The Many Lives of Engineers

Jose Ferreira, USC Viterbi Ph.D. candidate in astronautical engineering, has a background in music and composing. His 2022 research project involved him performing a new piano composition on board a zero-gravity flight.

“I grew up with music since I was barely a newborn and started taking piano classes at the age of 5, before learning how to read or even count. So music is an intrinsic part of myself, which I praise for the freedom of expression it allows.

“Every individual has their own way of expressing themselves, be it speaking, writing, painting, you name it. Playing the piano is my favorite means of expression, either by interpreting masterpieces created by quintessential geniuses or by flowing out some bursts of imagination during improvisation sessions.”


Madelyn Pozzi, USC Viterbi freshman in chemical engineering, has a keen interest in sustainability and the impact of different materials on the natural world. She also designs and re-creates iconic gowns using sustainable materials.

“What I love most about fashion and sustainability is being able to combine two of my biggest passions in a unique way. I grew up learning about the importance of protecting the environment while hiking the Green Mountains of Vermont. This sparked my interest in science by inspiring me to learn about the natural world around me. On the other hand, fashion and sewing have given me a creative outlet since most of my educational focus has been on math and science. As a little girl, I would spend hours draping sheets over myself to imagine new designs I might wear to prom one day.

“Ten years later, I re-created Florence Pugh’s 2020 Oscars gown in my costume design class at school, and even designed my own piece, drawing inspiration from Viktor & Rolf’s 2021 collection on negative space. Having a love for both fashion and sustainability led me into doing research on the environmental impacts of the clothing industry. With these interests, I intend to bring attention to the need to minimize waste from the fast fashion industry.”


Jose Hernandez, USC Viterbi senior in industrial and systems engineering, works as a cook in three downtown L.A. restaurants. He recently worked on a research project harnessing his ISE background to improve safety in restaurant kitchens.

“There are many things I love about being a cook, but if I had to say only one it would be that in the kitchen you never stop learning, and you can never learn everything. Every restaurant, chef, culture, region and/or recipe book can have a very different take on cooking methodology for a particular dish. Add in all the possible combinations of spices and ingredients, and you have an infinite number of ways to cook something. 

“After working in the fast-paced world of fine dining for over two years now, I have gained an appreciation for topics I learned in my ISE classes, especially in the area of human factors. Safety culture in particular is an area that can significantly improve the working environment and conditions for cooks and chefs, and can also improve the
bottom line for restaurants.


Marta Davila Mateu is completing her M.S. in computer science with a focus on the intersection between theoretical computer science and software engineering. Born in the seaside town of Sitges, Spain, Mateu has had a lifelong passion for surfing and skateboarding.

“In surfing and in skateboarding, it is all about trying your best, failing, learning from your mistakes and trying again, just to fail again. Until you finally land that one trick you so badly wanted.   

“Computer science, especially in research, is exactly the same. Try your best to solve the problem, fail, learn from your mistakes and try again, just to fail again. Until you finally solve the problem, you found the algorithm you so badly wanted.   

“Same excitement, same feeling.”