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ECE is a growing department with several new faculty members. In the first part of this series we are introducing Visiting Lecturer Paolo Vinella.

How did you become interested in engineering?

My interest in engineering was born since I was a kid. I loved to open mechanical/electronic toys to see “their inside”, their basic working principles. Then, I chose to attend a technical high-school that offered a teaching philosophy very close to engineering: that confirmed my interest in the area.

What experiences led you to your present position?

After graduating from UIC and Politecnico di Torino (Italy) and getting a joint Master Degree in Electrical Engineering, I received a job offer by the ECE Dept. as Visiting Lecturer. I’m also responsible for lab development and upgrading – honestly a positive surprise for me, more than challenging enough to make me say … YES!

Can you tell me about your work as a lecturer in ECE? Describe a typical work day.

Some might think teaching means coming to the classroom, talking and using the white-board and slides for a couple of hours some days every week and that’s it. Not so true! Every class implies deep preparation, a rigor in understanding while finding a way to teach that aims to simplify hard stuff and make it fun to learn. This is something that must meet students expectations and interests and match the teaching quality that has to be a prerequisite for any department, like ours, that does and wants to shine.

Have you received any awards and recognitions? If so, what are your secrets that lead you to recieving the awards?

I believe that becoming a Lecturer and Faculty Member of an U.S. university at 24 years old is itself something to be happy and proud of. A reward for my fullest dedication in my studies while never sacrificing my personal life for it.

What are your favorite hardware and software tools?

I enjoy digital electronics design, preferring VHDL as hardware description language and FPGAs. Definitely Altera’s hardware development tools, but also Spice, Matlab and C are among my favorite.

What are you currently working on?

I am teaching ECE 366 (Computer Organization II) and ECE 368 (CAD-Based Digital Design), while bringing ECE 368 close to the world of FPGAs and programmable hardware. In fact, I am also helping the department build up a FPGA Laboratory for the students, with some real hardware platforms to play around! Last but not least, I am starting to work on a challenging project that wants to enhance computation of Non-Uniform Fast Fourier Transform using FPGAs and OpenCL.

Do you have an area of engineering that you specialize in?

Digital Electronics.

What do you do during your free time?

It strongly depends on Chicago’s weather, but in general it is worth mentioning: trying a different Italian restaurant downtown on weekends (an impulse driven by my Italian DNA I guess), fighting laziness with some physical activity (swimming and working out), running to the movie theater as soon as a new movie comes out with endless popcorn and soda refills, going out with my friends and girlfriend, planning my next vacation, and experimenting with cooking at home. Of course when temperatures go down, Spotify and Netflix become my best friends.

What direction do you see yourself in a few years from now? Or what would you like to accomplish at UIC?

As an engineer, I like to plan things in advance. But as human being, sometimes surprises arrive to alter my plans. In my future I would like to be partly involved with teaching or research activities at UIC while cooperating more with the Industry.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an engineer?

Is “traveler” considered a profession? If it was, I would have picked this one definitely … But since it is not, I would go for managing a nightlife PR Company in Shanghai.

Learn more about the visiting lecturer at Paolo Vinella.


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