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Q & A: Fall 2020 ECE Graduates

Atlanta, GA
ECE Fall 2020 Commencement Q&A

Four ECE graduates are featured in our Q & A story. Pictured clockwise from the upper left: Vandan Patel, Vignesh Raman, Aram Sadig Monawar, Nil Z. Gurel.

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On Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12 Georgia Tech Commencement will take place and graduates from across the Institute will receive their diplomas. We spoke to four of our ECE graduates about their time at Georgia Tech and their plans for the future.  

 

Name: Vignesh Raman

Degree: B.S.E.E.

Hometown: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Extracurricular clubs, organizations, or activities: I’m the Research Lead of the Quantum Computing Association here at Georgia Tech. As a member, I’ve been involved with the Yellow Jacket Flying Club, IEEE, Data Science Club, Big O Theory Club, Poetry Club, and Chess Club. Additionally, along with the help of Victor Bienko in fall 2017, I co-founded the Georgia Tech Hyperloop Club. I left soon after to focus on research, but under much more experienced seniors, it has since then become the GT Hyperjackets team and participates in the SpaceX annual Hyperloop Challenge.

On top of the rigor of graduating from Georgia Tech, you’ve had to deal with the effects of Covid-19 and the resulting changes to your academic life. What are some of your key takeaways?

Truth be told, this semester has been very difficult for me. But thanks to the support of family, peers, and professors, I’m able to head toward the finish line no matter what lies ahead. So being appreciative of those who help you or can accommodate your needs is important. Additionally, I’ve begun to realize that it is fine to sometimes underperform in life. For people like myself who have very high expectations of themselves and their work, it is very difficult, but in times of genuine hardship and uncontrollable circumstances, I think it’s important to remain optimistic despite not producing the best results. 

What would you say has defined your Georgia Tech experience?

By far, delving into research. I’ve been fortunate to do research projects of varying intensity in geometric topology, homomorphic encryption, 2D heterostructure synthesis, ultrafast optics, quantum steganography, and more. These endeavors have been very fulfilling intellectually, and I’m grateful to have won a few research awards/scholarships for some of my work.

What accomplishment are you most proud of from your time here?

I’m most proud of helping some of my friends in getting rid of detrimental habits. More personally, I take pride in myself for being ethical and honest in all of my endeavors as a student, a researcher, and as a TA.

Did you have a favorite class or professor here in ECE?

Dr. Matthieu Bloch—he is my research thesis advisor. He’s very hardworking, supportive, highly encouraging, and kind. I’ve learned a lot under his guidance, and I really wish him and his family the best of success and health. I’m also very thankful to Dr. Trebino, who is in the physics department, for his support and guidance.

What will you do after graduation?

I will be going to grad school, and I hope to eventually get a Ph.D. and do a job heavily centered around doing research.

Do you have any advice for future Georgia Tech ECE students?

I would say that one’s quality of life can be vastly improved if one prioritizes the things they cherish while ensuring that their lifestyle, habits, and friend groups align accordingly. It also helps to be nice and supportive to people from all walks of life—the world can be cruel sometimes, so injecting any amount of heartfelt kindness into it goes a long way!

 

Name: Vandan Patel

Degree: B.S.E.E.

Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand

Extracurricular clubs, organizations, or activities: BAPS Campus Fellowship (President), Gold Scholars Program

You participated in several internships during your time here. Tell us about those experiences.

From internships at NASA JPL, Boeing, Delta, and Yahoo to being able to support research teams at GTRI, my Georgia Tech experience has allowed me to chase any dream I had as a young kid growing up in an island country in the corner of the world. I had dreamed of being able to travel the world, and during my Delta Internship I was able to explore 15 countries in a span of two years. At JPL, I worked on the navigation suite for the Axel rover, which is now being targeted as the central part of NASA's Moon Diver mission. My summer at Boeing resulted in a patent which pushed the applications of computer vision in the autonomous aviation space. Overall, at Georgia Tech the world actually became my oyster, and I found that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything.

What accomplishment are you most proud of from your time here?

My proudest achievement would be my Senior Design Project. My team and I were able to complete a project I had started in high school. Project TYKE is close to my heart as it's my way of giving back to New Zealand. In a span of 12 weeks, we were able to build a rover that can be sent into mines, rubble, and buildings after an explosion or disaster has taken place. Our goal was to create a low-cost robotic solution to aid rescue workers in their disaster-response efforts. This humanitarian task was our way of saying thank you to the world and to show that saving lives is more important than profit.

How did you deal with the rigor of studying electrical engineering at Georgia Tech?

Don't get me wrong, Georgia Tech wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Midway through I hit a point where I had enough. But through the inspiration of my spiritual guides His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj and His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, I was able to push through with regained purpose—to please them.

 

 

Name: Aram Sadig Monawar

Degree: M.S.E.C.E. (Systems and Control)

Hometown: Hudson, New Hampshire but currently an expatriate in Riyadh, KSA.

On top of the rigor of graduating from Georgia Tech, you’ve had to deal with the effects of Covid-19 and the resulting changes to your academic life. What are some of your key takeaways?

The key is that while circumstances and people change, one’s dreams and goals don’t have to be compromised. Life is all about learning to adapt and shift yourself positively as best as possible. Your internal drive will get you through even the most uncertain and discouraging of times. I really appreciated this message this year as I used the worldwide lockdowns to accelerate my studies and coursework—a decision that was not only in line with my goals but also could only have come about because of the changes to my academic and personal plans. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

What would you say has defined your Georgia Tech experience?

My experience as a distance learning student conducting research in another country taught me a lot about the power of reaching out, making connections, and bridging the gaps in physical distance with exceptional communication. One of my signature experiences is always running into trouble with daylight savings and assignment submissions! Time-zone differences are definitely a defining part of my Yellow Jacket experience!

What accomplishment are you most proud of from your time here?

I am very proud of the connections I made upon coming to campus for the first time. As a distance learning student, we’ve traditionally not had as much in-person interaction with our cohort, but the welcome at the graduate convocation was out of this world. However, the real effort on my part were those days and nights where I had to plow through the challenging problem-solving without the comfort of my classmates nearby. The independence and self-discipline required to push and succeed at Georgia Tech is to date one of my greatest accomplishments.  

What will you do after graduation?

I plan to enter academia and pursue my teaching and research interests.

Do you have any advice for future Georgia Tech ECE students?

Always, always search for people who exemplify what you hope to achieve and continuously pick up good habits and skills. Also, surround yourself with people who support you and push you. 

 

 

Name: Nil Z. Gurel

Degree: Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey

Dissertation title: Novel Technologies for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Extracurricular clubs, organizations, or activities:

Designed a wearable electronics module for high school students in Georgia to instill interest in ECE at the Hands-on Tech H.O.T. Days @ Georgia Tech Day Camp. Lectured two hands-on modules for 39 high school students which included basic circuit design, prototyping, and programming. Students sewed electronics onto t-shirts with conductive threads instead of soldering iron and took them home after the class.

On top of the rigor of graduating from Georgia Tech, you’ve had to deal with the effects of Covid-19 and the resulting changes to your academic life. What are some of your key takeaways?

Me and many of my colleagues/friends experienced missed opportunities because of faculty hire suspensions and suspended job or postdoc positions/fellowships. However, both success and failure are a delusion. I tend to believe in processes, not the end result. I measure my success by how many meaningful relationships I have and how many people support or love me when the world is literally falling apart. I appreciated the people around me who supported me when nearly all of the positions I had interviewed for were suspended one by one. COVID-19 had a harder toll for international students because our families are far away, but knowing they were doing okay in the chaotic environment made me feel sane. I’m also thankful for the institutional support and support from the faculty regardless of if I worked with them actively or not.

What would you say has defined your Georgia Tech experience?

I think the best thing about Georgia Tech is that it is very diverse, full of the most brilliant minds of the world with a top-notch, supportive, and encouraging research environment. Also, as it is a public institution, one of its missions is educating the public, regardless of a person’s background. I like this meaningful mix of the many worlds. Not all institutions have a culture that is brilliant, humble, and accessible while at the same time having the largest ECE/BME research portfolio in the country.

What accomplishment are you most proud of from your time here?

I was given the independence to design and implement a clinical trial related to the understanding and development of novel technologies for the treatment of PTSD. We collaborated with physicians and scientists at Emory School of Medicine. My research with combat veterans and abused women with PTSD powerfully exposed me to communities and issues beyond the sheltered privilege of academia. I am proud to have touched such a sensitive public health problem, and it was also timely given the pandemic. The technologies I worked on have the potential to be accessible to communities with disadvantaged backgrounds who otherwise do not have access to regular mental healthcare services.

Did you have a favorite class or professor here in ECE?

Omer Inan is my favorite professor. He is the most supportive and encouraging advisor a grad student can get. Omer provided me with independence in my own research, resources, and great mental support/advice with a diverse and active environment that he successfully created. Grad school is stressful, humanity components are key to survive, regardless of the background you are coming from.

My favorite class was Quantitative Neuroscience (BMED 7610) with Garrett Stanley. I was blown away by how my ECE skillset could be used for meaningful questions related to the nervous system. Class content was accompanied by cool projects and an introduction to cutting edge research.

What will you do after graduation?

I am currently a postdoc at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA working on translational technologies for brain-heart disorders. I hope to be on an academic research route and learn with/educate the next generation of researchers and engineers as an independent researcher managing my own group.

Do you have any advice for future Georgia Tech ECE students?

People you work/mingle with may be more important than you realize. A Ph.D. program is a lonely journey by definition, but the culture of the lab/people you work with shape the future you and your future wants and needs. There is this myth that graduate school is supposed to be a miserable grind that leaves you broken and jaded, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you find the people who support you, believe in you, and who will simply grab a coffee with you when you get tired.

Another piece of advice I can give is to pay more attention to the culture of where you go to grad school than to the reputation of the department. I think it’s better to have a wonderful time getting a degree that’s a good fit for you than it is to spend four to eight years toiling in misery at a famous hall of learning. Make an effort to get to know potential advisors long before you apply and talk to their graduate students/fresh graduates. Also pay attention to the sample of people who you talk to. If they are all lonely and miserable, maybe do not aspire to join that lab. On the other hand, every individual has a different experience, that is where your intuition comes into play. 

 

Last revised December 8, 2020