Undergraduate Student Spotlights



Xiaochang Liu, Senior - Class of 2018

photo of xiaochang liu
  • Hometown: Sichuan, China
  • Favorite Class: Foundations of Analog and Digital Circuits & Systems (Prof. Luke Theogarajan) and Integrated Circuit Design & Fabrication by (Dr. Ilan Ben-Yaacov)
  • Interesting aside about Xiaochang: I volunteered at the 2017 Santa Barbara Film Festival
  • Senior Project: UCSB Hyperloop - an interdisciplinary team of 30 students and professors competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition

Xiaochang's Favorites

  • Last Book Read: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
  • Hobbies: Traveling with friends, watching movies, and the board game The Werewolves of Millers Hollow
  • Movie: The Conjuring and The Invisible Guest
  • Activity: playing the party board game The Werewolves of Millers Hollow
  • Sport: Basketball and snooker

Favorite things about

  • Electrical Engineering program: The department staff is nice, friendly and helpful. They are constantly improving the curriculum which provides for students with different needs and course paths
  • UCSB: The UCSB campus is quiet and beautiful and there is a beach nearby called “Campus Point” where students can take a walk during their leisure time
  • Santa Barbara: The weather in Santa Barbara could not be better because of the cool ocean breeze, sunshine, and uncrowded beaches

Why Xiaochang chose UCSB's Electrical Engineering program

I was informed that UCSB not only had an excellent Physics Department but its engineering program was also outstanding. In addition, I prefer California's weather especially since the campus is next to the beach and this made me look forward to studying at UCSB.

How did you hear about the program?

Three of my friends are electrical engineering majors and they told me about the interesting labs and amazing professors.

Why Electrical Engineering?

I was initially admitted by UCSB in the major of CCS (College of Creative Studies) Physics. I am crazy about physics theory, especially on the aspect of energy. However, when I started my studies at UCSB, I realized that I was not solely interested in theory but also in application. I want to invent something that can contribute to making our lives easier and since this requires more of an understanding of engineering, I transferred into electrical engineering. In EE not only do you study the theories, but you also realize the formulas into real application.

Advice Xiaochang gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB


Students: when you decide to apply to UCSB, make sure you underscore your academic highlights in your personal statement. For example, if you want to apply to UCSB Engineering, your related research experience should be included.

Parents: Although, the university has a reputation as a very social school, don’t be concerned about sending your children to UCSB – there is a good balance of academic studies and social activities.

photo of x. liu

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

UCSB EE's reputation is very good and even though there are a lot of outside activities, students often spend their weekends in their lab doing research.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

The electrical engineering major has a wide range of fields that relate to our daily lives. For example, if you study in the area of computer architecture you can figure out each electronic component inside your computer and sometimes do an easy fix when you’ve run into trouble on your PC. On the other hand, control systems can take you into working on automated drones, vehicle design, and robots. EE is also cutting edge in the fields of semiconductor physics and VLSI design that save energy and space and speed up processing in today’s technology like mobile devices. I will never regret selecting the electrical engineering major because it has taken me into the vast world of the law of the universe and has made me become a well-rounded man.



The Curriculum

  • What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far? After three years of the EE curriculum, I am surprised by my problem-solving skills. For instance, every time my lab partners and I run into incorrect results in the lab, we debug the circuits ourselves since others did not take part in our designs.
  • What has your experience been like taking the Math & Physics core classes? Math and physics are the foundations of EE courses. Spending more time early on with physics and math theories can help you in the future. Also, don’t leave any unknowns and don't hesitate to ask questions since you might not understand something in future related material.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it? The ECE 10 series taught by Professor Luke Theogarajan. The course materials were impossibly hard to understand, especially since you feel like you are inventing some real-life applications when taking his tests. However, the goal for doing this is to teach you to think and solve the problems by using engineering. In addition, some of the materials appear in upper division classes which then help you understand the future course materials easily and quickly. To overcome the difficulties of the course, I paid full attention to understand the formulas and examples and more importantly, I tried to take the best possible notes so I could fully digest the information. For the tests, my goal would be to not immediately answer all of the questions but to write down my engineering logic and thoughts to solve that problem and this helped me gain better feedback than others. I absolutely spent much more time on Prof. Theogarajan's classes but I feel like the materials were important and very useful.
  • If applicable, talk about your Capstone (188A/B) experience so far: I will be taking the ECE Capstone (ECE 188AB) project course starting next Fall and in preparation for the class this Summer I have been a student researcher on the UCSB Hyperloop team. So far, I feel like this is the course that has the most collaboration between the disciplines of Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Like working in industry, students share their thoughts to complete specific parts of the design and I have found the experience invaluable.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to? Since the Hyperloop project needs sensors and control schemes, I am looking forward to the Control Systems course series. I will be using some control systems that I have learned in class and will apply them to help the Hyperloop pod to achieve some functions. I am really excited to see how my course materials will be applied when working on a real design.
  • What area do you want to specialize in? I have a general idea but I have not figured out the specific field of electrical engineering so far. I am interested in energy-saving products to protect the environment and increase earth sustainability and new types of transportation.

High School Experience and College Search

  • Your high school mentor: Chinese high school is famous for stressful paper work and exams but my physics mentor was not like any of my other teachers. Once he finished the scheduled book materials, he would teach us some extensions outside of the book or do some easy experiments in class which appealed to many of us. As a gift, he gave me a book that encouraged me, “A Brief History of Time”. Although I could barely understand the book's content, it opened my mind to the world of physics, which is the law of the universe.
  • Favorite class in high school: Pre-college Physics: Along with the laws of physics that I previously learned, the course had some calculus which influences some physics theory. I would say that this class taught me physics in a more comprehensive method.
  • Share what your college search was like: Before I came to study in the U.S., I had already chosen to further my education in California because of the weather and the notoriety in China of the University of California system. I was admitted to several UC schools and after I compared their physics and engineering program rankings, I selected UC Santa Barbara.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? I knew I needed to be prepared for lab work and experiments in science and engineering at U.S. universities and before attending UCSB, I did some research at an EE lab at the local university in my town. I was able to work on some circuit design and PCB fabrication and specifically on projects designing a wireless charger and a Tesla coil.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I suggest taking AP Calculus and AP Physics before attending to college since they are the foundation of electrical engineering. Also, no matter what field you prefer in EE, one of the basic skills is programming and you will end up programming your designs.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is campus life like for electrical engineering students? There are a lot of great social organizations at UCSB. Don’t think you will be overwhelmed and then have to give up your social activities. Mostly, learn how to manage time and increase your efficiency since they are two very valuable skills for surviving college.
  • Describe your housing situation: Initially, I was assigned to Manzanita Village on campus which consists of several residential halls, like Gaviota, Cuyama, etc. I found the village quiet and beautiful since it is next to beaches and I highly recommend it to the new students. Eventually, I moved into an off-campus apartment to live with my friends. There is also a lot of housing available very close to campus in Isla Vista (IV) and it is a convenient to commute by either bike or bus – for instance, I can usually bike to school in 5 minutes.
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? Physically prepare yourself for college with a strong and healthy body because you will have lots of due dates for assignments, labs, papers, etc. Also, free up time for exercise at the Rec Cen gym even when you are overburdened with work.

Future Plans...

  • What are your "big picture" plans/aspirations after graduation? After graduation, I plan to find a job and work for a year or two and then travel throughout Europe.
  • Do you plan to go into industry or graduate school? After working for a bit, I plan to apply to graduate school. Graduate school narrows down the undergraduate general education by focusing on a specific field. So far, I have not come up with an idea for a particular field in electrical engineering and industry work should help me figure out what exactly I want to study and do in the future. Additionally, work experience will be another highlight on my personal profile when applying to a competitive graduate school.

Rebecca Hwang, Junior - Class of 2018

photo of rebecca hwang
  • Hometown: Pasadena, California
  • Favorite Class: Circuits, Devices and Systems – ECE 2A & B (now 10A & B and 10AL & BL)
  • Interesting aside about Rebecca: Deathly afraid of chickens
  • Last Book Read: "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Rebecca's Favorites

  • TV Show: Sherlock
  • Movie: 21 Jump Street
  • Book: "Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China" by Jung Chang
  • Sport: Tennis

Favorite things about

  • Electrical Engineering program: The department really cares about students’ feedback and is constantly trying to improve the curriculum. Everyone is so friendly and helpful! I love the sense of camaraderie between the students and the enthusiasm of the professors.
  • Santa Barbara: I have been so spoiled by this amazing weather that I require a jacket whenever it hits the low 70s. Not only are there great views, but also there are so many fun places to explore in Santa Barbara! So far I’ve tried yak meat, hiking, and lots of post finals restaurant hopping. There’s also a great art museum and any event hosted in the Granada Theater is bound to be entertaining.

Why Rebecca chose UCSB's Electrical Engineering program

Because it was just the right distance from home, not too close and not too far. UCSB’s ECE faculty is pretty impressive and Spring Insight was a great experience for me. Also, one of my seniors attended UCSB and really loved it here.

How did you hear about the program?

I heard about the program through my teachers and my own online college searches.

Why Electrical Engineering?

Firstly, I heard it was challenging. Secondly, both my mentors happened to be retired electrical engineers and they would tell me these fantastic stories of what you could do if you had a solid grasp of math and physics.

Advice Rebecca gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB


Students: When applying, make sure to take advantage of the on campus tours and Spring Insight. It’s easy to get caught up in rankings and acceptance rates but I think it’s important to remember that the college application process is a shopping process. Certain colleges may fit you better than they fit other people. It is important to choose a college that you are happy and excited to be attending. Also, for those who are not sure about which major to choose: it seems a lot easier to start off in the College of Engineering and transfer to a different college than to do the reverse.

Parents: Spring Insight is a great event for both parents and students. I love seeing parents at Spring Insight, they always look so worried, excited, and attentive all at once! (It always makes me homesick.) Definitely attend Spring Insight because it will let you get a better feel of the ECE department. If you’re concerned about future opportunities or the relative prestige of the school, just remember that it’s also the students that help push the department further.

photo of rebecca hwang

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

I would have wanted my them to know that there are successful women in electrical engineering and that it is not just a field for guys.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

The world is your oyster! There are so many different specialized fields to puzzle and challenge you that I think a lifetime would be nowhere near enough! More specifically, both industry and graduate school are viable options after a B.S. in EE. Signal processing, circuit designing, computer architecture, and semiconductor physics are just a few of the bottomless pits you can lose yourself in (written with the best of intentions). There are also many interdisciplinary fields available, such as biomedical device design. I think the great thing about an EE degree is that it provides you a solid grasp and or enough exposure to math and modern physics, which allows you to choose from a wide range of specializations.



The Curriculum

  • What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far? The relationship between integral transforms and impedances.
  • What has your experience been like taking the Math & Physics core classes? The math and physics core classes are a good amount of work. Don’t let questions build up and definitely allot enough time to process the material. Also, if you feel like you want more, I would definitely recommend taking more classes in those departments. I took Physics 101, which was a course in complex analysis and I think should be required for electrical engineers. In my opinion, taking more physics classes definitely helps with your ECE education. You get to see how different departments approach similar subjects, as well as where certain assumptions and applications come from.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it? ECE 2A & B (now 10A & B and 10AL & BL) which covered circuits, devices and systems. The first day of class Professor Theogarajan derived Ohm’s Law from scratch and I knew that this class was going to be a worthwhile experience. The test questions were definitely designed to make you think instead of plugging and chugging. After every midterm and final, I always left wanting to retake the tests because I knew I didn’t see through the problems the first time around. It was a frustrating class in the best way possible! In addition Professor Theogarajan would hold extra lectures or review sessions so we would have more time to ask him questions and pick his brain. It was the first class where I felt excited, frustrated, and motivated all at once. I got through the class by keeping up with the readings, doing practice problems, and asking questions. (Once in a while, I would call home for encouragement.)
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to? ECE 162ABC series which covers the quantum description of electronic materials, fundamentals of solid state physics, and optoelectronic devices and materials. I’m excited to see how the ECE department teaches quantum mechanics. I’m also looking forward to taking ECE 148, which covers some of the applications of signal processing.

High School Experience and College Search

  • Your high school mentor: I was lucky enough to have met two mentors early on. My first mentor was and still is my math teacher who stressed the importance of the fundamentals, as well as the dangers of getting too caught up in prestige and brand names. My math teacher forced me to face my discomfort and fears head on. He helped bruise my ego down to a palatable size and I think he brainwashed me into tolerating, and even enjoying, the struggle. My second mentor is my ‘adopted’ grandpa. My grandpa taught me various life lessons and helped shape my values and my character. He taught me how to approach problems and how to think critically and rationally.
  • Favorite class in high school: Precalculus! My math teacher always stressed that pre calculus was an ocean of math and to learn it well. It was also where complex numbers were introduced for the first time and I find myself reviewing a lot of my old precalculus notes whenever I get stuck in my current classes. During any free time in between lecturing and problem sets, my math teacher would regale us with stories of these great scientists and inventors who helped push technology forward.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search was quite simple because I knew I would be applying to the UCs and the Cal
    State colleges. I applied to a few UCs and a few Cal States and now I’m here!

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? My coursework helped prepare me in setting the educational foundations as well as familiarizing myself with the mental discomfort of not having the slightest clue of what is going on. I remember dreading going to AP Calculus class because I was so lost all the time. But, I learned to swallow that uncomfortable feeling and now, looking back, it wasn’t so bad.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I strongly suggest students get exposed to programming before entering UCSB, whether it be through a side project, a high school class, or an online course. Also, taking AP Calculus classes and AP Physics classes really helps with the transition from high school to college. With AP Calculus BC, you can skip a few math classes which would free up your schedule and having AP Physics under your belt will definitely make physics classes more manageable.
  • Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? I think one of the most important things is to keep an open mind, whether it be for new experiences or new material. Don’t talk yourself out of opportunities or sell yourself short. Always ask questions and maximize your college experience!

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is campus life like for electrical engineering students?There is always an interesting talk or a cool event hosted by the engineering societies. From my experience, SWE and IEEE often invite industry leaders, professors, and recruiters for panels and or workshops. (There’s always free food!) CSIL, the computer lab, is also a great place to work on projects or assignments. On the days that lab is due, electrical engineering students can be found working in HFH. Even though it can be a stressful and sleep deprived experience, there’s a lot of bonding with classmates over late night pizza.
  • Describe your housing situation :I lived in Manzanita my first year because it was more spacious than the freshmen dorms. It was a great experience! I met a lot of my friends in the neighboring houses and I was a 3 minute walk away from the beach. I would recommend Manzanita if you prefer more space and quiet.

Future Plans...

  • Have you had any on-campus research opportunities at UCSB? In terms of on campus research programs, I attended the UCSB Summer Institute in Mathematics and Science (SIMS) program which I highly recommend any incoming freshmen to apply to. SIMS is offered the summer before you start your freshmen year and is a great opportunity to get your feet wet in research and it’s a great way to make new friends. I remember feeling much more comfortable during the first few weeks because I already knew so many friendly faces and was acquainted with the campus.
  • What are your " big picture" plans/aspirations after graduation? To travel and explore outside of California. For now, I plan on applying to graduate school.
  • Do you plan to go into industry or graduate school? I hope to continue my education and then work in industry. I think I will be more suited to choose between the two after I’ve had a taste of both academia and industry.

Christopher Maddux, Senior - Class of 2017

photo of Christopher Maddux
  • Hometown: Goleta, CA
  • Favorite Class: Cannot decide between Introduction to Fields and Waves (ECE 134) and Circuits and Electronics I & II (ECE 137A/B)
  • Interesting aside about Christopher: I was home-schooled, am a transfer student to UCSB from Santa Barbara City College, and both my parents graduated from UCSB (one as an EE)

Favorite things about

  • Electrical Engineering program: The professors are all outstanding.  In addition to being researchers in advanced fields, many of them are also excellent teachers in the classroom, a truly valuable asset. 
  • UCSB: There are sweeping views to be had from multiple locations on campus, particularly if one goes to the upper floors of our various taller or well-placed buildings, such as Engr I, Phelps Hall, and the library.  When in the depths of study time, being able to stay in labs or study areas in these or similar locations can be quite uplifting. 
  • Santa Barbara: This area, and particularly the city of Santa Barbara itself, has plenty of history.  As a result, there is always something different to discover about it, whether one was looking for it or not.  The fact that Goleta and Santa Barbara are located in the middle of an essentially rural area is also a plus. 

Why Christopher chose UCSB's Electrical Engineering program

To begin with, I was really only ever interested in attending UCSB or Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo.  I knew that both colleges have high reputations for academic excellence in engineering, but in addition, I suppose this preference had as much to do with location as with other factors such as distance from home, the financial cost of going further afield, etc.  One deciding factor was the fact that I attended Santa Barbara City College (they provide great formation in STEM, by the way), and there is an understanding between them and UCSB with regards to transferring in.

How did you hear about the program?

I knew about it because my father went through the program himself.  Otherwise, it does not seem to be widely discussed here in town, at least not in mainstream circles. 

Why Electrical Engineering?

I knew I wanted to build and/or design stuff for a living from early on, but I was interested in so many general topics to be able to make a decision on what to pursue as a major.  EE was always there as an option, however, because I received a bit of exposure to it from my father, and I think this must be what ultimately drove my decision.  I had narrowed it down to engineering by the time I started as a freshman at SBCC, but it was not until I took and enjoyed Multivariable Calculus and sophomore-level Electricity and Magnetism, both of which are key components of this level of training, that I made the final decision to pursue EE.

Advice Christopher gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB


Students: To begin with, I would actually recommend that, if you are able, to begin at SBCC or another highly-rated junior college (anyone can obtain admission to these colleges).  If you can do well in that environment, then you are a more desirable candidate for admission to a university.  In addition, it is often possible to obtain a more thorough grounding in freshman and sophomore topics at such schools (these schools must meet the standards of multiple colleges and universities).

This route is not for everyone: there is a risk that, if you do not do well, you will not be able to enter the college of your choice.  In this case, it is best to apply to UCSB as a freshman: as long as you performed well in your Calculus and Physics classes in high school and maintained a good GPA (if you have a 4.0 or higher, then you do not need to worry), you should stand a very good chance of being admitted.  There is competition to get in, of course, but it is not that bad if you have already been doing your absolute best in high school to get ready for college.  An additional plus is if you have completed a small student-oriented internship or done some experimenting with circuits or programming projects.  It does not need to be fancy, it simply needs to have genuinely improved your understanding and given you exposure to the existence of the more advanced topics that you will meet in the future.

With regards to the application itself, do ask others, such as your parents and trusted, well-known teachers, to review your personal statement.  Typically, they know you through the perspectives of insiders and outsiders at the same time: the insider perspective helps them know whether your statement upholds your qualities and interests, while the outsider perspective tells them how the university will see your statement.

Parents: Since both my parents had already gone through UCSB, it is a little harder to answer this question, as they knew what had to be done. However, there are still a couple of things that can be brought up.  As per the student advice above about the application, please take an interest in the process of writing the personal statement.  Also, regarding preparation, if you know that your son/daughter is interested in engineering, try and figure out what classes/programs are available through the high school or even a local junior college that would give them an extra boost.  These are assets when it comes to applying to an engineering school with UCSB’s high reputation.  Sometimes students themselves do not know how to find out about such opportunities, simply because this is their first time going through the process.

photo of Christopher Maddux

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

One item of concern was the fact that enrollment in engineering at UCSB has overall declined over the years, and so there was some concern on my parents’ part that the EE department may have suffered a decline in quality as a result.  However, the department remains healthy so far, and we hope that it will continue to live and grow. 

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

There are many opportunities.  I have come across professors (either M.S. or PhD) who graduated as electrical engineers, worked as such for a few years, and then used the abilities they learned to transition to being computer scientists, where they used their unique perspective on programming and their knowledge of hardware or controls to succeed.  For those who want to stay in the field, it is possible to find work with many companies that you might not expect would hire EE’s (software companies, for example).  If you want to get an idea of the scope of the impact of EE’s, just look around, in person or on the Internet.  Notice the consumer electronics in an average home; the equipment needed by the military; the machinery in a modern factory; the power grid; robotics; space missions (communication satellites are launched all the time); the aviation industry.  All of these areas, and many more, that touch our lives at some point or another involve the work of electrical engineers.



The Curriculum

  • What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far? For me, it had to be coming to the realization (during sophomore physics, I think) that inductance and capacitance are intrinsic physical properties, and not just effects that are introduced through discrete components.
  • What has your experience been like taking the Math & Physics core classes? I took these classes at SBCC, so the experience is not quite the same. For general advice, please realize that everything that you are taught in these classes is part of the curriculum because you will see it later. Do not make the mistake of assuming, because a particular math or physics topic is boring or extra hard, that you will not see it again.
  • What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it? I have a few close runners-up, but I think ECE 139 (Probability and Statistics) takes first place. It is a demanding class, with a great deal of material packed into the short quarter, all of which is, I am told, going to return later in communications classes. It is probably correct to say that many students did not enjoy their first exposure to probability in high school, including myself, and as this is an advanced version of that subject, so that gave 139 a daunting aspect up-front. To get through that class, I do not think I did anything besides what is usually recommended for a hard class: give it priority, always start working on the assignments early, study for a couple of days prior to the exams, and always direct questions about confusing concepts to either the professor himself or the TA’s. Another thing that helped with this class, and any other class, is to avoid having a negative attitude about it. In some cases, this cannot be helped for various reasons, but it is worth a try, because negativity will weaken your resolve to actually do well in the class and get something out of it.
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to? I am looking forward to the rest of the courses in the ECE 145 (Communication Electronics) and ECE 146 (Communication Systems) series as well as ECE 144 (Electromagnetic Fields and Waves) and ECE 158 (Digital Signal Processing). I have been waiting with anticipation for 145, as it concerns circuits and how they are designed to communicate. 144 is simply a continuation of a favorite topic of mine. 146 and 158 promise to demonstrate more theory regarding communications and signals, so that should be rather interesting.
  • What area do you want to specialize in? That is not completely determined at the moment. In senior year, I am focusing on circuits and communications/signals. I would be glad to take more circuits classes, but UCSB does not really offer any more above the 145 level, so work experience might have to fill in there. If I were to continue on to graduate school, I would be happy to take more electromagnetism classes, but my main focus would likely be on signals and stochastic processes.

High School Experience and College Search

  • Your high school mentor: My parents, which came naturally from being home-schooled. On the academic side, they were teachers and counselors rolled into one. It was a very good and interesting experience.
  • Favorite class in high school: That is a hard question. I actually liked most of my classes, but I think the general science classes stand out the most. These were responsible for giving me a broader view of science and technology, enabling me to determine what I found interesting.
  • Share what your college search was like: UCSB was my primary choice, and I was fortunate to get in rather easily. It is common wisdom that one should apply to many colleges, with no assurances that one will be accepted by the preferred campus. However, it would seem that, if one has a good academic record, then there is a far higher chance of success of being accepted right away by one’s desired college. This is not to say that one should become complacent about the application process and fail to apply to multiple colleges, but rather to indicate that, if one has already been doing really well in school, then there is no need to stress out over one’s chances.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Actually, home-schooling is what prepared me the most. Its environment taught me a solid work ethic and gave me a taste for continued learning, because by its very nature it showed that learning is a full-time (and a lifetime) task. There is a need to remain focused in college, and this kind of attitude is what is needed to see it through to the end. With the oftentimes heavy course-load, getting derailed is a terrible setback.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? Prospective students should definitely take whatever elective high school calculus, physics, and programming classes that they can. My high school calculus was the equivalent of Calculus I in college, so that was a plus. Programming in high school seems to be overlooked by some, but it should not be. When I took that class, I did not really “get” the underlying thought process of programming, but without it, I would have been lost in my intro class at SBCC. It enabled me to see the college-level class with a different perspective, and so I was able to advance more quickly than I otherwise would have. Get an early grounding in programming; being fluent in it is another means of staying afloat in college.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? If you are not one of those people who understand new things in a flash, then you need to be prepared for the fact that in college you will need to spend a lot of time to master the material. Getting used to that now would be ideal, but it is hard to adjust to all at once. Perhaps finding a single truly challenging class for a quarter/semester/year could be the springboard to success here.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is campus life like for electrical engineering students? Generally, it is about what you would expect on a college campus. EE is rather small here, so within your own year, it is possible to become familiar with most of your class. Besides that, free pizza is to be had often, there are a lot of technology talks and seminars, and there are computer lab resources available in several of the College of Engineering buildings. Also, there are a number of student organizations and groups that, because you are an engineering major, will try to recruit you for this or that. Do not feel pressured that you need to join any of them, but take your time and make a choice (or avoid all of them, if you do not believe you have the time at the moment; being a member of a good organization will not make up for poor grades).
  • What is the social scene like? If you are being attentive to your studies, then most of the time you are going to be very busy. Be prepared for the fact that you will not have a lot of free time, so pick your extracurricular activities carefully.
  • Describe your housing situation: Here, I can only speak from second-hand experience, both from speaking with other students and from the perspective of a long-time resident in Goleta (the city right next door). In short, you are probably better off not living in Isla Vista, both because it is stressful and distracting (it is not a great study environment), but also because the cost of housing, for what you can get, is not worth it.

Future Plans...

  • Have you done an internship? Yes, at Toyon Research in Goleta. I was primarily involved with support work for the team I was assigned to, including some lab time, when I assisted in and observed the characterization and the debugging of circuit boards. I was also given the opportunity to lay out my first RF PCB (printed circuit board), which I thought was quite a big deal in and of itself.
  • What are your " big picture" plans/aspirations after graduation? I would like to get a job locally, preferably doing work in circuits and systems. The specific field does not necessarily matter at the moment, but I am withholding judgment until after I complete more of my senior-level classes.
  • Do you plan to go into industry or graduate school? I will apply for graduate school, but I do not intend to stay in academia. Having an internship or a regular part-time job at the same time is my goal, so as to continue to learn the theory of EE offered by grad school and to build up skills in the practical world of industry.

Lorena Covarrubias, Senior - Class of 2016

photo of Lorena Covarrubias in the lab
  • Hometown: Oxnard, CA
  • Favorite Class: Circuits & Electronics I (ECE 137A)
  • Senior Project: FLIR Thermal Flashlight (ECE 188A/B/C)
  • Student Organization Memberships: Los Ingenieros, SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), and MESA Engineering Program (MEP)
  • Last Book Read: Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande
  • Interesting aside about Lorena: I am the first and only one in my family to attend a four-year university

Lorena's favorites

  • Hobbies: running, hiking, being outdoors
  • Band / Performer: Arctic Monkeys
  • TV Show: Breaking Bad
  • Movie: Bridesmades

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: Everyone is always smiling and it is rare that you see anyone that looks sad or unhappy. There are positive vibes radiating throughout the whole campus. UCSB has definitely felt like a second home to me and a big portion of it is due to the people that attend the school.
  • Electrical Engineering program: The people. Overall, the students in ECE are some of the most helpful and enthusiastic people that I have met. The ECE community offers a welcoming and open-minded environment where we are all able to help each other out and mentor/tutor one another.
  • Santa Barbara: There is so much to do (zoo, kayaking, sunset cruises, and hiking trails) especially in downtown Santa Barbara. Overall, it is a beautiful place to live in.

Why Lorena chose UCSB Electrical Engineering program

I was originally a chemistry major, once I knew that I wanted to get into electrical engineering, I did some research and asked around. I found out that the advising for the ECE department was really helpful, so I contacted the ECE department and arranged to meet up with an advisor. Plus, the department met my high expectations. Although the transition from chemistry major to EE was really challenging, the department was very helpful throughout my whole process.

How did you hear about UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

To find out more about the ECE program, I did a lot of research. The web pages in particular were a great resource especially because it has the GEAR handbook that includes all the required courses and schedules for all the different engineering majors. I also heard about the ECE program through the friends who were electrical engineers and they were able to point me in the direction of the correct advisors.

Why Electrical Engineering?

As I mentioned earlier, I applied to UCSB as a chemistry major, but once I was accepted I has realized that I wanted to go into engineering. I then had to narrow down what type of engineering I wanted to aim to get into and since I was originally a chemistry major, I figured that chemical engineering would be a good fit for me. However, I sat through an organic chemistry course and realized that I really did not enjoy chemistry at all. On the other hand, I was always intrigued by electricity and magnetism during high school physics. In addition, during my second general chemistry course, the main topic that interested me the most was the electrochemistry aspect of the course. This course is what really inspired me to go into electrical engineering because we were introduced to basic electricity principles plus I really enjoyed working out these problems and working on these labs.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

With a degree in ECE, the opportunities are endless. There are a couple of my friends who are pursuing their master's and some even their Ph.D.s because they want to do research. Students can also go to work in industry in various sectors such as aerospace and defense, wireless communications, and medical devices. Furthermore, regardless if the student is in Computer Engineer or Electrical Engineering, they can choose if they want to go more on the hardware or the software side.

Advice Lorene gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: It is important for students to do their research prior to coming to UCSB. It is always good to look into the different majors that UCSB offers as well as different programs, research opportunities, and different clubs and sports to join. I also recommend that prior to coming to UCSB, students get in contact with an advisor and ask any questions so that they are prepared for their first quarter at UCSB.
  • Parent Advice: My biggest advice if for students to keep their parents connected and updated with all of their college choices regarding their education. I also advise parents to understand that engineering is rigorous and difficult and the best help that they can offer their children is support and understanding.
photo of L. Covarrubias

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

I do wish that my parents knew how rigorous EE is and for them to understand how difficult it is so that they could have been a bit more supportive throughout the whole transition process.

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?

It is important to take advantage of all of the opportunities that campus organizations offer engineering students. It surprised me to find out how networking and connecting with the right people can really go a long way. From the start, taking advantage of the engineering organizations on campus can help obtain research and internship opportunities. Oftentimes there are alumni who were once members of the organizations and reach out specifically to students to help them network with companies where they have previously worked.

What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes?

My experience in taking the classes was not bad mainly because I had taken AP calculus and AP physics in high school and because of the amazing and free CLAS (Campus Learning Assistance Services) tutors that UCSB offers. Although there were stressful times, I always found myself with my study group in my tutor’s office hours.

What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it?

The infamous ECE 137A (Circuits & Electronics) which is the first course where we got to learn and apply traditional circuit design theories. It was challenging because the lab projects were rigorous and required a lot of time and effort; however, by effectively collaborating with one another and constantly helping each other out, my classmates and I were able to overcome the course.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?

Communication Electronics III (ECE 145C) because it can prepare me for what I want to specialize in. The course is a continuation of a communication electronics series that focuses on modern wireless communication standards.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I would like to specialize in RF because it is one of the fields that I could really see myself enjoying and be excited about. I am intrigued by the various applications of this field and would want to specialize specifically in the circuit design aspect of it.

Have you done an internship?

I interned at ZPower, which is a small company that makes rechargeable batteries for hearing aids. I worked as an electronics engineer intern and performed ASIC and PCB silicon reliability testing as well as firmware validation for the company’s production charger. Aside from that, I also had my own project that involved me working quite a lot with hearing aids and developing and performing my own wireless streaming and current drain test procedures. I heard about this company through the 2015 Spring Career fair which was the spring quarter of my 3rd year. I talked to a recruiter and followed up with him via email. I was persistent throughout the process and my boss mentioned to me that my persistence and determination in obtaining the internship was one of the things he admired the most.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

I will be working in the aerospace and defense industry at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA as an Electronics Engineer Associate. Although I am not planning on going to graduate school directly after graduating, I do intend on pursuing my master's degree in RF within the next four years. I want to obtain industry experience before I get my master's so that I can ensure that I get my master's in a field that I truly enjoy.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My chemistry teacher. I was very fond of her because she'd always go above and beyond to make sure that we actually mastered the topics. I enjoyed talking to her because she was always so willing to answer any questions regarding her college experience and she also guided me into taking certain classes in high school that would prepare me for college. Furthermore, when it was my senior year, she also helped me in choose UCSB as a school to attend. She was a UCSB alumn so she was able to openly tell me all about her experience at UCSB.
  • Favorite class in high school: I had two favorite courses in high school, chemistry and physics. One of the reasons why I really enjoyed chemistry may have been because my teacher was so passionate when teaching it. What I enjoyed about physics the most was the whole problem solving aspect of it and the idea that everything around us revolves around physics principles and the calculus aspect of it since I had enjoyed math throughout high school.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search was interesting because at first, UCSB was at the bottom of the list of colleges that I wanted to attend to since I would always come here for high school fieldtrips. I applied to all of the UCs and got into all of them. In order to narrow down where I wanted to attend, I visited some of the colleges that I was mostly interested in but none of them felt like they were right for me. After I realized that I did not want to attend the other UC’s, I visited UCSB again and fell in love with the vibes and atmosphere – I felt like I would be at home here.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college?

    The study habits that I had in high school were the ones that prepared me the most for college. I was part of extracurricular activities in high school, so I figured out how to time manage and planned when I would work on homework and study. I also made it my priority to finish all of my homework as soon as I could to prevent procrastination.

  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I definitely recommend that ECE students take AP physics and AP calculus in high school as well as many AP classes. Taking AP physics and AP Chemistry prepared me for college physics and general college chemistry and passing AP calculus helped me test out of the first required math class. Passing AP history and Spanish courses also helped me test out of some of my general education courses. Overall, this left me room in my freshman year schedule to focus on more difficult courses.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is campus life like for electrical engineering students? Campus life is pretty convenient for ECE students because the ECE department offers CSIL (computer science instructional lab) which is basically a place filled with cubicles with their own computers where ECE and CS students can do their work. This is especially helpful when working with other classmates or on group projects. CSIL is also convenient because it is where I met people from my classes and is where most of the students help each other out. There are also campus organizations and clubs that are geared for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) majors, which is also another form of stress relief because students get to take a quick study break and mingle with other STEM students.
  • What is the social scene like? As far as social scene goes, life in IV (Isla Vista) is pretty laid back. It is more of a place to go back to once all your school work is complete because it is a relaxing atmosphere to be in. IV is also pretty convenient place to live in because there are tons of places to eat and socialize with friends as well as various places to meet for study groups. Overall, the social scene on both campus and IV is a work hard play hard type of environment, although ECE seems as though it may be more of a work hard environment, we definitely do relax once in a while when all the labs and assignments are completed!
  • Describe your housing situation: During my freshman year, I lived in the FYRE floor (First Year Residential Experience floor) which is one of the on-campus dorms. Living on this floor really helped me feel at home. Since it was targeted for a first year experience, my RA (Resident Advisor) put on a lot of events to promote bonding with the other girls that lived on my floor. Living in an on-campus dorm during my freshman year was really beneficial because I was able to connect and meet friends through this environment as well as find classmates who I can study and do homework with. I recommend that for sophomore and the following years that students live off campus because it is less expensive to live off campus than it is to live in dorms.

Ryan Calloway, Junior – Class of 2017

photo of ryan calloway
  • Hometown: Pacoima, California
  • Favorite Class: Digital Design Principles (ECE 152A)
  • Student Organization Memberships: National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  • Last Book Read: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Interesting aside about Ryan: I can play the flute, alto saxophone, and bass drum

Ryan's favorites

  • Hobbies: Reading, Watching TV, Learning new programming languages
  • Band / Performer: J. Cole
  • TV Show: Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Arrow
  • Movie: All Marvel movies
  • Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Activity: Hanging out with friends
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Geeky Possession: Arduino Yun

 

Favorite things about

  • UCSB: The fact that everyone can do their own thing. UCSB has a ton of clubs and organizations that appeal to a variety of interests. You are very likely to find people that share the same hobbies with you, or even discover new interests that you're passionate about.
  • Electrical Engineering program: One thing I really like about the ECE program here, besides the great faculty, is the sense of camaraderie you get with your classmates. If you're ever struggling with a concept, you can walk up to someone from class in CSIL (our computer lab) and ask them to help you out with it.
  • Santa Barbara: You can't talk about Santa Barbara without talking about the beach. Living so close to it is amazing, and it makes for some nice scenery when you're biking home or to class. Beyond the beach, Santa Barbara gives you a lot of places to explore: you can go hiking in the mountains, shop a little on State Street, or watch a movie in the Goleta Marketplace outdoor shopping center. There are a ton of options available to you.

Why Electrical Engineering?

I actually came to UCSB as an Undeclared major. I knew I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, and I spent my first four quarters on that pathway. During that time I took ECE 2A, and I fell in love with EE. Something about applying the material you learned in class in a lab really pulled me in. After my new found love of EE, the next logical step was to transfer into the major. Luckily the first year of classes for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering were pretty much the same, so I wasn't too far behind. Now, I can't see myself in any other major.

Why Ryan chose UCSB

I chose UCSB because I felt that it was the institution that could offer me the best education and experiences out of all the schools I was accepted to, and it is fairly close to my hometown so I can go home whenever I want. It also didn't hurt that my cousin was attending UCSB at the time, and her stories about her experiences made me feel that this school would be a good fit for me.

How did you hear about UCSB's Electrical Engineering program?

It wasn't until the end of my first year when I talked to the undergraduate advisor for ECE and got more information about it that I started having an interest in EE.

Students and parents often ask, what can you do with an electrical engineering degree?

In this technology age that we live in now, a degree in electrical or computer engineering offers you a lot of opportunities. Even within EE, there are numerous fields of specialization like: communications, control systems, optics, signal and image processing, and many more.

Advice Ryan gives to students/parents about applying to UCSB

  • Student Advice: Don't overstress yourself when you are filling out the application or writing your personal statement. Also, as someone who had to switch from the College of Letters (CoLS) and Science into the College of Engineering (CoE), if you have any interest at all of being an engineer I recommend applying as an engineer even if you aren't totally sure. It's much easier to transfer from CoE to CoLS than vice versa.
  • Parent Advice: I would say be supportive of your kid regardless of their decision, but at the same time make sure they understand what the potential outcomes of their decision are. Also, I would strongly suggest you take your kid to Spring Insight because the event really shows off the atmosphere of UCSB to incoming freshmen.
image of ryan calloway

Looking back, what do you think you would have wanted your parents to know about UCSB EE?

I would just want them to know that it's a great program and will expose me to many experiences and opportunities.

What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far?

That you can represent magnetic flux flowing through a ferromagnetic core as a magnetic circuit. I think it's really cool how a complex process can be expressed in such a simple way.

What has your experience been like taking the Math & Physics core classes?

The math and science core classes were not bad. They were very interesting and I recommend dedicating a lot of time studying for them because everything you learn in these classes will come back in some way when you reach your major classes. I remember thinking "I'm never going to use Fourier series again," and wow was I wrong.

What was your most challenging but rewarding course and how did you overcome it?

My most challenging class so far has been ECE 2C. That was a beast of a class and I remember getting frustrated with some of the homework and labs. I overcame it by spending extra time studying and asking questions during office hours. In the end, I had gained a much deeper understanding of circuits and I'm glad I got through it because it made me a better student.

Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to Circuits and Electronics (ECE 137A) because I have heard the labs are pretty intense from some of my older friends and I'm excited to see what all the hype is about.

What area do you want to specialize in?

I haven't solidified an area of specialization yet, but I'm choosing between controls, signals, and nanotechnology. My ultimate goal is to work for an aerospace company to help design parts of space ships, and I think that specializing in any of those fields will help me reach that goal.

Have you done an internship?

I have not had an internship yet, but I am in the process of searching for one. I know that a good way to get your foot in the door is by networking at events like career fairs or conferences. Also, it doesn't hurt to have a strong resume.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

After I get my Bachelor's degree, I plan to continue on to get my Masters degree in Electrical Engineering through the 5-year BS/MS program here at UCSB. Then, I hope to work for an aerospace company, because I've always wanted to make something that will go into space.

High School Experiences

  • Your high school mentor: My 9th grade science teacher Mrs. Montague was my HS mentor. She always pushed me to do my best and she encouraged me to take Chemistry a year earlier than I planned to, which enabled me to take AP Chemistry and AP Physics.
  • Favorite class in high school: My favorite class in high school was AP Physics. I enjoyed it because it introduced a new way of problem solving and thinking to me, and I still use what I learned then today.
  • Share what your college search was like: My college search process wasn't too stressful because I knew I wanted to stay in California and I didn't want to be too far away from home.

Preparation for UCSB

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? Besides my math and science courses in high school, being on the football team prepared me for studying engineering. Having practice everyday until 6pm and then having to commute for an hour to get home taught me how to best manage my time. Those time management skills are crucial to being an engineering student with homework deadlines, lab deadlines, extracurriculars, and work. Another thing that helped me was having a super supportive family that always made sure I stayed on track.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest EE students take before entering UCSB and why? I recommend taking AP Calculus C because you get to skip a couple math classes when you get here if you pass the test. Also, if you're lucky enough to go to a high school with a computer science class, definitely take that because it will prepare you for the CS classes you have to take when you get here.
  • Are there any additional things that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? Last year I was the resource chair for the NSBE chapter here on campus, and this year I'm co-president. When I came to college I never thought that I would be the chair of anything, let alone the president. College offers you a lot of opportunities to step out of your comfort zone, and in my experience it has been very beneficial to accept these challenges. Taking the resource chair position set me up to be co-president, so I recommend having an open mind and trying new things, because you never know where they may lead you.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is the social scene like for electrical engineering students? With all of the student organizations on campus there is always some kind of event happening, and there is always fun to be had in IV. Being an electrical engineer doesn't mean you do not get to have a social life. Sure there are the occasional late night lab sessions, but with the right time management skills you can have the same amount of fun as everyone else.
  • Describe your housing situation: My freshman year I lived in the Anacapa dorms and met a lot of really great people. It was also really convenient because all of the first year engineering classes are close to Anacapa. I definitely recommend staying in dorms your first year if you are able to. After my freshman year I moved into Isla Vista. Living in IV made me more responsible, as I had to feed myself (I'm still missing the dining commons), and be more frugal with my money.