photo of sabrina outside of esb

Graduate Spotlight: Sabrina Maldonado – BS/MS student in Electronics & Photonics

In Sabrina’s own words – Interviewed during 2024 year

  • Previous Degrees: Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from UCSB
  • Degree Sought from UCSB: BS/MS 5th year
  • Advisor / Lab or Group Name: Chris Palmstrøm / Palmstrøm Research Group
  • ECE Research Area: Electronics and Photonics
  • Hobbies and Interests: Cooking, reading, video games, playing piano

Sabrina’s Research

  • Main Area of Research: Superconducting qubits for quantum computing
  • Research Interests: Semiconductor device fabrication, devices for quantum computation
  • Important Awards & Honors: Roger Wood Endowment Scholarship 2021
  • Professional Memberships: National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

Favorite things about

  • Department: Great faculty, many opportunities for hands-on experiences, state-of-the-art facilities
  • UCSB: Collaborative environment, walks with an ocean view, beautiful nature everywhere
  • Santa Barbara: Rich history, many great restaurants, comfortable weather year-round

Sabrina and her research

Tell us about your research: I assist a postdoctoral researcher with his current project. The overall goal of the project is to fabricate a type of qubit used in quantum computation, called a merged element transmon, using cobalt disilicide and silicon. The first step is to grow the superconducting material in the MBE lab on campus. I mainly assist with preparing substrates for growth in the MBE system, as well as, with material characterization of the grown cobalt disilicide through various methods such as AFM, XRD, and SEM.

How and why did you get into your area of research? After taking Fundamentals of the Solid State (ECE 162B) during my senior year with Professor Steven DenBaars, I became interested in materials and how the field of study interacts with electrical engineering. I took an introductory materials class (MATRL 101) and enjoyed that as well. That same year, I had the opportunity to tour Professor Chris Palmstrøm’s MBE lab. The lab itself and the research that his group conducts really intrigued me, so I asked to join his lab the following year.

What do you find rewarding about your research? I like that the work we’re doing is a current topic of interest among many in the research realm, and that our successes here have the potential to push important industries, such as healthcare, into a new era that will ultimately have a positive impact on society.

UCSB Prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate: Everyone I have met here has always been more than willing to answer any questions I may have, or give me advice on my academic and professional journeys. The collaborative atmosphere is found everywhere on campus, and I think that it has helped me to shift my own mindset into one that realizes that learning is a collaborative process. Asking questions is a part of learning, and it is much easier to feel comfortable asking questions in an environment where everyone is very willing to help students learn and grow, such as it is here at UCSB.

Academics at UCSB

Give us insight on what the BS/MS experience has been like for you: I didn’t figure out what my specific interest within electrical engineering was until my senior year, so the BS/MS program has been a great opportunity for me to continue to expand my knowledge in this area, which is more materials and fabrication driven. Even though one year of graduate level schooling is brief, it is ideal for those who would prefer a shorter path to enter the workforce.

Strengths of the graduate program: There are many faculty research labs to choose from, and each of them offer great opportunities. Many facilities here are state-of-the-art, especially the cleanroom on campus (UCSB Nanofabrication Facility) that both graduate student researchers and industry professionals use daily.

Favorite course: My favorite graduate level course so far is Semiconductor Lasers I (ECE 227A) taught by Professor Jonathan Klamkin. It’s a great introductory course to lasers and I found the content to be quite interesting, given the multitude of real-world applications of lasers. During my undergraduate years, my favorite course was Integrated Circuit Design and Fabrication (ECE 120A/B) taught by Professor Galan Moody. The course includes lab assignments done in the campus teaching cleanroom, which is an amazing opportunity for undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life: Graduate school gives students more freedom to pursue interests and flexibility in forming their own schedules, but free time can still be elusive. It’s been hard for me to balance academics, socializing, and getting enough rest but I think I’ve gotten better at it as the school years have gone by. It helps that I live with my friends, which means we can socialize and relax whenever we like. I study with friends who are in my same major and we often take fun breaks during long study sessions to relax or grab a meal together. Occasionally, my family visits me for a day over the weekend, which gives me much needed rest amongst hectic moments during the quarter.

What is your social life like? I really enjoy living in Santa Barbara. I have lived in university housing for three of my five years here; my sophomore year was entirely at home and I lived in Isla Vista during my senior year. I currently live in San Clemente with my friends. Being right next to the ocean is wonderful, and there are so many great restaurants and shops to discover. The UCSB Arts and Lectures program offers live music shows among other events, and there are many places to explore nature such as the butterfly grove or hiking trails in the mountains.

Tell us about your summer break: Since I plan to graduate this June (2024), I will take a few months off and then begin working in August.

Advice to prospective graduate students: Research is never a perfect process, it’s okay to make mistakes, remember to make time for friends and family, and try to enjoy every moment of this beautiful campus!

Future Plans...

Where will your research take you next and what are your future career goals? After I get my master’s degree, I plan to enter industry. Pursuing a PhD degree is not in my current plans but I’ll never say never.