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Eliana Petreikis – Class of 2024

In her own words – interviewed Fall 2023

  • Hometown: San Diego, CA
  • Year: Senior
  • Favorite ECE Course: Circuits & Electronics II (ECE 137B) instructed by Prof. Mark Rodwell
  • Senior Project: Electrically Small Antenna (Sponsored by HRL Laboratories)
  • Student Organization Memberships: Triathlon Team, Pops Orchestra
  • Last Book Read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Interesting aside about you: I love dogs so much. My goal in life is to have a bunch of pit bulls, boxers, and rottweilers. However, I took an allergy test this year and found out that I have an allergy of 99.5/100 to dogs…so I guess we’ll see how that goes?

Eliana’s Favorite

  • Hobbies: Surfing, playing the violin, triathlon, climbing
  • Band / Performer: Ride or Liily
  • TV Show: Peaky Blinders or Doctor Who
  • Movie: Edward Scissorhands
  • Book: Dune
  • Activity: …still surfing
  • Sport: To watch? Surfing for sure (I really like surfing)
  • Geeky Possession: Basys 3 FPGA

Favorite things about

  • ECE Department: I love the support system that UCSB has. I really feel like my professors want me to succeed, and everyone in my cohort is very supportive and answers any questions I have.
  • UCSB: I love how close UCSB is to the ocean. Being able to walk along the beach, run along the cliffs, or cycle to a gorgeous viewpoint is amazing. Especially in the main EE building (Harold Frank Hall), all you must do is cross the road and you’re right at the beach!
  • Santa Barbara: I would have to say that one of my favorite things about Santa Barbara is its location. You can drive from the beach to the mountains in under thirty minutes. Also, as someone who loves concerts and music as much as I do, I love being so close to LA!

Eliana’s most memorable moments that happened each year

  • Freshman Year: Moving to UCSB! I had the COVID freshman year, so I lived at home during the fall quarter. During winter quarter, UCSB opened three of the dorms, even though school was online. I got to move to Santa Barbara and meet new people (in person!), which was really exciting. Some of the friends I made freshman year are still my best friends today.
  • Sophomore Year: Getting my Leidos internship! I was really excited to see how the material I learned in class applied in a work environment. It ended up being a really valuable experience, and as someone who did not know much about the engineering work environment, it taught me a lot about life in industry. Also, this was the first year I started to take some more difficult ECE courses, so it helped me become closer with my cohort.
  • Junior Year: My Integrated Circuit Design & Fabrication (ECE120A) course! You generally learn about different transistors during your second year and the fall semester of your third year (if you take ECE132 – Intro to Solid State Electronic Devices), and the ECE120 electives allow you to fabricate these transistors in a cleanroom. This is a really unique experience–not all schools have teaching cleanrooms for undergraduate students, so if this is something that sounds interesting to you, take advantage of it! Also, this class, as well as Circuits & Electronics (ECE 137), were both great ways to meet other students in the major. Both ECE 120 and ECE 137 ( are very lab-heavy courses, so it is a great way to get to know other students in the class (and a great way to bond over difficulties!). I definitely met some students that I am now much closer to because of these courses, and I do not think I would have interacted closely with them otherwise.
  • Senior Year: I am looking forward to the Senior Capstone Project (ECE 188A/B/C) Design Expo at the end of the year! I am still in the early stages of my design project, so I am excited to see how our project evolves over the year and develops into our final product. My entire capstone team is amazing, and I look forward to working with them throughout the year.

Eliana and Electrical Engineering

Why EE as a major? I was originally accepted into UCSB as a physics major! However, by the time I was admitted, I realized that physics may not be the best fit for me. I knew that I loved math, and I had always loved the building sets I had growing up. I was terrible at chemistry, so chemical engineering was not going to work. I had never programmed before, so neither was computer science. I had no idea what a computer engineer was at the time, but “computer” sounded like it would entail programming, so I ruled out that one, too. Now, I was between mechanical and electrical engineering. I enjoyed the E&M unit of my high school physics class, so I thought why not?

Now that I am almost finished with the major, I cannot imagine myself in anything else. I had so much support throughout my entire time in the UCSB EE program from my classmates as well as my professors. UCSB helped me realize just how broad the field of electrical engineering is, and it allowed me to explore my interests in all areas of electrical engineering, from the cleanroom fabrication of semiconductors to circuit design. Also, EE majors apply the most interesting and complex math and that worked out for me!

Why did you select UCSB's EE program? As I mentioned in the previous question, I really chose the ECE program through a process of elimination. Now that I am in the program, I think that there are so many reasons why I would select UCSB’s EE program if I knew that was the area I wanted to pursue. If you already know that you want to pursue EE as a career, I think it could be helpful to look at the upper-division courses that UCSB offers as well as the professors’ research. Seeing if UCSB allows you to explore what you are interested in could be helpful when you need to decide about where to go. That being said, there are so many areas of EE that you can go into: circuit design if you’re more interested in hardware, digital design if you’re more interested in programming, optics if you’re more interested in physics or signal processing if you’re more interested in math. As someone who knew next to nothing about EE before going into the major, I luckily found that the major is extremely diverse, so it is easy to find something you’re interested in. Honestly, if you’re like me, you’ll realize you are extremely interested in something you never heard about before!

Another factor in choosing the UCSB EE program would be the combined BS/MS program that the school offers and is a great option to further your education. You already know a lot of the professors, and you can start taking graduate courses during your senior year at UCSB. Also, if you’re like me, it gives you a bit more time to explore what you are really interested in before entering the workforce.

And although I cannot really say why I selected UCSB’s EE program specifically, I will say that being at UCSB itself is amazing! There aren’t really any other schools that are on the ocean in the same way as UCSB, and there are so many things to do on campus and within EE!

Prospective students and parents often ask, what can you do with an EE degree? That is a great question and one that I still do not even fully know the answer to. EE is incredibly broad and encompasses everything from computer architecture to power grid design to digital signal processing. As I start looking for internships and jobs in industry, my options are honestly endless. I can apply to bigger companies like Apple and work on consumer electronics, or I can apply to companies like NASA that send products to outer space. I can work on control systems for a common car company, or I can work on substation design for a consulting firm. There are EE positions pretty much anywhere in the United States, or even globally, so I am not even constrained to a specific place. I also know quite a few people who are very interested in research and pursue a Master’s or even a PhD in EE. You can do so much with an EE degree, and in my opinion, it definitely sets you up for a great future with plenty of opportunities.

The Curriculum

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far? I alluded to this before, but something that really surprised me about the curriculum was the wide breadth of electrical engineering. The field encompasses an enormous variety of topics: semiconductor physics, optics, signal processing, controls, high-frequency electronics, etc. Signal processing and digital design are two topics that I never knew about before, but I now find very interesting! I even ended up using digital design during my summer internship last summer and came to enjoy and appreciate it even more.

What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes? Taking the Math and Physics core classes felt a little bit tedious at times, but they are really important – I cannot stress that enough! In my experience, the math classes specifically always come back, so I would really make sure to pay attention in those classes. You may not realize it during your first and second years, but all of the vector calculus that you learn in the Math 6A-B series definitely makes a reoccurrence and is actually very important for your E&M classes. Also, linear algebra and matrices come back in quite a few of your classes as well!

What has been your most challenging but rewarding course? For me, the Circuits & Electronics (ECE 137A-B) series was probably the most challenging but rewarding class I have taken. This course was primarily challenging because prior to this course, my labs had been straightforward; the professors told you which parts to buy, how to put the circuit together, and how to debug it. However, the ECE 137 course was the first class where I had to design, build, and debug a circuit without any sort of instructions. Through the two-quarter series, the lab projects continued to become more difficult and complex, making it even more difficult to debug. The more complex the circuit is, the more places there are for things to go wrong, making it very challenging to troubleshoot. You never know what exactly is wrong with your circuit until you test it. This class really taught me the importance of planning ahead and building with enough time to debug. It is crucial to be organized, too; this makes the debugging process so much easier! I learned to NEVER assume that your circuit will work because it almost NEVER does; saving the project for the last minute just ends up in really messy work. That all being said, I really enjoyed these classes; nothing felt better than hooking the board up to the oscilloscope and seeing a beautiful, smooth waveform on the output!

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to? I am taking the Communication Electronics (ECE) 145 series and I am specifically looking forward to ECE 145C. This course covers modern wireless communication, like cellular phones. I am excited to take a deep dive into this type of technology and learn more about how these types of systems work.

Talk about your Capstone (ECE 188A/B/C) experience so far: My capstone project is the Electrically Small Antenna for AM and FM Radio Reception, sponsored by HRL Laboratories. Our goal is to build an antenna that is about 20 cm in length and can receive both frequencies in both the AM and FM band. Usually, antennas receive a very specific range of frequencies, so this is especially challenging because AM frequencies range from 530-1710 kHz while FM frequencies range from 76-108 MHz (this is a huge range). Antenna length is also proportional to wavelength, so reducing the size of this antenna is challenging for such a long wavelength! Through my Capstone, I am learning a lot about antenna design–I have not taken the undergraduate course that focuses on antennas, so a lot of this is self-taught or taught to us by our mentor. Capstone has also introduced me to students that I may not have otherwise gotten to know well.

What area do you want to specialize in? That is a hard question! As I mentioned before, EE is an extremely broad field, and even as a fourth-year student, I feel like I still have so much to learn. Right now, I think I want to specialize in radio-frequency engineering as a career, but I am thinking about focusing more on signal processing and communications during my graduate year. Before I choose an area of focus in industry, I want to diversify my knowledge as much as possible!

Have you done an internship? I interned at a company called Leidos for two years in my hometown, San Diego. The first summer, I designed, built, and debugged an entire printed circuit board. I had two mentors who really guided me through the process of circuit design in industry. This was a valuable experience because it showed the differences between industry and school and showed me how to apply what I have learned. The second summer, I did more FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) programming. I took one course in digital design, which helped when I was trying to figure this out, but I still spent a lot of time learning on the job. I also did some work with a STM32 microcontrollers, which was also quite challenging, as I did not have experience with these types of microcontrollers prior to this internship. School and industry are definitely very different, and I really recommend trying an internship in industry! I feel like I learned a lot about both the type of work that is done in industry as well as what the work environment is like.

Preparation from High School to College

What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? In high school, I developed pretty good time management skills. My main extracurricular activity in high school was the violin; with solo work, orchestra, and chamber music, I had to dedicate quite a bit of time to rehearsal and individual practice. I really had to make sure to manage my time wisely so that I could finish all of my schoolwork before long rehearsals.

Are there any classes that you suggest ECE students take before entering UCSB? I took as many science and math electives as possible during my time in high school. This helped me prepare for life as an EE. The two classes that helped me most are probably AP Statistics and AP Calculus BC; both classes are used throughout the EE curriculum. Quantum mechanics? Statistics! Introduction to Fields and Waves? Calculus!

Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? Time management is important going into college. I am not just talking about managing homework, but also managing time to do chores and spend time with friends outside of class! It is easy to get caught up with all your homework and classwork and forget about things like laundry and cooking. Another thing that I think is important is coming into college with an open mind. In high school, I never would have joined the Triathlon Team or started climbing. But in college, I decided it was time to try new things and get outside of my comfort zone—this is a really great way to meet new people and make new friends.

Student Life at UCSB

What is campus life like for ECE students? Campus life is pretty good for ECE students. We are lucky that a lot of our classes are right across from Campus Point, one of the main student beaches. The only problem is that our home base–Harold Frank Hall–is on the opposite side of the community of Isla Vista where a lot of students live, which means that you either have to walk or bike a pretty long distance to get to class (which can feel a little painful for 8am labs).

What is the social scene like on campus, in Isla Vista (IV) and off-campus like for ECE students? I think that the social scene at UCSB is what you want it to be. Personally, I joined a social sorority my freshman year, mostly because that was one of the only organizations that were still running on campus, and when I was at home, seemed to be the only way to make new friends. When I actually came to campus, I realized that there were so many other fun clubs and activities that I could join. I ended up joining the Triathlon Team, which was not like anything I had done before–and I ended up really enjoying it! In general, I think that there are a lot of opportunities for students to join any social scene, both on and off campus.

Describe your housing experience frosh to present: I have had different living experiences every academic year. My first year was the academic year of 2020-2021, so I don’t really count that year (and I never lived in the dorms, which is a bit of a bummer). In my second year, I lived with 40 women in a sorority house. My third year, I lived with 12 other women in a smaller house on Del Playa in IV. This year, I only live with 7 other people, also on Del Playa (but closer to campus). I would say that where you live can be a big factor in choosing housing, but I feel like the housemates you live with are the most important thing to consider. I found a group of people that I really liked from the sorority house and have continued to live with them, even now.

After Graduation

What are your “big picture” plans/aspirations after graduation? I first plan on finishing out my education in the BS/MS program and then go straight into industry. I have lived in California for a while, so I want to try living somewhere else for a bit (even if that means giving up surfing for a couple years). Right now, I hope to pursue a career in RF (Radio-Frequency) engineering, but I tend to change my mind a lot, so we’ll see where I end up in industry. The good thing about electrical engineering is that I have a lot of different paths I can pursue, all of which are really interesting!