By Hayley Cox
Former Undergraduate Research Scholar, Daniel Revier ‘12, participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars (UGRS) Program during his senior year under Dr. Gregory Huff. At the time, Revier, a native of Katy, Texas, was studying to obtain his undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering (ECE). During his final semester at Texas A&M University, Revier worked for Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, writing the LaTex thesis template for the thesis submission process. His name is currently on the example template provided to the UGRS LaTex writers.
During his undergraduate career, the ECE student was also a member of the Student Engineers’ Council (SEC), President of Mosher Hall during his freshman year, a Visitor Center Tour Guide, and performed undergraduate research prior to and after being under the UGRS program.
Daniel Revier took some time to respond to our questions about his experience as an Undergraduate Research Scholar at Texas A&M, and how his experience has contributed to his transition to graduate school at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
How did you become an Undergraduate Research Scholar (UGRS)? Did anyone mentor you in the process?
I had already been performing research aiding a PhD candidate with his dissertation work when I approached my advisor about performing my own work. Dr. Huff had several ideas and we narrowed one down that I could pitch and work on throughout my senior year instead of the standard capstone project.
What was your favorite part of the UGRS program?
My favorite part of the UGRS program was learning about everyone else’s research. There were many different ideas floating around and it was interesting to hear about all of them.
The best experience?
I would say that the best experience though was that it opened my eyes to how difficult research can be. Maddeningly, you may hit a wall and not know where to go next. Many nights I sat at my computer dumbfounded as to what to do. It is at those points, if you persevere, that you begin to understand how to use your education to approach problems. In that case, I would have to say the best experience was also the most challenging.
How did experience as an UGRS help you prepare for your current graduate program?
UGRS helped prepare me for my current program by exposing me to LaTeX and providing an avenue for me to use some of the computational tools that are standard in my field. Being surrounded by people who were genuinely curious about the world was energizing and inspiring.
Could you tell me a little about the program you are in now?
Currently, I work full time for the Georgia Tech Research Institute (think the MIT Lincoln Labs of Georgia Tech) while simultaneously pursuing my PhD in electrical engineering. My current setup allows me to attend Georgia Tech for free while also maintaining a very nice salary, far beyond what I could have hoped for solely as a graduate student. I would like to stress this is not a TA or GRA [teaching assistant or graduate research assistant] position, I am a full-fledged employee for Georgia Tech while attending school on the side. A very unconventional route but nonetheless it has offered me a great experience. Simultaneously working as an engineer and attending engineering school offers a few benefits:
1) I make contacts in both realms, academic and industry. My connections in industry allow me to procure materials and supplies that would normally be unavailable to me if I were just a student. Furthermore, my connections in the academic world allow me to collaborate more freely with researchers across the world without worrying too much about IP or business matters.
2) My practical knowledge has increased 10x since working in the industry. University will give you the guidelines but the actual application in the real world is a completely different method. In turn, my practical knowledge influences how I think about theoretical work in a very useful way. When you can actually see and make something that works it takes it from being abstract into a reality and allows your intuition to kick in.
What are your future goals/plans?
My goal is to obtain my PhD from the ECE department at Georgia Tech, specifically researching 3D printed antennas and passive devices. Currently, my work has been focused on inkjet printing of the same; however, with 3D printers becoming cheaper and printing many different materials, there is an avenue to look into this type of additive manufacturing. Eventually, I would like to work in industry full-time to gather some more experience and then begin my own start up manufacturing inkjet and 3D printed antennas, etc.
Is there anything you would have done differently before moving on to graduate school?
I would have started performing undergraduate research much, much earlier. As a sophomore I knew I wanted to do research; however, I thought that I would wait until my junior year when I would “know more.” As it turned out I never really learned enough and still don’t know enough, but that is the point. Don’t let your ego get in the way of starting your research. I also would have taken harder classes as an undergraduate. It’s the hard classes are where you learn the most. The very best class I ever took was Dr. Steven Wright’s Magnetic Resonance Engineering course. Easily the most time consuming class I ever had; however, I also learned the very most from that class. It is setup in a way where you don’t just learn about MRE but you learn about systems engineering as well. This ties back to what I said in question 5 about the practical knowledge influencing the theoretical. I also maybe would have double majored in physics to expand on the theoretical side of everything as well.
Do you have any advice for other research scholars or those pursuing graduate degrees in the future?
UGRS was useful for me in the sense that it helped me understand the research process in a structured environment. Research requires a mentality of curiosity that is not learned overnight. It is just now where I feel as if I am coming up with original ideas and UGRS is already 2 years behind me. Stick with it and always ask questions. Be the kind of person that ALWAYS goes up to your professor after class to ask for more details about a topic. And as your professors lecture, ask questions. Too often lectures become a force-feeding of information that students have no time to think in class and can only react by taking down notes. I would challenge you to take less notes (or record the lectures on your phone at least) and ask questions to yourself as your professor speaks. Also, I would recommend finding a few advisers and/or other mentors (Professors, TAs, GRAs) who will let bother them incessantly. There are many people for me at work and at school that I can approach to ask a question whether it is theoretical or practical. Developing this team is CRITICAL to your success. Finally, accept the fact that you don’t know anything (probably) and that is OK. Tying back to finding a good mentor team, if they are good they will help you build the tools to then question and determine things on your own without them.