For some, engineering captures the imagination at a young age. But while Brandon Gonzalez wondered at the marvels of his Nintendo Game Boy when he was young, it wasn’t until he took engineering courses as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania that he found his passion.
As a history major in the College of Arts & Sciences, Gonzalez chose a variety of courses in his first two years, from political science and calculus to a variety of STEM classes. “I fell in love with STEM and that’s what put me on the path to drop my history major and transfer into Penn Engineering. My only regret is not choosing engineering from the start,” says Gonzalez, currently a master’s student in Robotics at Penn Engineering.
Developing Energy-Efficient Electronics
Gonzalez credits his introductory courses in computer systems and electromagnetism as the reason he is focusing on electrical and computer engineering in his master’s degree program. His master’s thesis outlines his work developing novel forms of computing and making them as efficient as possible. His research combines a focus on embedded systems, signal processing and electronics design to support two companies based in the Pennovation Center, the business incubator and laboratory that aligns researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to commercialize research discoveries.
“We’re looking to develop a hybrid sensor system that can more accurately and efficiently detect whether a human is present in a room,” Gonzalez explains. “We hope to prototype a board that integrates a mix of sensor types. One possible application for this work is in energy-efficient buildings to lower the cost of and conserve electricity.”
His research has inspired him to pursue a Ph.D. in energy engineering. “I believe that energy conservation and the continued development of energy-efficient electronics will be one of the most crucial challenges of this decade,” he says. “My hope is that I can help contribute to the solutions that push us toward a greener future.”
An Appreciation for Variety
Gonzalez’s experience at Penn Engineering has also included teaching and mentoring, opportunities he values as much for what he has been able to give as for what he has received. “I’ve been fortunate to work as a teaching assistant for the Department of Computer and Information Science and the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. Teaching has been one of the most important choices that I made in my time at Penn Engineering,” he shares. “It has completely changed how I view school and how I interact with my peers. It allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of my courses so I could teach them, as well as take on a mentorship role with peers whom I helped along the way.”
Teaching, learning and the energy of the Penn environment fuel Gonzalez’s creativity and curiosity.
“The variety of people and experiences colliding in this school continues to engage me,” he says. “It’s fascinating to meet so many people from such unique backgrounds and to participate in research conducted by many brilliant engineers. Even now, after having spent several years at Penn, I can still appreciate how these diverse backgrounds come together to form a very special school. But the most significant reason that Penn Engineering resonates with me is the drive that I see in the people I work with, teach and learn from here.”