Electrical Engineering Pre-Grad Intern Jose Hinojosa
Currently I am a sophomore studying Electrical Engineering and let me start by saying that this program has come to me as a surprise. I don't want to be rude, but when I was first asked by my mentor to participate in this Pre-Grad program I told myself that it would be an easy grade and I wouldn't have to worry about it, but now at the end of the semester I have totally different look on the program and it has become incredibly valuable to me. It has impacted me greatly that I have already recommended it to some of my fellow classmates.
As a sophomore I didn't think preparing for graduate school was a task that I should put at the top of my to-do list. This is probably because I didn't know the process needed to apply to graduate school. One of the first questions my mentor asked me was "Do you plan on going to grad school?" My reply was "I don't know," but this was because I honestly didn't know what grad school was. I say I didn't know what it was as in, I didn't know how it was different from undergraduate school, I didn't know how much it cost, basically no one had ever talked to me about it. My parents attended college so they always encouraged me to do well in school because college is a remarkable accomplishment in life. Their encouragement is what got me to UT now, but they didn't go to grad school so I didn't have any information about it growing up. I didn't realize that you had to apply, find recommendation letters, pick a specific field to follow, prepare and take the GRE along with many other challenging tasks. Recommendation letters seem so innocent, but if one doesn't recognize that there is a process, like getting to know the professor in which you want to request a letter from, then you could end up in an awkward position. Now the course has come to an end I've learned that now is not the time to worry about graduate school, but to prepare for it. Before I know this year will come to an end, and I will have to take the GRE and start applying for Grad school. This program has made me realize about how little time is left and it has put me ahead of the competition.
As I mentioned, for the internship I chose to do my research in renewable energy and power systems. I wasn't clear on what field I wanted to go into with my studies in Electrical Engineering. I had no previous experience with renewable energy before this semester, but my mentor was Ted Song a PHD student in power supplies and was very helpful and willing to answer all of my questions. We met twice a week to discuss the current issues in renewable energy. We discussed the fact that wind energy is the most cost efficient way of creating energy at this time. An interesting fact that I have learned is that Austin is ranked as one of the top alternate energy city in the US. Austin schools take part in installing solar panels in to receive some of their energy, and most of the UT community may not know that a good portion of the engineering buildings and others have solar panels installed on its rooftops. All of this leads to the fact that 10% of the state of Texas' energy comes from alternative energy. I now know a good percentage of what power systems call for and what really amazes me is the fact that most of what I have learned in such a short semester is that most of this took my mentor three to four years of classes and reading books. I have it all handed over to me with this program. My mentor has also encouraged me to join the Power and Energy Society (PES), and now I have become an active member. We met every other Tuesday, and we had guest speakers who talked about how their companies and others around the world are advancing technology in today's world to better our future. This topic has become very interesting to me and quite possibly has become my future field of study. I enjoy it so much that I have decided to participate in the PES project in which we are building two model homes that will convey the difference between a conventional house in today's society and one that is run with solar panels, a wind turbine, and solar water heaters. We will be creating as much of the electronics from scratch and will eventually be showcased in ENS, the electrical engineering building. This will actually be an ongoing project that will be worked on for this year, but will have progressive additions to it over the years to come. I also have decided to apply for study abroad in Ankara, Turkey. I will be taking part in a fuel cell class that is offered by Dr. Baker a UT graduate, and consist of 15 local Turkish students and 15 exchange students from UT and Penn State. With all of the knowledge I have gained over the semester about renewable energy I plan on writing a technical report on each individual system that I will keep up to date. The report will serve good purpose when applying for internships, jobs, even grad school once I have expanded the information in the report. I have become incredibly active in trying to learn as much as I can on renewable energy.
Aside from helping me figure out that renewable energy is what I want to do with my life, I have also learned the importance of preparation for graduate school. Every part of this Pre-Grad internship program has been phenomenal. It was very well organized and is set up to point students in the correct direction. The assignments may not seem like such a big deal as in there are only four, but they all teach students valuable information. For me this program has helped me create friendships with my mentor, students that are in the program, students in the PES group, even with the professors that I interviewed for our assignment. Listening to other students talk about their goals and fields, even if it has nothing to do with mine, was just a once in a life time experience. I learned that people come across the same challenges in life and education that I have, and I am able to learn and prepare for some of the mistakes or problems that other students have run across. The assignments that involved interviewing a professor or a graduate student were probably the best assignments. I can say for myself I probably would have never gone out and done this on my own. These two assignments brought some relief to me because it showed me that even my professors, graduate students, and fellow classmates didn't always have a good idea on what to do with their lives. They spoke about major career changes and running around graduate school for years figuring it out. Although they didn't have a good track I believe that this program has given me a jump start on other students, who may not worry about this difficult process until it may be too late. I spoke with an advisor about this program and she mentioned to me that just by speaking with me that this internship is wonderful because she sees seniors that don't know if their studies are what interest them after four or five years. I would recommend this program to students who want to do more research in their area of studies, and students who are not sure about their current path.
After struggling with my first few semesters the IE Pre-Grad Internship was exactly what I needed because not only did it help me prepare for graduate school, but it also helped me get on track, set goals for myself, and strive for success. GPA is a very important aspect of applying to graduate school, and a good GPA comes with preparation, goals, and work ethic. I will always remember the opportunity that I was given in participating in the IE program, and it will be my inspiration to achieve my goals. I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity.