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ECE grad student starts new student organization

Portrait of Darren Shaw

Second year master’s degree student Darren Shaw is the founding president of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department’s Graduate Student Association.

Electrical and computer engineering second year master’s student Darren Shaw attended meetings of the Mizzou Graduate Professional Council (GPC) as one of only a few engineering graduate students and the only one from the ECE Department.

“I was the student rep for ECE in GPC and GSA [Mizzou’s Graduate Student Association],” Shaw said. “I realized that student reps from other departments typically went through a formal organization, but ECE didn’t have a group like that.”

From his own experience, camaraderie among students was more easily achieved as an undergraduate. He said graduate students become more focused on a specific area of research, and that causes a separation from ECE grad students in other research areas.

“I held meetings with ECE grad students and let them know what was going on with GPC,” he said. “At the end of one meeting, it was suggested that we create an organization.”

The ECE Graduate Student Association formed last spring and was recognized as an official student organization this fall. Shaw serves as its founding president and ECE Professor James Keller serves as its faculty adviser.

So far, Shaw said the group is trying to figure out how it wants to serve the ECE graduate student body. They held a seminar aimed at teaching grad students how to author and submit journal articles. Members also held a networking picnic and plan to host at least one more seminar next semester as well as investigate volunteer opportunities in the community.

Shaw excelled in math and science as a student at Parkview High School in his hometown Springfield, Mo., and came to Mizzou because of the plethora of educational opportunities.

“I figured, MU has a little bit of everything, so if I didn’t like engineering, I could try something else,” he said.

He started freshman year as an undeclared engineering major and after discovering the job opportunities for electrical engineering degrees, declared his major at the beginning of his sophomore year. With each class, Shaw said he appreciated that the topic, whether learned practically or theoretically, could be applied easily to real-world problems.

“I always felt I was learning something worthwhile. I was learning the content or how to learn,” Shaw said.

An IncREaCE Scholar, Shaw completed a year of undergraduate research on power systems under ECE Professor Robert O’Connell. He interned for Associated Electric Cooperative in Springfield in 2012 and returned the following academic year to finish his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in May 2013. He followed graduation immediately with an internship at Texas Instruments in the Dallas area and came back to MU Engineering’s graduate program in the fall of 2013. The decision to go back to school was all about timing, aided by tuition waivers and stipends.

“I always knew I wanted to go back to get my graduate degree,” Shaw said. “I didn’t want to have to do that when I was older.”

As a graduate student, he has taken advantage of the opportunity to steer his research focus toward an area more in line with what he intended to pursue in industry. His current research focus is on machine learning and pattern recognition problems in the lab of ECE Professor Dominic Ho.

His anticipated graduate date is May 2015, and he said he already has two job opportunities on the horizon.

“What I love about electrical engineering is that it’s a discipline where you can yield innovation that can make a change,” he said.

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