab really pulled me in. After my new found love of EE, the next logical step was to transfer into the major. Luckily the first year of classes for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering were pretty much the same, so I wasn't too far behind. Now, I can't see myself in any other major.

Why Ryan chose UCSB

I chose UCSB because I felt that it was the institution that could offer me the best education and experiences out of all the schools I was accepted to, and it is fairly close to my hometown so I can go home whenever I want. It also didn't hurt that my cousin was attending UCSB at the time, and her stories about her experiences made me feel that this school would be a good fit for me.

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

It wasn't until the end of my first year when I talked to the undergraduate advisor for ECE and got more information about it that I started having an interest in EE.

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

In this technology age that we live in now, a degree in electrical or computer engineering offers you a lot of opportunities. Even within EE, there are numerous fields of specialization like: communications, control systems, optics, signal and image processing, and many more.

Advice Ryan gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: Don't overstress yourself when you are filling out the application or writing your personal statement. Also, as someone who had to switch from the College of Letters (CoLS) and Science into the College of Engineering (CoE), if you have any interest at all of being an engineer I recommend applying as an engineer even if you aren't totally sure. It's much easier to transfer from CoE to CoLS than vice versa.
  • Parent Advice: I would say be supportive of your kid regardless of their decision, but at the same time make sure they understand what the potential outcomes of their decision are. Also, I would strongly suggest you take your kid to Spring Insight because the event really shows off the atmosphere of UCSB to incoming freshmen.
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Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

I would just want them to know that it's a great program and will expose me to many experiences and opportunities.

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

That you can represent magnetic flux flowing through a ferromagnetic core as a magnetic circuit. I think it's really cool how a complex process can be expressed in such a simple way.

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

The math and science core classes were not bad. They were very interesting and I recommend dedicating a lot of time studying for them because everything you learn in these classes will come back in some way when you reach your major classes. I remember thinking "I'm never going to use Fourier series again," and wow was I wrong.

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

My most challenging class so far has been ECE 2C. That was a beast of a class and I remember getting frustrated with some of the homework and labs. I overcame it by spending extra time studying and asking questions during office hours. In the end, I had gained a much deeper understanding of circuits and I'm glad I got through it because it made me a better student.

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

I'm looking forward to Circuits and Electronics (ECE 137A) because I have heard the labs are pretty intense from some of my older friends and I'm excited to see what all the hype is about.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I haven't solidified an area of specialization yet, but I'm choosing between controls, signals, and nanotechnology. My ultimate goal is to work for an aerospace company to help design parts of space ships, and I think that specializing in any of those fields will help me reach that goal.

Have you done an internship?

I have not had an internship yet, but I am in the process of searching for one. I know that a good way to get your foot in the door is by networking at events like career fairs or conferences. Also, it doesn't hurt to have a strong resume.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

After I get my Bachelor's degree, I plan to continue on to get my Masters degree in Electrical Engineering through the 5-year BS/MS program here at UCSB. Then, I hope to work for an aerospace company, because I've always wanted to make something that will go into space.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My 9th grade science teacher Mrs. Montague was my HS mentor. She always pushed me to do my best and she encouraged me to take Chemistry a year earlier than I planned to, which enabled me to take AP Chemistry and AP Physics.
  • Favorite class in high school: My favorite class in high school was AP Physics. I enjoyed it because it introduced a new way of problem solving and thinking to me, and I still use what I learned then today.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search process wasn't too stressful because I knew I wanted to stay in California and I didn't want to be too far away from home.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Besides my math and science courses in high school, being on the football team prepared me for studying engineering. Having practice everyday until 6pm and then having to commute for an hour to get home taught me how to best manage my time. Those time management skills are crucial to being an engineering student with homework deadlines, lab deadlines, extracurriculars, and work. Another thing that helped me was having a super supportive family that always made sure I stayed on track.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I recommend taking AP Calculus C because you get to skip a couple math classes when you get here if you pass the test. Also, if you're lucky enough to go to a high school with a computer science class, definitely take that because it will prepare you for the CS classes you have to take when you get here.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? Last year I was the resource chair for the NSBE chapter here on campus, and this year I'm co-president. When I came to college I never thought that I would be the chair of anything, let alone the president. College offers you a lot of opportunities to step out of your comfort zone, and in my experience it has been very beneficial to accept these challenges. Taking the resource chair position set me up to be co-president, so I recommend having an open mind and trying new things, because you never know where they may lead you.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? With all of the student organizations on campus there is always some kind of event happening, and there is always fun to be had in IV. Being an electrical engineer doesn't mean you do not get to have a social life. Sure there are the occasional late night lab sessions, but with the right time management skills you can have the same amount of fun as everyone else.
  • Describe your housing situation: My freshman year I lived in the Anacapa dorms and met a lot of really great people. It was also really convenient because all of the first year engineering classes are close to Anacapa. I definitely recommend staying in dorms your first year if you are able to. After my freshman year I moved into Isla Vista. Living in IV made me more responsible, as I had to feed myself (I'm still missing the dining commons), and be more frugal with my money.

Alex Nguyen-Le, Junior - Class of 2017

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  • Hometown: Fremont, CA
  • Favorite Class: Circuits, Devices, & Systems (ECE 2C)
  • Student Organization Memberships: Alpha Omega Campus Ministry, Tau Beta Pi
  • Last book read: Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead
  • Interesting aside about Alex: I hate mushrooms

Alex's favorites

  • Hobbies: Reading, Cooking, Photography
  • Band / Performer: Maroon 5
  • TV Show: House MD
  • Movie: Forest Gump
  • Book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • Activity: Listening and learning
  • Sport: Ultimate
  • Geeky Possession: CRT Oscilloscope

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: The vibe of the Campus and Isla Vista community is awesome! Walking through different parts of campus and through each of the departmental spaces gets you a sense of what each department or lab is passionate about. Isla Vista is the same way: you can see firsthand the diversity of experiences and lifestyles amongst the UCSB community, and the environment of the UCSB neighborhood really feels unified even if you don't know all of your neighbors.
  • Electrical Engineering program: The faculty here are not just experts in their respective fields, but each have an understanding of what they teach which is personal to them. In lecture, it can sometimes be difficult to follow the accuracy and precision at which your professors discuss the concepts, but when you have a deep understanding of what they're trying to teach you, the words your professors use often come back and stick with you. Many of the faculty also seem to be really passionate about teaching, and not only try to get you to through their class but also explain the relevance of what you're learning and how concepts might be useful beyond solving book problems.
  • Santa Barbara: The weather and the presence of rural, suburban, and urban spaces all within close proximity. It's usually really nice outside, making it perfect for going on a hike, walk downtown, or plan a little get-together with friends.

Why Alex chose UCSB

I chose UCSB because its engineering program had the best reputation of the schools I got accepted into. UCSB is also located in a setting completely different from my home town and it was pretty exciting for me to think about living in a beach town as compared to suburbia, and in an environment that's filled almost exclusively with college students rather than families and older professionals.

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

I heard about UCSB's electrical engineering program whilst researching colleges and from a college counselor at my high school that recommended UCSB to me. After looking up the program (among several others), I read enough about it that I liked and applied.

Why Electrical Engineering?

I chose electrical engineering because it's what I was raised on, and from an early age, my parents had given me a lot of exposure to exactly what it is and why it's something cool to study. I was lucky enough not to hate it by the time I started applying for colleges, and got in as an Electrical Engineering student and it just stuck.

Why did you select UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

I selected UCSB's EE program because UCSB was a pretty good engineering school (from what I had heard), and the environment of UCSB seemed like something I could fit into.

Advice Alex gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: As a student at UCSB, you're going to be exposed to whatever you wish to be exposed to. It can only be beneficial for you to try things you're passionate about, or learn things that you've always been curious about. UCSB has so much to offer, and it's pretty much an impossibility for you to find other people that are not interested in the same things you're interested in!
  • Parent Advice: For the parents of prospective UCSB students, I'd recommend not letting UCSB's reputation detract you from UCSB's mission as an institution of education. People can find whatever they want to find in college, regardless of what school they attend, and it's pretty important to trust your children to make responsible decisions for their own sake.

Explain to students and parents what you can do with an Electrical & Computer Engineering degree

EE and CE are pretty much the backbone of almost everything that exists today. This means you can do almost anything you want with an ECE degree, including things that don't seem like stereotypical ECE disciplines. This means in addition to traditional ECE topics, like wireless communication, computer architecture, or semiconductor device design that you typically associate with EE, you also can have things like biomedical device design, polymer/materials chemistry (battery technology), and photonics.

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

EE is a difficult major, and the things that may have worked for my parents to overcome adversity in their own lives might not necessarily work for me. I'm grateful for what my parents have done for me in the past, and believe that success in school and life require that I learn to develop my own passions and problem solving strategies rather than completely relying on the advice of others..

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

Fourier transforms are pretty cool. Apparently, you can represent discontinuous periodic signals with sines and cosines.

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

Math classes were easy for me, but the physics courses were not. The opposite was true for many of my friends. Don't give up if you feel like you don't get it in lecture, very few people do! It's the time outside of lecture that counts!

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

My most challenging course in the ECE department was probably Probability & Statistics (ECE 139). Reading the textbook and getting a million different interpretations of the same thing was what really made some of the stuff click for me. Office hours were a must as well.

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

I'm looking forward to ECE141 (MEMS). There's just something mystical and cool about things you can't see with your eyes having a effect you can measure when you put them all together and analyze them at a large scale. At smaller scales, all of these effects can change, and your models break down because your assumptions lose validity. Learning to engineer around these effects, or even better, exploit them for your design sounds insanely cool and has applications you read about in pop-sci articles and see in sci-fi movies!

What area do you want to specialize in?

I want to specialize in signal processing and its applications because I like the mathematics behind it. Abstracting away the nitty-gritty implementation details of a system and boiling them down to math equations is crazy cool, especially when your model reveals unexpected details about the behavior of your system. Furthermore, the math and theory behind signal processing can be used to describe systems in an intuitive way, even in disciplines that don’t seem to have any types of electrical signaling. An example of this is using block-diagrams and representations to describe the effect of chemical signals in living organisms, and signal processing just seems like an awesome way to use mathematics to do more than just solve book problems.

Have you had any on-campus research opportunities at UCSB?

I currently work in Dr. Luke Theogarajan's Biomimetic Lab. I haven't been there too long, but have learned many practical skills in addition to the real world applications of concepts I had learned in digital and analog design. The project I worked on involved creating and testing a chip much smaller than the size of your pinky! I learned things about engineering beyond the models you're taught in class, and it kind of gave me some intuition behind what designers consider when constructing devices in the real world.

Have you done an internship?

My internship is the same place I participate in undergrad research — Dr. Luke Theogarajan's Biomimetic Lab. I got the internship by working hard in class, showing up to office hours, and proving that I was committed to working in that laboratory.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

I plan on going into graduate school in the field of Bioengineering. I've always admired bio-inspired design and would love to turn it into a career!

High School Experiences

  • Favorite class in high school: My favorite class in high school was probably my math classes because they taught me not only how to approach and solve problems, but how to describe the world using a language that can keep track of things for you upon you fleshing them out. It’s crazy awesome that negative signs, directions, and units are managed for you when you express something in math properly!
  • Share what your college search was like: Searching for colleges was fun but also really stressful. Since application fees were so expensive, it was a scary thing to decide which schools to forgo sending in applications. Once I think I had a plan and sent in that last application, I felt really relieved and made the most of my senior year of high school!

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? AP classes and falling flat on my face over some of the hard concepts really prepared me for college. You can feel really stupid in some classes you take in high school, and in college, you can feel really stupid all the time. Getting used to not understanding and knowing things the first time I heard them really prepared me for college.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? Take AP Comp Science and AP Calculus and AP Physics! That way, your first year will be partial review rather than completely new material.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? The social scene on campus is largely driven by clubs and other organizations that spend time to throw events. The social scene off campus is largely driven by friends to throw similar events. Obviously, the motivations behind campus thrown events and off-campus events is different, but you'll generally find what you're looking for, even if you barely put in any effort.
  • Describe your housing situation: 

    On campus dorms were really fun and a great way to start off college, I'd highly recommend living in them if you can afford it. Isla Vista housing requires that you're responsible with your time, commitments, and money making them a great way to get used to the real world. I'd recommend living on campus until you feel comfortable to move into IV. Some would rather skip the on campus housing altogether, while others stay on campus all four years.

Vishaal Varahamurthy, Junior - Class of 2016

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  • Hometown: Camarillo, CA
  • Favorite Class: ECE 132 — Introduction to Solid State Electronic Devices
  • Student Organization Memberships: Ask a Scientist, Advancing Hispanics, Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Engineering Student Council, Tau Beta Pi
  • Interesting aside about Vishaal: I absolutely love learning languages and would probably be a linguistics major if science wasn’t so cool

Vishaal's favorites

  • Hobbies: guitar, brewing coffee, planet-watching
  • Band / Performer: Green Day
  • TV Show: Breaking Bad, South Park, and Bob’s Burgers
  • Activity: traveling
  • Sport: basketball
  • Geeky Possession: compressed air motor I built in Introduction to Machine Shop (Mechanical Engineering 12S)

 

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: The perfect balance of work and play. I can't think of another place in the world where people have such an amazing work ethic combined with the ability to have such a great time, anytime.
  • Electrical Engineering program: The people — all of the students and faculty are the most interesting and quirky people I've had the chance to meet in my time as a Gaucho. I've become extremely close to my classmates as a result of fighting the beast that is third year, and have formed friendships that will last a lifetime.
  • Santa Barbara: The weather is amazing. If I don't go to grad school here, I'll have a really hard time leaving my spoiled SoCal life, taking atmospheric perfection for granted.

Why Vishaal chose UCSB

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after high school, so UCSB was actually a pretty arbitrary decision for me, mostly based on financial aid. It wasn’t until I actually got here that I realized how much more this campus had to offer. I’m extremely grateful for UCSB having helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my education and my future.

Why Electrical Engineering?

I came in as a chemical engineering major, thinking that it would be a mixture of physics and chemistry, my two favorite subjects in high school. Going through my first year, I realized this was not the case. While at the end of my first year I still didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do, I did figure out exactly what I didn’t want to do.  I got into electronic materials research the summer before my second year and absolutely fell in love with it, solidifying my decision to enter a Materials PhD program after I graduate. Switching to ECE made things sort of fall into place, as UCSB's ECE program offers a great device-focused path full of amazing research opportunities to reach this goal.

Why did you select UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

Realizing I wanted to leave chemical engineering didn't mean I wanted to leave UCSB. Staying here and continuing research was the best decision I've made!

Advice Vishaal gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: When applying, don't worry too much about what you think the admissions office wants to hear, don't let rankings get to your head, and don't be intimidated by numbers like acceptance rates.
  • Parent Advice: If your child is admitted and you visit the campus for Spring Insight with them, let them ask their own questions and explore on their own. Please remember that this will be the next four years of their lives, not yours.

Explain to students and parents what you can do with an Electrical & Computer Engineering degree

You've probably heard already about the plethora of job opportunities, so I won't bore you with the same details. The research opportunities, however, are less spoken of but equally amazing! You can explore materials science, devices, signals, robotics, and more. ECE can be very interdisciplinary and using your degree to experience research outside of the field is not uncommon.

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

That it’s safer than most people think.

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

That quantum tunneling is a thing. But also, I am extremely surprised at how much UCSB has changed me. My last three years here have been a process of constant personal evolution and I did not expect my hobbies, interests, and the groups and people with which I identify to change so much, so quickly. I remember back in high school I spent ten hours a day playing video games – a hobby I considered an extremely important part of my life. Now I don’t even have the attention span for fifteen minutes of gaming unless I am with friends.

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

They are a lot of work compared to AP classes in high school. At the time they seemed mundane and unrelated to my major, but I later learned they helped me form an extremely strong foundation that was invaluable for my upper division courses.

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

Semiconductor Device Processing (ECE 220A) was my most rewarding course, at the cost of an intense course load. Taking a graduate class alongside three upper division ECE courses was extremely difficult. However, I learned really cool clean room techniques, technical writing and data analysis methods crucial to a research-oriented career, and made some really good friends. Taking that class is also the reason I was able to get eye-scanner access to the UCSB Nanofabrication Facility, which makes me feel like a secret agent sometimes.

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

The ECE 162A/B/C series (Quantum Description of Electronic Materials, Fundamentals of Solid the State, and Optoelectronic Materials & Devices) has me really excited, as I haven't gotten to take an in-depth quantum class after the basic modern physics we learned in physics 5. I'm hoping to get a better materials background through this class, and I'm really excited to take a class by a professor who did his undergrad here. I am also looking forward to taking a year of Chinese and Russian!

What area do you want to specialize in?

I want to specialize in solid state electronic materials. I hope to contribute to energy efficiency by continuing research in the field.

Have you had any on-campus research opportunities at UCSB?

  • Summer Institute in Mathematics and Science (SIMS) / sponsored by the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP) - I participated in an extremely busy and fun two weeks of undergraduate research, a few classes, and team building/professional workshops that prepared me for college better than I could have imagined. I made some of my best friends at UCSB through this program, and it connected me to CSEP and served as a springboard for my future research gigs. I am extremely excited to be the program coordinator for SIMS 2015 and brainwash a new batch of incoming freshmen into loving research!
  • The Early Undergraduate Research and Knowledge Acquisition (EUREKA) program / sponsored by the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP) - I studied thermoelectric materials (materials that convert a temperature difference into an electrical potential, which allows for recovery of waste heat in electronics) in the Palmstrøm group. This was the research experience that prompted my switch to electrical engineering and my decision to go to grad school.
  • Cooperative International Science and Engineering Internships (CISEI) / sponsored by the UCSB Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) International Center for Materials Research (ICMR) - I was involved in chemistry research at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, studying the synthesis of nanoparticles that absorb infrared light and use an anti-Stokes shift to emit visible light for bioimaging applications. Doing research in such a new environment was a game-changer, and gave me insight to how researchers around the world work. Among the perks of research abroad was absolutely amazing food and a free flight to Japan on the way back, where I spent eighteen days exploring the country!
  • Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) / sponsored by the MRL and the College of Engineering - I was involved in RISE from January-June 2015, which gave me the opportunity to do research in the Nakamura/DenBaars groups in the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC). I currently work on optimizing contacts for gallium nitride lasers.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

Immediately after graduation I’d like to travel and enjoy my last summer before graduate school. In the long term, I don’t really see myself ever working for a company. I'd like to get a Ph.D. in materials science after I get my B.S. in electrical engineering, and possibly become a professor or pursue some other career that will allow me to do research for the rest of my life.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My AP physics teacher and AP chemistry teacher both instilled in me a love for science, which turned into an obsession over the past three years.
  • Favorite class in high school: I loved my physics class mostly for the tangents we'd go on about space exploration and the fun little characters the teacher would come up with to explain concepts that ended up carrying me through my engineering physics series at UCSB. Thank you, Voltage Man.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search was not too stressful or in depth. Since I really had no clue what I wanted to do, I applied to some UCs, and that's about it. I am extremely glad my narrow search landed me here.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? AP classes gave me enough knowledge to get through my first few quarters of physics, math, and chemistry. However nothing prepared me for studying engineering in college more than studying engineering in college.
  • 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, it still provides a strong foundation for the first few quarters of physics which tend to be challenging for those with no previous physics experience. High school computer science/programming courses could prove useful, too.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? Firstly, take all advice with a grain of salt. What worked for someone else may not work for you, and what didn't work for someone else may work beautifully for you. An example is taking up a few jobs your first year. Some would say it's overwhelming, but it whipped my time management skills into shape and allowed me to pay my tuition and rent. Second, do not hesitate to ask for help! Studying engineering is extremely difficult, and collaboration is absolutely essential to succeed - the sooner you can work together with your peers, the better you will perform. Lastly, know your limits - it is important to know how much you can handle and to know when to give yourself a break and relax.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? The social scene is what you make of it. I have been part of many different social circles, all focused on different, yet awesome aspects of life as a Gaucho. Life outside of school is no different for an ECE major than it is for anyone else and depends solely on each person. There is, however, a certain social scene that is unique to electrical engineering students – 137A/B lab. The delirious and sleep deprived days and nights spent in the lab among friends do actually make for some pretty fun memories.
  • Describe your housing situation: I’ve lived in Isla Vista since my first year as I was never able to afford the dorms. While UCSB is awesome, it is very expensive. I loved UCSB enough to work four jobs simultaneously throughout my first two years to pay for rent and tuition. My favorite street is Madrid Road, as it's quiet, close to campus and right in the heart of our little town, and there are always people with really interesting pets walking down the street (I once saw a guy walking a pig). While it would have been nice to experience the dorms, I wouldn’t have changed a thing and I am grateful to have had the unique experience of living in IV my first year.

Stephanie Johnson, Senior - Class of 2015

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  • 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.