Advice on success in school and beyond

Electrical Engineering professor Greg Pottie has some advice on how to succeed in school and beyond.

“The main thing in life is to become part of a community of some kind.”

And he would know. Pottie has been part of many communities throughout his life. He grew up in Canada, moved to Boston to work for Motorola/Codex, then finally made his way to Los Angeles in 1991 after being asked to apply to UCLA as a professor by Henry Samueli himself.

So what does he do at UCLA? As a professor, Pottie teaches courses from undergraduate communications to graduate level information theory. When asked of his favorite class to teach, Pottie knew immediately which one.

“EE 3 (Introduction to Electrical Engineering) is my favorite class to teach. You’re getting undergraduates seeing their first hands-on stuff and there’s an open-ended project. People get enthusiastic about it.”

Professor Greg Pottie poses for a photo. Photo by Kieran McGartoll

He’s seen some pretty impressive projects. One of his favorites involved a paper plane launcher that detected a toy car going by with sensors and launched the plane into the car. Pottie described it as “an air defense system”.

Like most professors, Pottie is also involved in research here at UCLA. He says of his research:

“Mostly sensor networks research. The sensor networks stuff was military, then environmental, and now medical related.”

He’s also heavily involved outside of academia. Pottie sings in a church choir, something he’s done since coming to Los Angeles, and stays fit through biking to work and swimming.

As for his students, Pottie believes they are lucky to be at an institution like UCLA.

“At UCLA, there are many additional opportunities. If you can, get involved with summer research. Do directed studies, lots of companies come recruiting. Get some internships and talk to faculty about their research.”

Coming from Canada, Pottie also knows how lucky we are to be in California.

“Having grown up in Ottawa, I’d have to say a really good thing about Los Angeles is that you don’t have to shovel sunshine.”

Reporting by Kieran McGartoll

Physics 1A Lecturer Lives ‘Vicariously’ Through Teaching

Physics Lecturer Dr. Josh Samani has only one thing to say when it comes to physics.

“Physics is awesome.”

Actually, that’s not even remotely true—Samani has quite a lot to say when it comes to physics.

Josh Samani, a self-identified ‘California guy’, is now the first point of contact for most UCLA engineers to university level physics.

The physics 1A lecturer has already taught the introductory class 5 times in his early career at UCLA, with each iteration slightly different than the previous.

“It’s kind of like an engineering problem,” Samani says. “You try things and they kind of work, but they kind of don’t, and you keep iterating until you get to an iteration that feels pretty good.”

Dr. Josh Samani speaks in front of his introductory physics class. Photo by Matt Garnett

Samani believes that the most difficult part of lecturing is the structuring of the material in his presentations so that they are optimal for student learning.

“That is a really difficult thing to do. It takes an enormous number of iterations of a class to do it well.”

Each iteration is important to Samani because he wants to give his students the same experience that he welcomed while he learned physics.

“It goes back to really enjoying learning physics myself. I just get a rush going through that experience over and over again every time I teach the subject. It’s almost like living vicariously through the process of learning.”

Samani is visibly passionate about physics. In fact, if he said that if he were only able to give one last lecture the rest of his life it would cover the same idea that he tries to develop in his 1A students each quarter.

“In my opinion, the most important aspect of the things that I teach is helping people think in a productive and scientific way,” Samani says, “If I could talk about one thing and impart my experiences with one thing that I think is important, it would be something about being inspired to think scientifically and apply that in essentially every domain of people’s lives.”