“I think all the experiences and everything that I learned here at FSU will follow me for the rest of my life.”
Computer engineering student strives to make a difference through leadership and technology
Major: Computer Engineering
Graduation: Spring 2019
Senior computer engineering student Christian Gaya has dedicated his time at Florida State University to his interest in technology and a desire to create positive change in the world.
Growing up in Naples, Florida, Gaya realized his passion for engineering early on and believed it was the ideal way for him to link his love for technology and a desire to serve his community.
Gaya chose to attend Florida State because of its strong academic programs.
“FSU has a good engineering school and offers one of the best student cultures of all the colleges in Florida,” he said. “That’s what really attracted me here.”
Gaya said FSU’s Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE) had a big impact on his success at the university. CARE offers a summer bridge program for incoming students to help them transition from high school to college, and it provides continued support to ensure they succeed. Gaya said CARE opened up priceless opportunities for him that changed his life.
Part of his preparation for campus life as a freshman included the Service Leadership Seminar (SLS).
SLS is a program offered by the Center for Leadership and Social Change. The weeklong seminar introduces incoming freshmen to community service and helps them identify their leadership skills. The goal of the program is to show students how they can have a meaningful impact on campus.
“I think the most important program that I’ve experienced at FSU has to be the Service Leadership Seminar,” Gaya said. “That program made me realize how much change one person can do for a community or the world.”
SLS motivated Gaya to get involved in other campus leadership opportunities. He joined the Global Scholars Program, which funds students’ travels to volunteer for nonprofit organizations worldwide.
The program offered Gaya the opportunity to travel to Cochabamba, Bolivia, for the summer to work for the nonprofit Proyecto Horizonte. The organization supports communities by offering education, health and development initiatives for children and adults.
Gaya’s advanced technological skills proved beneficial in a couple of ways and gave him valuable experience.
“My main purpose at Proyecto Horizonte was to use my computer skills and handle all the technology, repair computers and do networking on their systems,” he said. “When everything was working, I would go to the nearby school and tutor the students in math, English and writing.”
Gaya’s summer with Global Scholars provided transformative experiences, including a new appreciation for his education in the United States.
“Global Scholars made me reflect on how hard it may be sometimes to get a good education abroad, while FSU gives you the option to take your education as far as you want,” he said.
The priceless opportunities Gaya had with Global Scholars encouraged him to continue seeking new experiences and expanding his goals. That receptive attitude led him to the FSU Tech Fellows program at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement. The program is designed to promote diversity in the technology sector by providing summer internships for first-generation college students, who work with business incubators, technology entrepreneurs and startups.
Gaya partnered with Techstars, a company that provides connections, resources and mentorships for developing businesses. He spent the summer in Chicago working with 10 different companies and their CEOs, learning how they run their businesses and what they can do to accelerate success.
“FSU Tech Fellows allowed me to dig deeper and experience firsthand what kind of work is needed and what really goes on in a startup company,” he said.
The experience fueled Gaya’s interest in technology and business, and he started his final year at FSU even more motivated to develop additional expertise in his field.
Gaya’s next opportunity came from the Florida Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minorities Participation (FGLSAMP). The group’s mission is to help prepare students for careers and graduate opportunities in STEM fields. It offers mentorships, workshops and other learning options to help students refine their goals.
“With FGLSAMP I was surrounded by a community of students and mentors that shared similar research goals, and that experience gave me even more motivation to conduct research,” Gaya said. “As a result, I was able to do research with Professor Jim Zheng, one of the professors I’ve come to respect most.”
Gaya completed his research at the Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics and Energy Center’s Power Science Lab at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. He researched how the hybridization of Lithium-ion battery and supercapacitor could be utilized to improve the technology for the U.S. Army.
That project gave Gaya hands-on engineering experience and helped him create a plan for his future.
After graduation, Gaya will work as an electrical controls engineer for Cummins Inc., a Fortune 500 company that designs and manufactures diesel and natural gas-powered engines for on- and off-highway use, as well as parts for commercial, residential, telecom and health care applications.
“Cummins has made huge investments in electrified power and battery technology and that sparked my interest about the company,” he said. “Their values in diversity, inclusion, community involvement and quality of work made my decision clear to work with them.”
Gaya hopes the job will bring him one step closer to his long-term goal of becoming a product manager in the automotive industry.
He’s grateful for FSU’s many opportunities that have allowed him to fully explore his interests.
“I think I am the same person as when I started at Florida State, just with a much clearer mindset of what interests I want to pursue after college and who I really am,” Gaya said. “All of the experiences and everything I learned at FSU will follow me for the rest of my life.”