By Wileen Wong Kromhout
With the Borgstrom brothers, one can say engineering runs in the family. Not only did all three brothers, Jonas, 28, Henrik, 26 and Peter, 24, earn their undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering but they all chose to go to UCLA Engineering to get it.
Jonas will be graduating in June with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a specialization in speech processing. Peter is currently working on his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering with intentions of entering medical school to become a cardiologist, and Henrik, who has already earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering, is now performing post-doctoral research in robotics at USC.
“I chose UCLA because it offered an excellent engineering program and a beautiful campus,” said Jonas. “The engineering school also did an exceptional job at recruiting potential undergraduate students early on. I was very impressed and had basically made up my mind to attend UCLA much before any other schools contacted me about acceptance.”
“When I first started looking at colleges, I wanted to do something different than what my brothers had done,” said Peter. “But after visiting, I realized this was not a good reason to give up all the great things UCLA has to offer: strong academics, beautiful weather, a relaxed atmosphere, and exciting sports teams.”
The Borgstroms’ father also has a master’s in electrical engineering and a doctorate in physiology and is currently a cancer researcher. Mrs. Borgstrom was a successful tax accountant and both are from Sweden. But all three brothers say they were not pressured into the engineering field.
“In high school, I had always been strong in math and physics, so engineering seemed to be the best choice for me. I narrowed my choice to electrical engineering partly because Jonas was in that program already and partly because I felt that electrical engineering showed potential for the most growth,” said Henrik.
It is clear all three brothers are exceptional students. Henrik was awarded the Regents Scholarship as an undergraduate and the Chancellor’s Prize for his graduate work. Jonas received the Outstanding Masters Student of the Year award from the electrical engineering department.
And they all speak passionately about their research. Peter’s current research group is studying the electrical properties of the heart, allowing him to combine his electrical engineering background with his passion for physiology and medicine. Further, he states he is most proud of being accepted into graduate school at UCLA and being able to make the successful transition from electrical to biomedical engineering.
“I am most proud of my work in statistical approaches to speech enhancement,” said Jonas. “I have worked on making automatic speech recognition systems work better in adverse environments, e.g. with background noise. My work in speech enhancement is aimed at inferring clean speech from a noisy signal to increase perceptual quality.”
“As a graduate, I specialized in cable-driven robotics geared toward environmental research,” said Henrik.
In his post-doctoral work, Henrik has worked on the problem of how to distribute forces in a multi-fingered robotic hand and is now working on algorithms to generate informative paths for mobile robots engaged in sensing tasks.
“For example, if a fleet of underwater robots is deployed to measure aquatic phenomena in a particular region, it is important that they work in an intelligent and coordinated fashion to maximize the information that they gather,” said Henrik.
Both Jonas and Henrik hope to pursue careers into academia as tenure track professors.
When asked what the three like to do outside of engineering, Jonas responded, “more engineering.” But the three also enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, and surfing. They all play basketball, and Henrik walked onto the UCLA Basketball team for a month during his freshman year. They often meet at the gym to work out and on most days will have lunch together. They also enjoy watching their favorite sports teams compete; the Chargers, the Padres (they grew up in San Diego) and of course, UCLA football and basketball.
Of course they are all thankful for having the opportunity to share their college lives together.
“It’s been great. My brothers have been an integral part of my college experience,” said Peter. “While they’ve been very helpful with schoolwork, more importantly, they’ve been endless sources of guidance, support and friendship.”
When asked what kind of advice the three would give to future generations of students aspiring to attend UCLA, especially now with the rising cost of tuition and the lack of state support, all three spoke of how invaluable this university is.
“UCLA is still one of the best educational values available. This is borne out by the competitiveness of the application process, which ranks among the toughest in the U.S. Getting into UCLA is an accomplishment most certainly worth striving for, so high school students need to focus on their grades and test scores,” said Henrik.
“UCLA has a top-ranked engineering school and it’s only getting better. The faculty are world-renowned researchers in their fields and are excellent and passionate teachers as well,” added Jonas.
In conclusion, “The best investment these students can make with their time and money is in their education,” said Peter. “As opportunities in the workplace for high school graduates diminish, it’s critical that they gain the knowledge and skillset that will allow them to not only persevere in tough economic times, but to still pursue their dreams in the process.”