Download my cv (pdf) here.
I am a researcher at the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center (BSAC). I graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in electrical engineering and computer sciences (EECS) and a minor in mathematics in August 2020 (I postponed my graduation from spring to summer in order to work as head lab TA for the inaugural summer offering of EECS 16B, the second lower-division electrical engineering course at UCB, which we taught fully remotely). Currently, my work involves designing integrated circuits to characterize the ion composition of solar wind (you can read more about this on my research page). However, in the future, I would also like to design neurally-implantable integrated-circuit "motes" to treat mental illnesses.
Professionally, I am currently seeking a full- or part-time (preferably full) job or internship in analog or mixed-signal integrated-circuit design. I'm particularly interested in designing circuits for space or neurological (or other medical) applications. If you are looking to fill a related position, please contact me.
Below is my statement of purpose.
My singular goal in life has always been to understand as much about as many things as humanly possible. When applying to undergraduate institutions, I applied to nearly every major other than business, ranging from architecture and studio art to philosophy, mathematics, physics, and almost every different kind of engineering. I chose EECS because it seemed to me to be the most difficult one to learn without formal instruction (alongside being heavily academically cloistered) and the broadest in terms of both applications and implications. I am applying to PhD programs because I would like to spend the rest of my life performing research that furthers not only the scope of my knowledge, but also the scope of human observation and understanding. As such, the frontiers that have fascinated me for as long as I can remember are space (representing "objectivity") and the brain (representing subjectivity), which I intend to explore in graduate school through the medium of integrated circuits.1
The first of these frontiers that I considered was the brain: in high school, I worked in Dr. Wilde's neuroimaging lab at Baylor College of Medicine, using diffusion tensor imaging to study mild traumatic brain injury. At the same time, I was required to take part in a graduate neuroimaging course, which covered the physical and physiological mechanisms of image formation and surveyed several imaging modalities (including PET and EEG/MEG source localization) but heavily emphasized MRI. At this point, I realized that imaging itself was significantly more interesting to me than the conclusions it enables neuroscientists to make, and for the first time, I considered pursuing my interest in the brain through the medium of electrical engineering. One year later, when I chose to come to Berkeley to study EECS, imaging was the preeminent force pushing me into the field.
Then, the summer after my freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to begin putting what I had learned toward the other frontier (space) when I began working in the Arkin lab on several projects related to space synthetic biology. These included Crucible, an open-source, 3D-printable chamber for space synthetic biology experiments, in-situ resource utilization models for Martian life support, power, and manufacturing systems, and most importantly, developing software to conduct Martian climate simulations in order to optimize the bandgap and location of photoelectrochemical cells. Despite the fascinating nature of the work, my ethical qualms with space colonization ultimately led me to leave this position to focus more on teaching, since I was beginning to write the first edition of the lab notes for EECS 16B at the time as well.
Later on, after taking courses in circuits and signal processing, my research interests began to shift toward more design-oriented work. After taking EE 140, I started working with Professor Pister to design time-of-flight hardware for the Solar Probe Analyzer for Ions (SPAN-ION) and decided to pursue a PhD with an emphasis on integrated circuits. The breadth of uses for integrated circuits to me indicated an essentially infinite horizon for new knowledge (I briefly considered patent law for similar reasons). In order to actually make a meaningful contribution to this field, I need to improve my skill in and overall knowledge of integrated circuit design so that I can have both a robust set of tools and the necessary depth of understanding of the current state of research to identify blind spots that limit its scope. After this project is complete, I would like to contribute to the development of neuroprostheses for treating mental illness and incidentally come back to the frontier that first sparked my interest in technology: the brain.
However: I do not think I can fully pursue this goal without also devoting research to education. The further I went in my undergraduate education, the more I came to realize the extent to which EECS is cloistered, even gatekept. The gap in knowledge/understanding of technology between the engineers who design it and those who use it is only growing wider, thereby begetting a profound imbalance of power between experts (and self-proclaimed "experts") and laypeople.
Knowledge, as a rule, is indivisible from power2; but, what differentiates technology from other highly-specialized fields is its sheer ubiquity. It is so deeply entrenched in modern life that it wouldn't be outlandish to claim that we live in a digital panopticon in which, even assuming its vast surveillance potential is not exploited, the authority of tech experts is internalized.3
So, is this application a barefaced capitulation to the will to power? Yes, but actually no: my ultimate career goal is to become a professor so that I can pursue my original goal while also working to solve this problem at its source: the education system.
I believe the education system as it stands fails in several ways. However, the most far-reaching of these is its failure to inspire students to value learning for its own sake instead of the sake of a number, whether that number is a GPA or a starting salary. Particularly among high achievers, the sacrifice that learning demands (of which the given number is a symbol), rather than the resultant knowledge/experience, is what holds value. But, unseen sacrifice does not hold value: only sacrifice that is performed and recognized as such can be valuable. Adorno and Horkheimer name the resulting behavior the “introversion of sacrifice”. The belief that sacrificing personal desire is inherently virtuous and necessary for learning implies that learning cannot be enjoyable, that without the feeling of sacrifice, the bitter taste of asceticism acting as hot black coffee at an intellectual dawn, one cannot awaken to higher knowledge, subsequently causes learning, particularly learning that one does not enjoy, to be held as a talisman strengthening the ego of the learner when it should be viewed egolessly as play, as a fact of existence, as what it means to be truly human. This failure (paradoxically) causes students to fear the hard work of critical thinking and subsequently avoid it after they “complete” their education (i.e., finish school). They avoid things outside of their expertise because they have been taught to loathe the feeling of struggling toward understanding, mistakenly conflating it with a lack of intelligence, because what holds value is not sacrifice itself but rather the performance of sacrifice. Tech experts’ perceived authority comes not from an authentic mandate of knowledge or experience but rather from our conflation of apparent sacrifice (demonstrated by rank, salary, and infamy) with those two elements.
So, how can we correct this? Economic realities mean that any platitude imploring students to pursue their passion regardless of the economic opportunities it affords is just that: cliché at best, and dangerous at worst. But: people assume that what they’re good at or what they’ve liked the most for the longest is their passion; that everyone has a single unchanging academic calling; that the path which minimizes the amount of unseen sacrifice is the path one must choose. This could not be further from the truth, not only because the heuristic by which one estimates the cost of a given path at the start of higher education is necessarily poor due to lack of information, but, fundamentally, because passions are learned, not found. This is why the quality of teaching in engineering is crucial not only to the solution of the problem of power but also to the production of great engineers. Many students choose engineering because of the economic opportunities it affords rather than for their appreciation for the field, and without excellent teaching, their undergraduate education becomes more of an exercise in sacrifice, which many then attempt to alleviate by cheating—that academic cancer and canonical symptom of this error in valuation.
Finally, how can one instill the perseverance necessary for learning in students without glorifying sacrifice as the ultimate value? The answer is classically simple to state but difficult to implement: by cultivating curiosity. One way to do this is by providing more information than just that which is required to complete assignments, especially in courses that do not use textbooks, doing so in a way that is consistent with external sources, so that students’ curiosity is rewarded when they choose to look deeper into a topic on their own time, and, including sources for further reading that approach the topic differently from lecture to enable students with varied learning styles to sink their teeth into the material. Additionally, one can include practical questions in homeworks to encourage students to tinker, especially ones related to current research, and emphasize projects over exams in course grading. My experience as a Berkeley student in lower-division courses frustrated me somewhat in this regard and drove me to become a TA so that I could implement these ideas in the content I created for EECS 16B. I was an undergraduate student instructor for this course for six semesters, eventually winning an Outstanding GSI award in my penultimate semester on staff before serving as head lab TA for the final time during the inaugural summer offering of the course. Of course, the solution to this problem demands much more study and discussion than just this paragraph, so as a graduate student (and in the future, as a professor), I look forward to exploring this and other pedagogical questions alongside scientific and technological frontiers.
1I say space represents "objectivity" because studying space demands breaking extant boundaries on our capability for accurate observation on a literally universal scale. However, this cannot be done without asking: how can we be sure our observations are accurate? And, how do we interpret these observations? Because humans are the ones who design the systems that produce the data that provide the basis for the interpretation that we call the observation, human subjectivity is inextricable from scientific observation, and since the locus of human subjectivity is the brain, understanding the function of the brain should refine our ability to make more (verifiably) accurate observations about the universe.
2 according to Foucault, at least.
3 A particularly pernicious effect of this internalization is the common conflation between technical expertise and intelligence, which leads students to be quick to doubt their own potential in the field (in much the same way that people are quick to say they're bad at math when in reality they may either have had subpar early teachers or fallaciously believed that any struggle with the subject indicates total unfitness. This internalization, in my opinion, is a major reason why the STEM pipeline is so "leaky" for underrepresented groups.)
Outside of work, I enjoy music discovery, reading and learning about 20th- and 21st-century philosophy and fiction, crossword puzzles (all word puzzles on the New York Times website, to be honest), trivia, watching Only Connect, anything involving Richard Ayoade or James Acaster, and a few video games (will we ever get Portal 3???).