Featured Spotlight: Emily O’Mahony – Class of 2022
In her own words – interviewed Summer 2021
- Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA
- Year: Senior
- Favorite: Sensor & Peripheral Interface Design (ECE 153B)
- Student Memberships: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
- Last Book Read: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Interesting aside about you: I have a dual Irish citizenship
- Hobbies: Playing the piano and the carillon
- Band / Performer: Kansas
- TV Show: Merlin
- Movie: The Godfather
- Book: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- Activity: Kayaking
- Sport: Volleyball
- Geeky Possession: a replica of Harry Potter’s wand
Favorite things about
- CE Program: The program is super beginner friendly – even if you have no experience in computer science or electrical engineering (like me, before I came to UCSB!) your curriculum can start from the ground up.
- UCSB: The people at UCSB are always collaborative and welcoming. If you’re looking for help or to try something new, there will always be someone willing to point you in the right direction. It’s never about stepping on other people to succeed – the community is incredibly supportive.
- Santa Barbara: The weather!!! It’s perfectly temperate nearly all year round. Also, there’s always things to do nearby, between the ocean, mountains, and the nice downtown area.
Emily and Computer Engineering
Why CE as a major? I didn’t know much about any kind of engineering while I was applying to college; I was pretty good at math and science in high school, and figured that would translate well to computer engineering. The way the major is set up, you take equal parts computer science and electrical engineering classes, which seemed like a good idea since I wasn’t sure which side I would like better (if at all).
Why did you select UCSB's CE program? The fact that UCSB has such a small graduate student population relative to the undergraduate population made it an attractive program because it meant that I could potentially get more research opportunities and build closer relationships with professors. The CE students that I interacted with before choosing UCSB were all working on really cool projects, like a giant Tesla coil, and gave me the hope that I could do similar things.
How did you hear about UCSB's CE program? Primarily from my own online research during college application season. I’m also from the Bay Area, so a lot of people I knew would have gone to UCs in general and provided insight on how the different programs worked.
Prospective students and parents often ask, what can you do with a CE degree? A better question would be what can’t you do with a CE degree. Technology is everywhere these days; virtually every company or startup in any industry needs computer people, so you can get involved in whatever sector most interests you.
What have you learned that has surprised you the most so far? I took Intro to Computer Communication Networks (CS 176A) in Spring ‘21 and I couldn’t believe that the Internet just works. It’s based on best-effort delivery, which basically means that computers will try to send things, but if it doesn’t work, no big deal, and apparently that’s good enough for most of the computer networks all over the world.
What has your experience been like taking the Math and Physics core classes? My high school didn’t have AP Physics or AP Calc BC, so it was a little rough competing with students who had all that background knowledge from before coming to college. Overall, though, every course will have loads of TAs and learning assistants ready to help whenever you need it.
What has been your most challenging but rewarding course? That would probably be Hardware/Software Interface (ECE 153A). I hadn’t done much work with embedded systems before this class, so there were a lot of unfamiliar concepts right off the bat. My partner and I spent a very, very long time working on the labs trying to get things to work, and there were definitely a few late nights working on the final project before the deadline. In the end I learned a lot from the class and I’m glad I took it, especially since it over-prepared me for Sensor & Peripheral Interface Design (ECE153B).
Are there any specific classes that you are looking forward to? I’m looking forward to taking Distributed Systems (CS 171). I’ve taken Operating Systems and Computer Networks, so I think that class will tie a lot of things together.
What area do you want to specialize in? I have no idea! All the engineering classes I’ve taken so far have been really interesting, but I can’t seem to pick a specific field that I like more than the others. For now I’m still exploring the different aspects of computer engineering.
Have you done an internship? I’m currently a Development/Operations (DevOps) & Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Intern for Poshmark. It’s mostly remote, but I was lucky to be able to go into the office in Redwood City a handful of times and meet some coworkers. Most of my work involves the SRE side of things, so right now I’m working on a bot to automate some of the steps of incident management.
Have you had any on-campus research opportunities at UCSB? In sophomore year I participated in the UCSB Early Research Scholars Program (ERSP) with Professor Bultan and the Verification Lab. The program starts with a quarter-long course in research methods and then two quarters of a research project in a team setting. It was a great way to learn about what research is and get some hands-on experience early on. I ended up continuing to work with Professor Bultan last summer through an Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) fellowship, which provided even more opportunities to explore computer science and experience a research setting.
Preparation from High School to College
What prepared you the most for studying engineering in college? In high school, I didn’t know which subject I liked best or what I wanted to major in until quite late so I took as many AP classes and participated in as many extracurriculars as I could manage. That busy schedule is probably what prepared me the most for the hefty CE workload – just having a lot of things going on and staying organized amidst all the activities.
Are there any classes that you suggest CE students take before entering UCSB? I’d recommend AP Calculus and AP Physics if your high school offers them, and if not taking them over the summer at your local community college or online would be handy too. Having that background, whether or not it counts for credit at UCSB, is super helpful.
Any additional experiences that you would like to share with students to help them prepare for college? My experience generally has been that if you try as many new things as you can early in your college career, over time they’ll naturally narrow down to the things you find most fulfilling. There’s a lot of things to do in college that you might never again get the chance to try, so I would advise to really put yourself out there as much as possible.
Student Life at UCSB
What is campus life like for CE students? Generally, campus life is what you make of it. There are plenty of nice study spots around campus, and there’s always space at the library or in the computer labs. You’ll probably spend a lot of time in and around Harold Frank Hall because most of the CE classes are held in that area. Once you’ve taken a few classes you start to see the same people again and again because the major is relatively small, which gives a nice feeling of community.
What is the social scene like on campus, in Isla Vista (IV) and off-campus like for CE students? Again, it’s what you make of it. I’m pretty balanced when it comes to studying vs. socializing, so I gravitate towards people who likewise work hard but want to enjoy our time in college. There’s nearly always something exciting happening in Isla Vista or Santa Barbara proper, so the opportunities for fun are definitely there, but you can choose not to partake if that’s not your thing or if you’ve got other things going on.
Describe your housing experience frosh to present: I lived in San Miguel my first year, San Rafael my second, and in IV apartments for the rest of college. I’ve been lucky to have only good experiences with my housing situations – I’m still good friends with my freshman year floormates and continued to live with them through college. All of the Channel Islands five residence halls “ChI-5” (named after the islands off the coast of SB) are conveniently situated on campus and make it easy to meet other freshmen. San Rafael is a bit quieter, which is nice for second year when you’ve already made friends and aren’t necessarily trying to meet a lot of new people through housing. In any case, no matter where you end up, you’ll be able to find cool people with similar interests and values.
What are your “big picture” plans/aspirations after graduation? I plan on going into industry after graduation. As mentioned above, I did a stint in research in my sophomore year, and while it was a great learning opportunity, I feel that the best way to grow further is to go into a completely new environment. I’m not sure yet what field I’ll pursue – at the moment, I’m in DevOps & SRE, which is pretty cool, so I might continue with that, or I might go into something totally different.