Diana Henderson

 Jazzing Up ECE

November 1, 2004

Integrated M.S./B.S. degree student Diana Henderson drums up accolades as the winner of the Carnegie Mellon Women's Association (CMWA) scholarship and a musician whose group won the school's battle of the bands and a spot on TV. She earned her B.S. in ECE and Biomedical Engineering (BME), a minor in jazz performance and is an Andrew Carnegie Society (ACS) and a National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) Fulfilling the Legacy scholar. A drummer in the campus jazz ensemble, Diana also volunteers as a sexual assault advisor and writes for The Carnegie Pulse. Through internships for Nortel Networks, Hewlett Packard, and IBM, she learned that "having a graduate degree can place you in a position to work on projects that are critical to the company's bottom line early in your career."

Diana Henderson

ECE Integrated M.S./B.S. Degree Student

Hometown spirit:

I'm from Carrollton, TX, a suburb of Dallas, TX… Go Cowboys!!!

Merging biomedical engineering and ECE:

My initial draw to engineering was through biomedical engineering, specifically the new medical devices entering the market. For me, it was a matter of choosing one of the core engineering disciplines to best complement the biomedical piece. After conversations with some of the current ECE/BME students and learning about the types of projects they worked on, I realized that I had an interests in electronics, thus I could best pursue my interests with a double major in ECE.

On graduate school in ECE:

The summer before my senior year, I was debating whether to pursue an MBA or continue within ECE at the graduate level. I interned with Hewlett Packard, and gained exposure to industry level circuit design and an introduction to process work. Finding something specific you like helps in motivating you to gain knowledge within that area. I decided it would best to continue pursuing ECE while I had the curiosity and I was still in the academic frame of mind. I learned that having a graduate degree can place you in a position to work on projects that are critical to the company's bottom line early in your career. Having these technical experiences early on can position you to take on more critical roles within the organization, where your choices direct the company and potentially the industry. In technical companies, this begins with familiarity with your product and the technology driving it.

ECE favorites:

18-322, Analysis and Design of Digital Circuits, was probably my most memorable course. In this course, I had my first true project experience, learning how to budget time and working extensively with a partner to meet an aggressive schedule. This is where I had my first exposure to integrated circuit design tools, which I have come to rely on in subsequent courses. It's great to get exposure to tools that are heavily used in industry and experience a day (rather several late night/wee morning hours) in the life of a digital circuit designer. It was also great to learn that Radu Marculescu, one of 18-322's professors, is a fellow jazz aficionado.

TA time:

I am currently a TA for 18-202, Mathematical Foundations of Electrical Engineering.


A few years ago, I interned with Nortel Networks. There I served in a quality assurance role by helping my team prepare for their external TL9000 audit [to comply with telecommunications standards] by creating a teaching module to expose them to the audit process. I also created a disaster recovery plan, one of the items needed for the group to pass the audit and become TL9000 compliant.

Last summer, I interned with Hewlett Packard where I modified PMOS [positive-channel metal oxide semiconductor] devices to function as FAMOS [floating gate avalanche-injection metal oxide semiconductor] transistors and modified zener diodes to become linear devices.

This past summer, I interned with IBM where I did schematic and layout design of SRAM [static random access memory] circuits with 60 nanometer CMOS [complementary metal oxide semiconductor] technology.

On Pittsburgh Community TV (PCTV)—A finalist in the "Make the Cut" competition:

Our group is named Sa'J 7, and we're a group of 7 musicians: female vocal, rapper (lead), guitar, bass, keyboard, trumpet, and drums. Sa'J is the performing artist name of the lead rapper. The "7" comes from the fact that there are seven people in the group, and we're merging seven genres of music: rock, hip-hop, R&B, jazz, gospel, funk, and blues. We ended up in 3rd place for the competition. The finals concluded with the remaining groups performing at Dowe's on 9th last spring.

Undergraduate activities:


I'm currently the drummer for Sa'J 7, the hip-funk band on campus. Also, I try to get up to Schenley for a round of golf when I have a chance... and when there's no snow on the ground.

Career plans:

I plan to pursue full-time employment in the area of circuit and process design.

Diana's tips on completing dual majors and minors:

It's definitely possible to pursue multiple academic disciplines. Many students have done it successfully and would say that it enhanced their college experience.

  • START EARLY! Once you decide to pursue multiple majors or minors, make your desires known to your respective departments immediately; no one can help if they don't know you or what you want to do.
  • MAKE CONNECTIONS! Become personally connected with at least one faculty and staff member in your departments; it's helpful knowing that there's someone in your corner when you're faced with critical academic decisions. This is particularly important if you are considering graduate level studies.
  • MAP OUT COURSES! Map out each semester with the courses that you think will satisfy your graduation requirements as well as your interests.
    • This was probably the most crucial step for me because it helped me figure out how I could fit in my ECE, Biomedical Engineering, and Jazz requirements within a 4 year time-frame. This will also give you an idea of what prerequisites are needed for the higher level courses.
    • Understand that your course map is not set in stone; it is a guide and it WILL change. That's okay because you can expect your interests to change as you find your specific niche within your departments.
    • Class scheduling is unpredictable, so you'll want to build in flexibility by giving yourself different course options. Mapping out each semester may seem tedious, but it's much easier to have a plan in place, something tangible that you can modify, as opposed to trying to meet multiple departmental graduation requirements on the fly. It will save you headaches as your graduation date approaches.

For prospective women in ECE:

The ECE department is a great place to be because of the breadth of course offerings; you have the flexibility to go deep in one area or pursue a broader education. The curriculum is challenging, but you have a great deal of support from your fellow students, faculty and staff, as well as the student-run organizations within the department (IEEE, WinECE, Eta Kappa Nu). Don't be afraid to ask for help; you're probably not the only one who has a particular question. Don't think that you're alone in going through school. There are many people/resources you can reach out to that want to see you succeed.

Diana Henderson in front of Hamerschlag Hall.

Diana working in the ECE cluster.

Diana Henderson