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

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.

Melissa Johnson, Junior - Class of 2014

photo of Melissa Johnson at her desk working on a project
  • Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
  • Favorite Class: ECE 130A - Signal Analysis and Processing
  • Student Organization Memberships: Institute of Electrical and Electronics and Engineers (IEEE) and Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • Interesting aside about Melissa: Both of my parents are Electrical Engineers and my younger sister is a 2nd year Electrical Engineer student at UCSB

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: Everyone seems happy here. Walking around campus most strangers will give a small smile as they walk by. I don't know if it’s the weather or if there’s something in the water but the atmosphere here at UCSB is one that is always warm and cheerful. Another great thing about UCSB is the bike path set up. Getting to class is as easy as riding a bike, a lot faster than walking and great for the environment.
  • Electrical Engineering program: The students in the ECE program at UCSB are incredible. Unlike some of the more competitive schools, students here are willing to help each other out. I’m going to quote High School Musical in saying that most students in the ECE program have an attitude of “we’re all in this together."
  • Santa Barbara: The best thing about Santa Barbara is that it has a small town feel but with the activity selection of a big city. Downtown Santa Barbara has State Street, which is a small one-lane street lined with shopping, restaurants, and frozen yoghurt places. There are also the Santa Ynez Mountains nearby with amazing hiking trails, and then of coarse there are the various beaches to go surfing, kayaking, and swimming. Santa Barbara even has a little zoo where, for a couple dollars, you can feed the giraffes!

Why Melissa chose UCSB

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

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

I heard about the EE program online while I was applying for different colleges. I knew that I was interested in pursuing an electrical engineering degree and in order to compare different schools I went to each college's web page to learn more about their programs.

Why Electrical Engineering?

Math has always been my favorite subject. In elementary school I would sit at home with an over sized white board, making up complicated division and multiplication problems to do. This continued love for math and a need to be challenged as a student, directed me towards the applied mathematical field of Electrical Engineering.

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

The great thing about having an electrical engineering degree is that there are so many industries that require EE’s; automotive, education, government contracting, and even the health industry all require the knowledge capabilities of an electrical engineers in order to grow and be profitable.

Advice Melissa gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: don't underestimate the difficulty of getting accepted to UCSB, especially their Engineering programs, which get harder to get in each year.
  • Parent Advice: help your student throughout the application process in order to insure that they have included all information on their admission application.
photo of Melissa Johnson

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

I would want my parents to be assured that the EE program here at UCSB does an excellent job at introducing their students into the world of being an Electrical Engineer without being overwhelming.

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

The amount of students that drop out of Engineering due to not taking their classes seriously early on. Sometimes being smart isn't enough when students focus on other activities besides school.

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

The ECE 2 series was challenging for me because it was the first time being exposed to the lab element of an electrical engineer. Reading the labs before doing them and documenting my results in a clear and concise way made the labs easier and I was able to gain more knowledge by improving my lab technique.

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

ECE Circuits and Electronics I & II (ECE 137A-B) sequence because it's the make it or break it class for electrical engineers. ECE 137 A/B are the first courses where students are required to design their own circuits. It is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, class's taken by EE's.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I am interested in specializing in communication systems because it is the more math-based area in Electrical Engineering.

Have you done an internship?

Over this past summer I was a research assistant for one of the ECE professors here at UCSB. I was responsible for taking data points in order to compare the ranges and power losses of Pico-cells and Macro-cells. After compiling the data, I was able to attend the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research to display my results to the public. I found out about the internship through an email that was sent to ECE students by the EE undergraduate advisor.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

I plan on entering industry due to the numerous options available for me. I am extremely interested in getting involved in automobile safety technology or the development of electronically controlled prosthetic limbs. Both of these industries interest me due to their positive impact in the daily lives of others. The only graduate school program that has caught my attention is the 5-year BS/MS program here in ECE at UCSB. I am planning on applying for the program at the end of this school year. Regardless of my entry into the program, I am ultimately interested in entering industry.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My favorite high school mentor was my Honors World Geography / AP US History teacher Mr. Ziemann. He was one of the few teachers in high school who was able to challenge me as a student as well as open my eyes up to the world. There are so many things you can do with an EE degree, but because of Mr. Ziemann I am aiming to work at a company that is contributed something positive to the world.
  • Favorite class in high school: My favorite class in high school was Honors World Geography. It was the first and only class that truly opened my eyes to the world around me. There’s more to being an engineer than just being intelligent. Engineers have the power to produce global changing products, and with a power like that comes incredible responsibilities. Mr. Ziemann’s Honors World Geography class inspired me to not be so selfish and that it is possible for one person, or one engineer, to make a change in this world.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search was short and sweet. I knew I wanted to stay in California and that I also had no interest in going to a private college, which narrowed my search down to the UC system.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? The thing that prepared me the most for studying engineering in college was taking multiple science and math AP classes in high school. The things you learn in your AP classes will come back in college, which will put you ahead of the students who stuck with regular classes in high school.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I would recommend taking AP Calculus BC before entering UCSB. I took it and was able to skip a couple of Math classes, which made my schedule slightly more flexible than others student's schedules.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? It is essential that you come to college with the right mindset. Sure there will be parties and new people to meet but don't get too distracted. I saw so many smart kids make really stupid decisions that lead them to drop out of the engineering program, essentially changing their futures. Any engineering degree is challenging to receive because if it was easy everyone would be an engineer.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? It is the same for ECE students as it is for any student here at UCSB. It is all ultimately up to the student what they participate in.
  • Describe your housing situation: The main advice I can give regarding housing is that it’s a good idea to live with people who are serious about school, regardless of their major, and also with people who will respect your study schedule. Living with party people is only fun until it inevitably starts affecting your grades. I live in Isla Vista (IV) and moved there after freshman year. I'm usually in the library or lab during the week, trying to get a majority of my homework done before the weekend. I love living in IV, sure it can get loud, but the library is only a couple minute bike ride away.