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Carlos Maltzahn: Faculty

What brought you to UC Santa Cruz?

I was working in industry for four years and then my dad got sick. I asked to take a leave of absence for a year to care for him in Germany. But halfway through the year, I was able to come back and decided to check out all the things in Silicon Valley, like talks and meetups and things I never had time to go to. I taught a class for a friend who’s a professor and it was so fun and I really liked it. I had done some teaching during my studies, but had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. When the year was up, I felt pretty confused about which direction I should take. I decided to give UC Santa Cruz a try, and the more experience I got at the university, the more I liked it. I started out as a computer scientist, became executive director of an institute, then became adjunct faculty...and I kind of grew into it.

What do you like about BSOE?

I learn a lot through teaching the students. They all have their ways of doing things and are very innovative and quick to adapt to technology and use it in cool ways. I enjoy creating an environment where everyone gets rewarded for trying out new things. I always had trouble bounding my interests. I never had time to do all the projects I wanted to, but now I’m actually asking someone else to finish the project and I can vicariously be a part of that project which gets executed far better than if I did it myself.

The quality of life in Santa Cruz is very high. There’s the ocean, it’s a small town with amazing cultural offers, the proximity to Silicon Valley provides lots of opportunities for students to have summer internships. It’s a huge point of innovation. We’re a little nook that’s protected and we can think about things from a distance from Silicon Valley, and yet benefit from the riches of Silicon Valley. We do things a little differently here.

What advice do you have for students?

Students tend to work too hard and develop habits like not getting enough sleep, and just working nonstop to get these assignments done. Create a quiet space, take care of yourself and learn how to give yourself time. Get enough sleep. When you move onto to grad school and beyond, students have to figure out their own steps and learn more on their own because no one is giving them assignments anymore. The switch is hard to grasp because now you really have to be creative and think. Making sure your brain is in good shape means giving it a rest.

Another tendency students often have is underestimating how novel and valuable their work is. They think, “It’s just another class project.” For them, research doesn’t feel like a “eureka moment,” but others will realize its value. Believe in your innovation and protect and make the best of it. Publish it, disclose it to the university. I made this very mistake, but luckily someone convinced me to send my paper to a conference. Ten years later, that paper suddenly got discovered and I got a huge amount of citations for it. I could have done a whole career on this thing and I wasn’t even aware of it.

Lastly, talk about things. Don’t hold things in.

Computer Science and Engineering