“Don’t be afraid to try anything new. Try to put yourself out there and try as many things as you can. And have fun. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve had a blast.”
High school robotics sparked Shantanu Laghate’s interest in electrical and computer engineering. Here the Short Hills, New Jersey senior talks about his academic trajectory and his plans for the future.
Why did you choose Rutgers School of Engineering?
To be frank, a lot of it came down to where I got in. Rutgers also gave me a good scholarship and is close to home and my family.
Why are you majoring in ECE?
In high school, I was on a robotics team, which got me interested in doing something related to that.
The ECE program is a good balance of both software and hardware for me. I started out in computer engineering but switched to the electrical engineering track after I saw what I would be able to do – and get credit for – more research work and take classes I found interesting outside of the department.
These classes are valuable. Right now, I’m taking a math class in probability and stochastic processes – how random games are structured and analyzed – that’s really interesting.
What interests you most about this field?
I’m not the most traditional electrical engineer by any means. With this route, I could take really cool elective classes – machine learning and internet of things – that I wouldn’t have been able to take in computer engineering, even though that sounds counter-intuitive.
Do you have a favorite professor?
Professor Jorge Ortiz. I was his first undergraduate student when he was starting his lab and he took me under his wing and mentored me. Over the past two semesters, we’ve built a good relationship. Now I have a project of my own and am writing my senior thesis with him.
What is your research project?
I’m working on SmartBox – a box of sensors you can deploy in a building to collect data while preserving the privacy of its occupants. It can help show how to save energy in a building, while still keeping everyone comfortable. I’m involved in building this from the ground up including putting the hardware together and building the software on top.
My thesis is about how the system I built can be used to run all sorts of cool applications – from temperature monitoring for occupants’ comfort to evacuation response.
What about internships?
I’m in the Honors Academy and the summer after freshman year I helped high school students with research projects as a camp counselor at the Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology.
Sophomore summer, I worked as a software engineer at Prudential in Newark, which got me excited about working in the industry.
Last summer, I interned at BNP Paribas doing sales and trading. I was one of the only interns who wasn’t from a finance background, so I had to teach myself as I went along. I highly recommend that internship.
What is your senior design project?
My team’s working on an augmented reality hearing aid. As you walk along, closed captioned subtitles of what people are saying around you pop up. A special piece of hardware would get your phone’s camera to do those fancy tricks.
What about extracurricular activities?
My freshman year, I founded the Rutgers Competitive Programing Club, or RUCP, that sent a team to an international programming competition.
I was also on the Rutgers Engineering Honors Council for several semesters.
Mostly, I put a lot of work and late nights into the Quantitative Finance Club. One of most exciting things I’ve done is host a trading competition called the Quant Challenge. Students were invited to code their own algorithms to run on an online platform.
In the end, we went to Susquehanna International Group, or SIG – the company I’ll be working for. We presented to actual traders and got ideas from them. That was the first ever competition in Rutgers history that presented to an actual trading company.
What are your post-graduate plans?
I have an interesting summer ahead. My high school friends and I are going to Africa – to Tanzania and hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro.
After that, I’m going to India to see family before I start work in August. I’ll be doing quantitative trading in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania at SIG.
What do you do for fun?
My friends and I come together and dance salsa every Monday night. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve been making progress. I started as a beginner just a semester ago and am now intermediate.
I also play club table tennis and work out in the gym.
Do you have any advice for new students?
Keep yourself in shape – go to the gym and eat well.
Going to club meetings and trying so many different things my freshman and sophomore years added so much to my college experience – and allowed me to see what I was most interested in. It also helped me target my job and internship searches.
Don’t be afraid to try anything new. Try to put yourself out there and try as many things as you can. And have fun. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve had a blast.
How might you give back to SoE in the future?
I know I want to stay involved in the community I’ve built through my clubs and keep in touch to give advice.