The Active ECE'r: Keith Eich, ECE Alumnus and Graduate Student


March 15, 2004

A renaissance man of ECE who as an undergraduate was involved in orientation, student senate, a fraternity, campus ministry, and tutoring- just for starters- Keith Eich earned his B.S. in ECE with a minor in Business Administration in the spring of 2002.

During his schooling, he spent two summers interning for TransAmerican Automation, Inc. in Pittsburgh and one summer with Habitat for Humanity. After graduation, he joined a healthcare consulting company called Cerner Corporation based out of Kansas City, Missouri, as a Systems Analyst, writing code enabling software interfaces to communicate with each other. While at Cerner, he was part of the Literacy Kansas City project.

Growing up in Poland, Ohio, his knack for engineering started at an early age, when his parents found him tinkering with his toys. Join us, as we discover more about the work and play of this ECE graduate, who is now back on campus working toward his M.S. in ECE and Masters in Information Systems Management (MSIM).

What hobbies, jobs, or extracurricular activities were you involved in as an ECE undergraduate?

I was involved in a lot of things during my undergraduate years. I was a three time Orientation Counselor, I was a student senator for a couple semesters, and I was highly involved in a fraternity (Sigma Phi Epsilon), as well as several Christian Student groups. I was ranked at CMU as the fourth best Quake player and internationally ranked as seventh. I also had the unique opportunity to fix up a house off-campus where I was a landlord!

I was a founding father of SigEp and I was involved in all aspects of the house. I think some of the most rewarding things that I did were in the areas of recruitment, new member education, [carnival] booth, and Greek Sing.

Being an Orientation Counselor was very fun- it was interesting to take a group of new CMU students and help expose them to our wonderful campus while building some lasting friendships.

Being a student senator, I was able to help effect policy changes and organize student events to give back to my school. I was also given the opportunity to be part of the Joint Funding Committee during the Spring of 2001, and it really opened my eyes as to how funding and our student organizations work.

How did you decide upon Engineering?

I guess I have always wanted to do Engineering. My mom and dad will show you pictures of me tearing apart mechanical and electronic equipment throughout my entire life. I was always trying to fix my toys or make them better!

What attracted you to ECE at CMU?

Carnegie Mellon has a strong tradition of being one of the best schools in the country for Engineering and an even stronger reputation for being the best school for Electrical & Computer Engineering. Carnegie Mellon is also famous for being on the cutting edge of the computer scene. I was very blessed to have only grown up a few hours away from Pittsburgh too, although the close proximity didn't affect my decision.

How do you feel that your ECE education prepared you for work in industry?

I think the education I received within the ECE department prepared me to think outside of the box, to respond quickly to issues, and to simplify problems for others to understand. I further honed my skills at being able to relate known problems to any situation. I also build upon my creativity to solve problems as I experience and become familiar with more projects.

As an undergraduate, what were your favorite or most memorable courses and professors?

18-100, Introduction to ECE, with Professor Sullivan was memorable because it was my first classroom experience with electronics and engineering. He had the gift of grabbing our attention and relating concepts to things we understand in real life.

18-483, Civilian and Military Applications of Space, with Professor Morel was very interesting because the majority of the class allowed me to see the actual applications of engineering.

18-515, In Between the Design and Marketplace of Integrated Circuits (ICs), with Professor Maly was one of the coolest classes that I took during my undergraduate years. He really made our group think about the bigger picture surrounding the IC Industry and taught us how to think like entrepreneurs with an engineering foundation.

Have you had any SURGs (Small Undergraduate Research Grants) or done any co-ops?

I did a SURG my freshman year dealing with Audio Streaming on the Internet. Although it didn't work out the way that I anticipated, I learned a lot about how to do research and grew from the experience.

What are your research interests?

I am most interested in the business, economic, and political forces driving the industry. On a technical level I enjoy edifying myself on wireless technology and computer security.

What are some of the challenges of your work?

I think the biggest challenge in our field is making a team perform well together. Balancing different schedules, ideas, and people keep life challenging.

Having earned an ECE degree and been out in the working world, what tips can you offer prospective and current ECE students?

Think about what is important to you. Don't live with regrets for not doing something you wished you would have done. Realize that it is okay not to want to be like everyone else.

What have been some of your most rewarding moments as an ECE alumnus?

Having choices in what to do after college.

What were some of the experiences that have shaped your life at CMU?

I think the flexibility of the ECE program at CMU allowed me to find other areas that I was interested in academically.

What do you think about the Pittsburgh area?

Pittsburgh is an awesome city. There are a lot of young college people and there is an immense amount of culture and diversity. It is like a hidden treasure passed over because it isn't on either coast.

What are some of your favorite spots?

Chick-fil-A, Mad Mex, Fuel & Fuddle, and all of Southside.

What is the best part of the ECE degree?

The flexibility and the challenging curriculum are probably the two best parts of the ECE program. An ECE student can easily balance their engineering workload so that they can take classes outside of engineering that interest them as well as planning ahead to take ECE graduate classes that interest them. The challenging curriculum keeps each student on their toes and prepares them for what lies ahead after college...

Describe a fun ECE memory.

Pulling three all-nighters in a row in the ECE Cluster for 18-525... Wendy's runs at 4 a.m. the whole week and drinking more Dr. Pepper than should be legally allowed. Taking the Engineer in Training/Fundamental Engineering Exam (EIT/FE) during Spring Carnival 2001. The EIT is an eight-hour exam required to eventually earn a Professional Engineer's license... and I passed.

Is there anything that you would like to add for prospective students?

I think it is so true when I say, "think about what is important to you." Carnegie Mellon is a very rigorous institution but the benefit of making it through will make you a better person.

What are your plans for the future?

In the future, I would like to be more involved in the business, economic, and political issues surrounding the industry. I would like to get involved in the bigger picture and become a strategist of some sort.