Graduation year: May 2022
Double-major: Computer engineering and applied mathematics
Hometown: San Ramon, CA
Activities: Professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau; engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi; honor society Phi Kappa Phi; intramural sports.
What motivated you to study computer engineering?
Davis: My sister is an electrical engineer who minored in computer science, so that was one influence. Growing up in the Bay Area you're around a lot of technology and so that drew my interest towards either computer science or something in the engineering field.
I chose computer engineering in particular because electrical engineering is on the hardware side, whereas with computer science you'll never get to see any of the hardware or develop engineering fundamentals, so I thought computer engineering would be a nice blend of being able to learn both software and hardware at the same time.
Why did you decide to study at Pacific?
Davis: I have family ties to Pacific. My grandfather studied engineering here, [and] my sister did her undergrad here, and so it was kind of a comfortable choice since the school was already familiar to me. And I had been able to visit campus and speak with faculty before my decision.
What is it like to study computer engineering at Pacific?
Davis: There's definitely a big focus on experiential learning here, at least in my department. Many professors stay away from testing and focus more on project-based classes, so you're not just memorizing or crunching numbers, but you get to build in class towards labs or a final project. That combined with the Co-Op program ensures that everyone who graduates has some sort of industry experience. Also, I feel like research is fairly accessible in our school.
What are some research projects that you worked on?
Davis: So, for one project I was able to join a research group where some upperclassman students were creating the software and communication necessary for a DJI drone to fly autonomously. I helped with the programming and networking to get the communication, telemetry and navigation working. And later on, I was able to do a different research project related to that drone project in terms of looking into point selection algorithms for mapping out a body of water by selecting valuable points for measurement. We were looking for algorithms that could maximize accuracy given a finite number of sample points allowed.
It was all an independent study which we did for ourselves. We were discovering and designing on our own. But I had a faculty research adviser with whom we'd have check-ins, and she made sure that we were staying on the right track, and if we had questions, we would go to her.
What is the SOECS Cooperative Education program?
Davis: It's a graduation requirement at SOECS with the exception of computer science and bioengineering majors. Usually, you take the class in your third year and then apply for an eight-month paid internship. The class teaches you the professional development aspects like resume building, LinkedIn page building, how to apply for a job, interview etiquette. The school helps facilitate the internship application process and if one of the companies accepts you, you can get hands-on industry experience during a whole semester and summer.
What projects did you work on during your internship?
Davis: My internship was with Micron Technology based in Boise, ID, but I worked in their ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) characterization lab in San Jose, CA, from January to August 2021. We would have a bunch of different projects come through our lab and it was our job to validate that the designs were meeting the industry standards.
Application-specific integrated circuits are essentially small-scale computer chips. If you think of a USB stick that you plug into any computer, it should allow for a flow of data back and forth with the computer, the device and the host. Micron’s main product is memory storage solutions, and we were working on ASIC’s that control the flow of the data between, say hard drives or RAM to the host. In order for that "USB stick" to work universally, it has to meet certain industry standards, electrical and speed characteristics. We had to verify that if you buy one of Micron’s products it will meet the standards to work anywhere you plug it in.
How well do you feel prepared for how fast the technology advances in your field?
Davis: I feel like as an undergrad student at Pacific, I’m learning problem solving and the fundamentals behind everything so that I can understand and better apply myself when I’m in the professional field. The basics of physics and computer science are for the most part going to be the same so, you might not learn the bleeding edge industry standards while you're at school, but you'll learn the background behind it and understand how it got to where it is today.
What's next after you graduate?
Davis: The plan is to just apply to grad schools and see if I could do a master's program. I’ve been looking into computer engineering or electrical engineering programs with computer architecture programs because advanced digital design was one of my favorite classes. I think, computer architecture and design logic are something that I really enjoy, and I’d want to learn more about. If not, I’ll just work in the industry for a bit and see where that takes me.
What advice would you give to incoming Pacific students?
Davis: Definitely just be open to new opportunities, try new things, challenge yourself while you're here. It's okay to make mistakes. If you're pushing yourself, you can find where your limits are but if you just stay comfortable and stick with the status quo, you will never stand out or have the enriching experience that I think a smaller university like Pacific can give you.