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June 15, 2005

Pentagon Selects Computer Engineering
Student for Prestigious New Research Award

By Doug Ramsey

The U.S. Department of Defense has launched a new scholarship program to support graduate degrees in science, math and engineering, and a student at UCSD is one of this year’s top recruits for the research-oriented program.

Electrical engineering M.Eng. candidate
Deborah Goshorn

The Pentagon’s Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship will provide Deborah Goshorn with a ‘full ride’ during the 2005-’06 academic year as she finishes her Master’s degree in electrical engineering – with a focus on digital signal processing -- at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. The SMART program was established by law to promote the education, recruitment and retention of rising junior and senior undergraduate and graduate students in science, math and engineering. The DoD program is organized by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The SMART scholarships are spread among warfare centers of each branch of the Armed Forces. Nationwide, 36 scholars were selected from more than 600 applicants, and Goshorn was the #1 draft among the seven scholars allotted to the U.S. Navy. The award pays for tuition and fees, room and board, books and living expenses. In exchange, Goshorn (pronounced goss-horn) agrees to work for the U.S. Navy for at least one year after receiving her degree.

The commitment to work for the U.S. Navy was an easy call for Goshorn, because she is already on the payroll. Last summer she was one of eleven Jacobs School students selected for internships at the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Command Systems Center in San Diego. “The project I was working on happens to be a crucial one for the Navy,” said Goshorn. “So even though my internship ended, I was hired part-time and have been working there throughout the school year as a student contractor.”

Deborah Goshorn (second from right) and UCSD colleagues Lam Nguyen, Ph.D. candidate in bioengineering, and recent electrical engineering graduate Nancy Hossein, flank Rear Admiral Jay Cohen, Director of Naval Research, at the 2004 Naval-Industry R&D Partnership Conference.

At SPAWAR, Goshorn works on a rapid prototyping system for digital signal processing to improve communications at sea. She is part of a team that is integrating MATLAB Simulink software onto the signal-processing hardware, and automated it in a graphical user interface to demonstrate the technology to Navy brass. Said Goshorn: “I hope to continue my technical and analytical support in the fields of digital signal processing and adaptive filters.”

SPAWAR has already indicated that it wants to hire Goshorn full-time after she receives her Master’s degree next summer, and the agency is willing to task her with a project that will mesh well with her Ph.D. work. “I plan to do my Ph.D. in mathematics with an emphasis on statistics related to digital signal processing,” said Goshorn. “I just talked with one of my bosses and he says that have a lot of projects about statistics coming up, so I won’t have any problem finding one that fits my interests.”

While other girls who did well in math in high school have historically drifted away from math or engineering in college, Goshorn embraced both, thanks in part to her family. “My Dad is an engineer and has had a big influence on me,” she said. “I think I inherited a lot of his genes, and I grew up not thinking it was strange for a girl to be an engineer, because my sister was an engineer.”

Deborah (top right) with sisters (top row, l-r)
Esther, Rachel, and Rebekah; parents Lawrence and Jacqueline (middle row); brothers Joshua and David with pets St. Mozart and Sir Charlie.

Sister Rachel, 27, already works at SPAWAR and received her Ph.D. this spring from the Jacobs School of Engineering. Brother Joshua, 25, this month received his M.S.EE. in electrical engineering, and did his undergraduate work in computer engineering, also at UCSD. (Another brother, David, 28, and sister Rebekah, 23, earned double majors from UCSD, in theatre/communications and economics-MS/political science-international relations respectively. Mother Jacqueline went back to school and graduated this June with a BA degree in theater from UCSD. Esther, 18, graduates from high school this June.)

“We all see the value in UCSD and especially in the Jacobs School of Engineering,” she added.  “Between us we will have nine degrees from the Jacobs School alone! And our family of eight will finish with 26 or 27 college degrees in all.”

Deborah herself has been studying at UCSD since she was 14 years old, when she began taking college-level calculus while still a freshman in high school. At UCSD, she did a double major in computer engineering and applied mathematics. “My Dad always says the guy with the most math wins,” recalled Goshorn. “I did applied mathematics because I’m not really into the abstract math, and I did computer engineering because I knew that to be a great engineer today, you really need the programming background.”

For graduate school Goshorn switched to electrical engineering, and expects to continue to focus on signal processing even when she goes for her doctorate in mathematics. She recently passed her qualifying exam in statistics at the Ph.D. level, which will be the emphasis of her doctoral research. “I could just as easily have done my Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, but I think that getting the doctorate in mathematics will broaden my horizons,” she noted.

Goshorn expects to continue her research at SPAWAR even after she gets her Ph.D., but some day she also wants to teach engineering or math at the college level. “I know it's a strong desire for me to be a professor, but I don't know when the door will open,” she said. “My long-range job aspiration is to continue serving our country’s US Navy fleet, and teach at the same time.”

Last summer, Goshorn was one of three UCSD students invited to represent SPAWAR at the 2004 Naval-Industry R&D Partnership Conference in Washington D.C. “It was a pretty big deal and very exciting to speak with so many senior officials,” she recalled. It was during that conference that Goshorn was approached by a SMART official and encouraged to apply for the scholarship.

ECE graduate student Goshorn commutes
between home, SPAWAR and UCSD on her 620cc Ducati racing motorcycle.

Work and study leave little time for hobbies, with one exception, admits Goshorn. “Everyone in my family rides Ducati sport motorcycles,” she said. “My Dad has been riding his whole life, and he wanted his daughters to know that there is nothing that we can't do, whether it’s riding a motorcycle, or doing engineering.” Goshorn commutes to UCSD on her 620cc bright-yellow M-Ducati.

“I think a lot of girls have a lie in their head that math is too hard for them, but it’s really not,” continued Goshorn. “You just need a lot of encouragement, and I got that from my family.”

Goshorn is a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honors society at UCSD, and occasionally spoke to young girls about careers in science, math and engineering. “If you like math, then you'll really love physics, and then you'll really love engineering, because engineering is really applied, applied mathematics,” she said, paraphrasing her advice to girls – and boys – in high school. “I think that if you really like to know how things work, then you really have the mindset of an engineer.”

“My long-range job aspiration is to teach part-time while continuing to serve our country’s U.S. Navy fleet,” concluded Goshorn. “I feel blessed to be working on national security technologies at a time when homeland security has become such a major priority for the country.”

Media Contact: Doug Ramsey, (858) 822-5825


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