The ECE Current: Student Spotlight
Yujie Xia | ECE PhD student
Advisor: Professor Clint Schow
Why did you choose UCSB’s ECE Department?
Firstly, because UCSB gave me a great offer. Also, I wanted to do research related to photonics, and I learned that UCSB is really strong in this area. Then, considering UCSB is so close to the beach-why not?
How did you learn about the program?
During the last year in college I did my final year-project in a group doing research on silicon photonics. The master’s and PhD students there told me a lot about photonics-related research groups around the globe, and that’s where I heard about UCSB.
What is campus life like for ECE students?
I’d say as grad students, we work very hard. But at the same time we also take advantage of campus resources to recharge ourselves, such as participating in campus activities and enjoying the hiking trails and the beach. We certainly spend a large percentage of our “campus time” in our labs, but other than that, I don’t think our life is too different compared with students of other majors.
What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college?
I think the most important thing is to be eager to learn new things, and to be patient and willing to spend time to figure things out. Subjects like math and physics can be helpful, but attitude is more important, in my opinion.
What were some challenges you faced as a student/researcher?
As one of the first students in my advisor’s group, the learning process was challenging since there weren’t senior PhD students and postdocs in the group to guide me. And sometimes it is difficult to have faith in myself when I didn’t know if I could ever get any results from what I was doing, since nobody in the group had done similar things before. Building something from the very beginning is a rewarding experience, but it can be hard when I see that my progress is much slower than others in terms of publication.
Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?
Electrical engineering is a broad area, and there are a lot of interesting things to work on. You can choose to focus on hardware such as electronics and photonics, or choose to be more oriented towards algorithms, signal processing, etc. Also, there are many interdisciplinary areas to explore if you’d like. For example, people work on circuits and photonics for bio and health applications. In terms of what kind of jobs you can take after graduation from a PhD program, academia is an option, and there are also a lot of opportunities in industry. However, most importantly, the education will get students prepared for the future with a solid foundation of problem solving and critical thinking skills, so you can still do well even if you decide to take a different path after graduation.
Can you tell us about anyone you looked up to?
I can’t name a particular person here because I look up to a lot of people around me, when they treat people with kindness, when they stay positive and keep trying during difficult times, and when they remain warm and tender despite life trying to harden them. In general, I always learn a lot from all the people I spend time with.
What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?
I learned that things typically don’t happen the way you wished (well, this part is not surprising I guess...), but the way things happen can still be good, just different.
Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding the department, your program, or UCSB?
On the first floor of ESB there’s a really nice cleanroom facility. Sometimes the staff offer a tour and you should definitely check it out if you’ve never been there. I haven’t been working there for a while, but I certainly learned a lot while working there.