Alumni Spotlight | November 2020
Undergraduate KU major: Electrical Engineering, Class of 2012
Current occupation: Field Applications Systems Engineer
Research mentors while at KU: Pradeep Sircar and John Paden
Describe the undergraduate research/creative experience that you had while at KU: I was very fortunate to land a position in assisting a visiting Professor Sircar. The new job came to me at a time when I was recently let go from another position. Working at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) set me on a path to success that I would not have obtained otherwise. Today I have regrets that I did not stay on and obtain a Masters or PhD, but at the same time I cannot complain as my achievement and "impact" in industry have far exceeded any expectations that I had upon graduation.
The work mostly involved adapting Prof. Sircar's Fortran scripts into Matlab, and doing some basic testing of the results. In an effort to integrate this work into the wider CReSIS codebase, I developed a relationship with John Paden, who ended up being a great mentor to me. I stayed on at CReSIS in a part-time position until I graduated with my BSEE. By the end of it, I had contributed to data processing scripts, helped create data end-products, and developed hardware that was used in the radar and UAVs.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: I learned Matlab, data processing, GUI design, PCB layout, hardware bring-up and debug, how to put together a research proposal, circuit design, hand-soldering of fine-pitch components, and much more. I learned a lot about how to work with other people, because you cannot get anything done in a vacuum.
Q:What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: Research in the field you are studying has to be the best way to simultaneously make money, improve your resume, and learn real software and/or hardware development at the same time. Also, working 10-20 hours a week while taking 12-15 hours of credits is hard and I do not recommend this to anyone who cannot handle school on its own. Doing research outside of school is a job and will be demanding.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: Everything that I experienced in my four years at KU was foundational to who I have become. I look back and see that time as a period of rapid growth for myself both intellectually, personally, and professionally. Lots of the technical skills that I learned while doing research are still applicable, but the most valuable that I learned is how to start and finish a project.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: My advice is to get as many jobs/internships in your industry as possible while still at school; that is the only way to begin figuring out what to do with your career. I also advise to keep an open mind about what you want to work on. I used to scoff at anyone who worked in sales and now I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't. I also recommend to get a job in the Bay Area. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still an epicenter for technological innovation.