The First Ever ECExpo 2020

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department would like to thank everyone who was able to make it out to our first UC Davis ECExpo. This was an event full of great opportunities for both our undergraduate and graduate students. The UC Davis ECExpo was a unique and exclusive opportunity for industry partners, alumni, students and friends to collaborate, network, learn about technical innovations and research directions in the ECE department. A keynote talk “Towards Hardware Cybersecurity” was given by Professor Houman Homayoun who recently joined the department. Experts from industry gave talks in four technical minisymposium that ran in parallel.  Dr. Stephen O’Driscoll from Verily Life Sciences gave a talk on Technological Trends in Smart Health. Dr. Jin Yang from Verizon Wireless and Dr. Earl McCune from Eridan Communications gave talks in Wireless Networking and Cyber AI. Dr. Ted Woodward from Facebook talked on RF and mm-Wave Technologies. Faculty and students gave short talks in the minisymposia.  During a poster and networking session, graduate students presented their research results and undergraduate students presented information on their ongoing design projects. The ECExpo successfully connected and promoted the attending 100+ graduate and undergraduate students and their research to leading industries such as LAM research, Varium and TI. Not only was it successfully able to provide attendees with vital networking opportunities and advice but also provided some of the students who helped with the planning and execution of the expo an idea of what happens behind the scenes.

One of the key goals of the ECExpo was to give our students the opportunity to network with some of the industry. We were able to follow up and gather advice from some of the representatives of attending industries and alumni from the event on the importance of networking. 

 Hope Bovenzi, a 2012 UC Davis Graduate ECE dept, currently works at Texas Instruments as Sector General Manager for Automotive Infotainment Systems team expressed the important role networking has in landing a job. “When looking for a new role, it’s not necessarily where you apply, it’s who you know. A broad and impactful network of who you talk to regularly to find your next role can make or break your career.” 

Another key member of the Industrial Panel included, Eric Stenman, an Advanced Manufacturing Engineering at Varium and Master’s degree alumni from UC Davis in ‘96,  expressed how key the relationships you build are to the path of anyone's career. “In the arc of your career, the first job is the hardest, as you get in your career, the opportunities that you find come from the network. It’s something you have to maintain in your career just like any friendship. Will be key to your pathway in the world of technology.” 

The Technical lead for Next Generation Plasma at LAM and UC-Davis 2011 BS ECE Dept alumni, Andrew Fong, wanted to explain to students that alumni networking is a vital resource that each student should take advantage of. “Alumni networking gives you access to a lot of people that have a lot of information. How that organization fits with other organizations within a company, how your skill set fits with that organization, and how you can contribute and pitch yourself to get hired; gaining the intelligence, you need for greater success in getting an interview.” 

Finally, Anuji Barlow, recent 2015 BA and 2017 Masters in EC graduate from UC-Davis expressed how his recent network as a young alumni landed him his position as an Electrical Systems Engineer at LAM. ”As a new graduate and Davis alumni, networking was important because you have a very good understanding of the coursework and the types of projects I’d be working on. When I joined LAM, my Applied Materials Internship played a pivotal role in landing at LAM, and that Alumni connection was very important.”

The minisymposium, one of the highlights of the ECExpo, provided students and industry the unique opportunity to get a closer look at what research is being done in a variety of fields. 

 “The wireless networking with Cyber-AI mini-symposium featured two distinguished invited speakers, Dr. McCune from Eridan Communications and Dr. Yang from Verizon Wireless, and two PhD students, Lahiru D. Chamain and Mason del Rosario from UC Davis. In their talks, these speakers shared their exciting works on the applications of machine learning in wireless communications. These talks were very well received. After the symposium, there were lengthy discussions among the audiences and speakers. This symposium provided a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas between industry practitioners and researchers from academia.”  

What sometimes gets forgotten when big events like the ECExpo happens is all the behind the scenes work and planning that went into making sure that it runs smoothly.  It took around 3 months to plan the event. All hands were on deck over at the ECE department, ECE staff and ECE student assistants were all involved in prep work and event coordination. Making sure that food wasn't a question and that everyone had a ride to the event. Everyone's hard work and preparation led to a smooth event with around 100 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 60 industry partners and alumni in attendance for the ECExpo. 

Our ECE Department Chair and Professor, Saif Islam shared some of his general thoughts on event. “We were there in Silicon Valley because that is the place where the top innovators and technologists meet, where the companies are in solidarity with universities in the sense of viewpoint, purpose, and core values. In our department, we have been brainstorming over the years how we can benefit from the largest innovation hub that humankind ever created and how we can better train our students so that they can prepare with relevant skill sets to be ready to serve the companies as employees on day 1. ECExpo helped identify the answers. Our faculty and students started conversations at ECExpo that will extend well beyond what happened there in the TI building.” 

Islam would like to extend a special thanks to Texas Instruments and LAM research for there participation in making this event a possibility, “TI is our long-term partner offering very effective support and resources for developing courses and labs focused on hands-expertise, in addition to pursuing advance research with our faculty. TI’s youngest sector general manager for Automotive Infotainment, Hope Bovenzi just received 2020 UC Davis Alumni Award for her extraordinary service to UC Davis, her professions and communities. She is truly amazing in everything she does for UC Davis. We started the day with a tour at LAM Research hosted by Andrew Fong, the Chair of our Industrial Advisory Committee. It has been a rewarding experience for our students. Andrew is a dedicated alum who looks for any opportunity to help us.”

Department Chair Saif Islam expressed some of the feedback he got from industrial  partners, “The Industry participants agreed that the Power of personal and proximal encounters is huge.  They thanked us for offering the opportunity to generate memorable moments and unexpected insights. They thought these are ways to push the frontiers of technology together. They specifically noted and appreciated that we are the first UC ECE department to host such an event in Silicon Valley.”

Lastly, one of our students who helped make the event a reality, Veronica Contreras, shared what they enjoyed most about the event. “I thought the networking opportunities were pretty cool! It was awesome to see professors talking with people in industry and then being able to jump in on those conversations was really awesome for me in expanding my network.” Networking was one of the key goals in mind when planning the ECExpo and we are glad that students enjoyed that. Contreras shared about specifically interested her in this event, “The ECExpo was a great opportunity for me to maintain the connections I've made throughout my time here in the department. Having the time to talk with my professors and industry connections allowed me the opportunity to catch up with new events happening in both their lives and my own.”   

Hopefully you were able to make it to the first ever ECExpo. It was a great opportunity for all who attended. Not only for the undergraduate and graduate students but also for the university as a whole. Events like the ECExpo, puts UC-Davis  on the map for industries who are on the frontiers of technology. We are excited that this event went well and that we meet the goals we set out to accomplish but we are even more excited for what future ECExpos have in store.



Written by Christopher Gonzalez

Edited by Adil Abbuthalha

Information Collected by Gabrielle Tovar and Femi-Jide Akinmoladun

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