By Nick Gagliardi
It was his high school physics teacher who attracted him to engineering, and it was his hard work and dedication that led to his success at UConn.
A senior in the Electrical Engineering program at UConn, Brian Helfer is the essence of the involved student. He is president of the Electrical and Computer Engineering honors society, Eta Kappa Nu, and is a member of the general engineering honors society, Tau Beta Pi. He is also treasurer of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and an active member of the Honors Program at UConn.
Across the nation, Brian observed that engineering programs lack definition and clarity among high school students, who are confused as to what engineering actually entails. He thinks this needs to be changed, in order to recruit more students into the field. “We need to talk to more high school students to help them understand what engineers do, and guide them toward choosing engineering. Not many people know anything about it,” he said. “And they’re truly missing out.”
While the challenge to raise engineering awareness is one aim, Brian is also immersing himself in a wide range of experimental learning opportunities at UConn. He is currently setting up a control system design lab under Dr. Krishna Pattipati for the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) department, building upon his knowledge of system analysis, while also conducting laboratory research into breast cancer imaging techniques under the guidance of biomedical imaging expert Dr. Quing Zhu. As if that wasn’t enough, Brian is pursuing minors in both chemistry and mathematics.
Last summer, Brian participated in a prestigious Undergraduate Fellowship in Sensor Technologies (SUNFEST) at the University of Pennsylvania. Each year, an average of 10 students is selected nationwide for the opportunity, based on their academic record and attitude toward research. “It was a great opportunity. It let me experience different fields of study, and meet faculty outside of UConn.”
Brian plans to attend graduate school next year. Reflecting upon what sparked his interest in the field, Brian recalls the encouraging words of his high school physics teacher. “Hearing somebody talk so passionately about engineering is really what drew me in.” He continues to share his experiences in hopes that more students will hear the calling.