How Antonio opened the door to a Ph.D. through UC Boulder’s MS-EE program

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Meet Antonio! He’s had a long and fruitful career as an aerospace engineer and even spent time as a supply chain manager. But Antonio wasn’t ready to call it quits. Instead of retiring, he decided to enroll in the MS-EE program at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2019, and now is pursuing his Ph.D. in Photonics & Quantum Engineering. Follow along as Antonio details his experience as a lifelong learner.

Hi, I’m Antonio! In a previous life, I was a supply chain manager at Pratt and Whitney, an aircraft engine manufacturer. I worked in a facility that maintained the engines and was responsible for bringing in the materials, planning the production, and making sure the supply chain worked. 

Prior to working at Pratt and Whitney, I was an aerospace engineer. For the first 5 years, my work was more technical, but after seeing the financial benefit, I transitioned to a supervisor role. 

I spent some time in management but realized my calling was on the technical side, and after some thought decided to enroll in the MS EE program at University of Colorado Boulder.

Why did I choose this particular engineering program? The first reason is the performance-based admissions process available at the university. Performance-based admission means you don’t need transcripts, tests, or minimum GPAs to qualify for enrollment. Students only need to complete the work at the required level, and they are admitted to the master’s degree program regardless of previous academic or work experience. 

Another reason I wanted to enroll was the world-class electrical, computer, and energy engineering faculty. Students can learn from noteworthy professors like Dr. Robert Erickson, author of the leading textbook on power electronics. How exciting!

When I first started the program, I took some not-for-credit courses, then transferred to for-credit courses when I was sure the eight-week schedule worked for me. This is a great feature because if you find out in the middle of the course that you can’t finish, you don’t have to withdraw. 

The first class I took was in the sensors specialization. The field programmable gate arrays were also very interesting because programming hardware instead of software was a completely new concept for me. 

I love learning new things. All my kids are grown up and moved out, and I have more free time than I used to. I have a lot of life left to live, however, and I do not agree with the concept of retirement. I think if you don’t challenge your mind your brain shrinks. My brother retired and he is bored! You meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot while working. If you stay at home, you lose much of this interaction and learning. 

I saw a lot of older people in the program which is a good thing – even some people who have kids out of the house. I think this program was good for them because it’s easier to balance when there are no kids to worry about.

When I first enrolled in 2019, my goal was to gain a deep understanding of electronics and then find a job. Now that I have chosen to continue to a Ph.D. this might change. I will see how research and academic life is, then I’ll decide to get a job or go the university way. 

I love having a challenge to keep my mind and body active. During the summer, I am doing some work here in the lab and studying some stuff my advisor has given me to hit the ground running in the fall.

Thank you for sharing your learning experience with us, Antonio. All the best on your journey!

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