ECE international program sets the stage for student success
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Located in the heart of Chicago, UIC offers students a unique educational experience and work opportunities in a world-class city. For Alex Iacobucci, UIC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) set the stage for his professional career as an engineer and provides him with the opportunity to do some acting outside the office.
Iacobucci, came to ECE through the UIC College of Engineering, which has a partnership with one of the top engineering schools in Italy – Polytechnic University of Turin – and provides the students with a dual master’s degree. At the completion of the program, students get a degree from the Italian university and UIC. They take one semester in Italy and one semester at UIC, where they can extend the time more time is needed to finish the courses and thesis.
“It was an interesting program as we got to see different teaching methods in Italy and the United States,” he said. “That was really challenging. One was more theory based, and one [UIC] was more practice based with a lot of assignments throughout the semester.”
At UIC, he worked under the direction of ECE Department Head Rashid Ansari in the Multimedia Communications Laboratory. It was the positive experience that help him grow as an engineer.
“He was always super nice. He was always available, yet he gave us a ton of autonomy, which I liked,” said Iacobucci. “He was very proactive in getting us our equipment, he made it possible to get a powerful computer that we needed for our operations, and he was always available to meet or respond to emails.”
In the lab, Iacobucci was working on a project that was a partnership with Altera/Intel. The team had to prove that by using a specific algorithm that they had to come up with, using their latest FPGA that it was possible to achieve better results in MRI image transformation than with current technology.
“We got a chance to work with an expert from Intel and their top notch latest product,” he added. “It was very challenging and really rewarding.”
Apart from learning a lot, Alex praised the program for providing him with a different perspective of engineering research.
“If you want to go to the U.S. or you want to face another reality and expand your horizons,” he said. “Even if you want to go back to Italy. It’s always nice to open up and see what happens here. It is well known that American universities provide a significant contribution to scientific research, so it’s interesting to observe their approach. Regardless of what your final life objective is, it’s a positive experience that I would recommend.”
Along with the support he received within the ECE department, Alex also praised Lynn Thomas, the program coordinator for the Master of Engineering and International Programs.
“She is fantastic and has been helpful throughout the whole process,” he said. “She was available whenever we had questions or doubts on our deliverables for the program. She was always super nice and a great resource. She would respond to emails in little time or she would be in her office if you wanted to talk to her in person.”
Apart from the program, Alex loves living in Chicago and everything the city has to offer.
“I love this city so much,” he said. “There’s always something going on. The theater scene is amazing and the prices are affordable – rent wise and restaurant wise.”
Iacobucci graduated in 2016 with a Master’s Degree from the ECE department. Now, he is working as a software engineer at Chicago-based HERE Technologies. HERE creates living three-dimensional maps that grow upwards, breathing with layers of information and insights. It started with the simple goal to digitize mapping and pioneer in-car navigation systems. Over the next three decades, as NAVTEQ and Nokia, they’ve built a legacy in mapping technology.
Since he is still young in his career, he has ambitions of moving up the corporate ladder.
“I would say my dream job is probably being an architect,” he said. “You create a structure for the system. You think, ‘That’s what we have to achieve. That’s our goal. Now, how am I going to break it down into parts so that the goal is achieved? And what goal can be managed by what team? How do they interface between each another?’ You are building the architecture that is behind the system. At the same time, what I like about it is it’s not too managerial of a role. So you still have to deal with technical stuff. I still want to be rooted in the technical aspect, but I also want to have a higher vision.”
When he’s not working as an engineer at HERE, he can be seen on stage performing in musicals.
“Right now, I’m in ‘Chicago’ the musical in Des Plains, Illinois,” said Iacobucci. “My next stop is going to be at Pride Films and Plays, and it’s a play with dancing.”
Iacobucci is only one of the many ECE students who graduated from this international program and landed at a top company.
Among the recent graduates are Andrea Manavella graduated in 2015 and landed a position with one of biggest names in Silicon Valley. He is the Camera Design Lead at Apple in San Francisco.
Cesare Mercurio graduated in 2015 and is a camera system engineer at Essential in Palo Alto, California.
Emanuele Pezzotti graduated in 2016 and was hired as an Electrical Engineer at SwipeSense Inc. in Chicago.
Fausto Annicchiarico Petruzzelli and Luigi Zevola graduated in 2016 and started their own company. After their thesis defense, the pair co- founded Vivotronix in Chicago. Petruzzelli serves as the chief executive officer and Zevola is the lead firmware engineer. Vivotronix is a continuation of their research at UIC and thesis “A Wearable Device for Non-invasive Cardiac Monitoring.”