By Shiva Patro
Two years ago, I was a young electrical engineer from the under-developed Indian state of Odisha working on Radar Projects for a semiconductor company called CoreEL Technologies. This year I was named one of WayUp’s top 100 interns in America. I spent this summer working at Micron Technologies learning to write functional coverage and test vectors for the validation of a specific 3D NAND product. Of all the students here at USC, I, an electrical engineer, was the only representative of our University on that list.
Being from a lower-middle-class family never stopped me from achieving my dreams. My father is a teacher and he has always encouraged me to pursue an academic path. As a kid, I loved science and math. By the time I was in high school, I realized that physics is the exact combination of science and math that I wanted to pursue. Physics then introduced me to the world of electronics and from there, I never looked back.
What got me so involved in my community here? Simply put, my passion for ECE. In my opinion, there’s no better field for turning imagination into reality – all you need is the right training and a little hope.
I completed my undergraduate studies in India where I learned about semiconductors, electronic circuits and their applications in the real world. After college, I worked on radar projects used for Indian defense. I learned to design, test, and debug electronic circuits and systems. Every day we were building circuits, using chips our company outsourced. The more chips I saw, the more I wondered how they were built and what was inside those amazing, tiny little things.
At this point, I had pretty strong circuit-level knowledge, but I wanted to know more about chips. Imagine handling a cutting-edge piece of technology every day that is fundamental to your job, but being untrained on one important aspect of it. I decided to pursue my Master's in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Digital VLSI and Computer Architecture at USC Viterbi.
From the moment I stepped on the campus, I knew I had made the right decision. My ECE courses not only contained the latest technology, they also offered real-world projects to reflect what working in industry is like today. This made studying an awesome experience. All of my teachers have helped prepare me for the next stage of my life, but I have to mention one of them by name. Professor Gandhi Puvvada did such a great job of teaching so much relevant material in a surprisingly short amount of time. His dedication to his students is inspiring!
The dedication of my teachers was especially important because my transition to USC was not so smooth. I had to switch from working life back to student life– all in a completely new country and culture. Being on a student loan, I worked an on-campus job as a student lead in SAL Library to earn enough for rent and groceries. These were responsibilities I didn’t have as an undergrad in India. Luckily, at USC there are all kinds of events and resources that helped me relax. I joined the Cromwell Premier League – USC’s intramural cricket club, winning the semi-annual tournament. For a student from India, this was especially cool! I also served as a Senator for ECE in the Viterbi Graduate Student Association and organized various events such as hiking, movie night and bowling for fellow students.
Participation in all these programs taught me a great deal about teamwork, self-confidence, organization, and empathy. These are all important skills any masters student will need in the workforce.
What got me so involved in my community here? Simply put, my passion for ECE. In my opinion, there’s no better field for turning imagination into reality – all you need is the right training and a little hope. I want to help my fellow ECE students see that we should never lose hope because as the quote from The Shawshank Redemption goes: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies…”
If I could give some advice to future students, it would be this: Dream big, never give up on anything, and try to find your passion. Only then can you enjoy your studies or work. Actively seek out internships and career opportunities – USC is hosting a career fair tomorrow so go check it out!
My involvement with the community at USC Viterbi helped prepare me for the equally important social aspects of working in industry. At Micron, I was the only intern who joined the Micron Young Professional group where I helped to organize events and Speaker Series. I also participated in several voluntary services like teaching elementary school kids about engineering and food sorting for the underprivileged community with Project WeHope. Micron's Volleyball and Ping Pong Intramurals were other events I embraced. These may all seem like just fun things to do (and they definitely were fun!) but it was much more than that. Participation in all these programs taught me a great deal about teamwork, self-confidence, organization, and empathy. These are all important skills any masters student will need in the workforce.
Lastly, don’t be shy about trying to find a mentor at USC. There is no shortage of professors here who are eager to support young students. Learn from their experiences, ask questions, and get involved. If you do all these things, ECE will reward you!
Shiva is graduating in December of 2019 with a Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a focus on Digital VLSI and Computer Architecture. He is looking forward to working as a Design Engineer in the semiconductor industry.