IEEE Student Member Curtis Ullerich participated in nearly every extracurricular activity available to him as a high school student in Atlantic, Iowa, including math leagues, band, student council, 4-H and National Honor Society. Ullerich’s go-getter attitude continued when he arrived at Iowa State University for college.
During the past four years, the computer engineering major/music technology minor worked in a bioinformatics lab on a plug-in that analyzes protein networks and other biological data, and contributed to a system that examines a patient’s medical record to determine the outcome of a specific procedure, or visit for Telligen (formerly the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care). He also created machine-learning tools for solving natural language processing problems at Garmin, evaluated Android mobile applications for malware, and produced tools to visualize electronic instrument parameters.
Somehow, Ullerich, who has a 3.93 GPA, has also made time for fun. He plays baritone in the Iowa State marching band and in a community band in his hometown, volunteers with local 4-H clubs, runs half-marathons, and began his term as president of the IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN) student honor society chapter at Iowa State in April.
Ullerich’s involvement in all of those professional and volunteer activities earned him recognition as the IEEE/IEEE-USA New Faces of Engineering–College Edition winner, an award that includes a $500 scholarship. The award, administered by the National Engineers Week Foundation, honors 15 third-, fourth- or fifth-year student engineering society members for academic excellence, leadership in student organizations, outstanding communication skills, non-engineering-related community service, and participation in the engineering industry.
“I am honored to receive this award,” said Ullerich. “It’s gratifying to know that professionals in my field at the national level are impressed with what I’ve accomplished through internships and community outreach.”
As IEEE-HKN chapter vice president, Ullerich spearheaded an initiative to provide mock technical interviews to undergraduates, worked on improving IEEE-HKN company relations, and organized sessions on technical topics not taught in classes, such as Unix computer software code and website development.
In addition to the internships that have allowed Ullerich to travel to several U.S. states, he also studied abroad at the University of Birmingham in England, during the 2011 spring semester. After finishing classes that included computer networking, data mining, philosophy of cognitive science, and electroacoustic music, he spent a month backpacking through nine countries, including much of Western Europe. His favorite place: Dingle, Ireland.
Ullerich will continue to expand his work experience this summer in Washington state, as a member of Microsoft’s advanced information processing team. He says he plans to complete a master’s degree in software engineering, with a focus on analyzing big data, after he graduates in December.
“My goal is to write large-scale data analysis software to solve problems that impact millions of people,” said Ullerich.
He also wants to continue serving as a role model for the next generation. Ullerich, who turned 22 in January, has been active in 4-H since third grade, serving in a variety of roles from club president to state council member and state youth tech team mentor. He also participates in service projects sponsored by the Iowa State chapter of Collegiate 4-H, and recently began judging county fairs in Iowa.
His advice to the kids he meets: “Always remember that it’s OK to explore your interests in science and technology. Don’t let the fact that these interests may be considered geeky by some get in your way of doing something awesome.”
Abby Robinson is an IEEE Senior Member and freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C. area.