30 Grads in 30 Days: Rigo Dicochea

Rigo Dicochea (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Name: Rigo G. Dicochea

Age: 30

Degree: M.S., computer engineering

Field of study: Computer engineering with focus on computer architecture

Faculty adviser: Professor Jose Renau

Undergraduate education: UCSC--B.S., computer engineering 2006

Hometown: Watsonville, CA

Favorite class or professor and why?

My favorite class was Computer Engineering 110, a class taught by Professor Andrea Di Blas. This was the first real introduction I received about computer hardware. This was very valuable in that it contributed immensely to my decision of research in computer architecture. My favorite professor is Jose Renau. I am not just saying that because he is my adviser. He is truly an awesome adviser. He is very patient, answers all my questions, is always available, even at 1 a.m., and I honestly want to work hard on my research because I know he has done so much to get me this far.

Most memorable experience at UCSC?

Academia has always been a challenge for me. I always felt I had to work harder than everyone or that I was less intelligent than my peers. I remember a meeting I had with Darrell Long, professor of computer science at UCSC, when we started talking about my personal life and how God had used my diagnosis of cancer to radically change my life. We must have talked for over an hour about how I had grown up less privileged than most of my peers and how growing up in Watsonville had shaped some of my aspirations, for the better or worse. I let him know that education, especially during middle school and high school years was not always my top priority and then he surprised me when he said that someone like me should go to graduate school. Graduate school never entered my mind until he offered to guide me on my journey. It was at that point inside Professor Long's office that I began to realize that a master's degree and now even a Ph.D. were, with hard work and dedication, possible. I will never forget that experience of realizing I could be the first in my family to go on to extreme higher education.

Favorite spot on campus and why?

My favorite spot at UCSC is probably the back of Engineering 2. It may sound strange since it is only a parking lot, but there is also a beautiful forest setting where my wife and I sit in our car and have lunch. It is serene and offers a nice break from the stress of graduate studies.

How has your UCSC graduate education shaped you professionally?

The education I have received at UCSC has been invaluable. I have been introduced to faculty and professional engineers who will increase my chances of finding not only a job, but more importantly, finding a job I want to do.

What are your plans after graduation?

I was accepted to the Ph.D. program here at UCSC two months ago. So, I am eager to begin the next phase of my academic journey into the world of doctorate research. I am excited and anxious about what is in store.


Rigo received the CLOW Scholarship, a National Science Foundation Scholarship, and an Adobe Scholarship. In addition, he won a Graduate Research Symposium Poster Award and was chosen School of Engineering Teaching Assistant of the Year.

At 15, Rigo was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer that occurs primarily in the bone or soft tissue. The condition paralyzed him from the center of his back down. He feels he cannot mention his accomplishments without crediting the wisdom and support he has received from the academic community, the love and care given by his family, and the strength he has derived from his faith.