Boris Sofman: Courting Wins for ECE


September 7, 2004

ECE senior Boris Sofman courts winning scores, in his games and on his exams. The Texan’s powerful stroke helped lead Carnegie Mellon to its first match at the NCAA Team Tournament, and he has been on the dean’s list since 2001. A member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and Eta Kappa Nu Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society, he’s also volunteered for the East End Cooperative Ministry’s (EECM) Men’s Shelter.

Recently named to the 2003-04 First Team Academic All-American Men's At-Large Team (along with ECE senior Chris Pearson in swimming), Boris has a double major in CS and volleys between class and practice with ECE teammates Carl Yang, a junior, and sophomores Rex Carazo-Zapetis, Dan Munoz, and Anthony Robinson. Let’s find out how this all-rounder does it all.

Boris Sofman

ECE Senior

Biggest wins:

I’d say both my greatest individual and team accomplishments happened this past year. As a team, we went on a 9-match winning streak late in the season, finishing ranked 6th in the region and qualifying for the NCAA national tournament for the first time in school history. Individually, I had my best year so far, especially at doubles. My doubles partner and I were 15-9 at #1 doubles and had some really good wins, including one over a team ranked 10th in the country.

Varsity perks:

The best part is definitely the competition. I love the team atmosphere and the thrill of winning a close match. Additionally, I get to travel to many interesting places…The highlight is our yearly week-long spring break [locations include Hilton Head and Orlando].

Favorite courses:

My favorite professor in ECE has been Jim Hoburg who I had for 18-220, Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering, and 18-202, Mathematical Foundations of Electrical Engineering. Out of all the professors I’ve had, I think he’s the most attentive to students and their needs and meticulous in his preparation for every class. He organizes the material to present it in the clearest and most enjoyable way possible.

I also really enjoyed Tsuhan Chen’s Signals and Systems class, 18-396.

Practice makes perfect:

Usually 2 hours of practice per day with weight-lifting/conditioning several times per week.

Lessons on the court:

Playing sports gives you a surge of confidence that you can utilize in school. In tennis you should go into your matches expecting to win. If you go into every point expecting to make every shot and feeling like you’re in control, your focus is heightened and you’ll end up actually playing better. The same goes for the classroom. A lot of people dread certain classes or tests and go into them expecting the worst and hoping they’ll get lucky. I try to go into all of my classes expecting to ace them, and I end up performing better.

Balancing school and play:

It definitely takes a lot of planning and organization, but it’s an incredibly satisfying experience. The toughest part of it is going away for weekend trips. Knowing that you’ll be gone Friday through Sunday means that you just have to work extra hard during the week. You become more productive throughout the day because you know that part of your time is blocked off for practice. I really love tennis, so practice is my mental break for the day, and when I’m done I’m ready to go back to working hard. I actually feel more organized and productive during the tennis season.

Work experience:

The summer after my freshman year and through my sophomore year I worked in Bruce Krogh’s research group. We were researching new techniques for intruder detection and tracking using a distributed wireless sensor network.

The summer after my freshman year I worked at Intel with their Desktop Platforms Group in the early stages of the design of Nehalem, a next generation desktop processor.

Last spring and last summer I worked in the Field Robotics Center Tactical Mobile Robotics group (a part of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute). I worked with a group of autonomous outdoor vehicles to uncover the basic principles that will best govern a group of robots trying to do useful work such as scouting or terrain mapping. I plan to continue with this project this year through a senior research thesis.


2nd place in the Lockheed Martin ECE poster competition at the Undergraduate Research Symposium’s Meeting of the Minds in 2004 for “Distributed and Collaborative Mobile Robotics.”

The ECE edge:

I really like the flexibility of the ECE program. You get introduced to an extremely wide range of areas before you need to decide what you want to focus on. Even though I’ve gone more into the computer science aspect of ECE, I find it extremely helpful to have a background in computer architecture or signal processing. It gives you an edge over people with a single focus.

On sports and school:

A lot of people are worried about not having enough time for school if they are involved in sports, but it’s definitely worth it! It’s incredibly satisfying and helps you get through the stress of school. You only get one chance to play a sport in college, so enjoy it while you can!

Next steps:

I plan to go to graduate school, probably in the fields of Artificial Intelligence/Robotics.

Backhand volley by Boris Sofman

Overhead shot

Returning a volley