Degree: Physics BS
Current Job: Signal Integrity Engineer for IBM System Z
"I was the kid who had to know how things worked," Greg says about his childhood. He attended a high school with a top-notch math and science curriculum, where he learned trigonometry, calculus, computer programming, chemistry and physics from some talented teachers.
Greg was a first-generation college student who didn't get much direction from the previous generation, so he was on his own deciding his major. He chose physics. "[It] was the degree that seemed to be most likely to satisfy my persistent curiosity," he says about the choice.
While earning his degree at the University of Minnesota, two classes really resonanted: a year-long class in experimental methods, and electromagnetics. These courses set him up for his career as an electrical engineer. "I remember admiring the way the math and physics blended so elegantly and culminated in Special Relativity. I have continued to use the knowledge I aquired in those classes throughout my career."
The Beginning of a Rewarding Career
Greg's first job out of college was at a start-up company that built the world's fastest supercomputer. He characterized transistors, simulated and measured random access memories, and designed analog integrated circuits. "I didn't know it at the time, but I was learning the ropes of a discipline that would later be called Signal Integrity," he says.
Signal Integrity is the art of guiding electromagnetic pulses from one chip to another inside a digital system without corrupting the information stored in them. When asked what he does for a living, Greg usually describes it this way:"We keep the ones ones and the zeros zeros." To do their jobs, Signal Integrity engineers rely on software that simulates electromagnetic field propagation and test equipment that is capable of measurements up to 50GHz. Greg finds the job challenging, but satisfying. "It's rewarding to know that when someone uses an ATM card there is a good chance they are activating circuits I helped design," he says.
Greg has always been grateful to his eighteen-year-old self for making the decision to major in physics. "No matter what career path you may find yourself following, the ability to drill down to the inner workings, quantify them, assess the uncertainties, and develop a model will serve you well," he says.