Core Curriculum

Student Experiences

John Judnich

At a glance:

Computer engineer relates art and design to mathematics and engineering in Pathway reflection essay.

For John Judnich, the Pathways essay entails a valuable aspect of education: interdisciplinary learning that integrates students' various interests and encourages them to consider and reflect on what they have learned in their four years of undergraduate study. Through the "Design Thinking" Pathway, he connected the technical and scientific aspects of engineering with the creativity required in the artistic process to explain how "Design Thinking" is more than just an application of engineering theories.

Engineering As Art

Judnich concedes that engineering can appear to be "more of a technical field, where you just follow rules and go by the book to create systems according to rigid structures of math and engineering." He stresses, however, that it involves much more than numbers, calculations, and formulas in a series of strict steps.

"The point I tried to make in my essay was that once you learn about the area you're working in, it becomes just as natural as a canvas is to an artist," he says. "For the engineer, the canvas isthe mathematics and the theory behind it.

“Good engineering, in my perspective, is an art.”

Judnich refers to his extracurricular research and design activities as instances in which he has utilized and integrated theories from multiple disciplines—from mathematics and computer science to design concepts—for an innovative application of what he has learned to create something new.

Integrative Learning

Such an interdisciplinary approach to his studies is something Judnich says was valuable in his educational experience at Santa Clara, which included experiences such as collaborating with professor Nam Ling on research and internships with NVIDIA and Microsoft. As a 19-year-old sophomore, Judnich saw his research paper on increasing computer processing speeds during the rendering of virtual terrain accepted by ACM SIGGRAPH Asia 2011.

With such a varied undergraduate experience, Judnich sees the Pathway reflection essay as an important aspect of helping students better connect and understand what they had learned as a whole.

"Viewing classes as a 'checkbox' is similar to viewing things as just numbers. There's an important notion of having an understanding of what you learned, not just knowing what you learned," he says, again stressing the importance of understanding connections within an interdisciplinary education such as the one encouraged by the Pathways. "You cannot really design something if all you have is a book of patterns or of previous things that had been done. You'd only be copying other people's designs. Design thinking to me, then, means taking your understanding and using it in conjunction with creativity and the artistic process to create something new."

John Judnich currently works for Lytro, a light-field camera startup company.