Jean Paul Santos, MS’2015 – Q&A

Jean Paul Santos is the winner of the 2016 Edward K. Rice Outstanding Master’s Student Award. He will be honored at the UCLA Engineering Awards Dinner on February 5. 2016. Santos earned his degree under the guidance of Northrop Grumman Chair in Electrical Engineering/Electro¬magnetics Yahya Rahmat-Samii. He is responsible for designing, simulating, and prototyping a novel antenna array for Direct-to-Earth communications from a Mars Rover. He now works as an avionics engineer designing novel antennas and RF systems at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at Point Mugu, California.

Mr. Santos was recently interviewed by Bill Kisliuk, Director, Media Relations and Marketing, UCLA HSSEAS. Their Q&A is noted below.

Q: Please describe how UCLA Engineering has inspired you.
A: UCLA has always contributed the betterment of society through careful research in the sciences. Being part of this rich UCLA Engineering history, I was inspired daily by past achievements. Walking in Boelter Hall, Engineering IV, and the Court of Sciences made me feel a part of a larger community. It was encouraging that someone like me could contribute, as well, regardless of how specific my research interests were in antenna engineering.

Q: Who were your mentors in the Electrical Engineering Department?
A: My key mentor in the department has to be Dr. Joshua Kovitz. Also a past Edward K. Rice Award recipient, he guided me from the very beginning on overcoming some of the difficulties in adjusting to UCLA. He was my technical mentor on the Mars rover project, and he gave me guidance on the intricacies of electromagnetics. He was always there for me when I needed help academically, but most importantly personally. I consider him a great colleague, but also a great friend. Deeona Columbia from the EE graduate office was a great mentor, because she always was there when I needed encouragement.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you faced at UCLA Engineering?
A: Honestly, it was whether I could contribute to something as big as those who graduated before me. I thank Professor Rahmat-Samii for allowing me to do my graduate work, because it connected me immediately to some of the great research at the EE department. It turns out that the research may be used for the upcoming Mars 2020 mission!

Q: What was the most rewarding moment for you while studying here?
A: Winning the first annual UCLA Grad Slam and representing UCLA at the first annual UC-wide Grad Slam in Oakland. Being able to present about space missions to University of California President Janet Napolitano – what an opportunity! I was so happy that an engineer, who typically is not thought of as an eloquent communicator, could showcase the great work from UCLA. This was a culmination of all the hard work that our team did at the Antenna Research, Analysis and Measurement Lab.

I thank UCLA Graduate Division Dean Robin Garrell and past UCLA Graduate Students Association President Mike Hirshman for sponsoring such a great event!

Q: Why is it important to be able to explain science to non-scientists?
A: How do we expect the general public, consumer, or investors to understand the importance of our great research if we cannot disseminate that knowledge in a way that is understandable?

Q: What are your main career goals?
A: I just want to help develop technology to help society and to improve people’s quality of life. I also want to share knowledge to make technology more accessible to the general public. If I can achieve these things, I’ve succeeded as an engineer.

Q: If a young person approached you and asked your advice about studying electrical engineering at UCLA, what would you say?
A: Study and pray hard! I would tell them that through hard work and perseverance, the sky is the limit. It is not impossible to be admitted into UCLA EE – it takes a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears – but it is so worth it! Being surrounded by so many greats is so inspiring.