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Gabriel Elkaim: Faculty

What brought you to UC Santa Cruz?

While I was getting my Ph.D. from Stanford, I got pulled into a project with Professor Brad Parkinson. I asked him to write me a letter of recommendation for some funding and in exchange he wanted me to work on this project with him using GPS in a way few other people could. This is how I wound up getting my Ph.D., which originally I wasn’t planning to do. After that, I wasn’t considering an academic career but one of my colleagues got me interested in it. So I got my resumé together and looked through job listings. I saw an ad for UC Santa Cruz and I applied. I was offered a position and thought about it long and hard and the geographic component of UC Santa Cruz outweighed almost everything else.


The raw, natural beauty here is unlike anything. It’s a wonderful mix of people and place and it's relaxed, yet we do good research. It’s got a nice balance to it. What really appealed was the fact that because it’s a relatively young school of engineering, I was able to help shape the curriculum and direct it. The thing I’m proudest of is that we established Robotics Engineering as an undergraduate degree. It’s a unique thing amongst the UC’s and I think students come out of here well-trained and do well in industry and grad school. I like being able to have an influence on the students I meet. Here, I can really help launch students’ careers in a direction they might not have thought about. I’m really proud of the students.

Do you have advice for students on overcoming setbacks?

You might get whacked down by life circumstances, but you can’t take it personally. That’s part of the essential steps of growing up. You get up, you dust yourself off and you try another approach. Students have a tendency to sort of mythologize professors and think that they took a linear path and everything came together, but it’s not always that way. Sometimes if you don’t get the answer you want, you have to keep trying from different angles.

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Undergraduate Institution: 
Princeton University
Graduate Institution: 
Stanford University