Peggy Zhu and two others
Pictured, from left: Peggy Zhu, Dave Wilson and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering André Knoesen. (Courtesy of Zhu)

Blog: AvenueE Is a Compass for First-Gen Students

My name is Peggy Zhu, and I'm a fourth-year electrical and computer engineering major. After completing my lower-division classes at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California, coming to the University of California, Davis, felt like embarking on a new adventure.  

Peggy Zhu
(Courtesy of Peggy Zhu)

As a first-generation engineering student, I was eager to explore — but uncertain how to navigate — college life in this new environment. Therefore, I signed up for the College of Engineering's AvenueE program, which both helps community college students transition to UC Davis and prepares them for engineering careers.  

Here at UC Davis, AvenueE has become my compass, providing invaluable resources to guide my academic and professional journey.

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by transfer students, AvenueE offers comprehensive support, including one-to-one professional mentorship, advising, resume and interview workshops, networking opportunities with industry leaders, business etiquette training and a supportive community formed by cohorts.

During one cohort study session, I learned about EE-Emerge, a class outside my major that focuses on developing hands-on electronics projects for junior students. I reached out to the instructor with a colleague's help, and the class ultimately led to a rewarding summer internship supervised by Distinguished Professor André Knoesen, the chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  

This internship not only connected me with a fantastic mentor, Dave Wilson, the founder of the hands-on engineering educational company Revidyne, but also provided the opportunity to be guided by inspiring professors and collaborate with undergraduate and doctoral students from other universities on a sustainable energy educational kit named ReviGrid.  

This project aims to develop a practical platform for engineering students to conduct experiments with a cyber-physical sustainable power grid, capable of reflecting the intricate challenges present in real-world scenarios while lowering the cost and increasing the accessibility of interactive engineering education.

The MATLAB applications I independently developed for the project were recognized with a co-authorship in an upcoming academic workbook on smart grid education, which is a valuable addition to my graduate school application.

AvenueE's support extended beyond academics. When I needed funding to present my internship project with my mentor at the 2024 ECEDHA Annual Conference & ECExpo in Tucson, Arizona, AvenueE generously covered my hotel and airplane ticket expenses. The conference provided me with a platform to showcase my work to professors and industry leaders nationwide, leading to an exciting connection with a project manager from Altium, an American-Australian company that provides automation software for the development of printed circuit boards. 

Together with the Club of Future Female Electrical Engineers, or COFFEE, Altium is establishing a scholarship program to advance women in engineering at UC Davis. As part of this initiative, I will be trained by Altium to become a certified educator during the summer of 2024, which will allow me to train fellow UC Davis students on Altium Designer, the professional printed circuit board design software widely used in the industry, starting this fall. 

Looking back, AvenueE's comprehensive support has equipped me with the skills, network and foundation for my future success. Without AvenueE's guidance and resources, this incredible journey of mine would not have been possible. 

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