Electrical Engineering Pre-Grad Intern Luis Galindo
I have grown up with an uncle who makes higher education a priority. Since my decision to come to The University of Texas, he has planted the idea of graduate school in my head. He gave me the basic run down of what exactly it is, but never thoroughly explained it. My freshman year on campus, I took a supplemental math class for 408D with Ted Song. From the first day of class, I was able to tell a lot about the type of individual he was. I was able to understand his strong passion for engineering by the lectures he would give to our class emphasizing the importance of hard work and punctuality in all the work we did. But what really stood out to me were his life lesson talks. Ted believes in the importance of life outside engineering and how lessons learned outside the classroom can be reflected into our engineering work. Disciplined and motivated. Those are the two words that I could best describe him with. After my first exam in 408D, I sent him an email thanking him for pushing me in the class, even when at times I was not grasping the material he insisted that I continue learning and not give up. It was with his help that I was able to get a 100 on my calculus exam. In the email, Ted responded with what I assumed he would, but he also surprised me by offering me to be his intern in a program called Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE). He said that it would be a great opportunity to see what life as a graduate student was and to have the opportunity to do research in renewable energy. I saw this as an opportunity to really understand what my uncle wanted me to eventually do, so I accepted the offer.
The semester began with Ted and I meeting within the first few weeks of school. We caught up on how our summers were; he asked me about my work in Panama with Engineers Without Borders and I asked him about his job in Silicon Valley. After the small talk, Ted and I began discussing the details that would entail the remainder of the semester and how this program was to be structured. The way he explained it to me was that I had now stepped into his shoes as the graduate student and he had taken the role of his faculty advisor. His first task of me was to come up with a proposal to present to him exactly what type of research I was interested in doing for the rest of the semester and to have it completed by next week's meeting. As planned, by next week I had the proposal finished and presented him with the idea of researching sustainable residential homes. This would incorporate research in electrical engineering and architecture. With my discipline being civil engineering I wanted to find a way to apply all of my research into my field of study and by doing so, I would gain knowledge about other disciplines making me a more marketable engineer. For about a month, Ted and I would meet every to every other week and I would come to him with questions concerning how to attain certain resources or how to go about approaching certain problems and he would guide me in the right direction. Unfortunately, classes became a lot tougher than expected and I started focusing more time on my classes and put my research on hold for about two to three weeks. Although time had become an issue now, I still managed to slip in about two hours each week during my first round of midterms because of the passion I had grown to continue working on my research.
My research first began by resorting to the internet. I chose to read published articles rather than reading Wikipedia because of the validity that I could attain from the articles. I found a lot of helpful information that would satisfy my research. Throughout my research, I had met one of Ted's previous interns in the program, Raul. Raul had already been in my shoes and was more than willing to help me on my journey. He led me on the right path by giving me a list of professors who could aid me in my research and who would be more than glad to allow me to interview them. Raul truly opened a new door for me full of nothing but resources. He became someone in which I also looked up as a mentor. One advice that he gave me was to look outside the internet and more into books. I took this advice and went to the library to find a book that would aid my research. It took a little less than a month but at the end of it, I had learned so much about types of windows and their importance in energy conservation. And although I have never been a big bookworm, I enjoyed reading this book because of my interest in the subject. The funny thing is that my enthusiasm was mirrored into my everyday life. I would talk about my research to my friends and I could tell that most of them thought the material was rather dull, but to me it was the opposite; it was intriguing. After attaining knowledge on energy efficient windows I decided that I next had to research solar panels. I've always been an advocate for renewable resources, so going into more research was no problem for me. Before I began, I believed myself to be knowledgeable on the material but after a month or so of research I learned so much. I didn't know the importance of solar panels and the optimum angle to receive maximum solar rays, the importance of shading and the percentage of energy that was lost, and most importantly I did not know about single-axis solar trackers. Before going into Thanksgiving break, I had finished all the research that I believed would be sufficient to conclude my work on sustainable residential homes and I was ready to write my research paper.
At first, the thought of writing a lengthy research paper was overwhelming but in fact in came with ease. As I began typing my paper, that is the moment in when I first realized how much I had benefited from IE. I have always had a curiosity for how things worked, which is a major influence into the decision of my major, but after doing research in a field that I enjoy I saw the value of graduate school. I started thinking, "I could really see myself devoting a couple years to researching a topic of interest." As Thanksgiving was coming to an end, my uncle approached me with an idea. He said that he wanted to construct a small scale model of a wind turbine, but not just any turbine, one that would generate power using electromagnetism. He knew that I was currently taking the class and that I had gained valuable information over the semester that could aid in the engineering and physics behind the project. But the thing is that I didn't just see this as a project that he and I would work on, but rather another research opportunity.
Because of IE, I have come to the realization of graduate school and what it entails. Once I am done with my bachelor degree, my plans are to attend an institution in which I can continue to do research, but it doesn't begin there. As an undergraduate, I plan on taking the opportunity to do undergraduate research. I have already begun looking at programs and will hopefully continue research by joining the Texas Research Experience (TREX) in the fall of 2012.