2011 REU Students

Garrett Vanhoy

Garrett VanhoyGarrett Vanhoy is a senior from the University of Arizona, returning to the Virginia Tech REU program for a second time. He is a double major in mathematics and electrical engineering. Last year, he came to the REU program at Tech because he had done research in mathematics but none in electrical engineering. Since there were fewer opportunities at his school for that research, one of his math professors recommended the REU program.

Outside of school, Garrett enjoys sports such as paintball, snowboarding, and almost anything that involves competition. He played travel and school baseball for eleven years. He also enjoys mathematics, because of the problem-solving involved. “I can really get lost in solving problems,” he says, “and will think for hours about them.”

In his senior year of high school, Garrett taught himself the whole curriculum of physics: electricity and magnetism, because no formal course was taught at the school. He then got a 5 on the AP test. He also taught himself C++ and Python by reading books and looking at source code.

After graduating college, he looks to attend graduate school—possibly at Virginia Tech, but is not sure yet—and eventually wants to teach.

Shiwei Mao

Shiwei MaoShiwei Mao (Tom) is a senior at Virginia Tech, majoring in electrical engineering. Originally from China, he has lived inBlacksburg,Virginia since high school. Hoping to get more study in communications, get an internship, and to stay in town for the summer, he found all three in our REU program, which was recommended to him by his communications professor.

In his spare time, Tom likes to play video games and sports and to socialize with friends. He also enjoys music and guitar; he has done a lot of recording and songwriting.

His future plans are to attend graduate school at Virginia Tech and pursue a career in either communications or power electronics.

Zachary Leffke

Zachary LeffkeZachary Leffke is originally from Lynchburg,Virginia, and is now a senior at Virginia Tech studying electrical engineering. He came to the REU program at Virginia Tech because of his great interest in the concepts of software defined radio and cognitive radio and their applications. His hopes were to learn as much as he could from the program, especially about the security and military applications of the research, and to develop relationships with the faculty of the Wireless@VT program, who are leading some of the most cutting edge research in the field. “I’m here to be a sponge and absorb as much information as possible from some of the highest caliber researchers in the field,” he said. “I’m here to learn and hopefully set myself up to be able to continue learning through graduate level research.”

Zach is involved in Virginia Tech’s Amateur Radio Club. Besides amateur radio, his other main interest is in satellite communications. He also loves his pets, camping, and hiking. He has worked for the US Marine Corps as a Satellite Communications Operator.

He plans to attend graduate school at Virginia Tech to pursue his master’s, and maybe a PhD.

Chris Evans

Chris EvansChris Evans is a senior at Virginia Tech, originally fromChapel Hill,North Carolina. He is double-majoring in electrical engineering and mathematics. He hopes to attend graduate school and then work in cellular communications.

Chris came to the REU program at Virginia Tech to aid him in striving for his goals for his career. “Developing new communication standards and protocols is my dream,” he says. “As bandwidth becomes more of a scarce resource, innovation will be necessary to meet the growing demand of cellular communications. Blacksburg is a beautiful town and Virginia Tech is an excellent university to develop the skills necessary to create the next generation of communications systems.”

Chris enjoys running, backpacking, cycling, and amateur radio.

Bill Clark

Bill ClarkBill Clark is from Woodbridge,Virginia, and is studying electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. He came to the REU program at Virginia Tech to explore more opportunities for possible future work, and find something that would particularly spark his interest.

Bill has spent a year working with Harris Corporation’s newly acquired division, Public Safety and Professional Communications. He is interested in electromagnetics and wireless transfer.

Rafael Negron-Maldonado

Rafael Negron-MaldonadoRafael Negron-Maldonado is from San Juan, Puerto Rico and is a senior at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM). At UPRM, he is majoring in computer engineering, with emphasis in the areas of software engineering and digital signal processing (DSP). He came to the Virginia Tech REU program to get a better understanding of possible areas to study in graduate school. He wanted to learn new things, have new experiences, and get good references and experiences to put on his resume.

Rafael enjoys music: playing drums, singing, and working with sound. He also enjoys DSP, working with computers, coding, basketball, and going to church. He would most like to participate in developing new and modern technologies.

In the future, he plans to get a master’s and PhD in the area of communications, and would also like to form a corporation with some of his college teammates for making modern and useful software programs.

Carlos R. Lopez Vallellanes

Carlos R. Lopez VallellanesCarlos R. Lopez Vallellanes is a senior from Corozal, Puerto Rico. He is attending Caribbean University, Bayamon Campus and majoring in electrical engineering. He came to the Virginia Tech REU program because of the reputation of the cognitive communications program as one of the most prestigious nationwide. He wanted to learn from the excellent faculty mentors and enjoys the environment of the university.

His plans for the future are to eventually get a PhD in electronics and circuits. Outside of school, he likes to play softball, manage baseball teams, and fix cars.

Noel TorresTorres

Noel Torres TorresNoel Torres Torres is from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and is now a senior studying electrical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. He came to the REU program at Virginia Tech to be exposed to new research opportunities for which his own university did not have the resources. He also wanted to be able to interact with other engineering students from different universities, as a way to evaluate his understanding of the technical and theoretical aspects of engineering.

His future plans are to apply for graduate school and later get a job with either the government or in the private sector. He enjoys traveling, music, and sports, especially soccer.


Angel L. Martinez

Angel L. MartinezAngel L. Martinez, from Villalba, Puerto Rico is a senior at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, majoring in electrical engineering with a focus on applied electromagnetics. He came to the REU program at Virginia Tech because of the prestige of the university and its recognition in many areas including wireless communications. Wireless communications is closely related to his area of interest and study, and he wants to help research solutions to many existing problems in wireless communications. He wanted to acquire as much knowledge about this field as he could and felt that Virginia Tech’s REU program had the facilities, equipment, and opportunities to accomplish that goal.

After graduation, he plans to get some work experience to help him decide where he would like to attend graduate school and what he would like to study. Apart from school, he enjoys playing soccer, basketball, and guitar, and doing some farm work.

Edwin Cordova

Edwin CordovaEdwin Cordova was born inPuerto Rico, but grew up inManassas,Virginia. He is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in electrical engineering. He came to the REU program at Virginia Tech because he wanted practical applications experience in satellite communications research. He wanted the preparation that the program provided for graduate school or a job.

After college, he hopes to either attend graduate school or get a job working with satellites. He is the electronics lead for Virginia Tech’s IEEE Robotics Team, and outside of school enjoys movies.

Kevin Burns

Kevin BurnsKevin Burns is from Clarke County, Virginia and is now a senior at Virginia Tech. He is majoring in computer engineering, and enjoys doing amateur radio, spending time outdoors, and doing DIY projects in his spare time.

Kevin came to the Virginia Tech REU program because, as an amateur radio operator and computer engineer, the area of software defined radio seemed like a good fit for him. Since he also is considering attending graduate school at Virginia Tech, he thought the program would be a good way to get to know more about the research going on in his field, and also to get to know the researchers.

Mohit Iyyer

Mohit IyyerMohit Iyyer is from Burke, Virginia and attends Washington University in St. Louis. He is a senior, majoring in computer science. At school, he is working on developing a medical diagnosis system with one of his professors to determine if a particular patient will experience clinical deterioration and require a move to the ICU based on around three hundred medical parameters such as blood pressure and shock index. The system creates a model by “learning” from existing patient data and uses that model to predict the condition of future patients.

Because of his work at school, Mohit wanted to increase his knowledge of learning algorithms. When he saw one of the suggested projects on the Virginia Tech REU web page involved signal classification, an area of research in which machine learning can play a major role, he thought it could be very helpful. Also, the communications aspect of the program was something he had never done before, so he wanted to apply his computer science study to an area which he knew little about.

Mohit hopes to attend graduate school and study computer science, and would potentially like to teach later on. In his spare time, he enjoys basketball, writing, and reading.

Oscar Colon

Oscar ColonOscar Colon is from Puerto Rico and attends Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, Bayamon Campus. His major is electrical engineering and he has a particular interest in SDR receivers for amateur satellites.

Oscar came to Virginia Tech because the College of Engineering has such a great reputation and is always one of the first twenty five best engineering schools in the USA. In addition, the REU program in cognitive communications is in his area of interest. He was also impressed by the great faculty that Virginia Tech has in research, who are currently working with new technologies such as OSSIE, GNU radio, and cognitive communications that are the future of the communications field.

Oscar plans to attend graduate school in the future. In his spare time, he likes to play basketball, work out, and watch TV.