30 Grads in 30 Days: Janelle Yong

Janelle Yong (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Name: Janelle Yong

Age: 23

Major: Electrical engineering

Hometown: Atwater, CA

UCSC college: Porter

Favorite class or professor and why?

My favorite classes have been Microprocessor System Design and Analog Circuits, both taught by Professor Stephen Petersen. He best prepared me for practical engineering by teaching me how to keep a proper engineering notebook, how to design with proper methods, and, most importantly, how to think like an engineer. He showed us that what we learn in class will eventually be applied once we get to industry and beyond. Even though I didn't receive the best grades in these classes, I feel like I walked away learning so much more than in a class I received an "A" in.

Most memorable experience at UCSC?

Some of the most memorable experiences were being invited to the Annual Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame Banquets. I got to sit at a table over dinner and network with very influential people who shaped what Silicon Valley has become today. Two inductees to the Hall of Fame have even included the former dean of the School of Engineering, Steve Kang, and Jack Baskin himself. Being able to attend and talk with them about how they struggled through school and found jobs after college reassured me that I had a future in engineering.

Favorite spot on campus and why?

My favorite spot on campus is the bench at the base of the stairs in between the Baskin and Engineering 2 buildings. I love taking my coffee breaks sitting there on nice days in the sun and looking out into the trees in between the buildings, even if for only five minutes.

How has UCSC shaped you?

UCSC has provided me with the means and resources to pursue what I've always dreamed of doing. With the supportive staff and faculty and a strong network of peers, it made my experience in the School of Engineering more inviting and less stressful. I would still consider myself as driven and as studious as I was before, but I am much more confident in being the successful woman in engineering that I have become.

What are your future plans?

I have been accepted into the Ph.D. program for electrical engineering to continue here at UC Santa Cruz under the Cota-Robles Fellowship starting in the fall. I will be continuing my research with the Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Research Laboratory under the direction of Professor Joel Kubby. I would also like to continue the work I have done for the School of Engineering toward outreach and retention for underrepresented students in engineering.

How did you choose your college, and how has your college affected your education?

Since I was practically born on the stage dancing and acting, I wanted to choose a college that would provide an environment and an outlet for performing arts. I knew that I would be immersed in studying and working in the labs for engineering, so I wanted that perfect balance. However, it still amuses me when people are surprised that I'm an engineer from Porter.


Among the many accomplishments earned during my college career, only a select few are most important to me. Academically, I have been awarded the Dean's Award and the Porter Undergraduate Research Fellowship for my thesis on the Design and Characterization of a MEMS Deformable Mirror. Deformable mirrors allow scientists to explore the field of adaptive optics, in which normally disruptive fluctuations can be corrected, allowing for unprecedented clarity in images.

Being the first to receive a bachelor's degree in my family, it makes me extremely honored to have been accepted to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

Additionally, I have held many positions for the Jack Baskin School of Engineering, including student ambassador, peer mentor, program coordinator and mentor for the Success in Engineering and Research Pathways Summer Bridge Program, and center assistant for the Multicultural Engineering Program. I helped in the development of programs, events, and workshops that provide primarily underrepresented students with the tools necessary to succeed in engineering. I am proud to have maintained successful mentorships with most of my students, who are all continuing to do well in their studies.