photo of jenny outdoors

Jenny Zeng – MS/PhD student in Computer Engineering

In her own words – Interviewed during 3rd year of degree in ECE (2021)

About Jenny

  • Hometown: Guizhou, China
  • Previous Degrees: B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering at UCSB
  • Hobbies and Interests: I enjoy traveling, reading and hanging out with friends
  • Research Program: Computer Engineering
  • Main Area of Research: smart analytics in semiconductor supply chain
  • Research Interests: machine learning, data mining, artificial intelligence, natural language processing
  • Important Conferences: poster presentation at Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Student Research Competition 2018 and Oral presentation at International Test Conference (ITC) 2020
  • Important Awards & Honors: Distinguished paper at ITC 2020
  • Publications: “Learning A Wafer Feature With One Training Example”, ITC 2020

Favorite things about

ECE Department: the professors pursue world-leading research and greatly encourage grad student internships in their labs. The ECE department has very innovative and diverse research fields for grad students to experience. The academic advisors are very responsive and willing to help with course schedules, major transitions, academic plans and so on.

UCSB: The campus has a gorgeous coastal view, especially from the ECE department buildings (Harold Frank Hall and Engineering II). UCSB is a public university with many different majors. It is also a great experience to have friends / roommates from other majors and hear about their interesting studies. It is also fun to talk with professors from other departments.

Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara is a sweet, romantic and peaceful town. It is naturally the best place to study with its good weather and relaxing beaches. There are very little distractions here compared to busy big cities. PhD students often start the day in the lab with the beautiful sunrise from the Pacific Ocean. The 5-year research life is as chill as the sea breeze.

Jenny and her research

Tell us about your research:

My research focuses on applying smart data analytics and robust machine learning methods to facilitate semiconductor manufacturing processes. The goal is to automate and facilitate the design/test engineers’ job. My research leans towards offering practical solutions which also requires skills like software/system/web development.

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

I majored in Electrical Engineering during my undergraduate years at UCSB where I found several CE courses very interesting, for example the computer architecture and ML/AI in design and test. I started to work as an undergrad intern at the labs supervised by the professors who taught these courses. I liked working in the lab and decided to continue my research as a grad student here.

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

I have wanted to be an engineer since I was young. I also believe that women can do as well as men in the ECE/CE field. I chose UCSB because the college of engineering at UCSB is top-tier nationwide.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

The most rewarding research experience is developing the ability to identify issues and challenges, and to tackle them step-by-step. The success of this process requires not only technical skills but also a calm and focused mindset.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment:

I enjoy the group members working in our lab very much. We always find interesting ideas and feasible ways to solve difficult problems through brainstorming. My advisor, Prof. Li-C. Wang is very willing to share not only his knowledge on technical topics but also on the complexities of life. One of our important goals during grad study is to be aware of the world and ourselves.

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

Our IEA Lab collaborates very closely with the semiconductor industry. We have on-going projects with companies like NXP and Qualcomm where the grad students often go for summer internships and come back with research ideas.

Academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program:

There are three areas of study for ECE graduate studies that students can choose from depending on their interests: Electronics & Photonics; Communications, Controls & Signal Processing; and Computer Engineering. The research programs at UCSB are very diverse and in-depth.

Favorite course:

The Machine Learning in Design and Test Automation (ECE 272A) and Artificial Intelligence in Design and Test Automation (ECE 272B) series taught by Prof. Li-C. Wang during Fall and Winter quarters. These courses were key in the development of my research interests. The professor provided a lot of industrial examples which helped me learn more about the world beyond academics.

Describe your Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and Teaching Assistant (TA) experiences:

GSR – My research work mostly involves using my personal computers and the lab server machines. My daily routines are reading research papers, learning to use various software packages, and running experiments mainly with python (or other programming languages).

TA – I have been the TA for ECE 157A/B for two years. The TAs design the homework assignments and course projects to introduce real-world experiences to the undergrads. The TAs also participate in all of the lectures and share our insights. I think teaching is about conveying the ideas. It is very important to extract the essence of a concept and explain it to the students in an intuitive way.

Life as a graduate student

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

My graduate study life has been very happy and satisfying. I have a clear plan about what I need to accomplish during the academic year. On holidays, our group often goes to wineries or steak houses together. I talk to my family briefly everyday and I also keep in close touch with my high school/undergrad friends.

What is your social life like?

I lived in Isla Vista for three years when I was an undergrad and I had three lovely roommates. We'd go to the library together when we had a lot of homework to do, went to parties on Fridays, and traveled around the U.S. during breaks. Plus, I enjoyed the beautiful sunset in Santa Barbara every day.

Tell us about your summer break? (what did you do this summer or plan to do next summer? Travel, research at UCSB, Intern, etc.)

I did an internship at NXP this summer and I plan to do another one in summer 2021. Although the internship was done remotely, it was still a great experience for me to work at a large semiconductor corporation for the first time.

Advice to prospective graduate students:

Research publications and achievements should come as a result of good living habits, enjoying life, and being a positive and persistent person. PhD study is a beautiful experience no matter how intimidating it might seem during the course. Keep working and you will find invaluable rewards afterwards.

Future Plans...

Where will your research take you next and what are your future Career Goals?

I will continue my PhD program and finish my dissertation in the next three years. After graduation I plan to work at leading semiconductor companies to get more social and management experience. I am also interested in joining or running a startup company when the ideas and time comes.