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A Little Reminiscing on College 1

Posted by Michael Katz,

Chilly mornings and turning leaves reminded me of my college days at Cornell. A long fourteen years ago I was an engineering freshman, uncertain if I wanted to learn electrical engineering, computer science, or material science, or if I should forget the whole thing and go into theatre instead. Even now, I still haven’t made up mind: I’m a software developer despite having degrees in electrical engineering and neuroscience.

Unlike most of my peers, my first experience with MATLAB came in my first semester. I took a mid-level computational analysis class, foolishly ignoring its perquisites. I had to buy MATLAB 5.0 student version in the campus bookstore for $99. I’ve previously posted my answer to the first homework assignment. I aced that first problem set, but the class got exponentially harder as the semester wore on. I wish had tutorials like these when I was new user (https://matlabacademy.mathworks.com) .

Mac command window, r9

Two sophomore-year classes sealed me to electrical engineering and signal processing: Digital Electronics Lab, where we programmed logical circuits with NANDs and ORs, etc., and Signals and Systems, where I first learned about impulse responses and FFTs. Those are two of the few classes where I can still recall what I learned. In later signal processing classes I relied on MATLAB to find filter coefficients, determine stability and calculate and visualize (and hear) outputs of various filter algorithms. It’s too bad I didn’t have the Filter Design Toolbox then!

But it was the project courses in my junior and senior years that I found most impactful. Bruce Land’s embedded systems class in particular was my favorite. Thanks to the professor’s foresight my final project has been immortalized on the web. From this page you can see my early skills in web-design, Photoshop, and GUI building. In particular this project was an early stop on a continuing theme in my life: building systems with remote MATLAB processing. Warning: it may be a bit NSFW and does not reflect my current opinions.

The professor for that course also worked in the Neurobiology department. Between his influence and few other courses in computational psychology, bioengineering and a EE lab where we built EKG analyzers, I decided my next step was to go to grad school in Neuroscience. If you’re ever in Cornell’s engineering library, you can check out my thesis… it’s filled with MATLAB code modeling fish brains. It was this detour into biology that kindled my love of data analysis and visualization, which got me to come to MathWorks to help build a better MATLAB. Speaking of which, we’re still hiring: https://www.mathworks.com/company/jobs/opportunities.

If you’re in college, or at least in heart, tell us about your MATLAB experiences below.


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