So everyone knows that what you’re supposed to do as a STEM major is get involved in research. It’s in every pamphlet and every student you meet seems to be doing something or other in some research lab. However what does it mean? Why is research so important, and why does everyone seem to be doing it!? It seems like being a part of a secret society that only people involved know about and everyone else is just supposed to smile and nod. Well I am here to tell you what it’s really like. Well at least for me because to be perfectly honest it’s different for every research lab and every student.
I work in Graph Signal Processing (GSP) under Dr. Antonio Ortega. I literally could say nice things about him all day, because he is just fantastic. I got involved because after visiting him one day he asked me if I would be interested in research and of course I said yes! Working in signal processing is very different than the stereotypical EE stuff. I am actually mostly coding and working with diverse types of node based signals and how they manifest on graphs in the frequency spectrum. That’s just a fancy way of saying that I don’t work with circuit boards or robots as everyone expects me to. Since all my work is done on the computer I never go to a lab to get stuff done. Most of the time I am trying to code (and getting a lot of error messages) in my dorm after I finish my other homework. Then about every two weeks I go in with my two research partners and meet with Professor Ortega to talk about what I have done and ideas that I might want to pursue or what I struggled with. A lot of the time we end up talking about others things like traveling or the electrical engineering curriculum or even Snapchat.
Probably the coolest part about my research is the fact that I work so closely with the person literally inventing the field I am studying. In fact I did a series of paintings just because I was so inspired by what I was doing and now one of them is going to end up being the cover for the book on GSP. I was in shock just from the moment my advisor asked to see the paintings so when I heard that the publisher liked them I thought I might faint.