Second Author: A Dream Come True

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

Freshman Jacoby Krakow has entered college with extensive knowledge of something college students can’t get enough of: sleep. In fact, Krakow has published a paper in the journal of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Krakow, who is considering a major in ECE, or possibly optics, conducted this research during the summers of his high school years, under the tutelage of his father, who operates a sleep clinic and research institution. He worked there to fulfill a community service requirement for an IB class at his high school.

Krakow served as second author on an article that reviewed several terms every sleep clinician should be able to use fluently. Among these terms, the one which lacked a clear definition was RERA, or Respiratory-Effort Related Arousal. RERAs are an important type of sleep disruption, and even the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) did not provide a very clear definition in the 2000 edition of its manual. “I hope that this work will give doctors the tools they need to improve their patients’ sleep patterns,” Krakow said.

Overall, Krakow sought to make the definition of RERAs clear for doctors who might encounter this symptom in their patients. His research was an effort to clarify what qualifies as RERAs and what does not. This symptom, which is similar to sleep apnea, needed to be quantified, so doctors could have an idea of exactly how bad a respiratory event had to be to qualify as a RERA.

Another paper which Krakow was involved with dealt with time-monitoring behavior in insomniacs, specifically how it is played out in those with PTSD. Following Krakow’s work, it will be much less ambiguous for doctors exactly what qualifies as RERAs, and how to diagnose this disruptive symptom.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Owen Zacharias

defaultName: Owen Zacharias

Occupation: Project Manager, Web Design and Development, University of Rochester Medical Center

Education (UR and additional): BS/MS ECE

Current job title: Project Manager, Web Design and Development, University of Rochester Medical Center

Current employer: UR

Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY


When and how did you choose your major(s)?

Even before applying to University of Rochester I knew I wanted to focus on computing. I had gained extensive experience on the software side of things in high school and summer Internships so switching gears and moving towards hardware (Electrical and Computer Engineering) seemed like an exciting change of pace.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

My freshman year I pledged and joined Theta Chi. Greek life was a rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone. Many of my best friends, who are now spread across the globe, are my fraternity brothers.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

During my senior year I began pursuing a master’s degree in the 3/2 Program.  This was a fantastic experience as it got me closely involved in the laboratory of Dr. Wendi Heinzelman. Interacting with graduate students in the lab provided a very different perspective from my undergraduate years and challenged me in ways I hadn’t experienced with previous coursework.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m a project manager at the University of Rochester Medical Center. I manage a team responsible for the public-facing web presence of URMC (http://www.urmc.edu). I’ve always enjoyed software development and the fast-paced environment of the Web allows me continue learning each day and further my technical knowledge.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Organization and problem solving. Once you’re trained to think like an engineer you never stop!

How do you balance your work and personal life?

By using my vacation time. I love my job, just about every minute of it, but I make sure to spend an equal amount of energy playing.  I try to travel to remote areas where the influence of technology is minimal. It allows me to truly disconnect.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

Explore! It’s very easy to get “trapped” on the River Campus and never realize that Rochester is a vibrant, exciting community. Spend time in the city (e.g., Downtown, Park Ave, Corn Hill), visit the Finger Lakes, bike along the Erie Canal path, hike Letchworth State Park, ski Holiday Valley. Play!

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Gloria See

image1Name: Gloria See

Occupation: PhD Student

Education (UR and additional): ECE BS – University of Rochester, 2009; ECE MS – University of Massachusetts Lowell; ECE PhD – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, in progress

Current employer: University of Illinois

Current city/state of residence: Illinois

Community activities: Most recently salsa and rock climbing but they change pretty constantly, the university scene has too many things I haven’t tried before.


 When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I thought about going into math or CS, but I got a bunch of emails that if you don’t declare engineering now, it’s really hard to switch later, so I basically got scared into electrical and computer engineering. I didn’t really like it until my sophomore year when I started doing research for a professor and realized that all the labs and classes were actually teaching us something useful. 

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

One of my best mentors was the grad student I did research for. He taught me more about research, being a student, and getting the most out of university than anyone else I can think of. We’re still in touch, I visited him in California earlier this summer, and I still regularly email or call him for advice. 

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I took a job in a rotational program where the company would pay for my MS. It sounded like a really interesting opportunity, and I had never been to that state before, so I figured it would be very horizon broadening. Working full time and finishing a master’s in three years eats up your life, but the people who go through it with you become very special to you.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

After working for several years and doing my masters on the side, I decided to go full time at UIUC for my PhD. I think the time working in industry was extremely valuable and has helped me decide what I want in my future work environment and goals, and that I did in fact want to get my PhD. 

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

The most useful thing I learned was that working with the right people, we could solve anything. I also learned that some problems aren’t worth the time and resources it takes to get them perfect and finding a balance between those two is still tricky.

How are you still connected with the University?

I feel less connected than I’d like. The students I’ve mentored and was friends with in lower classes have all graduated. We’re still in touch fairly regularly, but I don’t get drawn back to campus or the students that much anymore. Hopefully I’ll be able to contribute through mentoring or outreach again in the future.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Brandon Jasionowski

UntitledName: Brandon Jasionowski

Occupation: Electrical Engineer

Education (UR and additional): BSEE 2002, MSEE 2004

Current job title: Systems Engineer

Current employer: Azure Summit Technology

Current city/state of residence:  Fairfax, VA

Family: Engaged


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

My introduction to UR was quite interesting. In high school I was looking primarily at schools with good engineering programs. One summer weekend my father took me to an overnight event at RIT. Before leaving on Sunday we spontaneously decided to check out the University and tour the facilities, as we heard good things from our neighbor, who was in her 2nd year of attendance. I was impressed by the campus atmosphere and had a gut reaction that I should attend.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I decided to pursue electrical engineering when I was a junior in high school, since I always had a passion for computers and electronics. I believe I was encouraged to do so due to my early exposure to engineering (tinker toys, erector sets) and computers (8086 computer when I was about 5).

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

In my junior year of undergrad (2001) the job market was not particularly rosy following the tech boom bust. After some thought, I thought it prudent to pursue a master’s degree. I decided to stay at UR to further my education because I really liked the school and electrical engineering department. I also had a great network of friends that decided to stay for advanced degrees as well. After graduate school I found a position in Rome/Syracuse for a small defense contractor. I found my master’s degree quite helpful in differentiating me from the work force.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m a systems engineer for a small R&D technology firm in the DC metro area. I straddle the hardware/software boundary, often working with embedded hardware and writing software for modeling (Matlab/Python) or application development (Python/C++). It’s very fulfilling because I don’t perform the same monotonous task every day and working for a small company gives you a lot of flexibility.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

The most useful skill I learned at the university was the ability to perform independent research. I’m often tasked with implementing algorithms for a technology area that I’m not very familiar with or is relatively new. This requires me to study a subject and achieve the task with little input from my manager. It’s easy to learn a programming language in college for example, but technology evolves and engineers are required to continually adopt new skills and learn new subject areas all the time. The university helped foster this ability.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Christopher Brown

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Name: Christopher Brown

Education (UR and additional): Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering (University of Rochester, May 2009), Master of Computer Science (Texas A&M University, December 2012)

Current job title: Interactive Software Developer

Current employer: Boston Museum of Science

Current city/state of residence: Boston, MA


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I applied to the University of Rochester through the Early Decision process and I chose to attend because it was prestigious, offered more flexible general education requirements than other schools, had a large selection of majors, had small class sizes, and was affordable for me (with a generous financial aid package). Looking back at my experience at UR, the community of faculty, staff, and students that supported me throughout my education was the strongest asset that UR offered me.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

Officially, I enrolled at UR as undecided, but after being on campus for a few days during freshman orientation and looking over information on different majors I chose Electrical and Computer Engineering. The choice was primarily motivated by my interest in computers and emerging technology, but it was also a gamble because I basically knew nothing about engineering. When courses started, I felt a little lost and out of place at first, but I stuck with it because the outcome of the work was interesting to me even though the learning process was difficult.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Immediately after graduation I moved to New York City and worked for Organic Motion, a start-up software development company specializing in real-time markerless motion capture and computer vision. I worked as an artist doing multimedia production and sometimes worked as a software developer writing small applications and tools. I decided to work at Organic Motion because I was interested in computer graphics and animation, which was a primary market for their motion capture system.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Currently, I work at the Boston Museum of Science as a software developer for an upcoming exhibit called The Science Behind Pixar. This is a traveling exhibit about the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) behind Pixar Animation Studio’s award-winning films. I chose to pursue a career as a computer graphics software developer because of the hands-on development experience I had at Organic Motion, the research and development internship experience I had at DreamWorks Animation, and the work I did in graduate school at Texas A&M University. I make career choices based on my love for computer graphics and a desire to perform meaningful and challenging work. Computer graphics can be used across domains to help solve difficult problems and this will make my future career path very exciting. 

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I firmly believe that the workday ends when I leave the office. I am passionate about my work, but anything in excess is not good for you. In my experience, the time away from work is just as important as the time that I spend at work. Many times I come up with solutions to problems when I am doing something completely different or I find creative inspiration in the activities of everyday life. My time away from work helps me maintain efficiency, motivation, inspiration, and creativity. In my mind, any company that does not encourage a proper balance of work and personal life does not respect me as a person and is probably not worth working for.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Michelle Lay Sams

image1Name: Michelle Lay Sams

Occupation: Patent Examiner

Education (UR and additional): UR BS ECE ’02, UR MS ECE ‘04

Current Job Title: Primary Patent Examiner

Current Employer: United States Patent & Trademark Office

Current City/State of Residence: Alexandria, VA

Family: Husband (Matthew), Son (Ty, 7 months)

Community Activities: Softball, teach piano lessons, bowling


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

The University of Rochester offered me the chance to continue with my music (piano) by allowing me to take lessons at the Eastman School of Music and also take additional music classes, such as music history, theory, etc.  I knew that I wasn’t going to make a career out of my music, but I still wanted to continue with something that was important to my life since I was 4.  What I found appealing with UR was that it had a strong engineering and science department, but also a strong music department, where normally you get one or the other.  It was the best of both worlds!

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

I lived at the career center the last year of graduate school.  I utilized their services to help me with my resume as well as line up interviews.  They were extremely knowledgeable and having them around to answer questions (even silly ones) made me feel confident in advancing to the next stage in my life.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

A month before I finished graduate school, I accepted an offer with the US Patent & Trademark Office.  I’ll be honest; I did not seek out the PTO.  They had found my resume through the career center or job sites, and asked if I would apply.  I didn’t know much about the PTO at the time, but since the job market was dry, I decided to give it a go, telling myself, at least for a year.  It was the best decision I’ve made, since I’m still working there after 8 years.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I currently work for the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a primary Patent Examiner.  A Patent Examiner reviews new inventions seeking patent protection and makes the decision if the invention has been invented before or it indeed, is something new.  I currently examine applications dealing with 2D and 3D graphics rendering, such as the displays on ipads and smartphones.  Prior to working at the PTO, I thought my engineering degree was only for R&D.  This is an avenue that I didn’t know existed.  It’s great for someone who doesn’t really care for R&D, but wants to still be in the know of the new and upcoming technologies.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

UR taught me to work hard.  I know that sounds like a cliché, but comparing myself to colleagues from other schools, I see the ease I have to do my work at the highest level, where they struggle to just “pass”.  I contribute this to the rigorous schedule and classes that UR requires in their engineering department.  Additionally, in my profession, I need a solid background in engineering, since I have to comprehend the newest technologies.  UR gave me that solid foundation.

 How do you balance your work and personal life?

At the PTO, we have a flexible work schedule, meaning, you need to work 80 hours in a biweek, and can distribute your hours as you see fit.  The PTO also offers their employees to work 1 day a week at home or can work at home completely and never come into the office.  The flexibility in schedule has allowed me to maximize my time with my family.

Where would you like to be in five years?

Career wise, in five years I would like to still be working for the PTO.  Personal wise, in five years I would like to have had my second child and a bigger home.

Rochester Students Compete in Engineering Competition

By Leonor Sierra
Press Officer for Engineering and Science, Univ. Communications

Two groups of Rochester students were among the 30 design teams from 18 institutions that showed off creations at the Intel Cornell Cup on May 3-4, 2013 at Walt Disney World.

One of the groups won an honorable mention for their work on the URead Braille project. Their concept was a refreshable braille display that acts as a computer screen for the blind. The braille display would be able to read in text and .pdf files and output the result on the screen through a tactile display.

The UV Swarm team modified some robots, similar to a Roomba hoover robot, incorporating a UV light that could sanitize large surfaces quicker than is currently possible.  These could be used in medical or sport facilities. They also programmed a central hub that would automatically oversee the operation so that these ‘bots’ are all synchronized with each other, ensuring the full floor is covered and limiting overlaps.

The teams worked for months on their projects, with the support of their advisers Randal Nelson, Ted Pawlicki and Chris Brown all from the Computer Science department. The teams were comprised of students from different majors, including computer science, electrical and computing engineering, and biomedical engineering, and from different years, from freshmen to seniors.

The goal of the Cornell Cup is to challenge engineering college student design teams to create embedded technology devices that address real-world needs and that might just catch an investor’s eye.

Senior Design Day Video Features UV Swarm:

The members of the teams were: Doug Miller (CSC ’15), Christina Kayastha (CSC/ECE ’14), Nate Book (CSC ’14), Ben Ouattara (CSC/ECE ’16), Samantha Piccone (CSC ’14), Erick Frank (CSC ’13), Morgan Sinko (ME ’16), Alex Kurland (CSC ’13/T5), Ben Vespone (BME ’14) and Andy Hevey (ECE ’14).

For more info about the Cornell Cup, visit http://www.systemseng.cornell.edu/engineering2/se/intel/

In the Photo: University of Rochester student design teams, UV Swarm and URead Braille, pose for a group portrait. From left to right: Doug Miller, Christina Kayastha, Nate Book, Ben Ouattara, Samantha Piccone, Eric Frank, Morgan Sinko, Ted Pawlicki, Alex Kurland, Ben Vespone, Randal Nelson, and Andy Hevey.