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Emmanuel Kayede: Undergraduate

Emmanuel Kayede

What brought you to UC Santa Cruz?

Back in high school I came here for a tour and someone recommended I check out the African American Resource Center. I went there and met an electrical engineering major with the same name as me. He showed me around, took me to Baskin School of Engineering and introduced me to Lydia Zendejas, director of MEP (MESA Engineering Program) who was phenomenal. She was welcoming and friendly and I immediately felt like this was home. Through her, I was introduced to MEP, which was a great resource for me. It’s not just about getting books or tutoring, or learning to become a mentor, it’s also the network that you build with people like you who are first generation minorities coming from underprivileged backgrounds under similar circumstances and are willing to improve their lives through their education. It just felt right to me.

Tell us about your studies

I’m interested in materials and how changing one aspect of the material influences its electrical and optical properties and what the altered material can be used to make. For example, if you start out with a compound semiconductor and use that to make a transistor, and you use a transistor to make a circuit, and from that circuit you have, say, an iPhone or TV screen or a computer. I’m studying wide-bandgap semiconductors, and for my thesis I studied the electrical properties of zinc oxide, which is used in sunscreen, as a coating material in paint, as an electrode in photovoltaic cells...its applications are unlimited. Say you have zinc oxide and you add a foreign contaminant like aluminum. How does that change its resistivity? You can have a very uniform, clean, smooth zinc oxide or you can try to make it rough. So what happens when you make it rough? How does that change the structure? How does that influence it?


BSOE has so many resources to offer. I highly recommend getting in touch with ACE (Academic Excellence Program) if you’re a STEM major. It’s a diverse, supportive, and inclusive source of community that you can build or become part of. The STEM Diversity Program houses a bunch of research programs including UCLEADS (University of California’s Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees), which allows you to do summer research here or at other UC’s. It’s a great way to expand your network and learn from different faculty across the UC campuses. There’s also CAMP (California Alliance for Minority Participation). Yulianna Ortega, the director, is very supportive. STEM Diversity offers tutoring, a lending library, a study space, and an alumni network, as well as a sense of community. Within BSOE there are many outlets for getting yourself established and that’s one thing I found really great about UC Santa Cruz. You can always find a place you can consider your home. You just need to look and you can find it. Baskin Engineering  also runs the RMI (Research Mentoring Institute) which is specifically geared toward students who want to research genomics over the summer. Students should utilize the programs we have here. They’re there to help you succeed.

What do you do when you’re not studying?

I was a peer advisor here for two years. Interacting with students was great. The greatest thing about it is when a student comes to me thinking it’s the end of the world because they think they’ve failed a class and I tell them that just because they failed one class doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t continue with their major. You see the relief in their face and it’s very rewarding. Being a peer advisor means you need to know a lot about the courses students should take or what it means to be studying, say, bioengineering. Even if you’re not a bioengineer, you have to understand where each track will lead you and what the job prospects are for graduates. It hurts to tell students they can’t continue their major but there’s this flexibility of moving between departments at BSOE; it doesn’t hinder your growth.

What’s next?

I’ll be going to UC Santa Barbara to study gallium nitride, which is a wide-bandgap semiconductor, and its application will be mostly geared toward energy-efficient electronic devices. At UC Santa Cruz, keeping the environment safe and better for everyone is a popular concept and it has kind of rubbed off on me so I thought I should focus on making devices that are energy efficient and clean and safe for the environment. I’m being sponsored by the Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship and part of the agreement is that I mentor, whether it be high schoolers or undergraduates. I’ll be guiding them and sharing what I’ve come to learn and hopefully inspire them in whatever track or field they are studying. I want to continue with that and I’m very happy that’s part of the stipulation.

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Degree Program: 
Bachelor's Degree, Electrical Engineering
Place of Birth: 
Accra, Ghana
Undergraduate Institution: 
UC Santa Cruz
Graduate Institution: 
UC Santa Barbara