Engineering international program sets stage for student success

Alex Iacobucci

By David Staudacher

Located in the heart of Chicago, UIC offers students a unique educational experience and work opportunities in a world-class city. For Alex Iacobucci, UIC’s electrical and computer engineering department set the stage for his professional career as an engineer and provided him with the opportunity to do some acting outside the office.

Iacobucci came to campus through the UIC College of Engineering’s partnership with one of the top engineering schools in Italy – Polytechnic University of Turin. The partnership provides the international students with a dual master’s degree from the Italian university and UIC. They take one semester in Italy and one semester at UIC, where they can extend the time needed to finish the courses and thesis.

“It was an interesting program as we got to see different teaching methods in Italy and the United States,” he said. “That was really challenging. One was more theory based, and one [UIC] was more practice based with a lot of assignments throughout the semester.”

At UIC, he worked under the direction of electrical and computer engineering department head Rashid Ansari in the Multimedia Communications Laboratory. It was the positive experience that help him grow as an engineer.

“He was always super nice. He was always available, yet he gave us a ton of autonomy, which I liked,” said Iacobucci. “He was very proactive in getting us our equipment, he made it possible to get a powerful computer that we needed for our operations, and he was always available to meet or respond to emails.”

In the lab, Iacobucci worked on a project that was a partnership with Altera/Intel. The team had to prove that by using a specific algorithm that they had to come up with, using their latest FPGA that it was possible to achieve better results in MRI image transformation than with current technology.

“We got a chance to work with an expert from Intel and their top notch latest product,” he added. “It was very challenging and really rewarding.”

He praised the program for providing him with a different perspective of engineering research.

“If you want to go to the U.S. or you want to face another reality and expand your horizons,” he said. “Even if you want to go back to Italy. It’s always nice to open up and see what happens here. It is well known that American universities provide a significant contribution to scientific research, so it’s interesting to observe their approach. Regardless of what your final life objective is, it’s a positive experience that I would recommend.”

Iacobucci also praised Lynn Thomas, program coordinator for the master of engineering and international programs.

“She is fantastic and has been helpful throughout the whole process,” he said. “She was available whenever we had questions or doubts on our deliverables for the program. She was a great resource. She would respond to emails in little time or she would be in her office if you wanted to talk to her in person.”

Iacobucci loves living in Chicago and everything the city has to offer.

“There’s always something going on,” he said. “The theater scene is amazing and the prices are affordable, rent wise and restaurant wise.”

Iacobucci graduated in 2016 with a master’s degree from the electrical and computer engineering department. Now, he is working as a software engineer at Chicago-based HERE Technologies. HERE creates living 3D maps that grow upward, breathing with layers of information and insights.

Since he is still young in his career, he has ambitions of moving up the corporate ladder.

“I would say my dream job is probably being an architect,” he said. “You create a structure for the system. You are building the architecture that is behind the system.”

When he’s not working as an engineer at HERE, he can be seen on stage performing in musicals.

“Right now, I’m in ‘Chicago’ the musical in Des Plaines,” said Iacobucci. “My next stop is going to be at Pride Films and Plays, and it’s a play with dancing.”

Iacobucci is only one of the many UIC students who graduated from this international program and landed at a top company.

Among the recent graduates are:

  • Andrea Manavella graduated in 2015 and landed a position with one of biggest names in Silicon Valley. He is the camera design lead at Apple in San Francisco.
  • Cesare Mercurio graduated in 2015 and is a camera system engineer at Essential in Palo Alto, California.
  • Emanuele Pezzotti graduated in 2016 and was hired as an electrical engineer at SwipeSense Inc. in Chicago.
  • Fausto Annicchiarico Petruzzelli and Luigi Zevola graduated in 2016 and started their own company. After their thesis defense, the pair co- founded Vivotronix in Chicago. The company is a continuation of their research at UIC.