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Grad Spotlight: Matina Baradaran Hosseini – UCSB ECE

In Matina’s own words – Interviewed during the 2022 year
Tell us about your research: The focus of my research is on the design and analysis of hybrid and hybrid-inspired control systems. These systems sometimes come with stochasticity and can be implemented along with different optimization techniques and they can be used for different engineering applications. We can design a control system or an optimization algorithm using hybrid systems and the stability analysis of such systems is another main focus of my research using mostly nonlinear control approaches.
Why did you select UCSB and ECE in regards to your research? Coming from an Electrical Engineering background, I wanted to work in the field of control systems in the same department. UCSB is one of the few schools that has a Center dedicated to control and dynamical systems both in the ECE and ME departments and has a great history of distinguished members working within the same field.
Thoughts on working in a group research environment: Working with advisors or senior students can be difficult at first since you don’t know their advising/working style. Students need to be flexible to figure out how best to work with their collaborators and their advisors. Learning how to express one’s position as a student and yet be willing to cooperate with other styles definitely comes with time, confidence, and practice. I have had the pleasant experience of working/interacting with non-competitive, passionate, and helpful fellow students in a group who share research ideas to work on, discuss different subjects, or even give feedback on each other’s work/papers/presentations. However, I have also observed groups with a more competitive and toxic attitude towards research and helping each other. It is important to keep a level head, focus on your work, and find helpful comrades to interact and work with. Academia can become a cutthroat world, but luckily most people express their professionalism and passion for their work through sharing and collaboration./p>
UCSB Prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate: At UCSB, I mostly worked with fellow lab-mates from my advisor’s lab (Prof. Teel); however, I often had scientific discussions and collaborations with students from other labs (e.g., Prof. Hespanha or Prof. Bamieh’s lab). We had feedback sessions and group discussions, which were very helpful to me. Seeing the point of view of postdocs, more senior students, and fellow PhD students or receiving their take on a problem was always inspiring to me. I am very appreciative of my advisor’s availability, responsiveness, and the fact that I always had the freedom to knock on my advisor’s door to ask a few questions. Plus, I could always go to Prof. Hespanha’s lab to have a chat about a research subject or get an intuition about a concept that led to fruitful discussions with other fellow students.
Favorite course: Nonlinear Control Systems (ECE 236) instructed by Prof. Teel and Noncooperative Game Theory (ECE 270) with Prof. Hespanha – the two courses had a clear structure and a great sourcebook. The instructors were knowledgeable in the field and passionate about it.
Describe your Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and/or Teaching Assistant (TA) experiences: GSR – There was a lot of reading involved, sometimes relevant, sometimes not directly related to my research. It was always possible to learn new things and immerse yourself in new areas. I valued the one-on-one meetings and the email communication with my advisor as a GSR since almost every interaction led to a new direction. TA – In my first year of the PhD program, I taught the Foundations of Analog and Digital Circuits & Systems (10A) lab, and this year, I taught Digital Control Systems – Theory & Design (147B), an upper-level undergraduate course. As a PhD student aside from helping students find out the answer to their questions and perform their lab tasks successfully, I always shared my two cents and experience with those students who wanted to pursue graduate school or start a PhD program. A lot of the students I worked with were finishing their undergraduate degrees and they were curious about the graduate degree workload, UCSB advisors, and whether in general a graduate degree is something they should pursue. I tried sharing my point of view, talking about other students’ experiences of working with different faculty, and connecting them with a few other helpful resources.
Quality of life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life: Usually there is a lot of pressure right before the important conference deadlines, so after the first year I made a detailed plan of those deadlines as well as the times which were more flexible and less stressful. I made sure to take up activities that freshen my mind up and travel during those times to come back and push for better results around the deadlines. In the first year, I would have hung out less with my friends or contacted my family less often if there was an assignment due or a conference deadline coming up. However, I learned that social life should not be hindered completely due to school deadlines, so I started allocating some alone time and social time even if I had an important deadline coming up. That all being said, maintaining the work/life balance as a PhD student is very dependent on the individual’s lab environment and the advisor’s working style – so I encourage incoming students to take that into consideration and try their best to talk with previous students to learn about the lab/advisor’s work routine.
What is your social life like? Aside from socializing outside of school with my fellow graduate student friends, I was lucky to have family and friends outside of school who urged me to live the Santa Barbara life outside of school to the fullest. Being a member of different social clubs and outdoor activity communities paved the way for meeting new people, maintaining a balanced social life, and having a more diverse social pool.
Tell us about your summer break: I have done three internships during the summers of my PhD program with three different companies. I have had the opportunity to learn about new fields within the Battery industry, the corresponding advancements and challenges, and the areas where I can contribute as a control researcher upon my graduation.
Advice to prospective graduate students: Do extensive research on the lab you are going to work at, the research subjects, the group atmosphere, the advisor’s working style, and his/her expectations. Be open to talking with people who have gone the same path and receive feedback from current – especially past graduate students working in the labs or in the specific research field. Consider your personal limitations (e.g., as an international student) or any other personal matter that might affect your life as a PhD student and see how that might impact your graduate studies. Take advantage of opportunities and be flexible. Take a break when needed or leave when something is not for you! At the end of the day, there is no win/lose. Support your fellow graduate students and inform yourself about imposter syndrome, mental health, and other common challenges you might face during your graduate studies. Also, always remember that numbers are not a good indicator of one’s knowledge and passion for learning.
Where will your research take you next and what are your future career goals: I have been fortunate to do internships in research and development teams at several companies within the industry thus, I envision myself working in an R&D group. Upon my graduation, I have been offered the opportunity by a few of these companies to return as a full-time employee. But first, at the top of my list is a much-needed break with a lot of traveling before I start a full-time position.
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
College of EngineeringUC Santa Barbara
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