Samantha Lozano, Christopher Martinez, and Esteban Torres will be the first to earn Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degrees from The University of Texas-Pan American's two-year-old Computer Engineering Program.
All three students, who switched from electrical engineering majors to computer engineering, are thrilled to be the first computer engineers produced by UTPA.
"I am proud to be one of the first computer engineers to graduate from UTPA," Martinez said. "I believe the Computer Engineering Program is off to a strong start and has a lot of potential, given that this is the first official class to graduate from the program. I think we have accomplished a lot."
Martinez, a San Juan, Texas native, said he believes he chose an ideal field to study and work in.
"Well I have always had an interest in computers and technology, and now-a-days the two go hand-in-hand. Almost everything today is computer operated or deals with some form of computing mechanism," he said.
After graduation, Martinez, who is currently putting out résumés, plans to pursue a graduate degree either in his minor mathematics or computer engineering.
For Torres, the dream to become a computer engineer began in high school where he took his first computer science and digital systems classes.
"At first, I started out as an electrical engineering major here. My plan was to do a minor in computer science so that I would have a degree similar to computer engineering. Once the Computer Engineering Program became available, I decided to switch majors because I was already on track with computer engineering," Torres said.
Torres, who plans to pursue a master's in electrical engineering at UTPA, said the education he received at UTPA provided him with plenty of hands-on projects where he learned to solve new problems.
"I think coming to UTPA was a good choice and has been a great experience. I'm glad that I was able to be a part of the Computer Engineering Program," Torres, a McAllen native, said.
Lozano said her goal when enrolling at UTPA was to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and a minor in computer science because of her interest in both fields, but her plans changed when she heard the Computer Engineering Program was going to be implemented.
"Advisers from both computer science and electrical engineering began talking about a computer engineering degree that would be opening up and because I was so interested I decided to continue taking the classes my advisers felt necessary for a computer engineering degree. The switch between majors was very smooth because of all the help I received from my advisers," she said.
Lozano said the challenging program was worth the hard work and hours she put in and feels she would not be where she is today without the demanding workload. In addition to her major, Lozano completed an optional minor in applied mathematics.
"Any field of engineering is going to be extremely demanding to prepare you for what's to come when you graduate. The only way to deal with the workload is good time management and dedication," she said.
The Edinburg local will start her job June 3 as a level one analyst for central infrastructure at ExxonMobil IT in Houston where she will be responsible for coordinating network and server infrastructure for ExxonMobil's global data centers.
This semester the three, led by Torres, were part of a senior design team that brought home a third place win from the IEEE Region 5 final technical research paper competition on April 18 in Lubbock, Texas for their paper titled "High Speed PC-Based Digital Oscilloscope." In addition, they received first place at the IEEE Region 5 area paper competition on March 1. An oscilloscope is an electronic instrument, currently used in many fields - medicine, science, telecommunications, and engineering - or any profession that requires designing or repairing electronic equipment. The team was able to design a packaged prototype of a low-cost, high speed, PC-based digital oscilloscope that provides features useful to engineering students.
Pearl Brazier, computer engineering program director and undergraduate coordinator for computer science, said interest in the program, which began in spring 2007, grew quickly. By fall 2007, 78 students declared themselves as computer engineering majors. Followed by 202 in fall 2008.
"Students were eagerly awaiting the degree as we discovered in our recruitment activities," Brazier said. "We are extremely pleased with the initial growth of the program and the overall growth of our Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Electrical Engineering Programs."
Brazier said the program will be seeking ABET accreditation in the future. ABET is the recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology in the United States.
"You must have graduates before you can ask for accreditation and having these graduates so soon is good for us," she said.
To learn more about the UTPA Computer Engineering Program, visit http://cmpe.utpa.edu/.