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Crystal Nattoo

PhD candidate
Electrical Engineering
Story originally published on Mar 2022
I knew I loved engineering after taking it as an elective in high school, but I fell in love with electrical engineering because I was fascinated with laptops and cellphones back then.

I couldn’t afford either at the time, so instead I decided to learn more about how they worked by watching lots of YouTube videos and studying how cellphone technology was evolving over time.

When I initially got into electrical engineering, I thought I’d end up in Big Tech working with cutting-edge electronics. But, as I’ve gone through undergrad and now being in grad school, I’ve found that I’m more interested in applications for my work that I can see lead to a quality of life improvement for people.

Based on the work I’ve been doing lately — mostly with flexible electronic sensors — I think the best applications for my work are biomedical. For example, one of my projects involves exploring how an array of strain sensors can be used to create electronic skin. That could eventually turn into something prosthetics-like that helps restore a sense of touch for people who have lost a limb. 

I’m really excited by all of the engineering projects I’m working on, but one of the most important things I’ve learned about myself is that to feel completely fulfilled I need stimulation of both my left and right brain. I try to find ways to fit my other interests in graphic design and photography into my engineering work.

I’ve been into photography since a friend of my dad's gave me his old DSLR camera in high school. I mostly do nature photography — ever since I got glasses and could finally make out all the leaves and little weeds in the ground, I realized they can be really beautiful if framed in a specific way. But, I’ve also used my photo skills to help my Stanford lab colleagues photograph a new flexible solar cell device they created. My image ended up being used in news coverage for their paper, which was cool. 

I’m involved in a lot of things because I have a lot of different interests but also because I’m hoping it’ll eventually pay off and I can find — or maybe create — a job that lets me provide every side of myself to my work.

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