Veteran finds meaning in UCSB summer research

Coming from a small town, I had nothing but big dreams. Not really understanding the value of education during high school I neglected my academics. Infatuated with sports and leadership, I enlisted in the United States Marines Corps infantry, where I matured rapidly and gained invaluable skills that are forever-instilled in me. After being honorably discharged I found myself lacking goals and ambitions, which was reflected in my mindset at college. I was astonished to feel this way; having no drive to excel was something I had not experienced before. I decided to take a break from school for a year to rediscover lost ambitions. Physically and mentally I worked and grew, and in return, I was clear minded and regained a feeling of ease and confidence. I returned to school with that hungry attitude to be great. I now see my schooling in a different, clearer light and I immerse myself in it, striving to reach my maximum potential, so I can have a large and positive effect on the world.

So you might be thinking, why did I pick such a rigorous major? During my time of reflection and struggled transition out of the Marines I thought deeply about my current and past passions, which have remained with me over the years. I found myself thinking back to when I was a little kid, building intricate forts and tree houses and again in more advanced applications as a Marine, building mud machine-gun towers and bridges. I’ve connected to engineering throughout my youth and into my adulthood, and I felt a calling to this major, driven by the same emotions that lead me to the Marine Corp Recruit Depot, Paris Island, South Carolina. Fulfilling my outgoing spirit, now I have an outlet for my past transitioning struggles.

I enjoy doing this research opportunity because it diversifies my academic and professional experiences and will provide me with a unique skill or edge in my career. Besides suffering from the typically struggles of military transitioning: PTSD, tinnitus, and physical injuries, I think one of the biggest struggles were no longer having a mission and purpose. Getting out of the Marine Corps I was no longer around an elite team that overcame tremendous challenges and important missions. Being in Professor Mostofi’s lab, surrounded by a new team, working on exciting projects that are significant to our country, which is similarly to my military missions, makes me feel inspired and complete again.