News Release

UC San Diego Alum Finds Dream Job, Engineering Students Learn How to Discover Theirs

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Saura Naderi, Career Development Specialist, Qualcomm

San Diego, CA, May 1, 2015 -- Three days a week, a crowd of middle-school students storms the Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™  to learn about life as an engineer, build an art project of their own, and show it off to the rest of the group.

The hands-on lab portion was designed and is run by University of California, San Diego engineering physics alum, Saura Naderi, now a career development specialist at Qualcomm.

 “Every week, I get to teach kids how to build stuff that I think is really cool, and then watch what they create from it,” said Naderi. “I have my dream job.”

The path to her dream job wasn’t a straight one, and Naderi recently returned to the Jacobs School of Engineering to impart her wisdom to undergraduate engineering students.

Naderi spoke as a part of a seminar series put on by the California Space Grant Consortium, a part of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Naderi began her talk by showing this video, which gave the students a glimpse into her everyday life at Qualcomm.

“But let’s back up,” she said as the clip finished. “I graduated from UC San Diego in 2007 with a bachelor’s in Engineering Physics. After graduation I was offered a job as a programmer at UCSD, but I was laid off because I didn’t have the necessary experience.”

That’s when Naderi realized the importance of getting hands-on experience as an undergraduate.

Naderi began volunteering her time at UC San Diego and launched the myLab program, housed at the Qualcomm Institute (the UC San Diego Division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.) Each quarter, the myLab program hosts a workshop in which students build a guitar pedal from scratch.

“I wanted to start a program that would give undergraduate engineering students the hands-on experience they would need in the real world,” said Naderi. “Building a guitar pedal from scratch allows them to apply their textbook knowledge while learning firsthand which parts manipulate the sound.”

Naderi quickly realized that educating students made her feel good at the end of the day, but that she felt a void when the students left for the summer. To fill it, she began doing similar projects with K-12 students in areas around San Diego where science, technology, engineering and mathematics aren’t necessarily the focus.

Her mantra became: “How do you aspire to be an engineer when you don’t know what an engineer is?” After arriving at Qualcomm, her supervisor, Ed Hidalgo, Senior Director of Staffing at Qualcomm, expanded the mantra to “How do you aspire to a career you don’t know exists?”

Naderi gave the undergraduate engineering students attending the seminar a few pieces of advice:

  1. Learn to work in teams – “It takes 25 million lines of code to build a cell phone, which would take one person 2,700 years to write,” said Naderi. “It is physically impossible for one person to build a cell phone by themselves – that’s why engineers need to be able to communicate well with others.”
  2. Get at least a 3.0 – “It was difficult for me to get a job after graduation because I didn’t have a 3.0, and that’s the minimum GPA that most companies look for.”
  3. Do an internship or two – “Internships are great for finding out if you like the lab environment and for getting the necessary experience that you’ll need in the real world, but you need to be proactive about seeking them out – ask your professors if they know of any or have projects that you could be a part of.”
  4. Know your strengths – “Knowing your strengths helps you learn how to interact with the people in your environment. Check out Strengths Finder to learn yours.”
  5. Learn your interests – “I learned that I love being a jack of all trades, and that was really important. The Strong Interest Inventory can help you learn your interests.”


If you are an undergraduate engineering student at the Jacaobs School looking for internship opportunities, check out these resources and opportunities:

  1. Get to know the IDEA Student Center at the Jacobs School, including the career resources page.
  2. Team Internship Program – As part of a full-time, paid summer internship, students work on-site with industry partners as a multi-disciplinary team focused on a clearly defined and significant project. Program of the Corporate Affiliates Program of the Jacobs School of Engineering.
  3. Learn about real-world engineering opportunities offered by Global TIES at the Jacobs School.
  4. Get involved in a student organization at the Jacobs School.
  5. Undergraduate Research Portal – For students in all disciplines who wish to explore the rewards and challenges of undergraduate research. Find a research opportunity using this tool.
  6. NSF REU – NSF funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of ten or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution.


Naderi also encouraged Jacobs School students to reach out to her at if they would like someone who is certified to go over the results of the Strong Interest Inventory with them. 

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Thinkabit Lab, Qualcomm

As for the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab, Naderi says the interest from middle schools around San Diego is through the roof.

“This summer we’ll be animating stuffed animals,” said Naderi. “This will be challenging for the students because it requires them to use geometry to go from a 2D to a 3D surface.”

California Space Grant Consortium

The California Space Grant Consortium is designed to provide activities that increase the understanding, assessment, development, and utilization of aerospace resources and to expand the educational, scientific, and research base of all aerospace-related fields.

In addition to the seminar series, the California Space Grant Consortium has many other projects on campus, such as the MAE 155b senior design course in which students design, build and launch a rocket themselves, or the Near-Space Balloon project that takes place over the summer.

“In the past, we’ve placed little astronauts – cockroaches, planeria and water bears – on these balloons and sent them soaring to 85,000 feet and beyond for research purposes,” said Tehseen Usman Lazzouni, Assistant Director for the California Space Grant Consortium prior to introducing Naderi.

Media Contacts

Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation