What are you studying at UCSB, and what are you researching?
I'm currently doing my PhD in electrical engineering at UCSB. A topic that I study is called meta-materials, which refers to materials that have properties that cannot be found in nature. Usually composed of nanoparticles, they can control light in specific ways so it enables applications like invisibility cloaks and negative diffraction materials.
What is your job at CSEP?
I work in program evaluation. Program evaluation tries to understand whether all the initiatives that are being taken by CSEP are effective.
What are some of the projects you have worked on during your time as a program evaluator?
Some of the projects I work on are related to coursework, and some are more broad academic programs. I worked on a project looking at the effectiveness of a design capstone chemical engineering course at UCSB where we wanted to help them learn design better and assess their learning. With larger data sets, we rely on a quantitative research method, using percentages, but with smaller data sets, we use surveys and interviews, which is more qualitative.
How did your involvement with CSEP begin?
I realized in my fourth year of my PhD [now in her sixth year], that I enjoy using the scientific process to explore problems that are not scientific. I really value the scientific approach in coming up with a hypothesis in addressing a problem methodically, which is what a lot of program evaluation does.
Do you have any advice for people interested in becoming an engineering major?
One thing I didn't realize when going through my undergraduate classes (at University of Michigan) was I was not alone in really struggling in my classes. I realized that everyone feels that way in engineering because it is really hard, and it's okay to admit that you need help.
Has being involved in CSEP influenced your future plans?
Being involved in CSEP completely changed my life. My future plans right now are to work in the government as advisor to a senator or congressman on science related issues. I want a job where I can have some sort of tangible positive influence on society.
What influenced your decision to go into policy?
When I started my PhD, I was the traditional engineering PhD student. I thought I wanted to be a professor or researcher, but along the way I realized my motivations and strengths as a person are better suited for policy evaluation analysis.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I really enjoy creative writing. I believe being a science major and also having a creative outlet is important balance.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think it's a really valuable experience to work at CSEP for any STEM major. All sorts of doors and opportunities will open for STEM majors that they never would have discovered otherwise.