The University of Utah Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is pleased to welcome six new members to its faculty and staff for 2021. We are excited by the fresh viewpoints and expertise that they bring with them. Don’t forget to say hi as you pass them in the halls.

Jacob George, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Ph.D. – Biomedical Engineering, University of Utah, 2020
  • M.S. – Biomedical Engineering, University of Utah, 2018
  • B.S. – Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, 2016

Research interests: Augment biological neural networks with artificial neural networks and bionic devices to treat neurological disorders and further our understanding of neural processing.

Biography: George has received over $2,200,000 in research funding to date. He received the Don B. Olsen Graduate Fellowship in 2016, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2017 and an NIH TL1 postdoctoral fellowship in 2020. George has been the recipient of two Society for Neuroscience Awards, the IEEE Best Paper Award, the Ripple Innovation in Research and Promising Young Investigator Finalist, and the Association of Clinical and Translational Sciences Outstanding Postdoc Award. Most notably, in 2020, he was awarded the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award (DP5) to establish his own independent research lab – the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab.

Outside of the lab, George enjoys taking advantage of the nearby Wasatch Mountains. He is an avid hiker, mountain biker, and skier.

Dan Scott Drew, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Ph.D. – Electrical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 2018
  • B.S. – Materials Science & Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2013

Research interests: Designing insect-scale robots, blending work on novel microactuators, meso-scale fabrication and assembly, human-swarm interaction.

Biography: Before joining the U, drew was a postdoctoral researcher in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University working with Prof. Sean Follmer. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley with Prof. Kris Pister and his B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech.

His research focuses on the development of autonomous insect-scale systems, bridging the worlds of robotics, microsystems, and design. Drew has received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, and Best Paper Award Honorable Mentions at the ACM CHI and IEEE MARSS conferences. In his free time he enjoys reading (fiction), learning to play guitar (it’s going okay), hiking and backpacking (less than he used to), and playing videogames (more than he should).

Amy Verkler, Associate Instructor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Ph.D. – Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 2021, awaiting conferral
  • M.S. – Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 2016
  • B.S. – Electrical Engineering and Physics, MIT, 2012

Research interests: Engineering Education, Optics

Biography: After completing an undergraduate thesis in computational imaging and working in a variety of optics labs at the beginning of her graduate work, Amy chose to pursue a thesis in engineering education with an emphasis on how students learn to troubleshoot circuits.

Outside of work, Amy is an avid outdoorswoman, reader, and board game player. She is a former national park ranger and enjoys hiking, wildflower identification, and cross country skiing.  

Jessica Hernandez, Undergraduate Academic Advisor, Electrical Engineering

  • M.Ed. – Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Utah, 2021
  • B.A. – Human Development and Family Studies, California State University, Monterey Bay, 2019

Jessica’s master’s thesis included analyzing the oppressive roots of higher education in the U.S. She previously worked in the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Utah, TRIO Student Success Programs at Salt Lake Community College. Before that, she worked in the Undocumented Student Success Center and the Residential Life office at CSU, Monterey Bay.

Maria Theisen, Undergraduate Academic Advisor, Computer Engineering

  • MA – Education, Defiance College, 2016
  • BA – Psychology, Hamline University, 2013

Maria began her career in higher education when she accepted a job as a collegiate athletics coach and recruiter for cross country and track and field at Defiance College, in Ohio. From there, she went on to become a Graduate Academic Advisor at The University of New England- Portland, ME and later an Admissions Counselor at Utah Valley University.

Mandi Peterson, Administrative Assistant to the Chair

Mandi Peterson joined the University of Utah in 2009, previously having worked with ECE at the front desk. Over the years, she has worked with several non-profit groups, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She is an avid fan of all things sci-fi, including Firefly, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc., and is one of the original Blockheads. Mandi recently got engaged and enjoys spending time with her closest family and friends.