photo of mike on the bluffs of UCSB campus

Mike Goebel – PhD student in Communications & Signal Processing

In his own words – Interviewed during 2021 year

  • Hometown: Rochester, New York
  • Previous Degrees: BS/MS 4+1 from SUNY Binghamton
  • Degree Sought from UCSB: PhD, 3rd year
  • Advisor / Lab or Group Name: B.S. Manjunath / Vision Research Lab
  • ECE Research Area: CSP

Mike’s Research

  • Main Area of Research: Applications of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), and Image Forensics
  • Research Interests: Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Image Forensics, Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)
  • Important Conferences: Presented several papers at Electronic Imaging 2021
  • Important Awards & Honors: Outstanding TA in Electrical Engineering, 2018-2019
  • Professional Memberships: Computer Vision Foundation
  • Hobbies and Interests: Weight lifting, running, and surfing
  • Publications: Mike’s Google Scholar page

Favorite things about

  • Department: The collaboration with departments outside of engineering, and the real world impact of our research.
  • UCSB: How bike-friendly the campus is. UCSB has a large network of bike paths, separate from the roads, and ample bike racks close to most buildings. This makes getting anywhere on campus or nearby Isla Vista fast and easy.
  • Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara/Goleta has a nice balance between beach-town and city. The ocean, mountains, and weather are all beautiful, and there is enough space to get outside and enjoy them.

Mike and his research

Tell us about your research:

Since coming to UCSB, I have worked in several research areas. The first was image/media forensics, which focuses on creating methods to detect malicious manipulations. The second is on the side of materials science, creating deep learning methods to better understand and predict material properties.

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

I first got into image processing, forensics, and security during my last two years at SUNY Binghamton.

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

I have followed the ECE path since undergrad, as I enjoy the combination of programming, and practical applications of math. I felt the UCSB ECE was the perfect sized department for me. Large enough to be well known, but small enough that it still retains a personal feel.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Being able to work with other researchers to solve real-world problems. It is exciting to learn about other fields such as materials science and biology, and work to bridge the gap between these areas and computer vision.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment:

While my advisor helps guide me on the big picture decisions, much of the day-to-day support in my first few years came from more senior members of the lab. Working with a group of students with different levels of experience, we can all learn from each other while pursuing a common goal.

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

Being a more applied research lab, most of my work in VRL is collaborative in some form. As a graduate student researcher, I am working on a National Science Foundation (NSF) project to build a software infrastructure for collaborating with scientific images. The infrastructure we are developing, called BisQue, is used by researchers in marine sciences and materials science. Being a web-based platform, deploying our work on BisQue allows us to reach a much broader audience, beyond those who are savvy with programming in a variety of other fields.

Academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program:

The flexibility in courses I could take for my degree, and the diversity in interests of the different faculty.

Favorite course:

Scientific Computations – Special Topics (ECE 594V) instructed by Prof. Shiv Chandrasekaran. Being tailored towards PhD students, I had great experiences with all three of the special topics courses I have taken. This course especially did a great job of bridging the gap between the basics of lower level courses, and modern day research going on in the field. Shiv was an amazing teacher, and I definitely recommend his intro matrix course – Matrix Analysis and Computation (ECE 210A) as well.

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

  • TA: For my first year, I TAed for Foundations of Analog and Digital Circuits & Systems (10 A&B) and Probability and Statistics (ECE 139) undergraduate courses. Over the past two years, I have TAed several times for my research advisor, for undergraduate and graduate courses in Computer Vision and Deep Learning. For all of the courses, the main duties were holding office hours and grading assignments. The circuits courses included labs and for several other courses, I would prepare lectures for the discussion sections. For my advisor’s courses, I also gave several lectures on topics, which were relevant to my research.
  • GSR: My only GSR role at UCSB has been on BisQue, which is a web platform for storage and analysis of high dimensional images. The tasks associated with the role vary from software engineering to research. The more software engineering tasks included a recent upgrade of the web framework used in the backend. I have also been able to incorporate some of my research time into BisQue, developing modules to deploy in the BisQue service.

Life as a graduate student

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

Life as a graduate student is certainly busy, but that would be true for any school. The difference I have found here is that when I have my time off, there are so many quality ways to spend it. It was a big move for me from Upstate New York, but I am able to travel home about twice a year, and my family members are always eager to visit for a summer vacation.

What is your social life like?

My lab tends to be more on the social side and has found ways to adapt to the COVID restrictions over the past year. We have been meeting up a few days a week for tennis, and stay in touch over Slack. All three of my years here, I have lived in UCSB graduate student apartments.

Tell us about your summer break?

The past few summers I had interned at Mayachitra, a small research company in Santa Barbara. The work was primarily focused on image forensics. This upcoming summer I will be interning remotely at Google.

Advice to prospective graduate students:

Do your best to have a consistent schedule every week. This is especially true when you are first starting out, with classes, TA commitments, research projects, and studying for the screening exam.

Future Plans...

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

My plan after graduating will be to continue similar work in industry. I have always enjoyed teaching, and may consider taking on a teaching role at a smaller university later in my life.