vijay in the lab

Alumni Q&A: Vijay Jayaraman, Founder Praevium Research

The ECE Current Newsletter (Fall 2020)

Alumni Q&A: Vijay Jayaraman (video)

Why did you choose UC Santa Barbara?

I had done my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at MIT and was working at MIT Lincoln Labs when I started asking some co-workers what some of the good grad schools were. Several of them recommended checking out UC Santa Barbara. When I visited UCSB I was impressed by the faculty and students, and of course the beautiful environment. But what I saw was an uncommon spirit of cooperation among the faculty. They just really worked together and I think that is part of the success of UCSB.

Did you have a mentor during your time at UCSB?

I received a lot of mentorship from my adviser, Professor Larry Coldren. Even though he had a large research group of about 14 to 15 students, I received a lot of mentorship just through meetings and one-on-one conversations. In terms of academic mentorship, he was probably the strongest figure I had. I also worked with a unique group of students. They helped me understand how to solve problems, as well as balance work and life.

What was a pivotal moment or course for you at UCSB?

I took a course on semiconductor lasers with Professor Coldren and then I took another course on quantum mechanics with Professor Herb Kroemer. They were small classes, probably 20 students or less, and the faculty would take questions. I think hearing from world experts in a small classroom setting, and taking a fundamental class like quantum mechanics and then also taking a more applied class like semiconductor lasers, had an impact on me. Those were probably the two most impacting courses that I took as a student.

Many successful students come from UCSB’s ECE department. What do you think makes the program so successful?

The faculty is unparalleled in their research experience and teaching ability. There isn’t a trade-off between good research or strong teaching; UCSB has both. The faculty’s ongoing experience in entrepreneurship and being in industry while at UCSB has contributed to successful students solving real problems and having applicable skills.

Is there anything you would advise ECE to do to help prepare their students for industry?

Santa Barbara has a really flexible internship culture so I would take advantage of that. Internships are helpful to companies and give a window for students to see what industry is like. I would encourage students to call local companies and pursue those opportunities.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurial- oriented students within the College of Engineering, who really want to go out on their own to start a company?

Starting as an entrepreneur, one of the things I struggled with was thinking I didn’t fit the profile of an entrepreneur. Maybe I wasn’t hard-driving or extroverted enough or I didn’t have some things that people think are necessary components. But it really comes down to perseverance more than any one quality.

How did the knowledge and research experience you gained in ECE propel you in your specialty and career path?

I had an extraordinary dissertation project given to me by Larry Coldren. It was the development of a new type of laser that ended up having a pretty big impact on telecommunications. I had first-hand experience seeing research in the lab make a difference in the marketplace and daily life. It was also interdisciplinary, which gave me confidence to venture into different areas. I started thinking about applying lasers to medicine and I had gained the confidence to approach a medical researcher and have a productive conversation. The confidence I developed really helped the entrepreneurial process.

Read more questions from this article

  • From an alumnus perspective, why do you think it is important to give back to the College of Engineering and continue a sense of community?
  • Tell us about your business that you started after graduating from UC Santa Barbara.
  • What advice do you have for incoming ECE students at UC Santa Barbara?

The ECE Current "Alumni Q&A: Vijay Jayaraman, Founder Praevium Research" (full article on page 4)

Praevium Research