Feature Stories 2024: Christopher Brunette '24, '25: Never stop asking "why?"

Christopher Brunette sitting in the library
Feature Stories 2024: Christopher Brunette '24, '25: Never stop asking "why?"
Christopher Brunette '24, '25: Never stop asking "why?"

Electrical and computer engineering student says curiosity is what makes him an engineer

By May of 2025, electrical and computer engineering student Chris Brunette '24, '25 will have earned 3 degrees in 5 years by taking advantage of the dual-major and accelerated BS/MS options at UMassD.  Brunette says his drive comes from endless curiosity and a desire to understand how things work.  

Why did you choose UMassD? 

"The location was a draw for me. I also weighed the pros and cons of going to a 'big name' school vs. a 'smaller name' school.  Here, I can learn all the same things that I'd learn at an elite institution, but because we're a small community, I have close relationships with my professors, which has been a huge advantage.  I have no regrets." 

How did you get interested in electrical and computer engineering? What do you enjoy about it? 

"All my life, I've been like a toddler asking 'why, why, why?' I want to understand how everything works, down to the most basic level. I started getting interested in computers and electronics in middle school, and I just kept asking questions. That curiosity is what makes an engineer an engineer. I think if you stop asking questions, life becomes boring. I'm most interested in electromagnetics. The opportunity to dual major allows me to gain twice the knowledge and get a more complete understanding of how electronic systems work." 

Tell us about your internships - what did you gain from these experiences?

"During the summers after my freshman and sophomore years, I interned at a company called EPEC Engineered Technologies right here in New Bedford.  After my junior year, I interned at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Rhode Island. I helped create a test for a sonar pinger to analyze the different signal parameters and make sure they worked correctly. These signals are how submarines communicate with each other and with other vessels.  

"My internships opened my eyes and gave me more experience and confidence. Getting real-world experience reminded me why it's more important to understand how and why things work than it is to focus solely on my GPA.  UMassD gave me lots of opportunities to apply what I learn beyond the classroom." 

Is there anyone at UMassD – professor or otherwise – who has made a difference in your life? 

"All my professors have been excellent; it's impossible to choose just one. I could praise all of these people to the roof.  

"Dr. John Buck was my undergraduate advisor and he helped me get the internship opportunity at NUWC. Dr. Mohammad Karim and I published an entry in the Encyclopedia of Electronics together. Dr. Paul Gendron serves as a reminder of my goal to pursue understanding, not grades; when I start to get lost, he helps me refocus. Dr. Hong Liu is so fun to work with. Dr. Dayalan Kasilingam is my master's advisor and has been very supportive in helping me advance my career in engineering."  

The best learning hack: teaching someone else 

"I work as a tutor in the STEM Learning Lab and the ECE department. I found that explaining something to someone else helps me understand it better, too. Even if you can pass the exam, I think you haven't really learned something until you can explain it to someone else. That's what helps it stick. For my friends and me, that was our study strategy: explaining things to each other." 

What advice would you give to future students? 

"Don't worry about grades so much. Obviously, you need to pass your classes, but grades aren't as important as your level of understanding.  And there are so many resources on campus to help you when you don't understand something.   

"I'd also say: don't be discouraged by being wrong. You don't come to university knowing everything, you come here to learn. I've been wrong often during my time here, but the important thing is figuring out why, and getting back up and trying again." 

What's next for you?  

"I'm considering a PhD, but the bottom line is I know I will have options. UMassD has given me the golden ticket. With all this education and experience, I have every tool I need to do anything I could dream of." 

UMassD favorites: 

Class: ECE 202 – Circuit Theory II 

Professor: John Buck, Paul Gendron, Mohammad Karim, Dayalan Kasilingam, Hong Liu 

Place to study: STEM Learning Lab 

Place to eat on campus:  The Grove 

Memory: When there was a Rage Room and a Bounce House on campus for Student Mental Health Day 

Extracurricular: I enjoy rock climbing at a local gym. When I'm frustrated or overwhelmed, it helps me feel better and more balanced.