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Christopher Villalpando Estrada: Graduate Student

Computer Science and Engineering
Degree Program: 
MS, Computer Engineering
San Diego
Undergraduate Institution: 
UC Santa Cruz

What brought you to UC Santa Cruz?

One of the jobs I consider to be really fascinating was video game design and back then there were only two universities that offered a degree in video game design, one of which was UC Santa Cruz. That’s when I first started learning about UC Santa Cruz. I started reading about it and I really liked the area. I read about all the STEM related majors they offered. A few years later I ended up deciding on software engineering and I decided to take a road trip to Santa Cruz with some friends. I took a tour of the campus and fell in love with the area. I knew I had to come here.

What kind of research do you do?

I’m a member of the Internetworking Research Lab and we work a lot with computer network protocols. For example, how to network protocols so the internet becomes faster, more responsive to the range and capacity of all these networks, especially now that we’re seeing the Internet of Things becoming the next stage in the technological revolution. For my work I’m proposing a new protocol that will make devices that run on batteries last longer by making more efficient transmissions. That’s going to be huge in the future because everything’s going to be transmitting information and data is everywhere and we need it and want it, but batteries are a big constraint right now.

For my master’s project I’m building a wireless sensor network to measure the flow of water through the plumbing in a house. Devices would be connected to the plumbing below the sink, where the shower and toilet is, the dishwasher, every outlet of water in a house will be measured and it will show how much water a person is using and when it’s being used. Every time someone uses water a message will be transmitted to a hub and it will be collected so at the end of the month, the homeowner can use a phone or computer to access the hub and see how much water has been used. That could lead us to make more informed decisions about our water usage. We want to make sure the battery in these devices last as long as possible.

What do you like about the Baskin School of Engineering?

I really like that there are a lot of opportunities and resources for students. You have to look for them, though. If you talk to professors they might offer you research opportunities. If you join clubs, you’ll find friends and network with people and go on tours of industry in Silicon Valley. It’s really helped me network and find my place in this area. They also help underrepresented students like minorities and women and first generation students. I fit in some of those categories so it’s really helped me catch up.

What do you do for fun?

I’m a member of the Amateur Radio Club on campus and they have events like the annual Field Day where radio clubs across the country build antennae and transmit over them from remote locations. It’s a really neat hands-on learning experience. I also like building drones. I like sautering the parts and putting them all together and modifying them. I also really enjoyed taking sailing classes. Do you have any advice for engineering students? I’ve found that the students who have enjoyed their time here the most are those students who put in the extra effort to look for interesting opportunities. Look for clubs that match your interest and talk to your professors, go to their office hours. Ask what they’re researching and show interest. They might offer you positions in their research labs or keep you in mind for future opportunities.