More Student and Faculty Profiles

Undergraduate Student Profiles


Ryan Kaveh, Junior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of ryan kaveh

Photo of ryan kaveh

About Ryan:

Hometown: Hillsborough, California
Favorite Class: Circuits, Devices, & Systems (ECE 2C) taught by Luke Theogarajan
Organizations: Little Big Engineer, Tau Beta Pi, Engineers Without Borders
Last Book Read: Aftermath: Star Wars by Chuck Wendig

Hobbies: Running, Rock Climbing, Drawing, Reading, Soccer, Volleyball and Cooking

Ryan's Favorites:

Band / Performer: The Killers / Arcade Fire
TV Show: Game of Thrones
Movie: Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
Book / Author: Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
Sport: Running
Activity: It's a tie between running and learning new activities
Geeky Possession: I may or may not own a disproportionate amount of Star Wars legos, toys, and shirts...

High School Experience:

  • Favorite class: English classes — my high school had an incredibly developed English track. I will forever love math and physics but they are too preoccupied with the physical world. Sometimes you need to focus on yourself and deconstruct your feelings to move forward. I feel that this sort of analysis is unique to literature-study. Without my English classes I would never be able to analyze people's thoughts or construct my own arguments.
  • High school mentor?: My cross country coach was the closest thing I had to a mentor in high school. If it wasn't for him I don't know if I would have the discipline or mindset to apply myself in academia or athletics. He showed me how to push myself past illusory walls to do things I never would have thought possible. Granted all of this was with running — but the work ethic was easily applied to school, relationships and other extracurriculars.
  • Share what your college search was like: A little rushed and nerve-wracking. I should have started doing things in the summer so that I would not have felt pressured during the school year.

Preparation for College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: My high school was very much academically oriented. The Crystal Springs Uplands School forces its students to get good at time management or die trying (not actually but you get the point). When I came to college I was prepared/willing to put in the hours.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest CE students take before entering UCSB?: Learning your first programming language can be difficult so taking a python class in high school is one of the smartest things you can do. If your school has a circuits class you should try that also.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: I had all of my sophomore labs in Harold Frank Hall. I would spend hours hunched over circuits and code only to be hit with exploding components and/or errors. One time I left the lab a little early and went surfing with some friends. We were out until dusk and right before I went back to shore the setting sun light up the water around me with purple and red. With the waves, birds, and my best friends around me I felt completely at ease. Yes, I love the academic culture here but that one sunset is my favorite memory of UCSB. Those feelings of ease and happiness are the reason I've never second guessed my choice to come to Santa Barbara.
  • CE Program: The flexibility. I actually switched from Electrical Engineering to Computer Engineering because of all the extra options. Now I have access to all of the CS classes in addition to my EE classes and get to specialize earlier than others. I practically get to build my own curriculum.
  • Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara's charming downtown has a lot to offer. Between all of the dining, music venues, and classy stores you'll always have something to do. Just do yourself a favor and go to McConnell's ice cream shop.

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: I love Space — I love Star Wars — and I love computers. If you take these three things and look for common ground you'll probably end up on space stations, space ships, and robotics: three things that require some serious electrical and computer engineering. ECE just seemed like the natural path to take based off my childhood dreams and desires.
  • Why UCSB?: UCSB has been becoming more and more renown in academia due to the ground breaking research going on throughout our STEM labs — I realized this and wanted to be a part of it so I looked deeper in to their engineering program. I talked to a few alumni and they told me about UCSB Engineering's unique approach to building great engineers. The administration genuinely cares about its students and is more focused on helping them learn and grow rather than weeding them out (like in some other schools/fields). Once I heard about their emphasis on nurturing, I was sold.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's Computer Engineering Program?: I heard about UCSB Engineering through my high school physics teacher and college counselor.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Students — You want to express your passion for engineering in your applications and just be yourself. Furthermore, make sure you can see yourself doing the cheesy things involved in your desired major. For example, if you hate language you should stay away from linguistics. If you think it's cool to work with circuits and build things and the you're interested in electronics then you should a) check out CE and b) express that exact sentiment in your apps.
  • Parents — Do factual research about UCSB and guide your son/daughter through the process. As kids get older we tend to get better at expressing ourselves but in high school, it's very weird having to write applications where we talk about ourselves. It means a lot when you guys to help us hash out what we want to say. So please, help us by talking to us! Also push your children to do their own research and not solely listen to word of mouth.
  • Explain to students and parents what you can do with a computer engineering degree: Anything! Becoming an engineer isn't just about learning how to build things — Its learning how to approach obstacles and solve problems we've never seen before. With a computer engineering education you also learn how to think like a computer (logically). With these two perspectives you can tackle anything you can imagine. I want to make prostheses while some of my peers want to build space ships, go into politics, and build water filtration systems. Your desire is the limiting resource. That sounds super cheesy but it's true.

The Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: By studying both fields you put yourself in a nice position to better understand a system's dependence on the smaller details. This allows more flexibility and helps you think of more creative solutions to problems that EEs and/or computer scientists might miss. That may be too abstract but bottom line: learning is good, and learning more is better.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: The most surprising thing I've learned is by far how many transistors we can fit in to our computers. We, as a people, can shrink things so far that we can have computers on our wrists.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?: I'm looking forward to the rest of ECE 154A and the 130 series. I came into this field because I wanted to learn how computers work and with these classes I'm finally getting there. 154A is an intro computer architecture class (sounds cool, right?) while the 130 series is all about signal processing. Both are important when it comes to designing your own devices and that's where I want to go in the future.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: ECE 2C – Circuits, Devices, & Systems. It's the last bit of the ECE intro series and Luke Theogarajan was the professor. The man was brutal but he forced me to think about/see circuits completely differently. In order to get the material I would stare at new circuits and analyse them without using math. It was weird at first but slowly I started to get an intuitive understanding of how these systems would work and interact with each other. The first time I solved one of his challenge problems I felt like Rocky at the end of his first training montage... Yea, I'm a nerd...
  • What area do you want to specialize in?: I want to focus on digital circuit design/building bio-medical devices but I don't know how to go about it yet. No one builds a prosthetic completely on their own — it just isn't practical. It's smart to focus on a specific part of the system, design it really well, and let others take care of other areas. So right now I'm trying to figure out where along the design/production process I want to fit in.
  • Have you done an internship?: Not in college, unfortunately. I shadowed a few doctors throughout high school to see if that's something I might want to do. I really just followed them around like a lemming. It was fairly simple, I got their contact information through my high school and asked if I could hang out with them for a few weeks.

The Future:

  • Do you plan on going into industry?: I do — I think I would like to work in aerospace and or robotics. Remember how much I like Star Wars and computers? Those childhood desires are a huge factor (I would do anything to work on a space shuttle or prosthetic limb). Both fields also have enormous potential to help mankind/make a difference so the idealist in me is happy. If I'm really lucky (and I mean really really really lucky) I'll get to be an astronaut doctor who designs and implements robots in space but now I'm just grasping at the stars (pun).
  • Do you plan to go into graduate school?: I am definitely going to enroll in a master's program after UCSB. After I get my master's then my future gets cloudier, but I'm leaning towards doing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. If I want to keep rigorously learning about the forces behind electronics then I'll need to stay in school. It does not hurt that a Ph.D. opens a lot doors in both academia and industry. Ideally I'd get my Ph.D., research robots and prosthesis at NASA, and then settle down as a professor and conduct my own lab.

Ryan's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: UCSB has something for everyone — it doesn't matter what your major is. If you like to go out on weekends there will be plenty of places to go, people to see, and things to do. Some engineering students coagulate while others spread out — It's 100% your choice. You shouldn't worry, the UCSB social culture is all-inclusive and open to anything/everything. That means there are just as many quiet/low-key places to kick back and relax as there are crowded rooms with loud music.
  • Describe your housing situation: I lived in Manzanita as a freshman, San Rafael as a Sophomore, and San Clemente as a Junior. I'm not sure if I got the full freshmen college experience by living in Manzanita during my first year because it was so quiet but I don't think I missed out either. I made friends who lived in all of the other dorms and thus had more control over my social life. When I needed quiet I would stay home but when I wanted to see friends/have fun I'd go to the other, more active, dorms. This way I was rarely dragged out when I needed to work. In the end it all depends on what you are looking for.

Saili Raje, Senior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of saili raje

Photo of saili raje

About Saili:

  • Hometown: Turlock, CA
  • Favorite CE-related Course: Mobile Embedded Systems (ECE 150) or Hardware / Software Interface (ECE 153A)
  • Capstone Course / Project Name: CS 189A/B / Treadsetters (team leader) - connects a bike to the Internet of Things
  • Organizations: Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Engineering Student Council
  • Last Book Read:Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool — Jennifer Jacquet
  • Something Unique About You: I've been a student liaison between orgs like IEEE & SWE and Industry representatives in order to set up recruitment events like tech talks, info sessions, and events like Evening With Industry.
  • Hobbies: going to the beach, watching movies, scrapbooking, keeping myself busy

Saili's Favorites:

  • Book: The Exorcist — William Peter Blatty
  • Favorite Band: Neutral Milk Hotel
  • TV Show: 30 Rock
  • Movie: Kill Bill Vol. 1
  • Activity: Going to brunch
  • Sport: Going to brunch
  • Geeky Possession: Probably one of the earlier printed copies of the book "The Shining" with a bunch of (funny/rude) comments handwritten in by the editor.

Saili's High School Experience:

  • High school mentor?: My CS teacher, Mrs. Arnold- Because she pushed me to join the Future Business Leaders of America and excel in categories that were difficult and out of my comfort zone, giving me the chance to experience early on what it would feel like to be the only female in a room of males.
  • Favorite class: Probably, my CS class for the reason above.
  • Share what your college search was like: It was reasonably straight forward, I took an awesome road trip with my family the summer before to look at some of the pubic and private schools in California and then later applied to all the UCs I was interested in.

Preparation for College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: definitely the SIMS program. The Summer Institute in Mathematics and Science (SIMS) is a two week intensive residential program for newly admitted UCSB freshmen. Students engage in academic preparation, professional development, educational presentations, and research projects.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest CE students take before entering UCSB and why?: Take ECE92! (This may be called ECE5 when you take it.) It's a student taught course organized by IEEE that is geared towards freshman. It teaches you the basics of microcontroller programming by setting you up with an Arduino and having you get into groups of 2-3 and putting together a cool project. We're with you every step of the way from project conception to poster design/final presentation and it's the first opportunity you, as a freshman, will have to take a hands-on class. I also recommend ECE150 if you're interested in mobile embedded systems/android programming. Picking up app development as a hobby next to your class load can be intimidating, so why not take it as a class and work on labs/homework assignments that teach you those skills?
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: Start learning how to clean up after yourself/do your laundry in a timely manner — it'll help out in the long run.
  • Any other information to pass along?: Honestly, when you arrive to campus, join IEEE and Engineering Student Council (ESC). IEEE, because it's a great resource and ESC because it's really important to be aware of what's going on in the College of Engineering. Also, both look great on a resume and both teach you great social skills.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: Events at Campbell Hall, beach, people, IEEE, UCSB Music Library
  • CE Program: Faculty Advisors and Tech Talks
  • Santa Barbara: weather, beach, and the downtown area including the Harbor and Stearns Wharf. Also, this really cute cafe that I like to study at when the Computer Science Instructional Lab (CSIL) gets too crowded

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: I couldn't chose between hardware and software. My dad is a software engineer but I honestly couldn't see myself only writing code for the rest of my life so I wanted to expand on that and develop some other skills as well.
  • Why UCSB?: I attended one of the Chancellor's Receptions in San Jose and I was told there that I had been accepted into the CE program. That's also where I met my mentor who was there repping the CE department and where I first heard of the SIMS program. I submitted my Statement of Intent to Register, applied for the SIMS program and the rest was history.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's Computer Engineering Program? At a talk I attended in Berkeley.

Saili's advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Advice on applying to UCSB: It gets harder and harder to get into UCSB, from what I understand, but put together a well thought out personal statement and don't put it off till the last minute (even though as a natural engineer you may feel the temptation to.) If you know you're interested in Engineering, work on side projects that show off your interests — this is a good way to differentiate yourselves from the other applicants who may only be interested in the degree, but don't show the initiative to play around with the material beforehand. This can be especially easy for CE because with access to the internet these days, taking up coding as a hobby isn't that difficult.
  • Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB Computer Engineering?: "Mom, Dad, everyone hates beach cruisers here. Please don't let me buy a beach cruiser."
  • Explain to students and parents what you think can be done with a computer engineering degree: You can do all kinds of things with a CE degree. Some of the obvious career choices, of course, are embedded systems, strictly software development, signal processing. But it's important to realize that this degree helps you develop problem-solving skills that can help you pick up non-obvious careers as well. CE can easily be a stepping-stone to all kinds of technical paths ranging from teaching CS/robotics to getting into Patent Law and personally, I feel like UCSB has a lot to do with that. The opportunities that have been extended to me the past four years have definitely been extended to me because of the training and development I received from the CoE here. I really think that's what makes this place unique.

The Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: You don't have to limit yourself to CS or EE, you can try a little bit of each and it's like shaping your own unique major.
  • What has/was your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes? I liked my math classes a lot, the first few physics classes were a little shocking for me because I didn't expect them to be as hard as they were, which is something that can get in the way of a lot of student's success. You can float through high school with limited effort and still pull great grades but for most of us in college, that won't work.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: That your TAs aren't the all knowing beings you imagined them to be. They're only a few steps ahead of you in any given point of the quarter. TAs are just human, so don't be afraid to approach them and ask for help.
  • Tell us about your Capstone senior project class experience: My CS Capstone (CS189A) is one of my favorite classes. I'm really into product design and engineering and I love the work that goes into designing a project and working every step of the way to make sure the deliverables are ready by the deadline.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?: I'm very excited to take beginner's sailing next quarter as it's my last quarter and last chance to learn how to sail in the SB Harbor.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: Probably ECE 153A, a class taught by my mentor/adviser Professor Forrest Brewer. It can be intimidating taking a class taught by your mentor and this class in general was really tough. The homework assignments were hard, the projects were, hard and there were no exams. I spent a lot of hours in CSIL to overcome it and it got easier as the quarter progressed and I started attending my TA's office hours. Asking for guidance helped overcome the challenge.
  • What area do you maybe want to specialize in?: In the long run I plan on specializing in embedded systems development/hardware software interfacing because that's why I got into CE, ever since I took that Arduino course my freshman year I knew that that was the type of work I wanted to do.

Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: The social scene is great! Joining orgs like SWE & IEEE and going to their social events is a great way to make friends. I know the typical stereotypes for CEs are awkward people who don't like going out or having fun but it's definitely not the case here. On any number of nights you can go to a party or a movie or board game night, if you're not into parties, which is what I like about the environment.
  • Describe your housing situation: My Freshman year I lived in the dorms in one of the few and coveted 4 person quads. This gave me two balconies with beautiful views of the DLG (the De La Guerra dining commons on campus immortalized by the mellow singer Jack Johnson in his song "Bubble Toes") and a bathroom that I could share with my three amazing roommates. This is a very unorthodox first year dorm experience but I loved it. My RA lived next door to us and she was very resourceful and helpful. Sophomore year I lived in Manzanita Village, another on campus dorm that had mostly non freshman, it was nice to have another year on campus/with a meal plan and I think it spoiled me a bit. Junior and Senior Year I lived in two different apartments with two very different experiences. I like my current landlord right now, which is Wolfe & Associates so I highly recommend them for nice big apartments. My junior year apartment was very small but was closer to the beach, so those are a few things to take into account when you're looking to rent.
  • Have you done an internship: Yes! For my first two summers I worked full time at FLIR Systems, a commercial company that designs Infrared Cameras. I got the job as a freshman while trying to look for companies to come recruit our students through tech talks / info sessions. The Flir HR representative I spoke to on the phone mentioned that they didn't have time to actively recruit on campus but were still looking for resumes. I asked Val (the ECE Students Affairs Manager) if she could send the email out to the students and ended up sending the HR rep mine as well. I was then called in for a few interviews and began working part time my Spring Quarter, about 10 hours a week. That extended on to full time for the next two summers and was my first of two internships during my undergrad career. My second internship was with Microsoft, which was pretty much me just attending their tech talks, handing in my resume and interviewing with them. It was very straightforward and I enjoyed the work very much and came back to UCSB as a student ambassador, working to recruit students and mentor them.

The Future: I have been extended an offer to work full time at Microsoft this August after graduation. I'm not sure which team at the moment but I will be designing and writing code for the Cloud + Enterprise Division in Redmond, Washington. I interned there last summer and had an excellent time, I fell in love with the Seattle area and the work I was doing and although it's not the direction I expected my degree to take me in (I thought I'd be doing something more hardware related) I am still excited to see where this goes. There's a lot of room for both horizontal and vertical growth at Microsoft and I can always switch over to a more hardware oriented team down the road.

Kelvin Yang, Sophomore Computer Engineering Majorphoto of kelvin yang studying outside

Photo of kelvin yang outside of the engineering science building

About Kelvin:

  • Hometown: Irvine, CA
  • Favorite CE-related Course So Far: Fundamentals of Logic Design (ECE 15A)
  • Organizations: Inst. of Electrical & Electronics & Engineers (IEEE)
  • Last Book Read: No-No Boy by John Okada
  • Hobbies: video games, programming, anime

Kelvin's Favorites:

  • Book: 1984 by George Orwell
  • Sport: Basketball

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: I love the weather at UCSB. Being right next to the beach, the air is always fresh, and the temperature is rarely too hot. I personally prefer mild to cold weather, so it's perfect for me.
  • CE Program: The computer engineering program has a lot of bright people who are eager to learn which creates a good environment for everyone.
  • Santa Barbara: My favorite thing about Santa Barbara is that it is a small and peaceful city. The buses are free with your student ID and a bus sticker so getting around is very convenient.

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: I have always been interested in electronics and how things work, so it was only natural that I major in something engineering related. I have always liked creating things, and especially became interested in writing programs throughout high school. My dad is an electrical engineer, and I was interested in computer science, so I decided to do computer engineering to get a bit of both. Computer engineering is the least math intensive engineering major, and I'm really liking it so far.
  • Why UCSB?: I selected UCSB CE because it is well regarded as one of the best in the world. Actually being here now, I would have to agree. The professors are not only good at teaching, but fun, which keeps class interesting and makes learning natural.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's Computer Engineering Program? I heard about the program while looking through the engineering programs of different schools online.

High School Preparation and Transition into College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: My curiosity for how things work and a strong math background prepared me a lot for studying engineering in college.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB?: You definitely want to take Calculus and Computer Science if possible and be familiar with the concepts because you will only keep building on them.
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: Classes are relatively easy in your freshman year since it's mostly basic classes that set you up for later ones, but don't get too comfortable because it will get harder and harder as you go into more advanced classes. Be diligent about your work and make sure you understand concepts; otherwise, it will be tough to move forward.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search was pretty easy.  I wanted to stay in California and go to a public school, so I applied to a few Cal States and the majority of the UCs. I visited both Riverside and UCSB and UCSB just had a better environment and a nicer feel to it, so my choice was relatively easy.
  • Tell us about your transition from high school into college: The transition was slow for me.  While I was in high school, I lacked good study skills, and never really studied all that much.  I would go to class, and do my homework, but I was just never really motivated to work beyond what was required.  Since I could still get by, I never saw this as a big problem.  In college the same kind of mind set will not work.  As a freshman, you can probably still get by, but as you go into your more advanced classes you won't be able to keep up.  Concepts build on each other so missing a good foundation can be a problem later on.  Luckily I caught myself early and this year I have been working diligently to make sure that I understand all concepts thoroughly.

The UCSB and Computer Engineering Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: For me personally, Computer Engineering is perfect. I have always been very interested in computer science and throughout high school I spent lots of time writing programs, but I also wanted to learn more about electronics and for that reason becoming a computer engineer has allowed me to get a bit of everything.
  • What has your experience been like taking the math and physics core classes? Any advice to prospective/current students? Math is important and you will definitely need many parts of it in your future classes, so when you take the class for the first time, learn the material and remember it. You will see the applications later on. Physics is also important more for understanding the underlying workings of everything. Specifically Physics 3 and 4 will teach you how electrical components actually work which isn't really taught too in depth in your circuits class.
  • What is your favorite engineering related class: Ever since middle school I had been very interested in computer science, so when I started high school, the class I was most interested in taking was computer science.  However, as a freshman I was unable to add the class since I was only in geometry, and was told that I would have to be in algebra II before I could take it.  So I waited until sophomore year when I had finished geometry and had gotten into algebra II but then I found out that normal computer science was no longer offered at my school and that I now had to be in pre-calculus in order to take AP computer science.  And so I had to wait yet another year before I could finally take it.  I think all the waiting made me more and more eager to learn and when I finally had the opportunity to take the class I was able to learn a lot due to my interest in the subject. AP computer science was definitely the most fun class I took in high school.
  • What is your favorite non-engineering related class?: Back in High School I would play computer games every day for over 5 hours a day.  Going into college, I only had a laptop and I couldn't really play games since it was slow.  I started to get into anime and that motivated me to learn Japanese.  My parents are Chinese and I went to Chinese school, but I never really had the motivation to learn, although I did learn a lot over time.  If you take classes that you actually are interested in and want to learn in, you will learn so much more and enjoy it.  Japanese is my favorite non-engineering class here at UCSB.  The teachers are very enthusiastic and really make sure that you understand how the language works.
  • Most difficult assignment so far: The circuit labs are probably the most difficult since the assignments don't always work the first time and then you have to debug and figure out the problem.  This gets frustrating at times, but there is a rewarding feeling when you struggle to your end result.  The lab reports are also very time consuming and ensure that you actually know what you are working on since you need to explain how everything works and how you got your results.  However, I tend to learn the most when actually writing my lab reports so they are still beneficial.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?: Right now, I am most looking forward to ECE 152A (Digital Logic Design) which I will be taking this quarter. After taking ECE 15A last quarter, which was the introductory logic design course, I find myself very interested in the topic and I want to be able to apply the concepts to actual circuits.
  • What area do you maybe want to specialize in?: As of now I have no concrete plan of what exactly I want to specialize in.  I find it hard to choose when every new class I take is so engaging.  Still being in the entry level classes, I would probably be interested in either pursuing digital design or computer science. For now at least.

Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: The social scene depends on the person.  There are lots of opportunities to get involved, but I personally don't have much experience, so I'm probably not the person to ask.  I like to hang out with friends and go to movies or eat dinner once in a while.
  • Describe your housing situation: In my freshman year I lived in a three-person room in Anacapa. Now as a sophomore I'm still living in a triple in Manzanita Village.  Out of these two I prefer Manzanita since it is a lot newer and the rooms are slightly bigger.  I also have a great view since the dining commons and pool are right outside my window.  Next year I plan on living in the campus apartments, and I'm just hoping the distance from school won't be that troublesome.

The Future: I actually plan to stay at UCSB for the 5 years masters program offered in either computer science or electrical engineering. As of now, I am leaning towards computer science since I have had much more experience with it, and I like it a lot. However as I take more and more electrical engineering classes, my preferences may change, so my plans are not set in stone.

Alex King, Senior Computer Engineering MajorAlex King in the lab

Photo of Alex King

About Alex:

  • Hometown: Redwood City, CA
  • Favorite Class: Digital Design with VHDL & Synthesis (ECE 156A) & Computer-Aided Design of VLSI Circuits (ECE 156B)
  • Hobbies: wakeboarding, snowboarding, producing GoPro videos, watching TV shows
  • Something Unique About Alex: I am fluent in Swedish

Alex's Favorites:

  • Band / Performer: Dada Life
  • TV Show: Breaking Bad
  • Movie: MacGruber
  • Sport: wakeboarding
  • Geeky Possession: Rubik's Cube

High School Experience:

  • Favorite class: Calculus — Math always came naturally to me, and calculus was the first class in which I really needed to put effort in to understand the concepts. It was rewarding to have that work pay off. 
  • High school mentor?: My calculus teacher, Dr. Bittner. I was part of the accelerated math program that she taught. She saw my potential and helped to push my limits and set my goals high.
  • Share what your college search was like: My search was somewhat limited since I knew I wanted to stay in California. Many of the UCs appealed to me but UCSB stood out as a school with great academics and many opportunities for a good social life.

Preparation for College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: My high school was a part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The classes in this program had college level workload which made the transition to college quite easy. 
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB?: I honestly don't think there is any need to take any particular classes before studying CE at UCSB. The program here is such that someone with no programming experience, such as myself, can pick it up and do fine. 
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: Don't stress about getting into your dream school. Almost everyone I know has had a great time in college, no matter where they ended up.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: The people I've met. I have met people who are similar to me and people who are quite different from me, and I think that is an important part of growing as a person. These are people I hope to always be friends with and they are what make UCSB such a great place to be.
  • CE Program: You get to learn about interesting subjects that are highly applicable. Even my first programming class gave me a great deal of insight into how computers work.
  • Santa Barbara: Definitely its location. I believe that a good work-life balance is important to living a healthy life, and Santa Barbara's location is great for any non-work activities. No matter what your interest is, UCSB most likely has a program that allows you to do the things you like to and meet people with similar interests.

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: Several factors went into me choosing Computer Engineering as a major. Firstly, I knew it was something I was very interested in. I had built my own computers before but I wanted to understand more about how they worked. I also knew that a degree in Computer Engineering would put me in a competitive job market coming out of college but it wouldn't be easy. 
  • Why UCSB?: Choosing UCSB's Computer Engineering program was not easy for me. I had also gotten accepted to CalPoly's engineering program and I was seriously considering going there. After visiting both schools, I chose UCSB because UCSB's program has a higher emphasis on the theory behind the subject matter rather than just hands-on experience. In a field where change happens so quickly, this education model will serve as a better foundation for real world application.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's CE Program?: The UC system is one of the world's top university systems in the world, and UCSB's College of Engineering is also quite highly regarded. UCSB consistently showed up when searching for top colleges for engineering.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Advice on applying to UCSB: I think the biggest concern that both parents and students have about UCSB is whether or not to worry about its reputation as a party school. I would encourage both to try to disregard this fact when considering UCSB. There will be parties at any school, and UCSB is no different.
  • Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB Computer Engineering?: My parents shared their opinions about colleges with me but they left the final decision to be completely mine. I only wish they would have known how happy I would be at UCSB so they could have made the decision easier for me.
  • Explain to students and parents what you can do with a computer engineering degree: The degree can open many doors for a person. It is quite versatile because it gives a foundation in both hardware and software, giving you more options than a Computer Science or Electrical Engineering degree. Earning a degree in CE takes a lot of hard work. This degree shows that you are a highly capable person who is able to manage large amounts of work.

The Curriculum:

  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far and what are the benefits of a program that is a cross between CS and EE?: The most surprising thing I have learned is that the possibilities, particularly with software, are near limitless. All it takes is an idea and a desire to bring that idea to life.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to and what area do you want to specialize in?: I'm really looking forward to my Networking courses. I want to specialize in this area because recent trends suggest that almost everything will be internet enabled in the future. Because of this, understanding networks will be a very useful skill to have.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: Operating Systems (CMPSC 170) was by far my most challenging course. The workload was incredibly high, even compared to other upper division courses. It really taught me that time management can make a huge difference and to start large projects early.

The Future:

  • What are your plans/aspirations after graduation?: After I graduate, I plan on heading into industry initially. I would like to get some experience working before I make my decision about which field I would like to study more in depth. I will most likely be working in the software industry since there seem to be many more opportunities to work for software companies than hardware companies and I enjoy working with software more than I do hardware.
  • Do you plan to go into graduate school?: Yes, after about two years of working, I hope to go to graduate school. I would also like to travel the world somewhere in that time frame.

Alex's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: On campus, most CE students can be found in the computer lab. This is a great place to discuss school or homework problems, and just to socialize with your fellow engineers. While some quarters may require more time to be spent in the lab, some quarters leave more free time. Just because you are a Computer Engineer doesn't mean you can't enjoy Isla Vista (IV) and all it has to offer. 
  • Describe your housing situation: I lived in in the UCSB dorm called Santa Catalina my freshman year and have lived in IV ever since. I would definitely recommend taking this path. Living in the dorms during your freshman year really helps you meet a lot of people and hopefully some friends you want to live with during your next years. Living in IV is a really fun and unique experience that I think everyone should take advantage of while they can. It is probably the only time you will live in an entire community of people who are all around your age (unless you live in a retirement community but that probably isn't nearly as fun).
  • Have you done an internship?: I recently interned for Bitcasa, a cloud storage company which offers infinite storage. They are solving a problem which would have seemed impossible not long ago.

Jacqueline Avis, Junior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Avis with another student

Photo of Jaqueline

About Jacqueline:

  • Hometown: San Diego, CA
  • Favorite Class: Digital Design Principles (ECE 152A)
  • Organizations: Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • Last Book Read: "Shadow's Edge" by Brent Weeks
  • Hobbies: video games, reading, browsing the internet, camping
  • Something Unique About Jacqueline: Between my two sisters, my parents, and me our family owns 6 cats!

Jacqueline's Favorites:

  • Band / Performer: Taylor Swift
  • TV Show: Doctor Who
  • Movie: Pride and Prejudice
  • Book / Author: "Stargirl" by Jerry Spinelli
  • Sport: Swimming
  • Activity: Playing Halo 4
  • Geeky Possession: Master Chief figurine

High School Experience:

  • Favorite class: Calculus was my favorite class in high school, because I had a very talented teacher who made a hard class into something both interesting and enjoyable. He believed we were all bright students who could go far in life and in our careers. That made me put more effort into the subjects I was good at so I could make his belief in me come true.
  • High school mentors?: My dad has always been my mentor — academically (and otherwise). He pushed me hard in high school, at the same time believing in what I could do, and supported me unconditionally. He tutored me in math and other subjects. He made sure I understood the "why" and not just the "how". My dad is the reason I worked so hard to get to where I am.
  • Share what your college search was like: I definitely wanted to stay in California and the UC schools were my goal. My decision in the end was based on academic reputation and from the eager urging of my sister, a UCSB alum, who had a great time growing and learning here at UCSB.

Preparation for College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: My experience with computers — I've had an interest in them all my life. Even as a kid I was playing computer games and going to camps where I learned C++, robotics, and more. This exposure has continued to pique my interest. In high school I took a Visual Basic class as a freshman and a Java class as a Senior. Although the intro classes for engineering and computer science start with the basics and no prior knowledge is required, these experiences still helped me to connect what I learned in class with what I already knew.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB?: If you can take classes in C++ or C and play around with electronics and computers on your own time will give you a good head start into the program. It helps you see the bigger picture and allows you to relate what you learn in class to things you have already seen or done.
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: Learn how to deal with your money, how to study well, and how to relax. Don't get so caught up in the excitement of being at college that you forget to study! The first quarter is the hardest, so work harder than you think you should, and then adjust your habits from there. Also, don't worry about finding friends, everyone is friendly and open and in the same position as you.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: The professors at UCSB are engaging, humorous, supportive and passionate about what they study. The students are actively engaged in improving campus and encourage the rest of the student body to vote and take action in the things that matter to them such as the environment, school fees, safety, and other important issues. There are plenty of things to do around campus and in Isla Vista.
  • CE Program: The CE program gives the best of both worlds. It's not quite as math-intensive as electrical engineering and not so programming focused as computer science. In my opinion, CE gives the best overall understanding of how computers work on both hardware and software levels. It provides the bridge between the two and helps you understand how the different parts work together to create a fully functioning computer chip.
  • Santa Barbara: Much of Santa Barbara is accessible by bus which is a great advantage for UCSB students who get to ride for free! State street is great fun to walk down with your friends on the weekend and the Stearn's Wharf is one of my favorite places in SB. It's a beautiful place, especially with the mountains lining the North side of Santa Barbara! Living in Santa Barbara is like being on vacation 24/7.

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: I chose Computer Engineering because I had some experience with programming and was eager to find out how the code I was writing could control the behavior of the hardware. It was a mystery that could not easily be solved through Wikipedia and through my studies, I chose to begin the long journey towards understanding how a computer works, inside and out. I loved the fact that I could stick with programming and yet learn the hardware perspective of what my code was doing. Turns out I like the hardware as much as I like the software!
  • Why UCSB?: I chose UCSB mostly because my sister is a UCSB alum and she loved it! I was able to visit her when she lived in an apartment on Del Playa and I enjoyed the atmosphere and unique feel of Isla Vista. UCSB also has a great reputation in academics and engineering and I knew it would be a great place for me to get my degree.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Advice on applying to UCSB: Make sure UCSB is the right fit. There are more factors that go into choosing a college than academics alone! Think about the personality of each college and their location, considering the distance from home as well as the immediate environment of the college. UCSB has a very active, social, and welcoming student body, plus Isla Vista is a very laid-back beach town, always alive. If this fits your idea of what you want for yourself in college, great and welcome!
  • Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB Computer Engineering?: I would want them to know how great it is and what a perfect fit it would be for me! I would want them to know that CE has a very broad curriculum and gives a very strong background in computers and engineering.
  • Explain to students and parents what you can do with a computer engineering degree: With an engineering degree, you can get a job with a very high starting pay, straight out of college. You can also learn about hardware and software to your heart's content. For computer buffs, it's four years well spent!

The Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: The best thing about CE is that you get to understand all the layers. You get to learn the programming; you are able to see how the programming is translated into machine language; and you can finally see how the hardware responds including how electric signals travel. It allows you to see the entire picture, find what interests you most, and choose your own path.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: I've found that there is more to learn about technology than I ever imagined. We have progressed so much over the years and discovered a lot about hardware. We've also found efficient techniques for solving problems and even asked new questions that have yet to be solved. Engineering is such a deep, interesting field to get into and I'm excited to learn more.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to and why?: Now that I'm a junior, I'm looking forward to my CE electives because I can choose the topics that interest me most. I can't wait to learn about image processing, robotics, computer vision, sensors, and more. I love learning about the ways computers can interact and understand their environment. We are getting much closer to being able to interact intuitively with technology and I want to be a part of that development!
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: The ECE 2 Circuits, Devices, and Systems series. They were very math intensive and detail oriented, which made it a lot of work but CLAS really helped. UCSB CLAS (Campus Learning Assistance Services) is a free on-campus tutoring program that many freshmen and sophomores take to help them in math, science, and engineering classes. I have Alex to thank for passing my intro classes and getting the grades I did! He is an amazing math and engineering tutor, who is a pleasure to work with and is knowledgeable and also funny. CLAS is always a great resource.
  • What area do you want to specialize?: I'd love to specialize in any field that deals with how computers interact with people on a higher level including facial detection, hand gestures, and more. I want to develop programs that can help a computer process images, make sense of them, and produce an appropriate response. UCSB gives the perfect opportunity for that by offering courses in computer vision, artificial intelligence, and more.

The Future:

  • What are your plans/aspirations after graduation?: I would like to go into industry, although I am not decided on which field. I would possibly like to work with 3D imaging, motion sensing, or other related topics. I also am very interested in Google's project on the autonomous car and it would be fascinating to work on that or something similar.
  • Do you plan to go into graduate school?: I will go to graduate school if the opportunity arises, although I feel schooled enough already to begin applying for jobs directly after graduation — especially if I score an internship in the summer before my senior year. The UCSB undergraduate program certainly prepares you for industry and I'm excited to begin developing real products.

Jacqueline's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: Campus is a great place to do work if you are a CE student. The Computer Science Instructional Lab (CSIL) is filled with other CE, EE, and CS students finishing their projects and homework and you'll almost always find somebody you know from class in there. It's a fun and social way to finish up assignments. There's also the lagoon near campus, which is a relaxing place to relieve stress. On the other hand, the nearby off-campus community of Isla Vista (IV) is always alive with people, whether they are studying in Starbucks, meeting with friends, or dressing up for a night out. It's a great place to hang out with a truly welcoming and diverse community of people.
  • Describe your housing situation: As a freshman I lived in the San Nicolas dorms which was truly enjoyable. Most of the dorms are very close to campus and have a great social dynamic with everyone so close together. It's a great way to be introduced to new friends. Second year, I lived with my same roommate and some other dorm friends in IV on Trigo. It was a great place to live because it's close to the beach, campus, and the shops. Now as a third year student, I'm living deeper in IV in a quieter place that is farther from campus and the beach. Where you live depends on what type of living situation you want. Beach living is more expensive but it's central to all of the activity. Choose what suits you best because you'll be living there for a year!

Max Hinson, Senior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Hinson

Photo of Max

About Max:

  • Hometown: Bakersfield, CA
  • Favorite Class: Operating Systems (CS 170)
  • Organizations: Engineering Student Council, Tau Beta Pi
  • Last Book Read: "In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives," Steven Levy
  • Hobbies: basketball, guitar, reading, fantasy football
  • Something Unique About Max: For as much as I love engineering, I have many other interests. I enjoy sports, business, investing, travel, music, and spending time with family and friends.

Max's Favorites:

  • Band / Performer: Slash
  • TV Show: The League
  • Movie: Anchorman
  • Book / Author: "Wooden," John Wooden
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Activity: Sports
  • Geeky Possession: Home server and self-built computer

High School Experience:

  • Favorite class: AP Calculus AB/BC. I had an amazing teacher who was incredibly dedicated to his students. Not only did he teach us the material, but he also showed us how the concepts applied to more advanced math and physics. I found calculus fascinating and it came very easily to me. This was this class that really cemented my decision to study engineering.
  • High school mentors?: Growing up, I always looked up to my dad. Among the many things he taught me was the value of hard work. A strong work ethic allowed me to succeed in high school and has served me well through my time in computer engineering at UCSB.
  • Share what your college search was like: In the beginning, my college search felt a little overwhelming. There are so many great schools out there that it seems almost impossible to find the right one. I read any book or internet article I could find about the top engineering schools. In the spring of my junior year, I visited several colleges with family and friends. This was the most effective way of ruling out schools. Out of many options, I chose UCSB because I felt it would give me the best opportunity to succeed.

Preparation for College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: In high school, I took as many honors and AP courses as I could. In addition, I was involved in several extracurricular activities. This taught me to manage my time efficiently. In college, you’ll need to manage your classes, student organizations, and the day-to-day aspects of living on your own. Being able to manage your time is critical in maintaining good grades.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB?: Incoming computer engineering students are not required to have taken a programming class. UCSB offers an introductory course for those who don’t have any programming experience. However, I would highly recommend taking a class before entering UCSB. It will allow you to skip the intro course and get a head start on your general education requirements. I would also recommend taking AP Calculus BC, as a good AP score allows you to skip one or more math classes.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: UCSB is a large school with a very diverse student population. You will make many friends within and outside your major. UCSB strongly encourages students to participate in undergraduate research. There are a huge number of labs on campus that span a wide range of disciplines. After my freshman year, I was able to spend the summer doing research on motion planning in a robotics lab.
  • CE Program: The computer engineering program is a great mix between computer science and electrical engineering. It allows you to take a wide variety of classes and allows you to specialize in the area that you find interesting. UCSB’s computer engineering program is challenging and equips you with the skills you’ll need to compete in industry.
  • Santa Barbara: A relaxed atmosphere and an amazing location provide a balance between work and play. In addition, there are many great local tech companies (some started by UCSB faculty and grads) that hire heavily from UCSB. This makes it easy to get invaluable work experience in industry.

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: In high school, I loved my math and science classes. My school did not offer anything beyond the core math and sciences classes, so I decided to explore interests outside of school. I experimented with writing calculator programs and built a solar-powered iPod charger. I really enjoyed learning about basic circuits and simple programming, so I decided to try computer engineering. I really didn’t know much about the major or what I could do with a degree at the time, but it has been one of the best decisions I have made.
  • Why UCSB?: Although UCSB as a whole is very large, the engineering program feels (and is) really small. It is very easy to get involved in student organizations and meet other people in your major. The counselors and professors are easy to talk to and very willing to answer questions you may have.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's CE program: I knew that UCSB’s College of Engineering was very highly ranked by many magazines and newspapers. After exploring the engineering majors, I knew that I wanted to try computer engineering.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Advice on applying to UCSB: I would encourage students not to think of UCSB as just another school to apply to. I recommend looking into the many scholarship opportunities that are offered to engineers. Look into a few clubs you would be interested in joining (or starting). Research the labs on campus and find one you are interested in. You might be surprised at the number of opportunities you’ll have at UCSB.
  • Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB Computer Engineering?: I was lucky to have parents who did not care what my major was. Choosing a major is very personal. Find one that you’ll enjoy – you’ll be studying it for four years, if not longer. Computer engineering is something you need to love to succeed in. You will find out very quickly if CE is not for you. Rest assured knowing that you will be studying in a great program led by talented and passionate professors.
  • Explain to students and parents what you can do with a computer engineering degree: Due to today’s increasingly high-tech marketplace, engineers are in high demand. This means that jobs are available and salaries are high. For example, any competitive company needs engineers that will secure its networks and keep its data safe from hackers. If you are skilled in network technologies, you can work for any company in any industry.

The Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: The CE program gives you a broad base with the potential to specialize in either field. This is also really helpful if you don’t know what area you want to specialize in right away. As you take more classes in each discipline, you will likely find yourself enjoying one over another.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: I have been fascinated with the multiple levels of abstraction in a computer system. All the pieces seem to fit together like a puzzle. This makes it very easy to learn about one piece at a time without having to know all the details of the more advanced pieces.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to and why?: Internet Security (CS 177). It is an extremely important part of today’s global economy and national security. Companies, as well as the government, have more and more electronic data that needs to be protected from intruders. The constant struggle to stay ahead of hackers makes for an exciting industry.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: Operating Systems (CS 170) was by far my most challenging and rewarding course. I had an especially busy schedule that quarter, and this was a very time-consuming class. I was able to overcome it by simply spending more late nights and weekends in the computer lab.
  • What area do you want to specialize?: As of now, I do not know which area I want to specialize in, but I am leaning toward software more than hardware. I am hoping that it will become clearer after I have started my senior electives. I am interested in computer networks and security, but I will need to take a couple of classes before I will know for sure.

The Future:

  • What are your plans/aspirations after graduation? I was recently accepted to the 5-year BS/MS program in computer engineering. After graduating with a Master’s degree, I plan to get a software job in industry. My ultimate goal is to start a company and become a successful entrepreneur. At some point, I hope to have the financial means to give back to the community that has provided me with so opportunities to succeed.
  • Do you plan to go into industry? After graduation, I plan to go into the computer software industry. Its fast-paced and ultra competitive nature is very appealing to me. I love that technology is constantly evolving, and I hope to be able to influence the direction in which technology advances in the coming years.
  • Do you plan to go to graduate school? At the moment, I am not planning on applying to graduate school. I am very excited about working at or starting a competitive technology company, but may reconsider in time.

Max's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: UCSB has a reputation for being a party school, yet computer engineering is a difficult and time-consuming major. Living in IV will require having the discipline to do homework on Friday and Saturday nights while you hear people partying outside. Overall, your social life is what you make of it. Be sure to have fun, but make sure you always stay on top of your work. To manage this balance, I try to plan my fun beforehand and let work fill in everywhere else. Otherwise, I would never find time to have any fun.
  • Describe your housing situation: I highly recommend any of the on-campus dorms. They are close to the engineering buildings and the beach. The dorms provide a great opportunity to have fun and make new friends. I lived in San Nicholas during my freshman year and had a blast. I moved out to Isla Vista for my sophomore year with a few friends I made in the dorms. For my junior year, I got a great deal on an apartment that is close to campus and the gym. My roommate and I have enjoyed it so much that we renewed our lease for the next year. My best advice would be to tour your potential apartment, ask the current residents about the apartment and landlord, and make sure you know what you are getting into before you sign a lease.
  • Have you done an internship?: I have been working at Karl Storz Imaging for the last year and half. I found the company at a UCSB career fair and met a couple of recruiters. I was very impressed with their product demo and applied for an interview. I got the job and have been working full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. KSI is a fantastic company and has been very flexible with my busy schedule. Getting an internship is a great way to complement your course work, and I highly recommend that all engineers do at least one summer internship.

Jhon Faghih-Nassiri, Junior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Faghih-Nassiri in the lab

Photo of Jhon

About Jhon:

  • Hometown: San Diego, CA
  • Favorite Class: Computer Architecture (ECE 154)
  • Organizations: Technology Management Program (TMP), Entrepreneur Association
  • Hobbies: distance cycling, rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, web design, entrepreneurship

  • Something Unique About Jhon: this past Thanksgiving break I made a treck with two friends through Death Valley and Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and back

Jhon's Favorites:

  • Band / Performer: The Kooks
  • TV Show: How I Met Your Mother
  • Movie: Mr. Nobody
  • Book / Author: The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Sport: basketball
  • Activity: hiking and rock climbing Santa Barbara trails
  • Geeky Possession: custom built computer

High School Experience:

  • Favorite classes and high school mentors?: In my last two years of high school I grew very passionate about chemistry, architecture and calculus. My teachers in these subjects quickly became my mentors - not only because they were affiliated with the subjects I enjoyed but also because of how they chose to live their lives. My calculus teacher had a positive attitude that could never be tarnished, and he taught me how essential attitude and outlook are to living a good life. My architecture teacher dedicated his professional life and his spare time to helping build a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. He taught me how important philanthropy and passion were to staying motivated.
  • Share what your college search was like: I started my college search after I had already received my responses from the schools I applied to. I chose this method because I knew that I wanted to go to a UC or State school, and I knew that many of them offered great engineering programs. In the end, I based my decision mostly on academics and partially on student life.

Preparation for College:

  • What prepared you the most to study engineering in college?: I attended La Jolla Country Day School in San Diego, a private college preparatory high school. The school modeled college life in that it allowed students to be responsible for their own education. I believe it was this sense of personal responsibility that best prepared me for engineering.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB?: At UCSB, students can enter with very little or no programming or hardware experience and still excel at the program. The classes that are offered to this group of students do a great job of introducing the subjects of programming and hardware.
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college?: Many schools do not offer computer programming or analog circuitry classes. Take advantage of the void and take the initiative to create a way to get exposure to these subjects during your high school experience. During my senior year of high school I started Computer Club at my high school and began educating myself by building a computer from various parts ordered on the internet.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: UC Santa Barbara is unique in that it can offer students the well rounded education of a UC school as well as quality curricula in specialized subjects. What I find most valuable is the opportunity students have to immerse themselves in various organizations, programs, and other subject areas that are of interest to them. Between general education courses, minors offered through the university, clubs, and a multitude of other options, students are truly given the power to learn about the subjects they are passionate about.
  • CE Program: I thoroughly enjoy the fact that most, if not all, of the professors teaching courses in CE are deeply invested in research and often times on the forefronts of their industries. As these professors teach the course material they are often able to draw on their own experience and their outside knowledge of the subject to give the students more accurate and up to date information. In addition it gives students endless opportunities to get involved in undergraduate research early on in their UCSB experience. I find this particularly useful in my ambitions to apply to graduate school - a process that pays high regard to undergraduate research.
  • Santa Barbara: Over the past three years I've taken full advantage of my location in Santa Barbara. The community offers a huge number of networking, research, and internship opportunities as a result of the many start-ups and technology companies that have offices in the area. In addition Isla Vista is a short drive or bike ride away from a number of outdoors activities ranging from hiking and climbing near waterfalls in the mountains to kayaking in the pacific.

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: When I decided on a major I knew I wanted to be an engineer and I knew I wanted to work with electronics. After some research it became clear to me that my interests were divided into three categories - Electrical Engineering for hardware, Computer Science for software, and Computer Engineering for the in-between area that seemed to be emerging. Because I was very interested in both hardware and software, and frankly, unsure what exactly each entailed, CE seemed like the perfect fit.
  • Why UCSB?: Initially I chose UCSB based solely on the ranking of the College of Engineering, the ideal beachfront location, the affordability of UC tuition, and the thriving student life I witnessed on my first tour of the campus. Since matriculation, I've discovered so much more that UCSB has to offer.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's CE program: I became aware of the program through my online searches of highly ranked Engineering programs nationwide. The department's involvement in cutting edge research also caught my eye. It became clear to me that there is a thriving community oriented around academic achievement and UCSB. This point was driven home in my second year at UCSB when I came to learn that my analog circuits teacher led a team that was designing the world’s fastest transistors.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Students: UCSB is an asset that you can use you achieve anything you aspire to accomplish in life. Between the distinguished professors, the groundbreaking research, expansive alumni network, business opportunities, passionate faculty, thriving social life, and exceptional recreational activities, you are truly given the tools to reach your goals. I have come to learn that UCSB isn't just about an impressive GPA and a degree from a prestigious school, but rather students looking to improve, achieve, learn, and give back. When applying to UCSB remember to express yourself in not only in terms of what you have done, but also in terms of who you are.
  • Parents: I can't really give advice to parents since my parents were not involved in my college decision, they fully trusted my choices.
  • Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB Computer Engineering?: With a CE degree the options are endless. Internships and job opportunities catered specifically to UCSB CE students are constantly filling my inbox. These opportunities come from all sorts of industries and from companies of various sizes. The beauty of this phenomenon is that the larger companies often have campuses and dorms dedicates to summer internships while the smaller ones that do not enjoy such campuses are often in town and within biking distance of UCSB. For students with ambitions of entrepreneurship and business, the Technology Management Program (a certificate program offered alongside various majors at UCSB) pairs engineers with the business know-how they'll need later in life.

The Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering: Computer Engineering gives students who are unsure about which side of the hardware/software spectrum they'd like to work with the option to learn about both, and then chose to focus more on either side. In addition it allows students to see the big picture that is hardware, software, and how they interact.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: the multiple levels of arbitration in programming languages and the tradeoffs along the way baffle me.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to and why?: I am very excited for my operating systems class next quarter because I feel it is the final piece of the puzzle to fully understanding computers.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: Object oriented design in C++. The class is essentially oriented towards some of the most difficult concepts of programming, such as inheritance. It opened me up to a whole new way of looking at computer programming and how it related to memory and hardware. As with most subjects, I familiarized myself with the concepts by studying the material outside of class and asking question during lecture.
  • What area do you want to specialize?: I have chosen to lean towards the software side of the spectrum and specialize in imaging, programming languages, and hardware/software interface. I feel that software opens up the doors to many more entrepreneurial opportunities than hardware does. Fortunately, much of the imaging industry has offices located in Goleta and Santa Barbara, so I've also been able to find internships and job opportunities with ease.

The Future:

What are your plans after graduation?: I am planning on pursuing a Masters Degree in Computer Science through the UCSB Five Year BS/MS Program. The accelerated program allows students to take graduate courses in their last year as an undergraduate and one additional year after that. I've chosen Computer Science because it better fits my specialization and entrepreneurial ambitions. After graduation I plan on working in industry to support myself while I work on one of my business ideas. My end goal is to start my own company and put myself in a financial position to pursue my philanthropy.

Jhon's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: The social scene on campus is very academically oriented and professional. It is a great place to network, share ideas, and get feedback. Often times study sessions form in the dorms because many freshmen are in the same classes. In Isla Vista and off-campus, the social life is whatever you make of it. Isla Vista is home to a variety of opportunities and a rich student life. Between the beach, parks, and cafes, there's something for everyone.
  • Describe your housing situation: As a freshman, I greatly enjoyed my stay at the ocean front Manzanita dorms on campus. Manzanita is unique in that the dorms are broken to 50-person houses, each with its own lobby and facilities. The surrounding landscape is beautiful and can make for a great weekend adventure. My second year I chose to live on Pardall, the downtown of Isla Vista. This year I have chose to live further from campus and deeper in Isla Vista. I enjoy the variety that life has to offer, and I would highly suggest taking advantage of the different living environments throughout Isla Vista and campus.
  • Have you done an internship?: I am currently interning for FLIR (forward-looking infrared) as a logic validation intern. I use the company's standard programming language to validate the functionality of camera modules through tests. I heard about the opportunity through an email from one of my professors.

Bronwyn Perry-Huston, Freshman Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Bronwyn Perry Huston


photo of Bronwyn

About Bronwyn:

  • Hometown: La Crescenta, CA
  • Hobbies: soccer, listening to music, hanging out with friends
  • Extra curricular activities you plan on participating in at UCSB: intramural soccer, volunteering
  • Something Unique about Bronwyn: I have a huge collection of all of my old concert tickets!

Bronwyn's Favorites:

  • Book: Slaughterhouse Five
  • TV Show: Lost
  • Sport: Soccer
  • Geeky Possession: Collection of Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Extended Edition DVDs and the old versions of the LOTR books

Bronwyn was asked to profile her high school preparation and summer internship prior to her entry of her freshman year at UCSB

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: the AMAZING location and the attitudes of the students
  • Santa Barbara: the atmosphere

Why Computer Engineering / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering? It’s a great mix between two disciplines and to learn about both hardware and programming
  • Why did you select UCSB for college? Lots of opportunities to get involved in research and a great program

High School Experience in Relation to Engineering Studies:

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? I took an AP Computer Science class that really helped to teach me the basics but I was prepared the most by using what I learned in my other classes (projects, etc)
  • Bronwyn's high school mentor: my Advanced Placement Computer Science teacher, Dr. Neat — he was always really supportive and willing to help with any hard decisions or problems
  • Favorite class in high school: a tie between Computer Science, Economics and Chemistry
  • High school organizations: French Club, CSF, Make a Wish Club

College Decision:

  • What was your college search like? I always had a certain set of schools that I was interested in, and when it came time to start my search I already knew where I wanted to go. My top choices were confirmed when I visited them, and I ended up applying to the schools that I thought I would really enjoy. My search was really simple because where I wanted to go fit perfectly with where I could get in, so everything went well.
  • Did your parents have any influence in your college decision? My parents did not have a huge influence on my decision because they liked all of the schools I was deciding between and decided it should be my choice where I went.
  • Other places you were accepted: NYU, Boston University, Cal Poly SLO, UCI, UCSC

Summer Internship at UCSB:

  • Tell us about your internship with Professor Ben Zhao's CURRENT: Secure and Reliable Networking Lab: I got the internship by talking to Professor Zhao about his research and told him how I really wanted to get involved in undergraduate research. Over the summer I learned the basics about his research group, what they were working on, read papers and learned the tools and techniques used in the lab. I focused on the lab's research pertaining to network security and privacy in online social networks.
  • What's it like doing research? It was really interesting getting exposed to what the work that they were doing. I also love the fact that research is all about doing new and interesting work and coming up with fresh ideas. Getting to be in the lab definitely helped me to confirm that this was what I wanted to study/ work on for the next for years.
  • Experience working with graduate students in Ben's group?: It was a fantastic experience to see how the group worked together and shared their ideas. It was great to be involved in an environment where everyone was working on and coming up with new ideas all the time
  • How do you think your being on-campus this summer was beneficial?: This summer was really beneficial in confirming my choice of major and school, it really showed me that UCSB is the best place for me..

The Future:

What are your plans after graduation?: I am extremely interested in medicine, so I am planning to go to medical school after I graduate.

Advice to Students / Parents about UCSB and CE:

  • What to look for when applying and visiting colleges: You should look for a school where you would feel comfortable and be in a great program for your major. When visiting, you should make sure that the atmosphere and the people fit with your personality
  • About UCSB and CE: Ignore the party school reputation and focus on the great atmosphere, location, opportunities, and College of Engineering programs.

Bronywn's Off-campus Life:

  • Housing situation: I sublet an apartment in IV over the summer but will be in Santa Catalina South Tower during the year.
  • How do you get around campus / Santa Barbara: I plan on getting around the campus on my bike and around Santa Barbara with the bus.
  • Do you plan on working while in college? I am hoping that I can keep working on research for as long as I can.
  • What's life like being on your own? It is really exciting and awesome to finally be independent!

Luis Rocha, Junior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Rocha in the computer lab

Photo of Luis

About Luis:

  • Hometown: Coachella, CA
  • Favorite Class: Intro to Robotics: Robot Control (ECE 181C)
  • Organizations: Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and Los Ingenieros
  • Hobbies: YouTube, Wikipedia, music, video games, soccer
  • Something Unique About Luis: I have two older brothers who are also Computer Engineers

Luis' Favorites:

  • Band / Performer: Tiesto
  • TV Show: The Simpsons
  • Sport: Tennis
  • Activity: Surfing the web
  • Geeky Possession: Laptop with more than two operating systems

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: awesome people, everyone is friendly
  • CE Program: ability to take classes in the subjects I'm interested in
  • Santa Barbara: weather and location, not too far and not too close to home

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: My life has always revolved around computers. I have always wondered how they work and how they are able to do so many things. Every computer has a hardware and software component and Computer Engineering is the mixture of these two.
  • Why UCSB?: I wanted to come to a research institution and I really liked the UCSB campus when I first came to visit. After looking into the CE program, I was determined to come here. The program offered classes that I wanted to take and was a very friendly environment.

The Curriculum:

  • What are the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering?: We get to learn the basics of both CS and EE, and can bridge these two fields together. And if we like one field more than the other, we can choose to focus in that field.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: How the transistor is has shaped our modern lives since it is used in nearly every electronic device.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course?: ECE 181C, Robotics Control. I took this class during the summer and spent most of my time playing with LEGOs and building autonomous robots out of them. It was challenging because this class was interdisciplinary, we had to design the mechanical, electrical, and software components and make them all work together.
  • What area do you want to specialize?: I want to specialize in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. I like building something then watching it move around and do things.

The Future:

What are your plans after graduation?: I hope to go into industry to gain some experience and work in the robotics field designing algorithms. After a few years, I'd like to go to graduate school to get an advanced degree in Computer Science with my final goal being to return to industry.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Students: Learn how to manage your time well, there are lots of things going on and good time management is essential.
  • Parents: Engineering is challenging, but if you are supportive your son/daughter can excel in this field.

Luis' Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students? It's good, I like to go out with friends and have fun, play games, or just relax.
  • Describe your housing situation: I live in the dorms. They're really nice and are on-campus.

Rotem Raviv, Junior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Raviv in her office


photo of RavivAbout Rotem:
  • Hometown: Cupertino, CA
  • Favorite Class: ECE 194O - Projects in Microcontrollers
  • Organizations: Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engrs (IEEE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • Something Unique About Rotem: I was born in Israel

Rotems's Favorites:

  • Hobbies: reading, hanging out with friends
  • TV Show: anything Stargate
  • Sport: swimming
  • Book: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Geeky Possession: Kindle

Why CE / UCSB?:

  • Why Computer Engineering: I had experience with programming, but I had always wondered about electronics. More specifically about the bridge between hardware and software.
  • Why Rotem Chose UCSB: Despite the course heavy lower division, the upper division allows a lot of flexibility and opportunities about what I want to learn.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: support of the administration is great
  • CE Program: subject material and classes
  • Santa Barbara: weather - nothing can beat how beautiful it gets

The Curriculum:

  • What was / is your most challenging but rewarding course?: ECE 194O. It was a project course and it was probably the hardest because we were given so much freedom and it was still so demanding.
  • List the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering: Choices. You have the largest lower division course load for a reason because you can take pretty much the same classes as either major.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you so far?: With computing sometimes space can be a big issue. We don't realize this because we tend to have a very large amount of space on our computers but sometimes you have to deal with a space on component vs. cost of component.
  • What area do you want to specialize in and why?: I would like to go into digital circuit design because it presents a normal engineering problem in which there are constraints but it is also allows enough flexibility in design to produce very interesting results.
  • Have you done an internship?: I am a research intern on campus, and I highly recommend it. Classes, while fun, will only help you so far. UCSB is a research institution. Take advantage of the experience that will bring you. I work for Manjunath's Bio-Image Informatics lab. My advisor is Tobias Hollerer and the Grad student I work with is Panuakdet "Mock" Suwannatat. I work on several different visualization systems that come together in one software program that will help biologists visualize their results better and therefore make better observations.

The Future:

  • What area do you want to specialize?: I would like to see what digital circuit design entails.
  • What are your plans after graduation?: I would like to go into industry after this. I'm a bit of a workaholic as well as someone who constantly needs to have a problem to solve. I intend to go into either a programming field or digital circuits.

Advice to students/parents about UCSB and CE:

  • Students: Make sure this is what you want, and when you do, make friends in it. My support network has helped me tremendously.
  • Parents: This is a time for you son/daughter to learn how to live on their own. Be supportive.

Rotem's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: Balanced. There is no way your classes will let you get too lax, but we have plenty of ways to relax.
  • Describe your housing situation: Way off-campus. It allows you to study for a lot cheaper price than when on-campus or close to campus.

Sergio Sanchez, Junior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Sergio Sanchez with Professor Heather Zheng

photo of Sanchez

Sergio's Favorites:

  • Hobbies: Eating, playing music, programming, eating
  • Sport: Fútbol
  • Book: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Geeky Possession: Albert Einstein Action Figure


About Sergio:

  • Hometown: Downey, CA
  • Favorite Class: ECE 152A - Digital Design Student
  • Organizations: Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Los Ingenieros, ACM, Engineering Student Council
  • Something Unique About Sergio: I started taking technology apart at the age of three but putting it back together just recently started

Why CE / UCSB:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: Technology has always fascinated me and I have always loved building, repairing, and programming computers for other people. Computer engineering gave me the opportunity to work with both software and hardware.
  • Why Sergio chose UCSB: The flexible program offers everything from CS and EE -- which makes each student's degree unique.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: Everyone is friendly and mellow. No one really stresses.
  • The CE Program: The program is tailored to each person's liking - many paths available
  • Santa Barbara: You live on the beach. What's not to like?

The Curriculum:

  • What was / is your most challenging but rewarding course?: ECE 15B - assembly language. It was challenging to program in but gave me such a great insight into how a computer actually processes instructions.
  • List the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering: It's perfect for anyone who doesn't quite know whether or not they'll like working with hardware or software more.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?: Assembly language and how all of the Nintendo and Super Nintendo games were programmed in it. That must have been a nightmare to debug!
  • Have you done an internship? : I worked with The Boeing Company in Seal Beach. My internship was in Information Technology and I worked on reprogramming dynamic reports and hardening thin client computers.

The Future:

  • What area do you want to specialize in and why?: I'm still not totally sure but I am really leaning towards distributed systems or computer system design.
  • What are your plans after graduation?: I plan on applying to graduate school and work with robotics with medical applications. I'm looking into UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Los Angeles, and University of Washington

Advice to students/parents about applying to UCSB and CE:

  • Students: Stay focused. The hours are long and the work is tough but the end rewards are totally worth it.
  • Parents: Be supportive. Engineering isn't easy and we students need all of the support we can get.

Sergio's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: Though not much time for it, I enjoy going out with friends and dancing, singing, playing rock band, watching movies, etc.
  • Describe your housing situation: I live in an apartment with two other engineers. My neighbors are also engineers. It's one big happy engineering family.

Jason Kaipo Oberg, Senior Computer Engineering Majorphoto of Jason Oberg in lab


photo of Oberg with bike

Jason's Favorites:

  • Class: ECE 152B
  • Geeky Possession: Soldering Iron
  • Hobbies: Surfing, Golf, Relaxing
  • Book: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien


About Jason:

  • Hometown: Omao, Kauai, Hawaii
  • Senior Project: Remote Controlled Submarine w/ Video Processing System
  • Student Organization Memberships: Tutoring Chair of Tau Beta Pi
  • Something Unique About Jason: My mom has won 7 world titles in surfing

Why CE / UCSB:

  • Why Computer Engineering?: CE gives me the perfect balance of computer science and electrical engineering. It allows me to understand what happens at the low-level hardware layer and simultaneously an understanding of what happens at the higher software layer, essentially making me extremely interested in computer systems.
  • Why UCSB: I love attending a reputable engineering program while being able to see the ocean from the majority of my labs.

Favorite Things About:

  • UCSB: UCSB feels like a small university but has a large student body.
  • The CE Program: The one-on-one interaction between the students and the professors.
  • Santa Barbara: The weather and activities. There is always something to do.

The Curriculum:

  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course? Why?: ECE 152B where we designed and built a 4-bit microprocessor. The days were long and tiring, but it was worth it once we got it to work.
  • What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?: How complex the communication between a computer application and a piece of hardware is.
  • List the benefits of a program that is a cross between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering: The program lets you understand what happens at the higher level operating system/application layer all the way down to the discrete transistor level layer.
  • Have you done an internship?: I have done a lot of paid research as an undergraduate. I have done research on underwater modems and an information flow tracking processor at UCSB. I have worked on a real-time face detection system at UCSD.

The Future:

  • What area do you want to specialize in and why?: I want to work in embedded computer systems and/or computer architecture. Designing systems is awesome because I feel like I could make anything. Computer architecture is fascinating because there are so many different ways to design a processor.
  • What are your plans after graduation? -I plan on going to graduate school. I have yet to decide if I want to pursue a PhD or a Master's degree. Once I finish my graduate work, I plan on going into industry. I want to work for a systems company working on developing the system of a cell phone, for example.

Advice to students/parents about applying to UCSB and CE:

  • Students: Don't be shy. Seek help when you need it from your professors or TAs. Understanding all the material is tough on your own.
  • Parents: The program will definitely get your son/daughter prepared for a career in engineering and make them feel confident about their abilities.

Jason's Off-campus Life:

  • What is the social scene like for CE students?: The CE program has a small student body and everyone seems to know each other. I have made a lot of friends through this program and I actually now live with two of them.
  • Describe your housing situation: I live on Del Playa drive with three other guys. It's awesome, you get to know everyone close by and friends are just a skateboard trip away.

Graduate Student Profiles


Sebastian Siatkowski - Graduate Student, Electrical & Computer Engineering

photo of Sebastian Siatkowski
photo of sebastian siatkowski in lab

About Sebastian:

  • Hometown: Wyszkow, Poland and Los Angeles, California
  • Degrees: B.S. in Computer Engineering and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, UCSB
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: third year Ph.D. candidate
  • Graduate Study Area in CE: Data Mining in Test


  • Advisor / Group: Professor Li-C. Wang / Mining Test and Verification (MTV Lab) data for EDA & Test applications
  • Research Interests: Adaptive Test, Failure Analysis, Yield Optimization, Big Data
  • Hobbies: soccer, hiking, mixed martial arts, running, video games

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: brilliant and easily approachable professors, ocean view from our lab
  • UCSB: beautiful campus, friendly people, great recreation center
  • Santa Barbara: perfect weather year round, relaxed culture, tons of breathtaking hiking trails

Why Electrical & Computer Engineering and UCSB?

My fascination with computers began at an early age. The more I learned, the more complex and intriguing further learning became. As a high school student, I chose UCSB for the location and its prominent social scene. What got me to stay for grad school were UCSB's excellent academic standings and the beautiful campus which provides a relaxing atmosphere.

More about Sebastian and his research

  • Important Conferences Attended: the International Test Conference (ITC) and the International Conference on Computer-Aided Design (ICCAD)
  • Most important publication to date: "Yield Optimization Using Advanced Statistical Correlation Methods"
  • Master’s Thesis: "Abnormality Search for Predicting the Screenability of Customer Returns "
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and Teaching Assistant (TA)

Tell us about your research

Very large amounts of data are produced during manufacture and test of semiconductors, but analysis techniques applied in practice do not utilize all the information available in that data. Our research focuses on applying state-of-the-art approaches from the machine learning field to advance semiconductor testing, as well as developing novel techniques suited for the specific problems at hand. The goal of test data analysis is to find the right balance while attempting to improve quality, reduce test cost, and increase yield.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

I took Professor Li-C. Wang's courses as an undergraduate and was quickly captivated by his way of thinking and approaching problems. I reached out to him to learn about his group's research and was so fascinated by it that I eagerly decided to try to join the group and help move the research forward. I think what persuaded me the most was how clear the application of the research was to real problems.

Why did you select UCSB and the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department in regards to your research?

Doing my undergrad at UCSB exposed me to our phenomenal faculty. The professors in our ECE department are great mentors and are some of the top experts in their fields. I also looked at PhD program rankings in ECE across the country, and at the time UCSB was ranked 5th so that was a huge plus.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Since we work closely with industry, we actually get to see our methodologies applied in practice. It's very exciting to see our ideas come to life, and getting praise from engineers for helping them solve critical problems is very rewarding. This close industry partnership is rather unique for academic research groups, which pushes us to do our best to maintain it.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

From what I've seen so far, collaboration is the single most important element of successful research. The atmosphere in the ECE department is always very encouraging towards collaborating with peers and faculty. I feel very comfortable discussing my research with students from other groups, and I also find it interesting to hear about the research they are working on. Such discussions often lead to exchanges of ideas which help to uncover new perspectives of the problem at hand.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

The collaborative aspect of research is what truly enables rapid and meaningful progress. I consider every single one of my group mates a good friend. We often spend time together in all kinds of social situations, and new research ideas sometimes spring up at the most unexpected times. Our advisor, Li-C. Wang, is very hands on with all our research. He is always very closely involved with all the little details of our projects and is available for consultation at virtually all times.

Where will your research take you next?

Throughout my research, I've had the privilege of working with companies which are considered technology leaders in semiconductor manufacturing. This experience has opened many doors for jobs in the industry. As of now, I believe after graduation I will go directly into industry, and I will choose the company where I feel I can make the biggest contribution.

Sebastian's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

The main strength has to be attributed to the outstanding faculty. The research conducted by all of their groups is cutting edge and they strive to always be the leading researchers in their fields with their continuous involvement in global research communities.

Favorite courses

Having taken most of the offered undergrad and grad courses related to Computer Engineering, it is very difficult to single one out as the favorite. I think an honorable mention definitely has to go to the CE Senior Capstone project (ECE 189B) that I took with Professor Steve Butner. That course really helped tie together a lot of the concepts learned throughout my first four years, but also made me realize how much I still didn't know which contributed to my decision to continue on to grad school.

Experience with the graduate exams

The screening exam sounded very scary at first. The idea of being orally examined by five professors sounded more stressful than any exam I had taken in the past. However, I found that with thorough preparation it was not as bad as I anticipated.

Describe your experience as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and/or Teaching Assistant (TA)

I have been a GSR for almost every quarter, and I was a TA for two courses (Digital Design with VHDL & Synthesis — ECE 156A and Computer-Aided Design of VLSI Circuits — ECE 156B). The GSR experience can sometimes truly push you to your limits. It taught me a lot about self-motivation and organization, both of which are absolutely necessary to make it as a GSR. The TA experience, on the other hand, was less hectic but just as rewarding. Although I did get overwhelmed with questions at times, especially near project deadlines, the experience was always positive. It is a great feeling to have students look up to you and to be able to help them truly grasp the concepts taught in class.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

Work-life balance does get out of hand at times, but usually only around important deadlines. During those times, it may feel like every waking hour is spent on research. However, when there are no imminent deadlines, even as a grad student I get plenty of time to socialize and take part in fun activities. Getting the most out of life may require slightly better time management skills than back during undergrad, but it's definitely achievable.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

I lived in IV for a while and enjoyed my stay there, but after becoming a grad student and focusing more on my work I moved to Family Housing, which is probably the best housing deal available in the area.

What will you do this summer?

This summer I will go to Phoenix, AZ for an internship. My advisor's close relationship with industry has made finding internships every summer very easy. This will be my third summer interning for research related work and I did not have to interview for any of them.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Don't get consumed by research and academics. Try surfing, check out the many hiking trails, see a movie at the drive-in theater, go wine tasting, join an adult sports league, or just try something new. Venturing beyond what you're normally comfortable with can really help with personal development which ultimately reflects back on your research.

Ivan Bocić - Graduate Student, Computer Science

photo of Ivan Bocic
photo of Ivan Bocic

About Ivan:

  • Hometown: Belgrade, Serbia
  • Degrees: B.S. in Computer Science, Union University
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: 4th year Ph.D.
  • Graduate Study Area: Automated software verification
  • Group / Advisor: Professor Tevfik Bultan / VLab

  • Personal website: http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~bo
  • Important Awards and Honors: Computer Science 2011 Outstanding Teaching Assistant (TA) and Best Paper runner-up at Computer Science 2014 Graduate Student Workshop
  • Hobbies: bass guitars & music, board games, cycling
  • Interesting aside/fact/information about you: I have a passion for boutique guitars and station wagons

Favorite things about

  • CS department: interesting research, casual atmosphere, and my peers
  • UCSB: the gym, lounging at the University Center (UCEN)
  • Santa Barbara: Everything. I don't want to leave.

Why CS and UCSB?

I decided to join the CS department at UCSB because the techniques I wanted to develop and the tools I wanted to build are a perfect match with VLab's recent work at UCSB. It made a lot of sense to me. Furthermore, if I were to spend five years of my life anywhere, Santa Barbara is the best choice, bar none. I really do not think there was much choice to the matter. To me, enrolling in any other university would have been compromise.

More about Ivan and his research

  • Important conferences attended: Was scheduled but unable to give a talk at ICSE 14. Will have a chance at ICSE 15 again :)
  • Publication list: http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~bo/#publications
  • Dissertation topic: Verification of Data Models
  • Types of financial assistance received: Teaching Assistant (TA), Graduate Student Researcher (GSR), UCSB CS Merit Fellowship

Tell us about your research

Web applications are difficult to develop and maintain. In today's internet focused society, our most vital data is stored and maintained by web applications. It is imperative to ensure that all code that stores and manipulates this data (the data model) does so in a way that will not erase, invalidate, or expose our data to unwanted third parties. My research is about automatic verification of data models of web applications, focusing on behaviors in data models. The techniques I develop ultimately serve to not only find bugs in data models, but also conclude that there exist no bugs in data models.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

I was always interested in building tools and frameworks for other developers to use. Web applications, in particular, are lacking in these. Most of their tools and frameworks are built ad-hoc to serve an immediate purpose, and are lacking in many ways. There is so much room for improvement. PhD studies allow me to work on something I would have worked on anyway, but with full dedication and financial support. There are few better things.

Why did you select UCSB and the Computer Science Department in regards to your research?

I chose to work with Tevfik Bultan and on data model verification because I believe it has the most potential of actually working. Data models are over engineered, with even the best tools out there being overly complicated and crude. The research focus of his lab exactly overlaps with mine, so it was a natural choice for me. The weather helps too. A PhD is not a small commitment, and if nothing else, 5 years living in heaven is 5 years well spent.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Sometimes you end up finding out things that no one else in the world knows. Sometimes you create a solution to a problem that not only no one else solved, but where most people were skeptical about the viability of a solution. Pushing these boundaries is engaging, rewarding, and most of all, fun.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

My research branched off from a collaboration with Jaideep Nijjar, another student from my lab that has since graduated. I closely work with Tevfik Bultan, my advisor, who I consider to be a well-indexed library in human form. I also talk with peers from the Programming Languages lab and the Database Systems lab in order to keep track of related state-of-the-art research.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

The best way to refine ideas is to present them to peers and expect a challenge. So many times I had an idea that was, unknown to me, either tried before or a known dead end. The group-focused research environment at UCSB fosters this to its ultimate. As for my advisor, I don't think I could have ended up with a better one. No offense to other faculty reading this. Not only is he able to lead me to state of the art research on any topic or about any idea I have, but he is also understanding, smart, creative, and beams passion.

Where will your research take you next?

As late in my studies it is, I don't know yet. I love teaching and I love independent research, but I also love writing code, making tools, working closely with the end user. Regardless of which side of the fence I end up on, I will try to stay in touch with the other side. Why can't it be both? :)

Ivan's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

The CS department is very research focused. Given that my passion is to create something big, to make it count, I am certainly at the right place. Not only do I get to work on cutting edge research, but I also get access to top-tier publication venues and even got a few papers published. The visibility this provides is invaluable. The coursework required by my department is minimal. It really serves only to straighten the fundamentals of a student's knowledge, and hardly gets in the way of independent research. Also, PhD students have guaranteed funding, meaning that we can focus on research without doing menial tasks on the side.

Favorite courses

Probably cs263, a course on runtime systems. Virtual machines for languages, memory management that happens underneath, low level stuff like that. Besides my personal interest in the topic, Chandra Krintz is an amazing professor and made that course a joy.

Experience with the graduate exams

To date, I only did my Major Area Exam. MAE at the CS department are about proving to a committee that you are up to date with state of the art research around your chosen field. It takes a lot (a LOT!) of reading papers to learn it all, plus a lot of work and practice to be able to present this knowledge during the exam itself. But I do not consider this to be a chore. If anything, I believe all students should go through it with full devotion and as early as possible. My understanding of the field and productivity as a researcher skyrocketed after preparing for the exam.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and/or Graduate Student Researcher

I was a TA for the first two quarters, then switching to a GSR position that I hold today. Most people have the same story. Most new PhD students start off as TAs. Being a TA gives you an opportunity to work with a potential advisor, and for an advisor to work with a potential GSR. Eventually you get promoted, so to speak, and that is all there is to it. I was the teaching assistant for CS160, an upper division compilers course. As such, I didn't work with too many people, and most of them were interested in the topic at hand, making my job much easier and more pleasurable. I enjoyed it a lot. Seeing that 'aha' moment in a student's eyes is so rewarding.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

It is a constant balancing act. I balance between my work, the gym, biking, spending time with friends, and music. It is hard to do it all. I am certainly busier than I've ever been in my life. On the other hand, this is a problem of deciding what I want to do more at any given moment, as opposed to trying to squeeze a few fun bits in a boring life. It is a good problem to have. Plus, not being stuck with a 9-to-5 schedule is great. You can take a Tuesday off if you want to. I think I will miss that the most when I graduate.

Tell us about your social life as a graduate student and where you lived while at UCSB

Originally I moved into Grad Student Housing, where I spent a year. I lived in various private households since. I prefer it that way, you have more choice in where you want to live, and it is about as expensive. Nowadays I mostly spend time with Santa Barbara locals. I met most of them over various board gaming groups and we see each other a few times a week, over board games or just to chat. Living in Santa Barbara is a dream come true. I did not expect to be as happy as I am. Being able to go on an afternoon bike ride any time of year, sunshine without scorching heat all year long, it is just perfect. Some might expect it gets boring after a while but not me.

What do you do over the summer?

I interned during my first summer, and ever since, I stayed in the lab researching. Santa Barbara over summer is wonderful, the extra time in the lab lets me get more stuff done, and there's a pay incentive too. Why leave?

Advice to prospective graduate students

That's a tough one. Make sure to work on something you wouldn't think about if you hadn't enrolled, it will make research easy. Make sure to be responsible, rational and critical of your work, it will make your research productive. Make sure to take a break sometimes and "smell the roses", it will keep you rested. And, if you come here, make sure to wear sunscreen.

Elham Zamanidoost - Graduate Student in Electrical & Computer Engineering


photo of elham zamanidoost
photo of elham zamanidoost

About Elham:

  • Hometown: Esfahan, Iran
  • B.S. and M.S. Degree: M.S. University of California, Santa Barbara in computer engineering (2013) and B.S. Shahid Beheshti University a.k.a National University of Iran in Electrical Engineering (2007)
  • Degree sought from UCSB and progress: Ph.D. in Computer Engineering, starting forth year
  • Graduate Study Area: Computer Engineering
  • Advisor and Lab: Professor Dmitri "Dima" Strukov / Strukov Research Group
  • Research Interests: Artificial Intelligence, Neural Network, Memristor
  • UCSB Organizations: Member of Iranian Graduate Student Association (IGSA)

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: Great faculty, Friendly and super helpful staff, Building located at the edge of ocean
  • UCSB: Beautiful campus and cultural diversity
  • Santa Barbara: living so close to ocean and mountains encourages outdoor activities and healthy lifestyle

More about Elham and her research

  • Most important publication to date: Alibart, Fabien, Elham Zamanidoost, and Dmitri B. Strukov. "Pattern classification by memristive crossbar circuits using ex situ and in situ training." Nature communications 4 (2013).
  • Dissertation title: "Pattern Classification with Memristive Crossbar Circuits"
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Research (GSR), Teaching Assistantship (TA), Graduate Student Fellowship

Tell us about your research

My research is focused on developing intelligent hardware which can make processing information easier and more accessible. Such intelligent systems resemble human brain in the way that they can learn things and later perform tasks on their own. More specifically in Strukov’s lab we are interested in a special class of hardware implementation of such networks. This hardware is the best candidate among its existing counterparts as it has the potential to reach human brain in density of connections. My work is to study and custom design methods by which we can train these systems.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

When I was in high school I was good in math and physics so I chose to study electrical engineering with focus on electronics in my undergraduate. After graduating I moved to Santa Barbara and had a chance to take some graduate and upper level undergraduate classes at UCSB. This helped me to explore some of the graduate research topics. Also I worked at few research groups such as Strukov’s lab and decided to continue my studies there towards PhD.

Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your research?

My PhD advisor was an important factor in my decision to pick UCSB for my research topic. Prof. Strukov is one of the best researchers in his field. His publications and works are among the most cited and influential literature. Also he has great relationship and connection with other researchers in this area, which is very helpful when it comes to collaboration.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

It is not only cool to try to create a smart machine but also has a great impact on information processing. We are living in the information era and data processing is one of the biggest challenges of technology. Smart machines can reduce this load and result in faster, safer and low power data processing.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

The nature of research in our group is very interdisciplinary. Our group members come from different backgrounds such as computer engineering, electrical engineering and material science and together we are usually working on projects that require knowledge of all such fields. This promotes collaboration within the group. Also some of our projects are joint projects with other universities.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

Graduate studies require a lot of self-motivation and self-derivation. Also research usually involves finding novel solutions for a problem. However, in a research environment such as ECE department, it is easy to collaborate and seek advice from advisors as well as other fellow researchers.

Where will your research take you next?

At this point I am more interested in seeking opportunities in industry after graduation. However later in my career I would like to work in academia. I think it would be great to come back with a new perspective and more experience.

Elham's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

ECE's faculty is the strength of the program. Under their supervision, we have some of the best research groups in our department that conduct cutting edge research.

Favorite course

I have taken several classes since I started my graduate program and they were all great classes however ECE 594BB stands out for me. It is an advanced topic class and taught by my advisor, Professor Dmitri Strukov and was recently offered under the title: “Novel Devices and Circuits for Computing”. As the name implies this class reviews existing technologies and ongoing research in the field of hardware for computing which helped me a great deal in studying my field in greater depth as well as learning more about related research topics.

Experience with the graduate exams

The screening exam requires a good understanding of the basics. You need to prove to five different faculty that you have a solid foundation as well as a good problem solving attitude. Qualifying exam is more of an opportunity to present your research topic and your strategies to solve it. If you have done your part, the Ph.D. committee is there to help you polish your ideas and get you closer to your goal.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and GSR

I have mostly worked as GSR but had the opportunity to be a lab TA once. It was a joyful experience to help students to complete their assignments and at the same time I feel like I learned things from them. Although sometimes it was a demanding task when the project was challenging and there were 8 groups of students who needed help simultaneously!

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

In my experience, graduate school in engineering is more like a career in the field. I spend my weekdays working from morning to evening and usually relax and socialize during weekends. However, as a graduate student you need to know how to manage your time in different situations. Around deadlines and project dues work/life balance is tilted towards work and it is a necessity to meet a deadline.

What is your social life like and where have you lived?

I have a great network of friends in Santa Barbara and UCSB. Sometimes we go outdoors during weekends and enjoy Santa Barbara beaches and mountains doing BBQ or going hiking. Until recently, my husband and I used to live in UCSB family housing. I consider it to be a great housing option for family students given the proximity to the beach and beautiful scenery and also the fact that you are surrounded by your fellow students and scholars and friends. Not to mention that the apartments are subsidized and very well match a student budget.

What did you do over summer break?

Since I have joined the ECE department, I have spent the summers preparing for my exams (screening and qualification) as well as conducting research. Also, I have taken the opportunity to travel in summertime when I am not busy with classes. However summer is a great time for doing an internship in industry and this is what I have in mind for summer 2015.

Wei "Wayne" Tang - Graduate Student, Electrical & Computer Engineering

photo of Wei Tang
photo of wei Tang

About Wei:

  • Hometown: Yiyang, Hunan, China
  • Degrees: M.S. UCSB, 2009; B.S. Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, China, 2007
  • Degree Sought and Progress: last quarter of Ph.D. work
  • Important Awards and Honors: ECE Outstanding Teaching Assistant 2009 and 2013; Dissertation Fellowship, 2013
  • UCSB Student Organizations:  Vice President of the Graduate Student Association 2010; President of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association 2009
  • Professional Memberships:  Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • Graduate Study Area in CE: Electronic Design Automation, System Level Design, Computer Architecture
  • Group / Advisor: Professor Forrest Brewer
  • Hobbies and Interests: Photography, basketball, skiing, soccer, travel

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: Great people and research environment
  • UCSB: Culture and diversity plus it has a fantastic ocean view
  • Santa Barbara: Small with so many things to explore and trying different cafes in downtown is a great experience

Wei and Research

  • Important conferences attended: Electronic System Level Synthesis Conference; Conference on Design and Architectures for Signal and Image Processing. I presented talks at both conferences.
  • Most important publication to date: "A Hierarchical Ant-Colony Heuristic for Architecture Synthesis for On-Chip Communication," 2013 DASIP Conference
  • Dissertation title: Optimization of System Level Design
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Researcher, Teaching Assistantship, Dissertation Fellowship — Spring 2013

More about Wei and his research

Tell us about your research

My current research focuses on high level abstractions and methods. In digital system design, high level abstractions and methods become more and more a necessity due to the increasing system complexity. They are crucial to design productivity and enable designers to keep up with the trend of industry. However, current high level methods have a hard time balancing between high quality and low algorithm complexity. Current state-of-the-art methods have at least cubic complexity which is not acceptable for large designs. In my research, we propose hierarchy-based stochastic algorithms which are scalable and can generate high quality designs. Compared to the state-of-art algorithms, ours can generate better results while having a complexity which is one magnitude lower.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

When I was an undergraduate, I always wanted to build some real working systems. I had a lot fun experiences using single-chip microprocessor and wanted to look more into this field. When I got to UCSB, I did not hesitate to join the computer engineering group because I knew I could learn what I wanted to learn. After exposing myself to different research fields, I found that the research opportunity that Professor Forrest Brewer offered was a perfect match for me. I was attracted not only to the projects, but also Forrest's enthusiasm, passion and wisdom. Also, the open and free research environment of his lab made me believe even more that this was the lab I had been looking for.

Why did you select UCSB and the Electrical and Computer Engineernig Department in regards to your research?

UCSB's ECE department has a great reputation in the world. There are a few professors doing great research in Computer Engineering. The job market for UCSB students is great. One can choose to work in big/small companies or become faculties in prestigious schools. Finally, it is the unmatchable ocean view that made me push the button.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Research is all about finding the right problems, solving them using the right approaches and presenting them in a clear way. It is not easy to get. You need to be smart, creative and persistent. However, once you get there, oh man, life can never be better.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

Ph.D. students have no difficulty finding new ideas. The problem is about which ideas are the right ones. We don't have enough time and energy to try them all. This is where your advisor comes to play. My advisor can provide insights on these problems and ideas and guard me in the right direction. However, no matter how good and knowable your advisor is, there is always something that you need to decide yourself. You need to come up with new ideas, choose the right one from a smaller pool of them and find out the right way to solve them. This is how you become a real Ph.D.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

Choosing an advisor and a research group is crucial to a Ph.D. student. I really think this should draw all Ph.D. students' attention. Ph.D. is a long time commitment, five years on average. During this period, you need to work with your advisor and your lab mates a lot, if not every day. The way they think and behave will unconsciously affect you. Finding a great advisor is as important as finding a great project. A great advisor is an advisor whose research attracts you and whose thinking and working styles match yours. My lab has always been a lab which is open to new ideas, new challenges and new people. The lab is always full of new exciting ideas both from our advisor and students.

Where will your research take you next?

After graduation, I would like to work in industry. For engineers, the ultimate goal is to solve practical problems. In my field, I believe most of the valuable and interesting problems come from industry. It's time show my "weapons".

Wei's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

I believe the faculty and staff are the strengths of the department. Professors love what they are doing and are always there to teach, help and encourage students. I sincerely believe getting the job done is not their primary goal. Their goal is to get things done to the best benefits of students. Staff are always there to help, too.

Favorite courses

It is hard to select one favorite course because I have had so many fun classes. Introduction to Design Automation(ECE256A) was one of them. I took this class the first quarter I was at UCSB. Back then, my English was extremely bad. I could not follow professors in classes and was afraid to ask questions. The consequence was that I needed to spend at least twice as much time as other students, if not more. However, the idea of using mathematical algorithms to solve practical problems kept motivating me, and the final project was a lot fun.

Experience with the graduate exams

For the screening exam, join a study group. If there is not one, establish one. A study group is so great and brings so much efficiency and fun to your study. For qualifying exam, presentation is about everything. Also, make sure you can describe your research clearly within 40 minutes.

Describe your experience as a Graduate Student Researcher and/or Teaching Assistant (TA)

I've been a GSR and a TA several times. A GSR has to be highly self-motivated, creative and hard working. Besides, GSRs need to train themselves with presentation skills. No matter how good your research is, its value will be jeopardized if you don't know how to present it. I TAed Digital Design Principles (ECE152A) and Hardware / Software Interface (ECE153A/253). In both classes, I led lab sections. In ECE153A/253, I held discussion sections too. I am an international student. English is my short slab compared to native speakers. However, one can always work out something else to compensate their disadvantages. Patience coupled with my teaching philosophy is my secret. A TA is a teaching assistant — we are there to assist with teaching. Grading homework and leading labs are basic work. So, why are we doing this? We are doing this not to fulfill our TA 50% duty but to make sure students understand class materials. If they are not, help them.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

The most important thing about graduate school is study. The knowledge you require from school and the way you think. You need those in order to be competitive in the job market. However, study is not everything. Socialization is important too. I found that planning ahead helps a lot with balancing between school and work. Graduate students all have busy lives. It's quite often that when you have time, others might not. Planning ahead can minimize this conflict.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

I live in Goleta because it is close to school. From Monday to Friday, I spend most of my time in school. However, I will have casual lunch or dinner with my friends during work days. In the weekend, I will hang out with my friends, holding parties, potluck, shopping or karaoke in LA. If weather permits, we sometimes go hiking. Seven Falls and Red Rock are favorite hiking trails.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Choose your favorite research group, develop some ocean related hobbies, join some clubs. Most important, enjoy life!!!!

Navraj Chohan - Graduate Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering

photo of Raj Chohan
photo of Raj Chohan at the whiteboard

About Raj:

  • Hometown: Granada Hill, CA
  • Degrees: B.S. ('05) and M.S. ('08) in ECE from UCSB
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: final quarter of Ph.D. in ECE
  • Important Awards and Honors: Winner of the UCSB Technology Management's (TMP) New Venture Competition (NVC) for AppScale, a program that lets developers run a version of Google's App Engine on their own computers.
  • Graduate Study Area: Distributed Systems and Cloud Computing
  • Group / Advisor: RaceLabProfessor Chandra Krintz
  • Research Interests: Cloud Computing, Platform-as-a-Service, NoSQL datastores, Virtualization, Sensor Networks
  • Work Experience: Applied Signal Technologies (now Raytheon), IBM research TJ Watson, and Lawrence Livermore Nation Labs
  • Hobbies: business development, startups, basketball, weight lifting, biking, running, hiking

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: Our building is located right next to the beach. My office has an awesome ocean side view! Also, the department does tons of talks from distinguished speakers who are always enlightening.
  • UCSB: The recreation center is amazing. It has everything you could possibly want — basketball, racquetball, rock climbing, etc.
  • Santa Barbara: We don't talk about the weather because it's always nice. Also, you have the ocean and mountains within a small distance — great for people who love to surf and hike.

More about Raj and his research

  • Important conferences attended: presented at USENIX HotCloud (2010 and 2012), USENIX WebApps (2012), IEEE Cloud (2010 and 2011).
  • Publication List - Navraj Chohan on Google Scholar
  • Most important publication to date: "Hybrid Cloud Support for Large Scale Analytics and Web"
  • Dissertation title: "Data and Application Management in an Open Cloud Platform"
  • Types of financial assistance received: Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)

In his own words — Freshman to M.S. student to Ph.D. student at UCSB:

I remember my first year as a freshman living at Francisco Torres (now known as Santa Catalina). I met a ton of friends who I still talk to regularly to this day. The engineering program is no walk in the park. It's long hours and a challenging curriculum, but at the end you are ready for industry, or to go forth in academia. Its well worth it and I highly recommend it. My senior year, I took the Computer Science Capstone Project Course (CMPSC 189A/B). I was able to work with a team to create a fully functional website that allowed users to stored their ingredients you owned and then be able to query the system on what recipes you could cook. It was a fun project and quite the learning experience in terms of working within a team and using new technologies.

After my BS, I went and worked in industry for a year at a defense company up in the bay area. I missed UCSB and the Santa Barbara area and came back as a graduate student for my Masters degree. I enjoyed research and liked all the freedom to explore new challenges. I first started work in sensor networks, which has the challenges of distributed systems and embedded systems. I moved on from that to cloud computing and developing the first open source platform-as-a-service called AppScale. With the support and help of my advisor, colleagues, family, and friends, my hard work finally paid off and I received my PhD in December of 2012.

Tell us about your research

My research first started in the field of sensor networks, looking at routing protocols and simulation tools. I then transitioned to an up-and-coming field in cloud computing and data analytics, which has seen tremendous growth in the past years. My thesis focuses on platform-as-a-service (PaaS), where our lab has created the first open source PaaS for the research community, called AppScale. AppScale is able to run Google App Engine applications, and do so with little to no modification to them.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

I first entered the field of sensor networks because of my interest in distributed computing in a very challenging setting. I then transitioned to data management of sensor data and soon found myself in a new setting of distributed computing: cloud computing. As our user community and popularity grew I found myself fully immerse in new and cutting edge technologies at the time such as Hadoop, HBase, and Cassandra — technologies which AppScale builds upon.

Why did you select UCSB and the Computer Science Department in regards to your research?

I did my undergraduate career in UC Santa Barbara, and I knew of its strong program and excellent faculty. My advisor, Chandra Krintz, took me under her wing as an undergrad, and now as I'm graduating, we've taken to commercializing our AppScale effort.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

The most rewarding aspect of my research is developing and providing a software package that is used globally everyday. AppScale has seen huge uptake throughout the years with well over 10,000 downloads of our software, with a large open source user community.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

Our lab does much collaboration with other research labs that can use the power of cloud computing to make their research more productive. One of our collaborators uses AppScale to automatically deploy simulations to the cloud without having to worry about the infrastructure or deployment strategy. Moreover, we have done great internships throughout the years that have lead to publications with well-known organizations such as IBM Research and JPL. With the popularity of AppScale we see many students around the globe leveraging AppScale to advance their own research agendas.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

I've lucked out with a great advisor in Chandra. She's a great mentor and is excellent in inspiring her students to come up with and execute on great research. When I first came on board I worked with some senior lab graduate students who showed me the ropes. We worked together on papers which resulted in my earlier publications. I was even able to travel to places such as Australia for the conferences where the work was presented. My advise to any incoming students is to pick your advisor carefully to make sure you'll be comfortable with them for the years to come.

Where will your research take you next?

AppScale is now a full-fledged company based out of Santa Barbara and located on State Street. We aim to be the next big company to come out of UCSB since Eucalyptus which has done very well in the enterprise.

Raj's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

Great faculty. These folks are some of the best in the world at what they do. They are very open to meeting with students, and great for getting inspiration on new ideas and research directions.

Favorite courses

152B hardware/software interfaces because learning about the links between hardware and software appeals to me greatly. How code actually goes and shows up in physical form was really interesting.

Experience with the graduate exams

The screening exam was tough since I had to interview with five different professors. I'm currently preparing for my defense that is the culmination of several years of work.

Describe your experience as a GSR?

Being a Graduate Student Researcher has been great. I've been able to explore and learn about new fields. Some activities involve talking with other students and creating new ideas. Generally, you'll do some background research on the topic of interest and find open research questions in your given field. My work is in systems, and thus I would write a working prototype which solved some particular problem. The main goal would be to publish the work at a workshop, conference, or journal.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

Balance has always been important for me. I make sure I take care of my health first and foremost. UCSB has a great recreational facility where I go and play basketball and lift weights. I always make sure to go, as it can be too easy to just get caught up in working nonstop. Santa Barbara has a great nightlife which can be found on State Street which is a great place to go and unwind. It helps to have a supportive and loving family.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

I live in Family Housing that is nice, inexpensive, and quiet. Other students in the area are very friendly and there are plenty of events held to bring the community together. They have a basketball court which I occasionally go to shoot around. They also have a cool gardening area if you want to work on that green thumb.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Enjoy your time in Santa Barbara. You're in paradise.

Samantha Alt - Graduate Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering

photo of Samantha Alt
photo of Samantha Alt in front of a sculpture on campus

About Samantha:

  • Hometown: Palmdale, CA
  • B.S. and M.S. Degrees: B.S. and M.S. Computer Engineering from UCSB
  • Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: Ph.D. Computer Engineering, third year with probably two more years till graduation
  • Important Awards and Honors: Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) Masters Scholarship and SRC Education Alliance (SRCEA) / Intel Fellowship
  • Graduate Study Area: Computer Engineering
  • Group / Advisor: Malgorzata Marek-Sadowska (VLSI CAD Lab) and Li-C. Wang (Microprocessor Test and Validation Lab)
  • Research Interests: machine learning, test, verification, modeling
  • Professional Memberships: Society of Women Engineers and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Hobbies: Snowboarding, swimming, going to the beach

Favorite things about

  • ECE department: professors and the classes
  • UCSB: campus and the people
  • Santa Barbara: weather and the zoo

More about Samantha and her research

  • Important Conferences attended: Techcon (Semiconductor Research Corporation)
  • Most important publication to date: Analog Behavioral Modeling For System-Level Verification
  • Dissertation title: Analog Behavioral Modeling Using Machine Learning Techniques
  • Types of financial assistance received: SRC Education Alliance (SRCEA)

In her own words — Freshman to M.S. student to Ph.D. student at UCSB

My undergrad years as a Computer Engineering Program student at UCSB were awesome! There was a good mix of work and social life (though maybe not as much as other majors). The last year of undergrad studies was the best since the classes were so interesting. The Computer Engineering Senior Capstone Project (189A/B) was an experience that I will never forget... The process of our group taking an idea from scratch to a finished product was a lot of fun.

After receiving my undergraduate degree from UCSB, I decided to continue my education and get a M.S. degree. I chose to stay at UCSB over other schools because of the relationships I made with some of the UCSB professors. I wanted to continue to work with them and their research aligned with what I wanted to pursue. It was not my original intention to continue onto my Ph.D. but I enjoyed research so much that I decided to continue.

Tell us about your research

Analog components in system on chip designs (SoC) have proven to be very difficult to test within the digital design verification flow. These components are simulated and verified using SPICE, which can be time consuming for complex components. We propose a methodology for building System Verilog behavioral models for analog and mixed signal circuits directly from the circuit netlist. We show that it is possible to build models of complex non-linear circuits that can be used within a digital simulation environment for system level verification. These models capture the behaviors for different input stimuli and varying parameters, allowing system-level simulation of circuits composed of digital and analog blocks. In this methodology, a circuit description is converted into a directed acyclic graph that captures relationships among the sub-circuits of the netlist. Each node within the graph is modeled using ?-SVR (Support Vector Regression) and written as a System Verilog module. These modules can be used for system level simulation with and without injected errors as well as for sensitivity analysis.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

My research ended up changing three times since I started. Originally I worked in fault diagnosis of large scale digital designs, then moved to post silicon test program validation using pre-silicon design models, and finally changed to analog behavioral modeling using machine learning algorithms. I ended up in my present research area through numerous talks with industry contacts about how my expertise can be applied to applications that could directly benefit them.

Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your research?

I stayed at UCSB to continue my education because of the professors and the environment. I have built great relationships that I wanted to continue to develop, plus you can't beat the view of the beach and the mountains.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Solving relevant problems facing the industry today. Being able to take the research that is done at school and implement it within a company's flow is very rewarding.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

Our project collaborates with an industry mentor at Intel who provides industry related feedback to proposed projects and ideas. We also collaborate with UCSB ECE Professor Luke Theogarajan's group who provide us with analog netlists and we perform our experiments on them.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor

Working in a group environment makes it easier to share ideas and solutions which ends up taking some of the stress out of the work. It has been a real pleasure working with my advisors especially since they provide me with excellent direction and advice while giving me the freedom to explore paths on my own.

Where will your research take you next?

I plan on exploring various aspects to behavioral modeling including design space exploration and scaling. I plan on entering industry but not necessarily in the same area as my research.

Samantha's thoughts on the academics at UCSB

Strengths of the graduate program

In two words — the professors.

Favorite courses

My favorite undergraduate courses were 189A/B (know as the Senior Capstone project) and Digital Design with VHDL and Synthesis (ECE 156A) and Computer-Aided Design of VLSI Circuits (ECE 156B) which gave me the direction I wanted to take for my higher level education. As for graduate courses, VLSI Design Validation (ECE 255) taught by Professor Li-C Wang and Introduction to Design Automation (ECE 256) taught by Professor Margaret Marek-Sadowska because the content and the projects were interesting and both were related to my field of study.

Experience with the graduate exams

The most memorable exam I have taken was the screening exam. I spent months studying for it which ended up paying off in the end. It was a tough and stressful test.

Describe your experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA)

I was a TA for Fundamentals of Logic Design (ECE 15A); Sensor and Peripheral Interface Design (ECE 153B); Digital Design with VHDL and Synthesis (ECE 156A); and Senior Computer Systems"Capstone" Project (ECE 189B) where I taught sections, provided assistance in labs, and graded homework and reports. Aside from the grading, being able to help the undergrads get through their tough classes was very rewarding. Helping them fine-tune their Capstone projects and sharing my experiences and mistakes hopefully made the process a bit smoother.

Life as a graduate student

Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life

It is not too much different than undergraduate student life. The main difference is that you are surrounded by more like- minded and goal oriented people. As far as balance goes, I've had to learn to become a good planner and not save things for the last minute.

Where have you lived while at UCSB?

I lived in various places in SB (Isla Vista also known as IV, Goleta, Downtown). Living in IV is great as an undergraduate and living downtown was a better fit once I became a graduate student.

What did you do over Summer break?

I worked at Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon this past summer. I worked in the analog CAD department, which is closely related to my research. It was a great experience to learn how things are done in industry and if I am not close to graduating next summer I plan on going back.

Advice to prospective graduate students

Try to experience everything Santa Barbara and UCSB has to offer, you may never get the opportunity to live here again!


Jonathan Valamehr - Graduate Student, Electrical & Computer Engineering

portrait of Jonny Valamehr
photo of Jonny Valamehr

About Jonny:

  • Hometown: Granada Hills, CA
  • Study Area: Computer Architecture
  • Degree Sought and Progress: PhD, 5th year
  • Previous Degrees: BS and MS, both from UCSB (I can’t get enough of this place!)

  • Important Awards and Honors: Hearst Foundation Scholarship 2007, URCA Research Grant 2007
  • Professional Memberships: Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) and Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • Types of Financial Aid Received: 3 TAships and many quarters of GSR funding. I have been fortunate enough to have had funding throughout my grad school career
  • Hobbies / Activities / Interests: Magic (not The Gathering), basketball, reading (non-fiction), psychology
  • Interesting aside about Jonny: I used to produce hip hop music

Jonny's Research:

  • Advisor / Group: I am in the Architecture lab (Archlab) and I work with Tim Sherwood
  • Research Interests: Computer architecture, Security and Cryptography, High-performance computing, Trusted computing
  • Important Conferences Attended: I presented a paper at ACSAC 2010 and have attended several of the big architecture conferences such as ISCA and ASPLOS
  • Dissertation Topic: Novel Methods of Augmenting High Performance Processors with Security Hardware
  • Title of Most Important Publication to Date: "Hardware Assistance for Trustworthy Systems through 3-D Integration" (ACSAC 2010)
  • UCSB Personal Website: Jonathan Valamehr

Tell us about your research: As modern high performance microprocessors increase in complexity, the way multiple programs of varying levels of trust interact with each other on a system can oftentimes become problematic. Information that one program may intend to keep secret may be read by a malicious program. This is no good! My research cuts across a few domains and attempts to leverage the benefits of hardware solutions to mitigate pervasive security challenges. My recent work applies emerging technologies in computer architecture to solve security vulnerabilities that affect microprocessors today. More details can be found in our ACSAC 2010 paper, where we are the first to propose using 3D die stacking to augment the capabilities of commodity processors to add security-related functionality.

How did you get into your area of research?: In high school, I was obsessed with building computers (before I had any idea how they worked) and always wanted to build a machine with the newest, fastest processor to crush my neighbors in the latest video games. Then in my junior year, I thoroughly enjoyed my Computer Architecture class (ECE 154) and after speaking with the instructor, he asked me if I wanted to do undergrad research. After doing that for a quarter, I was hooked. Through the project I was working on, I eventually met Tim and joined his lab.

Why you selected your department and UCSB in regards to your research area? One of the main reasons I chose ECE @ UCSB is because of the diversity in research and the freedom one has in choosing their projects here. While I started my graduate career working on architecture problems, I later became interested in security and cryptography as well. Now I am involved on several projects in these fields and get to work with other professors (not just my advisor) who are experts in them. There are a lot of opportunities to dive deep into one subject, or work on a breadth of topics. The sky is the limit here.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and working with an advisor: Working with an advisor is an amazing experience because you have an expert to help you through the whole process of conducting novel research and shine light on things that would take you much more time (if ever) to do on your own. It is phenomenal. You get training and guidance from a master in the field. Think of it like “The Karate Kid”, without the fence painting.

What do you find particularly rewarding about your research?: Research is all about defining a problem and using all of your training towards solving it and its unique set of challenges. What I find especially rewarding is the ability to attack a problem that doesn’t have a solution so far – there is no answer key in this business. I get to be creative and innovate on the cutting edge of technology. How many people can say that?

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere. Tell us about your collaborations: The collaborative nature at UCSB is amazing. One example of this — I am able to have Tim as my advisor, even though he is officially in the CS department and I am in the ECE department. Working with the right people on the right projects makes me happy and productive. UCSB has also allowed me to meet many researchers and work with many people outside of my group. I have collaborated on many of my lab members’ projects. I also work with several professors in ECE and CS, as well as professors at UCSD and NPS and I have worked with several members from Microsoft Research. I get to hear lots of opinions on research directions as well as leverage the expertise of many others.

What do you plan to do this Summer?: In 2010, I interned in the Architecture team at Intel Oregon. I worked on developing new features for the Atom line of processors. I was recruited by Intel because of my strong resume, which included architecture work at UCSB. In 2011, I interned at Microsoft Research working on hardware security problems. My advisor had previously worked at MSR and knew of an internship opportunity there, so he recommended me. This coming summer, I will be going back to Intel for another internship with the Architecture team.

Where will your research take you next?: I have interned at Intel and Microsoft Research, and I really enjoyed my time at both companies doing industry research. As much as I want to stay in academia forever and ever, I plan on joining a company and applying my expertise to shape the processors of tomorrow.

Jonny and Academics:

  • What do you think are the strengths of the Electrical & Computer Engineering graduate program?: The main strength of the department is its faculty and staff support. You will get astounding work done working with coveted professors and have many people there to help you along the way with anything you need.
  • Favorite Course: My favorite course at UCSB so far has been the Senior Capstone project class (ECE 189) with Steve Butner. I really enjoyed this class because we had the freedom to come up with any project we thought would be useful in everyday life and received money to build it from the ground up. Seeing a project from idea to blueprint to prototype to final product was very rewarding, eye-opening and fun.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA) experience: I have been a TA three times for introductory Computer Architecture courses and I love it. I have organized and taught both lab sessions and discussion sections. TA’ing is a great opportunity to relay the information you know about something and help students learn in a very low pressure situation. I think teaching is about finding the best way to get a student to intuitively understand a subject, rather than getting a superficial understanding in that moment. You want the lesson to stick for a long time, not disappear after the final exam.
  • Share your experience about the PhD exams: I have taken the screening exam, and I am preparing for the qualifying exam. The screening exam was a lot of hard work, but it made me refresh my knowledge of Computer Engineering and allowed me to start my graduate studies with a solid foundation in all 5 subject areas I chose. Not only was the end goal of passing it completed, but the actual process of studying for it gave me confidence to start my graduate career on the right foot.

Some Favorites Things About Being at UCSB:

  • UCSB: The strong work/life balance at UCSB is unparalleled. I never feel like I am overwhelmed by work and never feel like my day stops when I leave campus.
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering Department: The department really feels like a family. I know almost everyone on a first name basis, and they are always willing to have a chat or help if you need something. Also, our building is a 60-second stroll from the beach, so taking a break during work and walking to the ocean is very easy.
  • Santa Barbara: The best part of Santa Barbara is the multitude of activities and events such as concerts, hiking trips, and barbecues. You will never be bored! There is always something to do and fun company to go along.

Graduate Student & Social Life and Living Situation:

  • Graduate Student Life: Quality of life as a grad student is astounding. I am able to do everything my heart desires. Rather than strive for a work/life balance, I like to strive towards having a work/life separation. This has really helped me in doing everything I want to do; I’m able to hang out with friends, go visit family, exercise and spend time on my hobbies without worrying about my work. At the same time, this allows me to completely focus on my research while I am in my lab and work efficiently.
  • What About Life in Santa Barbara?: I live in the San Clemente graduate apartments and I really enjoy it there. There are events thrown weekly such as bagel hours, barbecues, and social mixers, so it’s very easy to meet a lot of other grad students and make friends. I also enjoy the nightlife in Downtown Santa Barbara and venture there every so often with my pals and have a blast. Living in Santa Barbara is awesome; it’s why I’ve been here for 9 years!

Advice to prospective graduate students: Enjoy your time here and plan out all of the things you want to do, because time flies in Santa Barbara. For the academic side of things, make it a point to talk to other students and any faculty whose work you are interested in, because you never know what cool project you could end up working on with them.

Kunal Arya - Graduate Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering

portrait of Kunal Ayra
photo of Kunal Ayra

About Kunal:

  • Hometown: Anaheim, CA
  • Study Area: System-level Synthesis
  • Degree Sought and Progress: M.S. / Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering (in 5th year of program)
  • Previous Degrees: B.S., Computer Engineering, UC Santa Cruz

  • Activities and Interests: playing music, biking, sketching
  • Professional Memberships: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • Interesting aside about Kunal: I've been taking piano classes from the music department, which has been a great way to exercise different parts of my brain

Kunal's Research:

  • Advisor / Group: Professor Forrest Brewer
  • Research Interests: computer architecture, automated embedded system design, formal verification
  • Dissertation Title: "Mixed Hardware-Software Synthesis"

Tell us about your research: the research we do is a focused attempt at system-level synthesis. For applications of relatively manageable scale, we are creating tools that will allow designers to make large-scale, coarse-grained architectural decisions early on. By allowing them to reach working designs quickly, they can target optimizations where it really matters. If the optimization criteria is e.g. average energy dissipation against some average latency, it isn't obvious what sorts of choices about memory protocols, hardware/software partitioning, and architectural tricks (forwarding, speculation) will make the biggest impact on the end result. Our tools will bear the burden of cumbersome tasks (such as evaluating different memory interaction protocols) to make complex digital design more sensible and metric-driven, rather than heuristic and purely experience based.

How did you get into your area of research?: While I was doing research as an undergrad, I saw that newer, more powerful FPGA platforms had tremendous potential -- however, there was no easy way to realize complex designs on them, especially not for designers that don't have strong computer engineering fundamentals. I was interested in seeing what was possible. When I came to UCSB, I had no background in synthesis, so I didn't realize the sheer scale of the problem. It wasn't until after a few meetings with my advisor that I started to grasp just how difficult the problem really was. Despite that, he was enthusiastic and seemed willing to try a few things, so long as we trimmed the problem down to something much more realistic. In the end, I have a project which looks very promising, and we hope to have some pretty exciting results when we're done.

Why you selected your department and UCSB in regards to your research area? A few of the professors in ECE had strong ties to the synthesis community (specifically with programmable logic), so it seemed like a good fit. Also, the size of the department was a big factor: it is just the right medium between a large university with the resources to support pretty advanced research versus a smaller, accessible faculty that makes the experience more personal.

What do you find particularly rewarding about your research?: There is a sense of pride when everything comes together and you have results that you can brag about. So far, I have enjoyed the freedom I've had in shaping where this work is headed, largely due to a good working relationship with my advisor (he is always open to new ideas).

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and working with an advisor: The great thing about working with an advisor is that you essentially get to piggyback on their experience. Left to my own devices, I would take the first, most obvious route that would likely go nowhere. On the other hand, when someone is there to give me insight into what kinds of problems I will face based on what I think are benign decisions, I find that I end up getting to the heart of the matter quickly. Eventually, the experience he brings (and his seemingly endless ability to see potential in a new idea) and the point-of-view I bring (from e.g. undergrad research) meet at our current research. As far as working in a group, I really enjoy the lab I work in because it's a great place to bound ideas off of other people. We're often engaged in some deep discussion about whatever new fascinating technologies have come out. I've noticed that people at UCSB share a certain enthusiasm about learning and a genuine intellectual curiosity. More importantly, they are willing to share what they know and provide input. I can always reliably get feedback from my labmates that makes me think about aspects of the problem which I otherwise wouldn't have considered.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere. Do you collaborate with others?: Getting feedback from other research groups is helpful for two primary reasons. First, it gives us a fresh perspective from a person who has not sat through our meetings. A clean-slate description of the problem can often reveal potential drawbacks in the overall goals (e.g. leading us to ask, "is this really the right way to solve the fundamental problem?"). Second, their own experiences can guide where we target our work. If we want to solve real, on-the-ground problems, then we need to keep in mind which problems are actually important, thereby keeping the research relevant, applicable, and interesting.

What did you do this past Summer?: I spent the summer finally making progress on my research. I also helped out as much as I could with the undergrads who were doing summer research in the lab; it's a welcome change of pace, and let's me practice teaching.

Where will your research take you next?: I will likely work in industry for a while, and maybe consider commercial options for my research if the opportunity presents itself. Academia is certainly an option down the line.

Kunal and Academics:

  • What do you think are the strengths of the ECE graduate program?: For classes, generally there are resources if you're struggling with the course. The professors and TAs alike have reasonable office hours, and are receptive to questions via e.g. email. Additionally, the other grad students are friendly and helpful, and are usually willing to get together in study groups -- there isn't a sense of cut-throat, hostile competition, and in the end that means the student body as a whole does better academically. On the research front, there is a tremendous number of resources from the library, department, and faculty -- it's amazing how often it has helped me to speak to professors from other departments. Viewpoints from experts in those fields helps us think about the problem differently than we would otherwise.
  • Favorite Course: It's difficult to choose one, so I'll mention a few -- Professor Sherwood's architecture course offered through the CS department showed me how to view the problem abstractly, while Professor Melliar-Smith's equivalent ECE architecture course showed me the nitty-gritty details. The two courses coupled well, and made it clear how real CPU designs are realized from abstract levels down to the gate-level. Professor Richard Wolski's Operating Systems course was also fantastic -- similarly to the architecture courses, it was a generalization of what was covered in undergrad courses.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA) experience: I TA'ed a junior-level digital design course, and while I did spend quite a bit of time in the lab (especially near tests), it was an incredibly rewarding experience. It's also a great way to review material from undergrad -- it made that part of the screening exam a breeze. Moreover, learning to effectively communicate complex topics to someone who has never seen them turns out to be surprisingly useful for publishing. The undergraduates give you immediate feedback on what is or what is not clear, a luxury that you don't often get from academic reviewers.
  • Share your experience about the PhD exams: The screening exam can be a source of stress, but it helps to form a study group with like-minded students that you know you are compatible with. Preparation is key.

Why Electrical and Computer Engineering and UCSB?: I chose UCSB's ECE department in part because I was impressed with how organized and well-run it is. During the first campus visit, the faculty, staff, and students were approachable and willing to help out however they could. When I met with a few professors to discuss possible research, they were open to the prospect of doing research that was more in line with my interests.

Some Favorites Things About Being at UCSB:

  • UCSB: It has a small-department feel with large-university resources -- so far, I've found the professors to be accessible, helpful, and genuinely concerned about students' well being. On the administrative side, the department is run like a well-oiled machine.
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering Department: Aside from the friendly and helpful staff, the accessibility of professors. Also, the Arts & Lectures group brings big-name lecturers and performers to campus, and tickets for students are subsidized.
  • Santa Barbara: The geography, bike paths everywhere, access to local farmers, perks of a large city (concerts, symphony, plays) without any of the drawbacks.

Graduate Student & Social Life and Living Situation:

  • Graduate Student Life: The key to staying sane is knowing your limits, and the easiest way to prevent getting burned out is making time for something you enjoy outside of class and research. Santa Barbara really has a lot to offer: athletics (from biking, running, to playing basketball, tennis, or soccer in a co-ed team), music (classes offered through the music department, social bands, choirs, quartets), dance (everything from ballroom to salsa to line dancing -- you can literally attend a social dancing lesson every day of the week), an active art scene (the first Thursdays of each month, they have a wine and art tour downtown), open mics, poetry readings, or just simple beach BBQs. Typically, you can incorporate your social life into what you enjoy doing, and when you need a break from the area, there's always the option of a short road trip down to LA with some friends. For people without cars, there's an affordable car sharing program through the university.
  • What About Life in Santa Barbara?: I live in Ellwood, intentionally away from campus to create a clear distinction between campus and home, and to force myself to bike everyday. It's a beautiful bike ride, and works wonders for stress. It was probably the best decision I made here. My social life is as active as I want it to be -- between salsa dancing and having friends a short bike ride away for a board game night, I've rarely felt like I was missing out.

Advice to prospective graduate students: Santa Barbara is an interesting place, because it has much more to offer than it seems. While most people will initially focus on the beach, the weather, and the geography (rightfully so), this only begins to describe what the city has to offer. It is an incredibly diverse place -- academically and otherwise -- coupled with a well-run university.

Peter Lisherness - Graduate Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering

photo of Peter Lisherness at whiteboard in the lab
photo of Peter in the Electronic Design Lab

About Peter:

  • Hometown: Louisville, KY
  • Study Area: Electronic Design Automation
  • Degree Sought and Progress: Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering (in 4th year of program)
  • Previous Degrees: B.S. and M.S. in EE and MBA from U. of Louisville

  • Activities and Interests: skiing, hiking, cooking, crossword puzzles
  • Professional Memberships: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society

Peter's Research:

  • Advisor / Group: Tim Cheng / SoC Design and Test Lab
  • Research Interests: verification, validation, test, coverage metrics, reliability
  • Dissertation Title: "Validation Coverage Metrics and their Applications"
  • Title of Most Important Publication to Date: Peter Lisherness and Kwang-Ting (Tim) Cheng. 2010. SCEMIT: A SystemC Error and Mutation Injection Tool. In Proceedings of the 47th Design Automation Conference (DAC '10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 228-233.
  • Important Awards & Honors: 2008-09 Outstanding Computer Engineering Teaching Assistant
  • Important Conferences Attended: Design Automation Conference (DAC) - paper; IEEE International High Level Design Validation and Test Workshop (HLDVT) - paper; International Test Conference (ITC); and IEEE VLSI Test Symposium (VTS)
  • Financial Assistance Received: Teaching Assistantship (TA) and Graduate Student Researcher (GSR)
  • Website: https://sites.google.com/site/peterl/

Tell us about your research: My work currently focuses on verification and validation coverage metrics for large-scale circuits. These functional test tasks can be somewhat challenging: it is often much easier to design a circuit than it is to show that you designed the right circuit. Coverage metrics are a way of measuring our thoroughness in testing and exposing aspects of the design that have not been given sufficient attention.

How did you get into your area of research?: I’ve been writing software since I was a kid and doing it as a job since I was 13. When I entered college I tried to mix things up by pursuing electrical engineering instead of computer science. I guess that plan backfired; I still write software, although the things I’m writing rely just as much on my electrical engineering education.

What do you find particularly rewarding about your research?: As a programmer, design automation is great because it has a lot of scalability issues. I’ve always loved algorithms and optimization, and turning a week-long experiment into a day- or hour-long one with a couple clever tweaks is extremely gratifying. Every time I run an experiment to answer some question I have, it always leads to another question. It is a constant stream of puzzles, an endless journey. It keeps my mind occupied and always gives me something new and exciting to work on.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and working with an advisor: My group members are a great support network. They help shoot down foolish ideas, strengthen good ones, and are good friends as well. My advisor, Professor Tim Cheng, is great to work with. His experience is invaluable in guiding my research toward something useful and keeping me focused.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere. Do you collaborate with others?: While the core of my work does not involve intense collaboration (e.g. daily interaction or shared source code), working with others is still a big part of it. In addition to weekly group meetings, my labmates and I will frequently bounce ideas off of each other, exchange papers for editing, and practice presentations. I also interact with industry a lot, which is pretty common in the CE program. First, there are grant reviews, where we present our latest research directly to the companies that sponsor us. I have also done two internships with Intel (totaling 10 months), which provided invaluable experience and perspective for my research. My supervisor from Intel is also on my thesis committee and a mentor on my grant, so he and I communicate regularly to make sure the work is proceeding in a meaningful direction. Finally, I meet with both industry and other universities at conferences. One benefit to being in California is the proximity of most top conferences, which tend to be held within driving distance. Even if I don’t have a paper, I will sometimes go for a workshop or to help as a volunteer. You meet many students from other universities at these events, people who will be your future colleagues.

What did you do this past Summer?: I spent this last summer on internship at Intel in Austin, TX. It was a great experience, but I was glad to come back home to Santa Barbara.

Where will your research take you next?: Immediately after graduating I plan to take a job in industry. With any luck, I’ll find a position that lets me publish enough to remain academically relevant so that my future options are kept open. Eventually I would like to teach, even if only part-time as an adjunct professor.

Peter and Academics:

  • What do you think are the strengths of the ECE graduate program?: The graduate courses are very in-depth: they really show both the history of as well as the latest developments in their respective topics. Standards are high and it takes a lot of hard work to graduate, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Favorite Course: Although I didn’t take it for credit, I sat in on and thoroughly enjoyed the graduate-level advanced computer architecture course. Professor Melliar-Smith’s lectures are always very engaging, and really make you think.
  • Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and Teaching Assistant (TA) experience: Most of the time I am a GSR, but I’ve done two TAs. The first was computer architecture, which consisted of discussion section, office hours, and grading. I’ll admit I’m not too fond of grading, which is why I opted for this upper-division class with fewer students. In discussion section and office hours you really get to know the students, it is great seeing them figuring things out. My second TA was computer design, and I ended up having many of the same students as before. This is a lab class where students build a simple microprocessor using various discrete logic components and an FPGA. I spent a ton of time in the lab showing them how to debug Verilog code and big, tangled breadboards. It was very demanding, but you end up feeling a personal responsibility to make sure that everyone gets everything they can out of the class.
  • Share your experience about the PhD exams: I was pretty frightened about the screening exam, and joined a study group of around 8 people months in advance. This was the first time I had ever been in a study group, or ever really seriously studied, for that matter. When the day finally arrived I made my way through it with confidence and ease, but I can’t imagine how impossible it would have been if I hadn’t done all that studying. The qualifying exam was a much less intimidating matter, albeit arguably more important. By the time I was ready for it, I already had my research topic pretty well figured out and slides from conferences I was able to use in the presentation.

Why Electrical and Computer Engineering and UCSB?: When I first applied I didn’t know exactly what research I wanted to do... in retrospect I don’t think anyone really does until after a few years working on their PhD. UCSB’s ECE department has lots of faculty working in electronic design automation in lots of different directions, so I knew I would find something that inspired me.

Some Favorites Things About Being at UCSB:

  • UCSB: biking or walking everywhere, laid-back atmosphere
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering Department: plenty of grad students, lots of great, friendly staff and faculty
  • Santa Barbara: the weather, the ocean, the mountains, the farmers' markets

Graduate Student & Social Life and Living Situation:

  • Graduate Student Life: My quality of life depends a lot on whether there is a conference deadline looming. Most of the time, I work regular hours and still have weekends free for skiing, hiking, and cookouts at Goleta Beach. When a deadline approaches though, the intensity of work increases and I don't have much free time in my weekends or evenings. I still manage to cook dinner and get to the gym a couple times a week, but it can be pretty intense. Right after a deadline I usually take it easy for a week or so to recharge and catch up on chores... and then the cycle starts all over again.
  • What About Life in Santa Barbara?: I live in Family Student Housing with my wife, who is also a PhD student in the ECE department. We have a number of friends (also primarily ECE grad students) who live nearby that we hang out with on the weekends or go on trips with during breaks. Living in Santa Barbara is great: you are always so close to nature. There is always some sort of flower in bloom along my daily bike ride into the lab, and whenever I want to clear my head I can just walk down to the beach and listen to the ocean. The farmers' market runs year-round with some of the freshest and cheapest food you can find anywhere. Where else can you get 50 cent locally grown avocados? You're also never trapped in SB. Within a day's drive I can be in San Francisco, Tahoe, San Diego, Las Vegas, Sequoia, or, most often, at Mammoth Mountain.

Advice to prospective graduate students: UCSB is a top research institution located in paradise; I feel immensely fortunate to be here. Quality of life is at least as important as quality of education, and you don't have to pick just one or the other.

Vlasia Anagnostopoulou - Graduate Student, Computer Science

photo of Vlasia Anagnostopoulou with her advisor, Fred Chong
photo of Anagnostopoulou in the ArchLab

About Vlasia:

  • Hometown: Athens, Greece
  • Study Area: Computer Architecture, Green Computing, Energy Efficiency
  • Degree Sought and Progress: Fourth Year / Masters & PhD in CS
  • Previous Degrees: Diploma from the National Technical University of Athens
  • Activities and Interests: Argentine tango, swimming, languages, literature, traveling
  • UCSB Student Organizations: Argentine tango club
  • Professional Memberships: ACM-SIGARCH
  • Interesting aside about Vlasia: she speaks four foreign languages

Vlasia's Research:

  • Advisor / Group: Professor Fred Chong / Archlab
  • Dissertation Title: Energy-efficiency in Datacenters
  • Title of Most Important Publication to Date: "Quantifying the Environmental Advantages of Large-Scale Computing"
  • Important Awards & Honors: Scholarship to attend the CRA-W conference, an annual event for women in Computer Science
  • Important Conferences Attended: ISCA (presented at a workshop session), IGCC (presented a paper)
  • Financial Assistance Received: TAship, RAship
  • Website: http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~vlasia/

Tell us about your research: My research is about energy-efficiency in datacenters. Our latest thing is the development of a new low-power state for servers, and the middleware to exploit this state on a cluster of servers in a datacenter. The purpose of this hardware and software approach is to save energy while respecting the performance guarantees that are required for internet-applications run on datacenter clusters.

How did you get into your area of research?: I knew that my general area of research was going to be Computer Architecture -- so when my advisor recommended the energy-efficiency project, I found it very exciting because it required both a holistic and at the same time very detailed understanding of server clusters. Besides, it had the potential to positively affect the environment.

What do you find particularly rewarding about your research?: There are various things that I find rewarding about my research. One is that I love learning about the organization and architecture of computer systems. Moreover, I find very exciting trying to tweak the design and/or operation of a system in order to achieve a particular goal. My research is about energy-efficiency in large-scale computer systems, so I naturally find it very rewarding that the techniques I develop, when applied at a large scale, could actually have a significant reduction in our demand for energy.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and working with an advisor: I have collaborated with several fellow grad students and the general culture in the lab is to sit together and learn from one another. I find that bringing together our different perspectives is a real mind-opener and that the exchange of information with my lab-mates helps me improve my technical skills much faster. Working with my advisor is a multi-facet lesson of its own. He helps me grasp the larger picture and understand how to identify the path to take my research. In short, he has helped me a lot in creating value out of my work. I also appreciate the fact that he has been a source of a lot of inspiration for me during somewhat stale times. Another lesson that I have learned from working together is how to work a lot more efficiently.

What did you do this Summer?: This summer I built on my research at UCSB and submitted a paper to one of the most important conferences in my field.

Where will your research take you next?: Not sure yet. But I love research and I am sure that my research is going to take me either to an industry with strong research culture and/or academia.

Vlasia and Academics:

  • What do you think are the strengths of the CS graduate program?: The CE program requires students to pass 10 courses before taking their qualifying exam and later their proposal and defense exams. This helped me built a good technical base before starting my own research. I have also gotten to collaborate with several fellow grad students and got to know the research of many professors. Another strength of the graduate program is that collaboration among students and/or faculty from the same or other departments is very much encouraged.
  • Favorite Course: Green Computing. Absolutely stimulating course. It was a course where I learned a lot about techniques to save energy in computing systems and an interesting thing that came up -- that in many cases these techniques are useless if the political and/or economical aspects of the innovation are neglected.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA) experience: As a TA, I taught Computer Hardware/Software Interface, Operating Systems, Intro to Programming languages, and Intro to Data structures. My approach was to engage the students in the discussion as much as possible, as in some cases freshmen students have a somewhat passive attitude in the class. I found it very rewarding towards the end of the quarter when the students looked a lot more confident solving problems in front of the rest of the class!

Why Computer Science and UCSB?: I chose the CS department at UCSB because of the research in Computer Architecture. I saw that in the particular lab, there were many interesting projects and the publications from these projects looked very inspiring. The professors in charge of the lab all had very solid academic records, and on top of that, they were easy to approach.

Some Favorites Things About Being at UCSB:

  • UCSB: Solid academic program
  • Computer Science Department: Great vibe from the faculty and fellow grad students
  • Santa Barbara: Quality of life (short distances, good weather, nature venues)

Graduate Student & Social Life and Living Situation:

  • Graduate Student Life: Life as a grad student implies lots of flexibility concerning the work and the work schedule. Personally, I try to work a consistent amount of hours during the week, and engage in my hobbies, often with friends, during the weekends. However, I do enjoy the times before a submission deadline, when I work a lot more intensely. These times tend to be extra creative and the sense of accomplishment which follows right after the submission makes it all worth the effort. I usually give in right after a deadline by going away for a few days with friends.
  • Social Life: My social life consists of outdoor activities, like swimming and running by the beach, dancing (there is quite a dancing community in SB, taken the size of the city), and attending events from the Arts & Lectures program at UCSB. These events include various film festivals (e.g. on human-rights), concerts, dance performances, lectures from influential speakers, and they run throughout the whole year. Besides, there are plenty of small galleries which one can visit during the "1st Thursday of the month" -- an arts event that takes place once per month. In short, Santa Barbara features plenty of sports and cultural happenings.
  • What part of town do you live in?: I live in downtown Santa Barbara which is it easy to reach everything. UCSB is a 10-minute bus ride and most theaters and dance venues are at a walkable distance from where I live. Many friends of mine live nearby. Taken that in my hometown one has to ride on average an hour to get from one part of the city to another, I can really appreciate how everything is close.

Advice to prospective graduate students: I feel that few other campuses could combine a solid academic program with the right culture (friendly faculty, staff and fellow grad students) and at a place with such quality of life.


Mohamed Elzeftawi - Graduate Student, Electrical & Computer Engineering

photo of mohamed ezeftawi in lab
photo of Elzeftawi in front of Harold Frank Hall

About Mohamed:

  • Hometown: Cairo, Egypt
  • Degree Sought and Progress: 2nd Year Ph.D. with Electronics and Photonics emphasis
  • Previous Degrees: B.Sc and M.Sc from Cairo University, Egypt
  • Activities and Interests: Swimming, reading and hanging out with friends
  • UCSB Student Organizations: International Students Association (ISA) and Middle Eastern Resource Center (MERC)
  • Interesting aside about Mohamed: I always try to balance between work, family and fun time. Unfortunately I'm not always able to do that, yet!

Tell us about your research: My research is involved with building High Density Neural Implants (HDNI) that observes the brain activity for different medical applications. The chip senses data from different neurons, compresses the data, digitizes the information, and then sends it over a wireless link to an external monitoring unit. The chip is powered through a wireless link that saves the patient from additional surgical procedures to change the battery.

How did you get into your area of research?: Professor Luke Theogarajan was a new professor when I started to talk with him about his research ideas/interests. I always wanted to work on electronic designs for biomedical applications and it sounded like a great opportunity to join his research group. Professor Theogarajan is collaborating with Professor Patrick Yue and that's why I'm co-advised by both professors.

What do you find particularly rewarding about your research?: I work in the field of biomedical engineering and I love the fact that our work has the potential of improving the patient's life.

Thoughts on working in a group research environment and working with an advisor: Working in a research group depends so much on the advisor. It is very important to learn about the group before joining it.

Do you collaborate with other researchers?: I collaborate with three students in my group because our research is tied together. One student's design is connected to another student's design and therefore we all have to understand what is happening with each other's work. I always try to get feedback from my advisor and co-advisor and some of the students in my co-advisor's group as well. At some point I will be collaborating with neuroscience professionals outside UCSB. Other students in our group are already collaborating with people from the department of Physics in Brown University.

Why ECE and UCSB?: I selected ECE for my PhD because I wanted to get more involved in the electronics technology and the UCSB ECE department has a great reputation and very good rankings nation-wide. Also, I wanted to get into a well-known university with a nationally recognized degree. UCSB provides its graduate students with a lot of benefits and services. Besides, Santa Barbara is known for its great weather and is commonly referred to as the American Rivera. All the research, services, location, and weather benefits seemed like a great combination to attract me to join the ECE department at UCSB.

More About Mohamed's Research:

  • Advisor / Group: I have co-advisors. My principal advisor is Luke Theograjan, Biomimetic Circuits & Nanosystems Group and my co-advisor is Patrick Yue, High Speed Silicon Lab
  • Important Awards & Honors: ECE Fellowship award, TA recognition award
  • Important Conferences Attended: International Solid State Circuits Conference 2010
  • Financial Assistance Received: TAships, GSR, and Fellowships at different intervals
  • Professional Memberships: IEEE student member

Mohamed and Academics:

  • What do you think are the strengths of the ECE graduate program?: The ECE graduate program is very diverse. The Electronics and Photonics (E&P) program has very strong groups in photonics, lasers, GaN devices, and circuits.
  • Favorite Course: The 594 special topics in ECE series that I took with Professor Luke Theogarajan because it provided us a lot of in-depth knowledge in analog and digital fields. Also the Communication Electronics class (218C) by Professor Mark Rodwell that I audited was very good.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA) experience: Right now I am a teaching assistant for 137A (Circuits and Electronics I). I also TAed for the Circuits, Devices and Systems courses 2B and 2C. I have/had hold lab sessions, office hours, grade, and proctor exams. The TA has to be on top of the class and always prepare in advance because you never know what kind of question you can get from the students. As a TA, one should always seek the feedback of the students regarding the lectures and their expectations. Being friendly with the students eliminates the barrier between you and them and encourages them to open up and ask you questions.
  • Share your experience about the PhD exams and dissertation: Preparing for the screening exam can be stressful and screening in the E&P area has the reputation as being very difficult because it has some of the top professors in the field. The screening exam is the hardest step because you don't know what kind of questions you will end up with in the exam. Preparing for the qualifying exam is much easier because you present on your research and no one else knows it better than you. I would say the same argument is valid for the defense exam. At the end of the day, passing your defense exam will be your glory day. Working on your thesis is not easy if you don't prepare, organize, and document all your steps throughout your Ph.D.

Some Favorites Things About Being at UCSB:

  • UCSB: Diversity, available services to students whether you are undergrad or grad, international student or not.
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering Department: You can always find someone to help you with whatever you need. Plus, the department's location by the ocean is amazing.
  • Santa Barbara: Location and weather is great. People are very nice.

Life as a graduate student: Quality of life as a graduate student in UCSB is relatively very good in terms of wealth, education, recreation and leisure time. But satisfaction is also dependent on the research group you'll be working with and how much you like your research. I always try to balance between school, work, social and family by doing it on intervals. Sometimes I get really busy with work that I don't have enough time to spend on social and family, however; I always try to compensate for this time later.

Living on campus and in Santa Barbara: I live in university-owned family housing and that cuts down a lot on housing expenses. I love Santa Barbara since it is a very quiet city with no traffic problems. The very friendly people and the diversity-tolerance in UCSB and Santa Barbara makes our lives, as international students, much easier. Having a bus stop very close to our family-housing complex enables me to easily commute to and from the university.


Mohit Tiwari - Graduate Studentmohit tiwari and sculpture, Computer Science


photo of Tiwari sitting on bench

About Mohit:

  • Hometown: Trivandrum, Kerala, India
  • Degree & Progress: 4th Year M.S. / Ph.D. Student in Computer Science
  • Previous Degree: Bachelor of Technology in CS and Engineering from Indian Institute of Tech., Guwahati
  • Hobbies / Interests: Computers, cricket, climbing, comics...

Tell Us About Your Research: The ability to track the flow of information through a processor opens the door to a host of novel program analyses, which in turn help to make computer systems secure, bug-free, and efficient. I work on architectures that enable such deep program analyses, either using FPGAs, custom hardware designs or through novel architectures that provide programmers with explicit control over all information flows (including covert timing channels).

How Did You Get Into Your Area of Research?
When I graduated from college, I was interested in Computer Science in general with a slight bent towards computer architecture, but I wanted more time to decide some area to focus on. Being computer architects, our work cuts across more than a few disciplines. Luckily, this means finding fun people to work with, learning new problems and tools, and visiting interesting places on the side.

More About Mohit's Research:

  • Important Awards & Honors: Outstanding Teaching Assistant-Winter 2006, Best Paper Award-Parallel Architectures and Compilation Techniques (PACT) 2009
  • Title Most Important Publication to Date: "Quantifying the Potential for Program Analysis Peripherals," Mohit Tiwari, S. Mysore, T., Parallel Architecture and Compiler Techniques (PACT), Sept 2009, (Best Paper Award)
  • Link to Mohit's Publication List: http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~tiwari/pubs.html
  • Important Conferences: Talks at MICRO '09, ASPLOS '09, and PACT '0. Attended ASPLOS '06/08 and ISCA'07/09
  • Professional Memberships: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Architecture (SIGARCH)
  • Financial Assistance Received: Graduate Student Researcher and Teaching Assistantship

Tell Us About Being a Teaching Assistant:

I TA-d the Introduction to Programming (CS5J) and the undergraduate Operating System (CS170) courses in my first year at UCSB. While the introductory course was a lark, leading discussion sections and labs for the OS course really nailed down the fundamentals of OSs in my own head. It was worth TA-ing just for that!

Have You Done Any Internships?

In 2007, I interned at NEC Laboratories in Princeton for a summer. This summer I had a chance to work with security researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey and with Professor Ryan Kastner's logic synthesis group at UC-San Diego.

What Was Your Favorite Course at UCSB?:

My favorite course was CS254, on Advanced Computer Architecture. It started with an abacus, and ended with a brain-machine match-up, and covered everything from out-of-order cores to CMPs to GPUs to network processors. Some of the techniques highlighted that the best solutions to problems are found when you understand what goes on underneath the hardware-software interface.

How Has Your Overall Academic Experience at UCSB Been?

At UCSB, I had the time and ample opportunity to try out a diverse set of projects and gradually settle on a theme. Professors I worked with were very amenable to even starting something new that would interest all of us.

Some Favorites Things About Being at UCSB:

  • UCSB: There is a strong startup culture around the CS/CE department. Many ex-students and professors work in startups around UCSB, and there is always some related action around the department. The recreation center is sufficient to keep most evenings occupied.
  • Computer Science Department: My lab and its members; they find very interesting problems to work on and keep the lab lively. Outside, some seriously wacky professors stalk the hallways. And finally, the CS staff is just amazing.
  • Santa Barbara: The mountains right by the beach and the good weather to enjoy these whenever I have some free time.

Life as a Graduate Student:

Life as a grad student is pretty uncomplicated. I live close to school at the West Campus grad student apartments, and with the Recreation Center and the market close by, I rarely need to travel far for anything. I have friend at UCSB that I climb or play cricket with, and these account for most of my social life.

Any Advice to Prospective Graduate Students?:

I suggest students consider UCSB even more strongly if there are multiple professors here that they are interested in -- chances are you could work with all of them.


Instructor Profiles


Heather Zheng, Associate Professor, Computer Science (interviewed Winter 2011) photo of Prof. Zheng in office


Zheng photo

About Professor Zheng:

  • Hometown: Chengdu, China
  • Ph.D.: U. of Maryland, College Park, ECE, 1999
  • M.S. Degree: U. of Maryland, College Park, ECE, 1998
  • Industry Employment: Microsoft Research Asia (Project Lead/Researcher), Wireless and Networking Group and Lucent Bell-Labs, Wireless Research Laboratory (Member of Tech Staff)

UCSB Info:

Tell Us About Your Research: I work on wireless and networking systems, where we design and build efficient, scalable and robust networking systems for everyday communication need.

My current focus is on cognitive radios, a new generation of wireless devices that can dynamically adjust their behaviors such as radio spectrum usage on-the-fly. Using these agile and reconfigurable wireless devices, my research group is developing new solutions to monitor, manage and protect wireless networks through efficient centralized functions as well as intelligent local actions of individual nodes.

We are also working on developing models and computation tools on online social networks. Recently I start to work on smartphone based wireless systems.

How and Why Did You Get Into Your Area of Research?: I like multidisciplinary research projects that stimulate innovations from multiple fields. Cognitive radio is a perfect example -- it combines EE, CS, Economics and Policy all together.

What do you Find Particularly Rewarding about your Research?: being able to witness the process of my students growing into highly confident, creative and mature researchers; listening to their presentations at conferences and meetings.

More on Heather's Research:

  • Do you collaborate with industry? Other groups outside of UCSB?: Yes, we do have several industry collaborators. For example, we collaborate with Intel Corporate research on designing new protocols that allow WiFi and WiMAX devices to coexist together.
  • Do you collaborate with other UCSB faculty and departments?: I work with Prof. Ben Y. Zhao on social networks, including mobile social networks and graph modeling/analysis. It is interesting to see that some of our existing algorithms can be extended into a different area. This process has also helped to expand my research horizon, and to open up several new directions.
  • Where Will Your Research Take You Next?: Powerful mobile applications that can take advantage of the agility and programmability of software-defined radios.

Heather's Research Group and Thoughts on Working with Graduate Students

My lab provides a collaborative environment for students from different cultures and technical backgrounds. My students come from either Computer Science or Electrical Engineering backgrounds with experiences and interests on theory, systems, and hardware. Our projects are usually multidisciplinary and my students always collaborate with each other, and with other research groups within and outside the university.

Professor Dmitri Strukov, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering (interviewed Fall 2010) photo of Prof. Strukov in his office


Strukov photo

About Professor Strukov:

  • Hometown: Kimry, Tver region, Russia
  • Ph.D.: Stony Brook U., Electrical & Computer Engineering, 2006
  • M.S. Degree: Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Applied Physics and Mathematics, 1999
  • Industry Employment: Hewlett Packard Labs (Postdoc Associate)


UCSB Info:

Tell Us About Your Research: In general our research concerns physical implementation of computation, including device physics, circuit design, and high-level architecture with a strong emphasis on emerging device and circuit technologies. In particular, the main focus is on hybrid nanoelectronic circuits based on combination of conventional (CMOS) technology and nanodevices exhibiting resistance switching effects with applications in, e.g., (1) digital memories, (2) reconfigurable logic circuits, and (3) large scale neuromorphic networks for advanced information processing.

How and Why Did You Get Into Your Area of Research?: From the early ages I wanted to know how computers work. I got really serious about it when I was a graduate student at Stony Brook University.

What do you Find Particularly Rewarding about your Research?: I am working on cutting edge technology and the true reward is to see physical product or at least working prototype at the end. It is still a long time to go but I believe I am patient enough.

More on Dima's Research

  • Do you collaborate with industry? Other groups outside of UCSB?: I collaborate with my former colleagues from Hewlett Packard Laboratories and have joint research projects with UC Berkeley, Portland State University and Stony Brook University.
  • Do you collaborate with other UCSB faculty and departments?: I collaborate with Professor Sussane Stemmer from Material Science Department on fabrication and characterization of resistance switching devices.
  • Why did you select UCSB?: UCSB is a great place to be and gives all kind of opportunities to pursue my research.

Where Will Your Research Take You Next?

The most ambitious outcome of my research could be the development of human brain scale artificial neural hardware. I could easily see myself working on that problem for a long long time.

Dima's Research Group and Thoughts on Working with Graduate Students

I was fortunate to have excellent supervisors in the beginning of my career, first in Stony Brook University and later in HPL, so I am trying to look up to these people when it comes to mentoring.