Camille in the lab

Undergraduate Spotlight: Camille Wardlaw – Class of 2023

In her own words – interviewed Summer 2022

  • Hometown: San Jose, CA
  • Year: Senior
  • Favorite ECE Course: Introduction to Solid State Electronic Devices (ECE 132)
  • Senior Project: VizNet: Real-Time Ocean Visibility Measuring
  • Student Organization Memberships: Pi Beta Phi Sorority, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society, Society of Women Engineers
  • Last Book Read: The Revenant by Michael Punke
  • Interesting Aside About You: On a hike as a kid, I charged a mother bear and she ended up backing away

Camille’s Favorite

  • Hobbies: Film photography, scuba diving, and (attempted) trumpet playing
  • Performer: Paul Simon
  • TV Show: The Twilight Zone
  • Movie: Sleeping Beauty
  • Book / Author: The Old Man and the Sea​​ by Ernest Hemingway
  • Activity: Finding new sunset watching spots
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Geeky Possession: My underwater metal detector

Favorite things about

  • ECE Department: The accessibility of the professors! One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear in college is to attend office hours, which honestly cannot be overstated. If you have a question pertaining to a class topic, need advice on potential career paths, or just want to hear about their research, professors are extremely receptive to students reaching out. In fact, it blows my mind that the professors here are able to pioneer the field of electrical engineering yet still dedicate time to mentor their students.
  • UCSB: The proximity (immersion might even be a better way to describe it) to nature. This major can get overwhelming, but life is never too bad when you’re doing your work seaside. Some of my favorite destressing habits are the beach walks that my classmates and I take as breaks during labs, the quarterly midnight swims at Campus Point that my friend and I do to kick off each finals week, and the many hammock study sessions while overlooking the lagoon.
  • Santa Barbara: The abundance of activities. There is always something going on in Santa Barbara, regardless of campus life. There’s live music, festivals, and events; any form of recreation you can imagine; and an endless supply of beautiful spots to explore. Unsurprisingly, getting outside and staying active seem to be natural byproducts of year-round sunshine and easy beach/mountain access.

Camille and Electrical Engineering

Why EE as a major? In high school, I didn’t have the faintest clue what electrical engineering was, but I knew that I liked problem solving and hands-on work – two things described to me as quintessential electrical engineering. So, I did some research and eventually took the leap by applying to study electrical engineering. On the other side of it, waiting for me were lots of critical thinking and the lab-based courses. And now, I find myself stressing my lack of preparation here to ease anyone’s concerns that you have to come in with prior experience in this field. You may have some classmates that do, but things even out pretty quickly.

Why did you select UCSB’s EE program? When I came to campus for Admitted Students Day, we heard from current students about their experiences and one of the panelists identified USCB’s collaborative culture as its key distinction from other universities. This stood out to me. My high school was pretty small, and I had grown accustomed to forming close relationships with and working jointly with my classmates. I simply couldn’t imagine succeeding in an academic setting that pits students against one another. For me, the best way to learn has always been with others, from others, and by teaching others. So, I chose this program on the premise of collaboration; fortunately, that is what my experience has been exactly like here. I even have a friend who always prints out an extra equation sheet just in case someone forgets theirs for an exam.

How did you hear about UCSB’s EE program? I was familiar with UCSB and when I knew that I would be applying to schools as an EE, I poked around the website to learn more about the program. Also, someone two years above me from my high school was a computer engineer here. She gave me all sorts of advice on the school and the College of Engineering which was incredibly helpful in making the decision to apply.

Prospective students and parents often ask, what can you do with an EE degree? Everything. EE is a powerful major because it covers such a wide breadth of topics. You can really take your studies and your subsequent career in any direction that you choose! Almost all of today’s technology needs electricity to come to life, so there are countless applications, from medical devices to self-driving cars.

The Curriculum

What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes? Core courses tend to teach more theoretical, base knowledge which is useful but, without an explicit application, they can be a bit more difficult to grasp. For this, I suggest simply increasing your exposure to the subject by spending as much time on it as possible. Go to office hours, do practice problems, and always read the textbook. These courses are full of other students that are in the same boat as you, so form a study group and teach each other!

What has been your most challenging but rewarding course? My most challenging but rewarding courses were probably the ECE 137 series, Circuits and Electronics I and II. These courses marked the shift from purely circuit analysis to designing our own circuits. The courses were also lab based, so we had to go in and actually build what we designed, which always brought on hours of troubleshooting and debugging. However, in the process of iterating several designs to pinpoint what aspect was causing everything to fail, you gained an intuition of the circuit. You learned the effect of each component and made design considerations accordingly. Ultimately, I gained the most from these courses because everything we learned was implemented in the lab.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to? This upcoming year, I’ll be taking the course Quantum Description of Electronic Materials (ECE 162A). I’m particularly excited because this course has been a long time coming for me. When I took Physics 5 and learned about quantum mechanics for the first time, I was instantly hooked. Then, I took Introduction to Solid-State Electronic Devices (ECE 132) and applied quantum concepts to the devices I worked with in my circuits courses. So, I followed this interest and enrolled in the Integrated Circuit Design and Fabrication series (ECE 120AB), where I actually got to work in a cleanroom and create these devices! I find this subject absolutely fascinating and can’t wait to continue exploring it.

Talk about your Capstone ECE 188ABC Project experience so far: During my junior year, I actually joined a mechanical engineering Capstone project as their resident electrical engineer. We created VizNet, a real time ocean visibility measuring buoy. If you’re interested in reading more about our project, check out our VizNet project on the College of Engineering’s Capstone website. Though this did not count for EE Capstone credit since it was an ME course (I’ll be taking the EE capstone series this upcoming year), it was an amazing way to experience the design process that Capstone entails and work interdisciplinarily. Additionally, VizNet was dually enrolled in the New Venture Competition, an entrepreneurial competition held by the Technology Management Department within the College of Engineering. I strongly encourage all engineers to get involved with Technology Management in whatever capacity, as you’ll gain invaluable business skills that seamlessly complement your technical knowledge.

What area do you want to specialize in? I’m currently leaning towards device physics and quantum mechanics as my specialization. These have been my most fascinating courses and the prospect of working in such a cutting-edge field excites me.

Have you done an internship? I spent the summer after sophomore year in Durham, NC interning at Cree | Wolfspeed in their process engineering group. Cree | Wolfspeed is a silicon carbide manufacturing company, so everything I saw and learned there was particularly relevant to ECE 132 and ECE 120AB. I landed this internship through one of UCSB’s career fairs and always recommend that students attend them. Even if you aren’t necessarily looking for a position, they’re a great way to practice speaking with recruiters and learn about companies in the field! This summer, I stayed in town and worked at Teledyne FLIR as an electrical engineering intern, a position I’ll be continuing part-time during the school year. Teledyne FLIR builds thermal cameras, which definitely speaks to the photography nerd in me. As an EE intern, I’ve gotten to work on my own Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design, all the way from initial schematic drafting to the final board assembly.

Preparation from High School to College

What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Arguably the best preparation I had for this major came from playing sports in high school. Balancing practice and games with homework and exams taught me good study habits and how to manage my time. College is busy, and it’s easy to get distracted, so learning what to prioritize and when to do so really went a long way for me.

Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB? I think that the lower division courses in the major set you up well so that even if you don’t come in with any prior experience, you’ll be able to build up that knowledge. With that being said, advanced courses in math, physics, computer science, or even engineering if it’s available can never hurt. Definitely take advantage of whatever your school offers! Enrolling in these courses is also a great way to test drive the major and make sure it is really what interests you. Also, AP courses can take care of some of your lower division requirements and free up some space in your schedule – just be sure to check that the credit will transfer.

Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? When you get here, follow your interests. College is unique in that it puts vast opportunities right at your fingertips. If you are interested in pottery, you can take a course and be spinning cups within a few weeks. If you’re curious about space, you can join an astronomy club or enroll in an introductory course. It’s important to balance your life with activities like this outside of schoolwork. In fact, “work hard, play hard” is a saying used a lot here and it’s true. Take advantage of the time that you do have free and fill it with your passions.

Student Life at UCSB

What is campus life like for EE students? The majority of your courses will be held in the engineering buildings which are all in one section of campus. In addition, EE is a fairly small major and your classmates in the major will have similar schedules to you, so you’ll be seeing a lot of the same people throughout your courses over the years. These two facts serve to turn a large university into a small one. You get to know the people and the place extremely well, which I’ve found to be very comforting.

What is the social scene like on campus, in Isla Vista (IV) and off-campus like for EE students? The social scene at UCSB is, in general, very open. That’s to say that students are always looking to meet new people across all years, majors, and interests. With the countless clubs and organizations, there’s definitely something for everyone here. Additionally, there’s always something going on in Isla Vista, creating a host of opportunities to meet people.

Describe your housing experience frosh to present? During freshman year, I lived in Anacapa. I couldn’t recommend living in the dorms more, especially “The Shorties” (aka Manzanita Village -- the three dorms nearest Campus Point). You’ll never be closer to the beach, your classes, and your friends! Find a good study spot, whether a communal space in the dorm or somewhere on campus, and you’ll be just fine. Then, sophomore year, I moved into my sorority’s chapter house. This was farther back in Isla Vista but since classes were online at this point, I never had to make the trek (although it really wouldn’t have been worse than 15 minutes, and generally, the farther you get from campus, the quieter it gets). Overall, this was a similar experience to living in the dorms. I was constantly surrounded by people, had meals and other amenities provided, and just had to learn how to optimize communal study spaces. In my junior year, I moved onto Del Playa Dr and the ocean literally became my backyard. By living closer to campus, I got to enjoy that sub 10-minute commute once again, which was essential because by this point, I had discovered CSIL (a computer lab in Harold Frank Hall) and was making daily trips there. Another tip is to take advantage of the study spaces available to you as an EE! Especially when the library gets crowded during midterms and finals week since they are great spots to go to. Now, heading into my senior year, I’m once again living oceanside on Del Playa (DP). Yes, it gets loud, particularly on blocks closer to campus, but I enjoy the commotion (most of the time). If there is a theme to my chosen living, it’s proximity to the beach and large groups of people. The latter can make finding a spot to focus a bit more difficult, but there are always options.

After Graduation

What are your “big picture” plans/aspirations after graduation? I plan to stay at UCSB after graduation for my master’s degree through ECE’s BS/MS program. This program allows you to start taking master’s courses in your senior year and graduate with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I’ll be pursuing a Master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on electronics and photonics. Afterward, I’ll most likely go into industry and may eventually return to school for my PhD – but only at the point when I have precisely narrowed down what I would like to specialize in.