ECE Profile of Distinction: Roger Wood

Photo of Roger Wood

An Interview with Roger Wood
Professor Emeritus, ECE, UCSB

Interviewed for the Fall 2009 ECE Current newsletter

  • UCSB Years: 1965 to present
  • Ph.D.: University of California, Los Angeles
  • Specialty Areas: computer system modeling, design and analysis, computer architecture
  • Honors: Mortar Board Professor of the Year award, UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, UCSB Affiliates Professor of the Year Award

play video icon Video of Interview with Roger Wood

Professor Emeritus Roger Wood played an instrumental role in making the College of Engineering and ECE dept the examples of excellence they are today. During his tenure at the university, Wood received the Mortar Board Professor of the Year award, the UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, and the UCSB Affiliates Professor of the Year Award.

You were one of the founders of the Electrical Engineering Department (now ECE) and of the College of Engineering. What were the biggest challenges in establishing engineering here at UCSB?

The arts and letters folks thought that this was going to be a small liberal arts school and they weren't particularly keen on the idea of engineering coming. The physics and math departments loved us on the one hand because we sent a lot of students to take their classes so they could get more money that way-but they didn't like the competition. Back then we were in the arts building, strange as that may seem, because it wasn't just fine arts, it was all the other practical arts: machinery, audiovisual, and so forth.

What was your educational philosophy during your tenure as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs?

You respected the students, you respected the faculty and you respected the needs of the institution. I had a strong emphasis on the quality of undergraduate education. We tried to take care of them and make them work. We made them work very hard, but we respected that work.

Did you bring in any new initiatives that have influenced the education students now receive?

We put together a writing program for the engineers and it was a wonderful success. Engineers have the tendency to want to get everything right when they first put it down on the piece of paper, but you just can't do that. Just get the right ideas down, don't even worry about the order, and then cut and paste.

Over the years you have sponsored many students in internships in industry. What were the benefits for students who worked with local companies during their undergraduate years?

They learned a great deal just by doing it. The hands-on aspect gave the students confidence and it made real what before was on paper. They were very valuable to the companies and the experience was very valuable to the students. Many of the students would continue working with the companies; they would do something in the summer and then they would work part-time during the school year.

What sparks your passion for teaching and mentoring students?

I would guess it's partly because I was raised to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Respect other people. Pay attention. Figure out what they need, what is important. One of the great rewards is seeing the light bulb go on when someone is stumbling around with something. It's extremely gratifying as a teacher to help them through something that is difficult.

Do you have any words of wisdom for students beginning their engineering training this fall as freshmen, or entering M.S. or Ph.D. programs?

Work hard, because if you work hard you will succeed and if you don't, you won't. Don't coast, don't take it easy, and most importantly, don't be afraid to ask questions.

How can alumni help the College of Engineering?

Spread the word. Tell people how good your education was, particularly if you're talking to people with children who are looking for a good school. Tell them that the College of Engineering at UCSB is perhaps unmatched in the quality of the undergrad education and the care and concern that undergrads are given. At some places, undergrads are just people who bring in money, but that's not been the way it is at UCSB. I think that if it was an important part of your life that it is worth sharing-certainly your time, and certainly if you've got the means, monetary support. But the big thing is to spread the word.