Allison Smyth

Home: Uxbridge, Massachusetts

Degrees earned from WPI:
BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering (May 2009)
Minor in Computer Science (May 2009)

Graduate school:
Masters of Engineering (MEng) in Electrical and Computer Engineering candidate at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY; May 2010 expected graduation date

How and why did you choose to attend WPI?
I chose to attend WPI after attending Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science, which is an accelerated secondary school in Math, Science, and Technology that is sponsored by WPI.  I fell in love with the 7 week terms and accelerated learning that WPI offered.  It made me feel like I could do more and explore more (be exposed to more) than I would be able to at a regular college or even a University.  I also loved the open labs offered at the school.  Most schools do not allow their students 24 hour access unless they are working toward a graduate degree.  I believe that WPI’s policies are more suited for learning than similar policies at larger Universities.

How did your experience at WPI prepare you for graduate school?
WPI encourages understanding principles and then applying them.  I believe the most important part of this philosophy is the application.  It doesn’t matter how much you know if you can’t do anything.  The emphasis they put into putting theory into practice has helped me greatly at Cornell.  It allowed me to tackle projects and feel more confident that I would be able to come up with the correct solutions.

Are you currently employed?
Currently interviewing for a Systems Engineer position at a top-tier employer.

How did WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, prepare you for facing real-world challenges in the workplace or graduate school?

More and more schools are emphasizing team work in their education programs.  At Cornell, every class that I have taken has had at least 1 team project in the class; therefore, the WPI team experience has been extremely helpful.  The team experience I had at WPI has also helped in job interviews.  Every employer is interested in team experience because very few engineering jobs involve sitting alone at your desk.  The philosophy of theory and practice is important and is something that I have believed in since I was in high school (possibly another reason I chose WPI).  Every employer that I have talked with respects WPI graduates for 2 major reasons.  First of all, they understand concepts when explained to them, but most importantly, they know how to use an oscilloscope.  I won’t say which exact employer said this to me, but it shows that they have a high regard for students who can apply what they learn in an actual work environment (therefore they have a high regard for WPI students).  Using this philosophy in graduate school has been extremely important to truly understand the more in-depth concepts that we are learning.  I don’t believe I would understand what I am learning in computer system classes nearly as well if I didn’t have the skills I acquired at WPI to put the concepts into practice.  It helps me appreciate what I have learned to a greater extent.

Additional information:

  • While at WPI I was a senior tutor for ECE2312 which was taught by Professor Hakim and Professor Matthews. 
  • My MQP won the MQP Provost Award and was a Crash Detection Device for Race Cars.  I also received the Salisbury Award at WPI.
  • I was part of HKN and TBP engineering honor societies as well.
  • At Cornell, I am a TA for ECE4760 which is a senior level class titled Designing with Microcontrollers. 
  • In my free time I snowboard and drag race.  In 2008, I was 6th in Division 1 for the Stock Eliminator racing class.   Division 1 is the Northeast division of racing, which basically includes Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and the New England States.  I am not sure of the actual dividing lines.  I am still an active participant, and you can see me at any racing events throughout the summer.  I won a racing Divisional at Maple Grove Raceway in 2008, which helped bring on my position as 6th in Division 1.  Winning this event has been one of the greatest achievements in my life.  Racing is a great sport for those interested in any type of engineering.  I feel that being involved in racing has allowed me to learn more at WPI, but at the same time, being a student of engineering at WPI has allowed me to get more out of drag racing. 
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