photo of abel semma at his desk

Abel Semma – Class of 2021

In his own words – interviewed Senior Year (Winter 2021)

  • Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Favorite ECE Course: Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence in Design and Test Automation (ECE 157A/B)
  • Senior Project: ECE 189 (People's Choice Award) – Project Argus: Astronaut Procedure Tracking with NASA Ames Research Center
  • Student Organizations: National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  • Last Book Read: What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Shad Helmstetter
  • Interesting aside about you: I want to travel around the world as much as I can as soon as I can

Abel’s Favorite

  • Hobbies: Soccer, Gym, Photography, and Reading
  • Band / Performer: Nipsey Hussle
  • TV Show: Prison Break
  • Movie: Tenet and Inception
  • Book: Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Activity: Board games
  • Sport: Soccer

Favorite things about

  • ECE Department: There are a lot of things I like about the UCSB ECE Department. The top few would include the amazing advisors that we have, the knowledgeable professors that make sure their students succeed, and most importantly the vibe created by the amazing students that attend UCSB.
  • UCSB: I have yet to see a more beautiful school than UCSB. The weather is amazing all year round which makes the people at UCSB happy. If the people are happy then a lot of things get accomplished. The academics, the social life, the sports, anything you can think of is done at a high level because the people that do it enjoy their environment.
  • Santa Barbara: I have not had a lot of opportunities to explore Santa Barbara, but from what I have seen I like that it is a calm city. Downtown is nice and I don’t get the rushed feeling I do in other cities. There are also nice beaches to explore.

Abel and Computer Engineering

  • Why CE as a major?: I was introduced to programming in high school when I took a community college course. I found it interesting, but I didn’t want to limit my options when choosing a major, so when I saw that UCSB had a Computer Engineering program I decided to give it a try. Plus, it has been a great experience to take both Computer Science and Electrical Engineering courses.
  • Why did you select UCSB's CE program?: I choose the CE program because of its renowned recognition around the nation as being one of the best public schools overall. I also had a plan to do the 5-year master’s program and UCSB offers that for some majors.
  • How did you hear about UCSB's CE program?: I learned about the CE program at UCSB while I was researching which UC schools I wanted to apply to.
  • Prospective students and parents often ask, what can you do with a CE degree?: I think CE is probably the most diverse major in the College of Engineering. Students can split into Computer Science or Electrical Engineering fields if they want to, focus on both, or dive into other programs such as the Technology Management Program (TMP) while still completing their engineering degree. The options after college are endless.

The Curriculum

  • What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes?: The lower division Math courses were good. At least I had a good time taking those courses and benefited later in upper divisions. The physics courses, however, were very difficult. If you have to take physics, make sure you utilize the resources available on campus like the physics study room and Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS).
  • Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to?: The Capstone Senior Project series (ECE 189ABC). I am currently in 189B and we are halfway through the series. It is exciting to be working on a project for an entire year.
  • Talk about your Capstone experience so far: It has been amazing. I am working with my friends on a NASA proposed problem that seeks to solve procedure tracking. The prototype we are developing is a system that can guide a user from start to finish on how to perform a certain procedure, whether it is building a robot or fixing a spare part.
  • Have you done an internship?: Yes, I worked at Intel as a Software Engineer Intern the summer of my junior year. I was supposed to move to Arizona, but due to COVID I ended up staying in Santa Barbara and enjoyed the beautiful summer weather. I had valuable experiences working in industry and learned a lot about myself. This internship helped me decide where and what I would like to focus my career on. I think if possible, people should try to intern before going full time in any career they are thinking about.
  • Have you had any on-campus research opportunities at UCSB?: I was fortunate enough to be part of the Gorman Scholars Program. I interned summer of 2019 and that was also a valuable experience in my development as an individual.

Preparation from High School to College

  • What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college?: Taking AP Courses and some community college courses gave me some idea of what college courses would be like. Those classes were the fundamentals and building blocks to most of my engineering courses especially physics, statistics, and CS.
  • Are there any classes that you suggest CE students take before entering UCSB?: Looking back, I would have liked to take more AP courses, not just the stem ones but the others as well. That helps ease the amount of GE’s you will have to take when you get to UCSB which in the end will lower your course load per quarter. You can also take some community college courses to satisfy lower level CS and ECE courses so check on the website to be well prepared for UCSB.

Student Life at UCSB

  • What is campus life like for CE students?: Most of the EE and CE students spend their time near the main gate of the campus in Harold Frank Hall. The upper division CE/CS/ECE labs and professors work there, so everyone pretty much spends most of their week on this side of campus. Another hub for ECE students is the Computer Science Instructional Lab (CSIL). It is a mini library that provides computers with many installed programs, free printers, and an onsite restroom. During midterm seasons you can pretty much find any ECE major here.
  • What is the social scene like on-campus and off-campus like for CE students?: The social scene can be very different depending on where you spend your time and who you hang out with. It is ultimately up to the person to choose where they would like to be, but there is something for everyone. If you wish to spend your weekends studying, there are so many study spots, library rooms, and friend groups that spend time doing that. If you wish to go out and enjoy the weekend there are people that do that. If you want to spend the day at the beach or head downtown there are also a lot of people that choose that.
  • Describe your housing experience frosh to present: My first year at UCSB I lived in one of the high risers called San Nicolas. I was part of the Freshman Summer Start Program (FSSP) and that was when I met most of the people I know today.

    It was exciting to live with new friends and the dorm life taught me how to live with other people. The Dining Commons were amazing and made the transition to college life less stressful now that I look back at it. I lived in Manzanita Village my sophomore year in which I experienced a very similar lifestyle. My junior year is when I moved into the university’s Santa Ynez apartments. Although a little far from campus, I enjoyed the apartment living situation a lot more. I was able to cook for myself, be responsible for a place with three of my good friends and enjoy the beautiful view that the apartment had to offer. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we could not do it again senior year, but I have enjoyed my time at UCSB housing to the best degree possible.

After Graduation

  • What are your “big picture” plans/aspirations after graduation?: After graduation, I will be working in industry for Intel. I am thankful and fortunate to have had a quality education at UCSB, but considering the path I want to take and the kinds of things I want to learn, I won’t be able to obtain my goals from additional schooling. I want to live through the industry experience and navigate towards where I want to be.