Katie Driggs-Campbell

Ph.D. student
Electrical engineering and computer sciences

Why did you choose Berkeley Engineering? I knew it was one of the top schools in the field. And then I got a glimpse of Berkeley on Visit Day, and I just fell in love with the community and the lively campus. There’s such a wide variety of people here, not just your typical engineers. But the thing that impressed me the most was how involved the students were in their departments — the faculty and administrative support here is on a completely different level than at other universities I’ve seen.

Katie Driggs-Campbell (photo by Preston Davis) What are you working on? I’m particularly interested in how humans interact with robots and technology. Right now, we’re looking at driving and human-inspired decision-making for autonomous vehicles. We’re building machines that can see what humans are doing, to keep them safe at a higher level.

What are you passionate about? Since I came to Berkeley, I’ve been looking at what makes students happy. I’m really tied into outreach and have become very involved in student government for my department. Last year, I was co-president of the Electrical Engineering Graduate Student Association, which allowed me to lobby for student rights. I’m now co-president of Women in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (WICSE), pushing for more equality and diversity in the department. As outreach coordinator for WICSE, I do a lot of work with the Girl Scouts in the Bay Area.

Why did you get involved with Girls in Engineering? Our main goal has been to get the word out to younger girls about what engineering actually is. It’s not just computer science — you can do so many different things with it, and it’s a great way to express your creativity. I had no idea what it even was until my senior year in high school. It would have been great to know about it earlier.

Who has been your most influential role model? My adviser, Professor Ruzena Bajcsy, is my hero. She was the first female Ph.D. in Slovakia. She’s always pushing us, in the best way, to achieve greater things. I respect her so much — she’s one of the reasons I came to Berkeley.

What are your future plans? I’m really interested in academia. I love the idea that I can do my own research and not be constrained by the needs of a particular industry. I like to see the theory behind things, to learn why things happen and then teach and give back. There are still not that many women engineering professors, so I’d like to be a visible role model.