Summary of an Engineering Undergrad

Hi! My name is Benjamin Sjulson, and I will be graduating from Iowa State University with a bachelors in science and electrical engineering this May (2015). My areas of focus included semiconductor fabrication as well as control systems. I will be starting employment as a controls engineer with Easy Automation Inc. in the town of Welcome, Minnesota after graduation. I have a strong technical aptitude with a creative flare, and I always enjoy a good challenge and participating in new experiences.

Why am I taking these prerequisites? How do any of these rules in calculus and physics have anything to do with my major? Am I missing something here? Is this what engineering is all about? It can’t be… At least, I didn’t want to believe it.

The countless nights of little to no sleep, the hours of studying subjects which never made any sense, the over-consumption of coffee and other heavily caffeinated beverages, the constant thought that I’ll never make it out alive – the life of an undergraduate in engineering is a wild ride from the very beginning. I entered Iowa State with a clear idea of what I wanted to do, but I quickly lost sight of that goal. None of my course work in my first couple years seemed to relate to that initial dream of mine. The thought constantly lingered in my brain, “Why am I here?”

For some reason, I kept going. Somehow I managed to pass calculus I, II and III, differential equations, linear algebra, chemistry, physics I and II, and some of the more general, required engineering courses. However, it wasn’t until my third year that I really started to get it. This is when I became grateful that my past-self chose not to give up.

My perspective on my education had a complete 180 degree shift from that point forward. I finally gained an understanding of my courses and how all the past concepts of the troublesome courses were applied in just about every aspect of electrical engineering. For once, I felt enlightened, creative, like I could truly accomplish anything I put my mind to. My purpose became clear. I was finally able to put my hands to work. I took on projects involving building analog circuits, signal processing, designing control systems, and so much more. Now I could apply the subjects of those tricky prerequisites, and it was all actually starting to make sense.

Working with a team of electrical, computer, and software engineers, I had the opportunity to exercise my knowledge and my creativity. Our two-semester project involved designing a low cost, wireless ECG with an android application to view live heart rhythm data and to process that signal to detect the most common irregularity, atrial fibrillation. I played a major role as the team leader, and I led the team in the ECG circuit design as well as the formulation of the signal processing algorithm. I had never experienced anything more rewarding before seeing this functioning system; that is, viewing my own beating heart’s electrical signal on a smartphone using a device I built.

It wasn’t long before that original goal embedded deep in my thoughts surfaced once again. I began taking control-systems courses, and after applying to several jobs in that field this spring, I received an offer for a controls engineering position with an automation company. With this new opportunity approaching, I look forward to fulfilling my dream of becoming a professional engineer.

The experience of completing a bachelors in science and electrical engineering has definitely been one of the greatest endeavors of my life. It was a long five years, but there were many important life lessons learned along the way. While success in a field of this nature requires working knowledge of math and sciences, being imaginative and realizing one’s creativity is just as important. Also, it’s necessary to establish a goal at the beginning. Even though it is difficult to remember at times, that dream will be there until the very end. There’s more to success in engineering than understanding numbers and complex equations, it takes a heart filled with passion for learning and creation.

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