As Eric Segerstrom sat in his signal processing course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he thought about the processes that go into working a reverb pedal — the audio production tool that simulates the echo you might hear in a concert hall. In doing so, he was making a mental connection between two of his passions: engineering and music.
“It’s been really interesting to learn what’s actually going on when I have a reverb plugged in, and realizing that it’s a somewhat simple signal processing,” Segerstrom said.
It was Segerstrom’s love of music that helped compose his interest in engineering. Shortly after he earned a bachelor’s degree in composition from Juilliard, Segerstrom started building and soldering together guitar pedals and simple circuits that could be used in audio equipment. It prompted him to think about a career in electrical engineering.
“I realized, if this is something that I pursue, then it really opens up a lot of doors that I didn’t have before,” Segerstrom said. “You have the electric power side, there’s also signal processing — all kinds of different paths you could take to actually apply this to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Segerstrom completed his first two years of study at Hudson Valley Community College before transferring to Rensselaer to complete his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. His dedication to his studies earned him both the Joseph H. Smith Jr. ’45 Award and the Grainger Scholars Award. In the fall of 2019, Segerstrom presented research on room acoustics measurement methods at the 147th Audio Engineering Society Convention.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Segerstrom was beginning his second semester at Rensselaer. But that didn’t stop him from seeking out research opportunities he could complete remotely. He joined Electrical Engineering Professor Luigi Vanfretti’s Analysis Laboratory for Synchrophasor and Electrical Energy Technology (ALSET) Lab, where he has been conducting research as part of a larger collaborative aimed at developing a commercial all-electric aircraft. Segerstrom’s focus is on modeling and simulation, and he is currently working with unmanned vehicles. It’s a project that has strengthened his passion for discovery.
“It’s really enjoyable and even when it’s not enjoyable, it’s still really rewarding, so I just wanted to keep doing research,” Segerstrom said. “I wanted to be involved in research as a career, so I think the thing I’m most looking forward to in pursuing a Ph.D. is being able to focus more on that research work.”
Upon graduation in May, Segerstrom intends to continue his education at Rensselaer, pursuing his Ph.D. in electrical engineering.
Throughout his undergraduate studies, Segerstrom has continued to foster his love of music, a passion that has driven him to learn to play piano, violin, guitar, French horn, bass, percussion, cello, accordion, and bassoon. His music has provided a beneficial balance to his engineering studies, and vice versa.
“I think that’s part of why it’s almost refreshing; it’s so separate from that in a way,” Segerstrom said. “There’s a very concrete problem you’re trying to solve and you know what you’re trying to apply to it, as opposed to composing where you’re just sitting in a room by yourself plunking notes on the piano until something sounds good. In some ways it’s nice to have a puzzle to solve.”