Electrical engineering student finds passion in teaching

When Joshua Mayersky completes his doctorate, he will be a three-time UC graduate

Unsure of his path after earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati, Joshua Mayersky discovered a love of research work and teaching as a graduate student. He’s now an electrical engineering doctoral student and was named Graduate Student Engineer of the Month by the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science. Here, he shares the highlights of his many years as a Bearcat student. 

What drew you to UC and why did you stay for a master’s and Ph.D. after your bachelor’s?

Joshua Mayersky head shot

Joshua Mayersky. Photo/provided.

The largest draw for me to UC was the engineering co-op program, and the scholarships I was offered. To quote my father, 'learning is expensive.' I wanted to take every opportunity I was aware of to lower the cost of the education I was seeking. After my undergrad, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I had a friend who was pursuing his master's degree, and he suggested I talk with his adviser, Rashmi Jha, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), about performing research in her lab. I started doing research with her and found that I quite enjoyed it. 

During my time as a master's student, I was also a teaching assistant for the EECS department. I discovered that I loved teaching, even more so than my own research. I loved seeing the spark in students’ eyes when they understood a topic, the questions they posed challenging me to think of clever ways to reword a lesson. It was then that I knew that I wanted to teach professionally at a university level. That led me to pursue my Ph.D. I chose to stay at UC because of the ongoing research that my lab conducts; I wanted to continue to be a part of it. I had also started dating a wonderful woman (who would eventually become my wife), and I didn't want to make it a long-distance relationship.

Why did you choose to study electrical engineering?

When I was growing up, I was constantly taking apart various appliances and gadgets, wanting to understand how they worked, what made them 'tick.' I vividly remember an old wind-up alarm clock that I had taken apart as a kid, then put back together again with parts left over. My father is a mechanical engineer and I loved listening to him talk about his work at the dinner table. I knew that I wanted to study something in engineering. I purchased my first computer in high school and immediately fell in love with technology. I knew then that I wanted to explore the world of electronics, to learn how those seemingly magical devices 'ticked.'

Describe your research work. Why does it interest you?

My research focuses on ferroelectric materials in neuromorphic computing and hardware trust and assurance. In simpler terms, I am looking at creating physical devices that mimic how our brains learn and function (neuromorphic computing), ensuring the quality of those devices (hardware assurance), and that what a manufacturer has fabricated is what a designer asked them to create (hardware trust). I love the challenges that arise in a new field, where there may not be any singular 'right' answer. Neuromorphic computing is kind of like the wild west of research right now. There are so many opportunities to innovate and explore that I can't help but be excited and interested in what is coming next. 

What experiences stand out from your time at UC?

Easily the most impactful experience was the time I spent on international co-op in Japan. During the last two co-op rotations of undergrad, I had the opportunity to work in the aviation department at IHI in Tokyo. I lived and worked there for eight months, first at a homestay while I was in an intensive language course, then in a corporate dormitory while I was working. Spending time in a culture I wasn't familiar with, eating foods I had never tried before, and meeting people I had to work to communicate with was such an eye-opening experience. I learned how to have a more global mindset, recognizing that my neighbors, so to speak, are not just those that I interact with daily in my hometown, but every person across the world.

Spending time in a culture I wasn't familiar with, eating foods I had never tried before, and meeting people I had to work to communicate with was such an eye-opening experience. I learned how to have a more global mindset.

Joshua Mayersky, UC doctoral student

What are a few of your accomplishments of which you are most proud?

My first year as a Ph.D. student, I had the opportunity to act as an instructor for an undergraduate course in my field. I remember taking that course many years back, and to now be in a position where I was responsible for teaching was remarkable. It was in that capacity that my passion for instruction was ignited. The students that I taught are now graduating, and I've had one come back to me just to talk about life and grad school. I am most proud that I was able to positively impact these students in some way.

How do you spend your free time?

I love spending time with my family (by blood and in spirit), going for walks around the neighborhood with my wife, and volunteering my time as a youth counselor at the Cincinnati Chinese Church. In terms of hobbies, my brother once described me as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I have interests in so many different areas, and just want to spend time with each hobby learning all there is to know about it. My most recent foray has been into astronomy and astrophotography (not the easiest thing to do in the city). I am a member of the Bonsai Society of Greater Cincinnati and have covered my back deck in little trees that I affectionally refer to as my children. I love to rock climb and boulder, though I've only been indoor climbing; I have yet to take the plunge into outdoor adventures. I've played disc-golf regularly for the past 4 years and even managed to convert my wife to the sport. I've built multiple computers and am a lover of video and board games. I'm an avid reader and started a book club a few years ago.

What are your future hopes and plans after completing your degree?

My plans after completing this degree are to find a position in industry where I can hone my professional experience and start a family. Long term, I want to teach. I would ideally find a position at a university where I am able to instruct future generations of engineers, scientists and researchers. 

Featured image at top: Rhodes Hall on UC's main campus. Photo/Corrie Mayer/UC CEAS Marketing.