Menu Title

Engineering Field Notes

Illinois Engineers Around the World

Meet Andrew in Aerospace Engineering

Posted on by

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Time management; it makes all the difference. Also, make sure to attend Quad Day. It kicks off fall semester and is where student organizations advertise what they do. Illinois has a club for pretty much everything.

Aerospace Engineering, Sophomore
Activities – Air Force ROTC, Illini Paintball Club

Why do you belong at Illinois?

I have a passion for engineering, and Illinois is filled with students with that same passion, which is what makes it great. I’ve found my niche and it’s awesome.

What impresses you most about the College?

The resources available to incoming freshmen. For example, Electrical and Computer Engineering has a store where you can get anything from AA batteries to soldering equipment at special student rates.

What do you enjoy most about the College?

I enjoy the experience and tenure of the professors, as it really makes the difference between a boring lecture, and a captivating lesson.

What has been your favorite engineering course?

Illinois Engineering First-Year Experience (IEFX) 198. You’re given a budget, tools, and free reign to design and build whatever you want. My team created a machine to spread condiments on a bagel. The course stresses the overall planning process. You really learn how to take something from an idea in your head to a functioning machine that you can look at and touch. It was a good way to relieve stress and sample all the new sides of engineering I hadn’t experienced before.

Where is the best place to eat on campus?

Bangkok Thai on Green Street

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done at Illinois?

Marched in the homecoming parade with Air Force ROTC.

What do you like about Champaign-Urbana?

The life. The campus is a city and almost everyone you encounter – in stores, working at restaurants, or walking the streets – is a student. That’s cool. The nightlife is crazy and you’ll never be bored.

What are your post-graduate plans?

I’m currently enrolled in the University of Illinois Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, so I’m contracted with the Air Force for a minimum of four years of active-duty service after I graduate. I plan to then transition to one of the big-name aerospace engineering firms, like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or Northrup Grumman.

Meet John in Computer Science

Posted on by

What attracted you to Illinois?

I knew Illinois had an awesome computer science department, but since I was not sure about my major, I wanted to attend a school that was strong throughout the sciences. All of the departments in the Colleges of Engineering are world renowned, so I knew Illinois would be a great catalyst for my success regardless of my academic path.

Computer Science, Sophomore
Activity – President, oSTEM 

“oSTEM at Illinois flew me out to our nation’s capitol!”

What now impresses you most about the College?

One aspect of Engineering that surprised me was its intense commitment to diversity. Between the Morrill Engineering Program and Women in Engineering, Illinois really wants underrepresented students to feel welcome and to succeed.

Another impressive point has been the interest and respect shown to students by administration and faculty. For example, I have sat down with a dean to discuss ways in which Illinois could expand its diversity efforts and have felt comfortable approaching professors about research opportunities.

Why do you belong at Illinois?

I enjoy and thrive off of the dedication exhibited by everyone at Illinois. The students and faculty are so smart, talented, and driven that you cannot help but draw knowledge and glean inspiration from those around you.

What has been your favorite engineering course?

Computer Science 225 was a really eye opening course. This class is known as the “interview class” and for good reason. My interview with Bloomberg LP in New York didn’t feel like an interview as much as it felt like a CS 225 exam. In this class, you learn a lot about the most important data structures that are crucial for developing the skills companies are hungry for.

What internships have you held?

I interned the summer after my freshman year with the State Farm Research and Development Center (RDC), located in Research Park on campus. My job was to work on two web applications. The experience was fantastic! I got to work with people from different majors and backgrounds to develop tools that really made an impact at State Farm.

Have you utilized Engineering Career Services?

They were fantastic in helping me build my résumé. Initially, I had no idea how to create it. Plus, they provided mock interview sessions, which prepared me for the real ones.

What’s campus life like for engineers?

Overall, both the University and the College of Engineering have a campus vibe that is fun and intellectual. Since the student body is so diverse, you’ll find that campus life will echo the different cultures that comprise it.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Be sure to attend Quad Day. When I found oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), a professional registered student organization supporting LGBT students in STEM fields, I had no idea that the flyer I received would change my life professionally and socially.

Also, do things that matter to you. As a freshman, I secured a research position with a professor, was admitted to the Campus Honors Program after applying halfway through the year, and became president of oSTEM. None of these things were given to me; I took the initiative. But Illinois provided the opportunities.


What has been your favorite place to live on campus?

Allen Hall

“The fries at Allen Hall are pretty long!”

What do you like about Champaign-Urbana?

I really love the restaurants. With places like the Courier Cafe, Radio Maria, and Maize you’ll have a wealth of dining options when you don’t want to cook or eat in the residence halls. Also, there are always so many great bands in town!

What are your post-graduate plans?

I would either like to create a social networking startup with a few friends or enter industry by doing web development for chefs and food related websites.

Meet Johnny in Electrical Engineering

Posted on by

Why do you belong at Illinois?

I enjoy a challenge and I enjoy learning new things. Illinois is a very diverse school and offers so many chances to learn, not only from faculty but from other students. I belong because Illinois is a school that gives its students a chance to prove they are among the best and this is something I have always tried to do.

Electrical Engineering, Junior
Activities – National Society of Black Engineers, Illini French Club, Illini Veterans

What attracted you to Illinois?

We have one of the best Electrical Engineering programs in the world. Plus, Illinois as a state also treats their veterans well when it comes to school and that also played a significant role in getting me here.

remote car_web
Our solar-powered fleet of remote controlled cars.

What now impresses you most about the College?

The level of dedication of the faculty is impressive. Professors really care if their students are being challenged and are learning all they can while they are here. The resources available here are also very impressive.

Who has been your favorite engineering professor?

I have two. One was Professor Marie-Christine Brunet mainly because in her class she does not sugar coat how you are doing and tells you how you can improve, and what will happen if you don’t. The other professor was Professor Lynford Goddard who taught ECE 329. He was extremely patient and had a really good way of explaining the difficult material in the class.

What do you enjoy most about your major and the College?

I like that my major is challenging and that the professors really help us learn to our potential. They allow us the opportunity to speak with them about the things we do not understand.

The College provides so many different activities we can get involved in that will help to further our careers as engineers, including the fall career fairs. Of which I’m a big fan.


Have you studied abroad?

Yes, in Lille, France, for a summer. I took French language, culture, and engineering classes. I received hands-on experience by creating a solar powered remote control car but also learned how the French integrate all the engineering disciplines in their studies. Plus, I worked at a French company and learned the business aspect of the civil engineering firm. The main benefit was learning their process from starting a project to the point of implementation.

solar panels_web
Solar in France

Have you utilized Engineering Career Services?

I use Engineering Career Services at least once a year to make sure that my résumé is up to date and to ensure new experiences are added in the most beneficial manner.

Where is the best place to eat on campus?

It’s not really a restaurant. It’s Derald’s Catering truck that is usually parked on Mathews Street behind Noyes Lab.

What is campus life like for engineers?

Campus life for me is very different from most students here because I’m a military veteran and married. However, most of the students here are hard workers and spend a good amount of time studying. They tend to hang out with other engineering students because it’s easier to stay focused when the others around you are working just as hard.

We also know how to have fun though and when we take breaks we find a way to not think about anything school related so we can have a clear head when we get back to it.

Even more about Johnny’s transition to Illinois.

Meet Najia in Agricultural & Biological Engineering

Posted on by

What’s campus life like in Engineering?

Illinois has one of the top engineering programs in the world. You will pull all-nighters, put in endless amounts of time and hard work, and you will be challenged. But with all of that, you will still have time to have a life outside of engineering coursework, take part in campus activities and student organizations. Although challenging and time-consuming, Illinois Engineering doesn’t stop you from having time for other opportunities.


Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Junior
Activities – TEDxUIUC Director


What impresses you most about the College?

The vast number of opportunities really enhance what you’re learning in the classroom. I most appreciate the College’s attention to entrepreneurship through its Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC).

Who has been your favorite engineering professor?

Bruce Litchfield, the professor for my ENG 333: Creativity, Innovation, and Vision class. Everything he taught and the lessons he shared pushed my mind to think differently and I now try to apply that thinking to everything I do.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve experienced in Engineering?

The coolest thing I have experienced is The Technology Entrepreneur Center & College of Engineering’s Silicon Valley Workshop taken during winter break. It was an incredible experience to visit startups and other entrepreneurial companies. I learned so much from all of the alumni we visited and also from likeminded students I took the trip with. I came back becoming further inspired to pursue my own entrepreneurial endeavors.

Watch a video about the experience.


Have you held any internships?

I interned this past summer at Eastman Chemical Company, which bought a startup in Research Park. I conducted fermentations to produce biochemicals and ran analyses on those samples.

I also intern for the College of Engineering’s Technology Entrepreneur Center through which I help promote and foster entrepreneurship on the Illinois campus.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Get involved outside of the classroom in things you love, because that will help shape your college career into so much more than what the classroom alone can do.

Where is the best place to eat on campus?

Maize Mexican Grill, Lai Lai Wok, and Bangkok Thai


What are your post-graduate plans?

My overall career goal is pursuing social entrepreneurship through a venture of my own. However, right after graduating, I will most likely work in an engineering role for a company that embodies a high-energy, innovative culture.

Meet Evan in General Engineering

Posted on by

What do you enjoy most about your major and the College?

I love General Engineering in Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering because it forces students to look at the discipline of engineering first before applying it to a subject matter. It almost gives you an inner peace when you see the similarities between mechanical, electrical, civil, and industrial engineering and be able to apply it to new problems. Regarding the College, it does a great job of building a strong foundation before delving into specifics.

General Engineering, Senior
Activities – Fighting Illini Triathlon Team, Illinois Society of General Engineers, Engineering Council, Engineering Open House, Gamma Epsilon, Engineering Employment EXPO Committee

What attracted you to Illinois?

I appreciated the diversity of studies and the diversity of the student body. Everyone has something to contribute and this was a place I knew I could learn from everybody I met.

What impresses you most about the College?

I’m impressed that Illinois is always striving to be the best. I also am encouraged by the fact that the College continually makes its best effort to advocate for its students and help them succeed.

At EOH in the Product Dissection Lab managed by Professor Leake.

Why do you belong at Illinois?

I belong at Illinois because I believe that mutual respect is the bedrock of education. I keep an open mind to every possible opportunity and suspend judgment until I have understood what I needed to learn.

Who has been your favorite engineering professor?

Gustavo Gioia, professor for Theoretical & Applied Mechanics 251: Introductory Solid Mechanics. It’s often easy to overlook the rich history that contributes to engineering being as much an art as it is a science. This is one of the first classes where we are taught to solve problems symbolically first and then insert numbers at the end. This results in a finer appreciation of the logical methods of problem solving instead of just looking at numbers all day. Professor Gioia was a phenomenal lecturer who really inspired us to understand the methods instead of just looking for results.

What are the academics like in Engineering?

The beauty of Illinois is not only the diversity of options, but also how every field is held to a higher standard. Whatever you want to explore, you can trust that you’ll be getting some of the best expertise in the world.

Have you held internships?

Yes, I’ve had many. During the summer of 2012, I interned at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Chicago in the Technology Analyst Program as a Business Systems Analyst. I analyzed the hierarchy of the proprietary card services platform that caters to clients with >$10m annual spending. In 2011, I interned at Nielsen Company in the Emerging Leader Program as a Business Analyst. I elicited product requirements and designed functional specifications for the Nielsen Answers web platform.

Have you studied abroad?

I took a 12-day International Business Immersion trip to China with the Hoeft Technology and Management Program. It was a fun and worthwhile experience and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.

My Hoeft class in front of the Great Wall.

What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

Hit the ground running. If you don’t know what your passions are, explore until you find them. Keep an open mind and put forth your best effort in classes. There are so many different things you can learn so keep trying.

Where is the best place to eat on campus?

Maize or Black Dog

Any excuse to eat at Maize!

What are your post-graduate plans?

I deferred an offer of employment from Deloitte Consulting in order to spend two years with Teach for America. I will be teaching middle school mathematics with a STEM focus in Chicago.

Meet Elena in Civil & Environmental Engineering

Posted on by

What impresses you most about the College?

I am most impressed by the extensive amount of undergraduate research opportunities present through Engineering. Professors are very open to taking on underclassmen into their research groups.

Civil & Environmental Engineering, Senior
Activities – Engineering Council, National Association Engineering Student Council, Dean Student Advisory, Engineering Tour Guide, Engineers Without Borders, Engineering Learning Assistant

How are the caliber of academics and wealth of options at Illinois?

In Engineering we are so lucky to be taught by some of the best professors in their fields. They are all so passionate about their subject areas. This passion is conveyed in their teaching style and ultimately, improves the student experience of the class.

In terms of wealth of options, there are countless opportunities to participate in undergraduate research, travel to other countries, and further course knowledge while having fun through extracurricular activities and student organizations.

What do you enjoy most about your major and the College?

I like that Civil Engineering is so diverse. I am required to take courses in 5 of the 7 disciplines (including construction materials, construction management, environmental engineering, environmental hydrology and hydraulic engineering, transportation, structural engineering, and geotechnical engineering). This allows me to explore a variety of areas within Civil without needing to commit early on.


My favorite thing about Engineering is the people. People are friendly, enthusiastic, and willing to help. An important part of being an Engineer is developing connections with peers and faculty and our College does a great job of encouraging this.

What has been your favorite engineering course?

I have had several. One of them was the Fate and Cleanup of Environmental Contaminants taught by Professor Charles Werth. This course sparked my interest in oil and gas, the career I am ultimately pursuing.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on campus?

On campus, one of the coolest things I did was ring the bells at the Altgeld Tower. My group and I were able to play multiple songs (and managed to play Happy Birthday twice!) In Engineering, I have two favorite experiences. The first, was decorating the Alma Mater for E-week. The second was watching the Tesla Coil concert for EOH.

Have you studied abroad?

I traveled to Guatemala the spring break of my sophomore year with the Engineers Without Borders Guatemala Water Project and went to Chennai, India, this past Winter Break with the Sustainability and Resilient Infrastructure Global Leaders program.

Study Abroad

Tell us about your research.

I participated in research with Professor Helen Nguyen in the environmental department. The research was focused on assessing the role motility and flagella plays in bacterial attachment to surfaces. It is ultimately geared toward the development of remediation methods in areas that have bacterial hotspots due to agricultural runoff.


What is your advice to incoming freshmen?

I suggest getting involved in a variety of clubs and activities. Extracurricular activities are a great way of meeting new people and learning important leadership skills.

What do you like about Champaign-Urbana?

I like the diversity of atmospheres in Champaign-Urbana. As someone who likes to dance, I think one of the best parts of the C-U area is the large variety of dance venues that exist. There are places that have nights for salsa, swing, and line dancing all quite close to campus! Further in both downtown Champaign and Urbana, there are a number of excellent restaurants, shops, etc., which can offer a nice change from Green St.

What are your post-graduate plans?

After I graduate, I will be pursuing a full-time career as an Environmental Engineer with Exxon Mobil in Houston, Texas.

Explorations: The Freshman Experience

Posted on by

When Stefan Davitkov took ENG 198- Engineering for Global Development- he expected to leave the class with a knowledge for making prototypes and teamwork. But the class also helped him get an idea of what aspect of engineering he wants to focus on.

“There are two sides to it. There is math and science and then there is design. Once you have that creative mindset, you can use the math and science to create a solution. That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Stefan is a part of the Illinois Engineering Freshman Experience (IEFX) and it’s all about acclimating freshman students into the college world with an eye towards success. IEFX helps guide freshman students with a variety of courses and events.

The IEFX experience may include taking a one-credit  ENG 198 class. These classes range in topics, from MatLab to the arts, and are offered exclusively to freshman. All the ENG 198 classes end with the Explorations event.

Stefan’s group decided to focus on an agricultural product for impoverished farmers in places like Northern India or Southern Asia.  Their  product is called MAAT, or the Multi Application Agricultural Tool.

Stefan Davitkov (third from the left) and his group pictured with the MAAT

“What we found was that these farmers spend a lot of money each season renting tractors, livestock, or hired help to do things such as plowing, seeding and watering, ” he said.

The MAAT has multiple attachments. A seeder, a plow, and a water pump can be attached one at a time. Though the prototype shown here is made from PVC, the final product will be made with a non-corrosive material, like stainless steel. Stefan’s group noticed that these farmers often use wood or iron tools, which degrade, which costs more money.

“Our solution will cut down on investment while increasing their yield. Our hope is that it will help give them a little more disposable income every season,” Stefan said.

Michelle Adeoye, the IEFX Program Coordinator, has seen progress since the inception of Explorations in 2009. The program morphed from pilot status to becoming a routine part of an engineer’s freshman year.

Michelle Adeoye

Michelle sees Explorations as a unique experience for freshman students. “Not only do they get to share what they’ve done with other students, they also get to talk to faculty and upperclassmen so it’s exciting and great practice for them,” she said.

The Illini Union ballroom buzzed with students as they wandered from booth to booth, pointing out the various gadgets that zoomed about. One team devised a make-shift hovercraft with a leaf-blower and a lawn-chair. The team said they decided to have fun and experiment with the mechanics.

Michelle’s overall hope for the IEFX classes is that they help develop skills that can be applied throughout their studies and beyond the classroom.

“As our students become involved in RSO’s, delve further into their careers, and pursue their interests, we hope these classes can help  them make connections across disciplines.”

For more information on the Illinois First Year Experience, visit their website.

Thanks to IPENG, MechSE graduate’s project speaks a whole new language

Posted on by

While Mickey Mangan may be working far from the field of his major in mechanical engineering, it was while completing that degree at Illinois that he discovered his passion for international travel. Mangan took advantage of opportunities through IPENG to study in Chile for a semester in 2007 and in Jordan during the summer of 2008 where he took a six-week course in Arabic.


Mickey ManganMangan found an affinity for math and physics at a young age and was accepted in the competitive mechanical engineering program at Illinois. While a student, he founded the Rube Goldberg team, helping Illinois become the first school to defeat Purdue in the annual competition. Mangan was also a member of the team that finished second only to a university in Germany in the 2009 Solar Decathlon competition.

It was through IPENG, that Mangan completed equivalency courses ME 300, TAM 212, and TAM 251 in Spanish during his semester in Chile and credits his need to focus during lectures for his success in the class.

“Because of my focus on learning the language, I was attentive in the lectures and learned engineering concepts better,” Mangan said. “At the end of the semester, I was helping my classmates study while they were enriching my Spanish.”

After graduation, Mangan worked for two years as a project manager at a pump manufacturing company in Wisconsin before moving to Germany to participate in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professional (CBYX) program. While there, he took a john as a production manager for a filmmaking company in Cologne and is now using those skills in a creative way.

Mangan was one of 50 finalists of the 3,000 submissions for Jauntaroo’s “Chief World Explorer” to travel the world for a year and post videos for the travel matchmaking website. Last month he appeared on the WGN Morning News in Chicago to share his vision.

Although Mangan wasn’t selected for the role, it has his given him more to focus on his passion, “The Lernen to Talk Show”, where he is teaching others how to learn a foreign language simply by talking to people in that culture and having them correct you Mangan is in the process of founding a non-profit organization for that endeavor. His first video had over 100,000 hits in the first 36 hours and put him the front page of Reddit.

“I think of language learning in engineering terms where in pressure differential, you’re forced to rise to meet the demands of your environment,” Mangan said. “I feel it’s only because I studied engineering that I’m doing what I’m doing now.”

Follow Mickey Mangan’s Blog

First Steps to Success in Engineering

Posted on by

ENG 101

The first year experience is full options for a freshman. Engineering at Illinois offers studies ranging from working with rockets to mending heart cells. Students newly admitted to the engineering program have the option to take ENG 101, a course that covers the wide range of studies within the college. The class helps students thinking of transferring to a different engineering discipline, double-majoring, declaring a minor, and acquaints them with Engineering Career Services. It’s a class that can help you find your fit during that formative first-year.

ENG 101 will usually have professors from each discipline come and describe what a track in their department could look like.

But in a recent ENG 101 lecture, junior-year students came in to give freshmen some seasoned advice. The students are engineering ambassadors and they spoke from their own personal experience.

From left: Martin Kim, Ravi Chandra Yada, Edgar Uribe, and Chuma Kabaghe

Edgar Uribe, Ravi Chandra Yada, Chuma Kabaghe, and Martin Kim were the speakers.

The student ambassadors led an open discussion with the freshman, and made an effort to inform as well as relate to the new engineers. In short the students were engaging and passionate speakers- just as they were trained to be.

The Engineering Ambassadors program’s mission is to equip engineering undergrads with the leadership and communication skills necessary to inspire the engineer in everyone. Assistant Dean, Marie-Christine Brunet, stressed to the ENG 101 class that the only prerequisite you need to be an engineering ambassador, or an engineer, is passion for the subject.

#1) Finding Your Passion

Students in ENG 101 took the opportunity to ask the juniors how they chose their engineering majors.

For Edgar, science and engineering was the closest he could get to magic.

“When I was a kid, I would take my TV remote apart and wondered at the mess of pieces and how I could put it back together into something that worked again.”

Edgar is studying computer engineering in the ECE department.

Edgar shows an example of an EC 385 project in where the device is wired to accept and perform code

Chuma is also studying computer engineering, but didn’t discover her true calling until later. She was not sure what her core interests in engineering were until she worked in software engineering with Microsoft. She loved the idea of being able to develop new products and hopes to own an engineering firm one day.

#2) Early Involvement = Career Fair Talking Points

Engineering organizations can help you develop a resume  and give you direction on your major.

“You’re not going to get any less busy the older you are in college,” said Edgar to a student who asked about time-management. Getting involved early with an organization can pay off significantly at a career fair.

Even as a freshman, going to a career fair is valuable to learning interview skills, especially when talking about a tangible engineering experience. “In an interview, you can say ‘I built this!’ and show off your design or project to a recruiter,” said Ravi

To see a list of engineering organizations, visit the Engineering Council website.


Chuma asked the class, “What do you do when you end up with a summer that has no internship or research experience?” She told the students to take advantage of  that summer to take classes, study abroad, or volunteer.

#3) Build a place within a company

For many student engineers, interning at the same company for two summers or more is common.  “Think like a company:  if they can get you early on, it  helps them mold you into what their particular company needs,” said Ravi.

Look at your first internship experience as a way to get to know where you want to work after graduation. If you see that it’s not particularly where you want to be, look for a different company next summer. But if you love their environment, ask the company about returning.

#4) Research on Campus

Students in the class asked  how they went about research experience on campus.  Ravi explained that though it may seem daunting at first, it’s really all about connecting with a professor.

“Professors aren’t going to just shoo you away when you ask them about a position. At the least, they’ll ask you to take a specific class so you’re ready for their research next semester,” said Ravi.









Get a Recap of our “Journey to Space” Event

Posted on by

Our “Journey to Space” event made headlines this week, from local C-U outlets like WCIA to as far as TIME magazine. Aerospace students talked with two Illini astronauts this week, Steve Nagel and Mike Hopkins. Steve Nagel was here in person and Mike Hopkins talked to students live from the International Space Station.

It’s really true that Illini are everywhere!

Take a look at the coverage and see how our live link-up to Mike Hopkins in space is resonating across the news.

Click on the link below to see the complete recap on Storify

Click here –>