Gaining Practical Experience in Engineering

After growing up in Lockport, Illinois, Kaitlyn Graves initially wanted to go to college far away from home, but she says she’s found that living in Chicago has felt like the best of both worlds.

“Being in the city made it still feel like I was away from home. But, also throughout the years, I realized I appreciate being closer to home and being able to easily visit on the weekends and holidays,” says Graves. 

Graves knew about Illinois Tech because her parent is a mechanical engineering alumna, so she felt confident knowing that the smaller class sizes would give her more opportunities and support than she would receive at a larger school.

“As a small school, Illinois Tech provides a lot of opportunities for growth. But also, you get from the experience what you put in,” she says. “You have to be able to put yourself out there to gain the most from all the opportunities Illinois Tech offers.”

Graves explored her interest in engineering, starting out as a biomedical engineering student before settling on electrical engineering. 

“I found myself being more interested in the electrical side of biomedical engineering. I figured that electrical engineering is a broad field so I would not be restricted to a certain area if I ended up not liking one part of it,” she says.

By enrolling in the electrical engineering Accelerated Master’s Program, Graves was able to take many electives, giving her lots of flexibility to create a curriculum specific to her interests. 

“I was able to explore what topics I enjoyed through various undergraduate electives, then focused on the field I liked the most with my master’s courses, which ended up being in communication theory and applied electromagnetics,” she says.

Graves has embraced a range of experiential learning opportunities, including internships and study away. 

She participated in the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Electronique (ENSEA) French American Exchange (FAME) program.  

“This was a great opportunity to travel while still studying. I was able to take a full semester workload and still visit many different countries in Europe,” she says.

Graves was also able to broaden her practical engineering experience through interning with the Naval Surface Warfare Center. Over the course of two summers and one semester, she learned to apply the principles of electromagnetics to real-world problems.

In summer 2021, Graves got her first introduction to graduate research by taking the Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence course taught by Walter and Harriet Filmer Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering Jafar Saniie

She created a project exploring the use of millimeter wave radar and machine vision in pedestrian collision warning systems and presented this work at the Armour R&D expo and the annual ECE Day student research competition

She also wrote a paper on the work for the 2022 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’s International Conference on Electro Information Technology, which received second place in the conference’s Outstanding Paper Competition. 

“The experience helped me further my skills in developing an idea and executing it, as well as helped me gain confidence in presenting my work,” she says.

Graves is currently in a doctoral program in electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and plans to continue pursuing research in applied electromagnetics.

“I hope to create energy-efficient solutions for communication technologies,” she says.

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