Navid at his desk

Navid Mir – Class of 2021

In his own words – interviewed Senior Year (Fall 2020)

  • Hometown: San Jose, CA
  • Favorite ECE Course: IC Design & Fabrication (ECE 120A) or Signal Processing Applications (ECE 148)
  • Student Organizations: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Tau Beta Pi (The Engineering Honor Society), Pop’s Orchestra
  • Last Book Read: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Interesting Aside About Navid: I ran into Steph Curry in the Bay area

Your Favorite

  • Hobbies: Hobby electronics and amateur astronomy
  • Band: Coldplay
  • TV Show: Psych
  • Movie: Despicable Me
  • Book: The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Activity: Pick up basketball with my friends
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Geeky Possession: Lego Saturn V Rocket

Favorite things about

  • Electrical and Computer Engineering Department: The people, hands down. In all of my classes, everyone was willing to help each other out. Every professor I have had has been passionate and kind-hearted, instilling the same passion in his/her students. Advisors care about you and your goals and work hard to help you achieve them.
  • UCSB: Stellar academics, excellent professors working on cutting-edge research, all on a beautiful campus surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean. Need I say more.
  • Santa Barbara: I like that it is a medium sized city, which is not too small, but also avoids the hustle and bustle of big city life. The weather is excellent year round, and you are surrounded by beautiful nature that really feeds the soul.

Navid and Electrical Engineering

Why EE as a major?: I was introduced to EE by my dad, who is also in the field. I decided to give it a try before my junior year of high school by taking a class in logic design. The class was really enjoyable so I was open to considering it for future studies. It was upon further research that I saw that EE is a great path to work on exciting technologies that help people and the planet: green energy technology, medical devices, communications, etc. Thus, I chose EE since I was passionate about the subject and its utility to the world.

Why did you select UCSB's program?: UCSB’s program checked all the boxes for a program I was looking for. UCSB is highly ranked for ECE and has world-renowned faculty. I liked how the class sizes were small, meaning there would be more interaction between students and professors. The location is amazing: a peaceful and beautiful environment with great weather and free from the distractions of big city life.

How did you hear about UCSB's EE program?: My father is in the area of computer networking, so he always viewed UCSB’s EE program as top tier since it was one of the pioneering locations of the precursor to the internet, ARPANET. So, it was my father who recommended to me to check out the program.

Prospective students and parents often ask, what can you do with an EE degree?: The great thing about EE is that it is such a broad field and no matter what direction you go into, you can have a great impact and successful career. In industry, one can go into engineering or management. An engineer can work on the research, design, and/or verification of hardware, software, or anywhere in between, and there will be instances in which hardware roles will require software and vice versa. One can also choose to go into engineering management, envisioning and leading large projects. The alternative to industry work is academia, which is dedicated to teaching and research.

The Curriculum

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?: I was surprised by how everything in electrical engineering connects together in one way or another. This is most clearly seen in the microelectronics courses (ECE 137A/B) as it draws from circuit theory (ECE 10A/B/C), signal processing (ECE 130A), semiconductor devices (ECE 132), and electromagnetic theory (ECE 134).

What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes?: These courses were enjoyable for me, especially because you get to see all your other college of engineering friends here (ME, ChemE, CE, CS). Since major classes at UCSB are generally small, these core classes were more of the stereotypical college classes you hear about with giant lecture halls and hundreds of students. It can be intimidating at first, but with diligence and not hesitating to ask for help when you need it, these classes can be managed. A plethora of help is available: office hours for instructors and TAs (teaching assistants who are graduate students helping administer the course, grade, etc.), CLAS (Campus Learning Assistance Services, who hosts review sessions outside of course hours), or your peers.

What has been your most challenging but rewarding course?: Semiconductor Devices (ECE 132) was my most challenging course. It involves a different kind of thinking that I had never encountered before. It relies on quantum physics, which goes against intuition and classical mechanics (see: quantum tunneling). What I did to help myself was to read the textbook, attend instructor and TA office hours, and found additional material on the internet to reinforce my understanding.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?: VLSI Principles (ECE 122A) – VLSI is the process of using a highly scaled process to design integrated circuits with millions and even billions of transistors. Applications include processor design, memory design, and so on. This is interesting to me because of the scale of the devices that can be designed with such processes.

What area do you want to specialize in?: Mixed-signal IC design because it combines several fields within electrical engineering that I have thoroughly enjoyed: analog design, digital design, and signal processing. Not only do I get to continue learning in these three fields, but the applications are wide and impactful. Specifically, I would like to apply this knowledge in green technology or medical devices.

Have you done an internship?: I have done two internships. My first was after my second year, and I was able to secure it by cold-emailing an engineer at a small engineering firm local to my home who was able to create the internship position. I worked on RF circuits and power electronics, which was a great precursor to the ECE 137A/B series and ECE 142. Working at a small company was a great experience because I worked directly under one of the principal engineers. My second internship was this past summer before my fourth year and I worked at Western Digital in ASIC verification (remotely due to COVID). This opportunity actually came to me through the UCSB Handshake service when a recruiter reached out. I worked on various Python scripts to automate the verification process and I also used SystemVerilog to help create a testbench for one of the blocks in a controller ASIC. Digital Design Principles (ECE 152A) course really helped with the fundamentals for the latter tasks. The experience was vastly different from my previous internship since I was now working at a very large company, with many people one a single project. Despite this, I had plenty of time to ask my mentors and manager any questions I had.

Do not hesitate to reach out to people who are recruiting for or are working in a position that interests you. They can help you by expediting the interview process, or even creating a position for you. Also keep updated profiles in LinkedIn and Handshake, which can even have the opportunities come to you.

Have you had any on-campus research opportunities at UCSB?: I had the opportunity to assist with research in Professor Lee’s Signal Processing Laboratory. The work involved an application in beamforming, something that I learned more about when I took ECE 148. If you are interested in someone’s research, I recommend that you email them and ask to talk more about it. Doing so might open up an opportunity to do lab work.

Preparation from High School to College

What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college?: Picking a field that I was truly passionate about. When you are passionate about something, you are happy to put in the work to learn and grow.

Are there any classes that you suggest students take before entering UCSB?: If possible, I recommend taking the AP Calculus series in high school. Not only are these courses necessary in future curriculum, but by taking them and scoring well on the AP exams, you can skip the introductory courses in calculus. This opens up your schedule to get ahead or take fun classes.

Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: The experience I would like to share are from conversations with mentors who have given me great advice. The first piece of advice is to not worry about making the perfect decision for things. Try your best to make an informed decision, but with drive and hard work, most things can work out favorably. The next advice I have is to run towards your problems, not away. Don’t put them off, which can exacerbate a situation.

Student Life at UCSB

What is campus life like for EE students?: Campus life is fun and collaborative. On any given school night, you can find your peers working together in the TA lounge or CSIL (a computer lab). The busiest times are the nights before exams and lab project due dates. The great thing about the campus is that you can take a break during studying or between classes by going to the beach, which is right next to the engineering buildings!

What is the social scene like for ECE students?: The social scene is vibrant and diverse. People of all different tastes can find something they like and people to share it with. On campus, one can go to campus point and rent a kayak or boat to use in the ocean. Various clubs for both technical and non-technical interests exist. The recreation center is perfect to exercise and take fitness classes. Isla Vista is lively with food places and students getting together. Some people also like going to downtown Santa Barbara, where State street and Stern’s Wharf offer shopping and beachfront activities.

Describe your housing experience at UCSB: I lived in Anacapa Hall my freshman year, and I would say it was one of the best experiences of my time in college. I was placed in a room with two randomly selected roommates, and they were really stellar people. The events and communal areas were great places to meet people; many of my friends today were people I met on my floor or in one of the lounges in the residence hall. My friend group from Anacapa decided that we wanted to live together again, so my second year we leased apartments next to each other in Isla Vista, and you could imagine that the same shenanigans continued. We have been living in Isla Vista ever since, and I have been rooming with my same roommate from Anacapa. Those who want to live in Isla Vista should be comfortable with the additional responsibilities and concessions compared to the University-affiliated housing. One in IV should expect such things as handling utilities, dealing with landlords, and the more difficult process of replacing roommates and leaving contracts. I am one who took comfort with the fact that the University dorm handled all of these responsibilities my freshman year, but I decided I could do away with such comfort in order to have the ability to arrange a living situation with all of my friends near one another.

Additional advice I would give to people seeking to maximize their experience and meeting new people is to really make an effort to go to the events hosted by the residence hall or RA (Resident Assistant, a student who is at least in their second year who lives alongside other students in the residence halls, providing guidance and counsel, setting up events, and settling any disputes). Most of the people doing so are in the same boat: they want to meet people. Despite the COVID pandemic, these opportunities are not lost! Students can attend virtual events, join online communities and so much more. When the pandemic is over and the situation is safe, I would suggest for new students to consider living in a campus dormitory, even if the idea of sharing a room with two other people does not entice you. The worst case is that if you don’t enjoy the experience, the housing contract is only nine months long and you don’t need to come back. But at its best, you can meet amazing people that you can cherish beyond college.

After Graduation

What are your “big picture” plans/aspirations after graduation?: I hope to get my Master’s in Electrical Engineering after I graduate. I love learning all I can in electrical engineering, and I hope to become a talented mixed-signal IC design engineer so that I can work in the green technology or medical devices industry. Later down the road, I would consider getting a PhD to teach the next generation of engineers.