Student Stories: Felipe Arias

Student Stories: Felipe Arias

Major: Engineering

When he was a child, Felipe Arias greatly admired his father, an electrical engineer.

“I would attempt to help him fix appliances while he explained how things worked. The seemingly magical functions of circuit components were and still are fascinating,” he said. “Being raised by someone with an understanding of math and science inspired me to excel in those subjects. I wanted to be able to understand the world around me as well as he did.”

When it came time to select a college, Arias was impressed with the Engineering Pathways program at College of DuPage, which guarantees admission into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – his dream school. He also liked COD for its small class sizes and reasonable tuition, and it was the only school that allowed him to work, study and live with his family. 

While at College of DuPage, Arias was awarded several scholarships through the College of DuPage Foundation: the S.C. Reed, the H.J. Kleemann, and the Rotary Club of Naperville Charities scholarships.

“These contributions as well as my job in the Learning Commons as a peer tutor have helped tremendously and have made my learning experience very pleasant,” he said. “I am extremely thankful for what COD has done for me.”

Arias transferred to UIUC, where he joined Tau Beta Pi and made the Dean’s List. In 2017, he participated in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of California Berkeley and then completed research at UIUC and Stanford University, where he was an undergraduate research fellow in the DAWN lab. 

Having earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Arias is now working on his Ph.D. in the same subject at UIUC, concentrating on mobile robot cognition and navigation. He would like to start his own company and/or design and patent his own circuits. 

“I have always wanted to create my own gadgets and code my own programs and websites,” he said. “If I am lucky enough to have a successful career, I want to help minorities and people from developing countries like my own to pursue engineering and math degrees. I believe minorities are underrepresented in the science fields and it is very important for diverse perspectives to be involved in the developing of new technology.”

Arias is thankful that College of DuPage has provided a strong start toward achieving these goals.

“I have met wonderful staff and professors who are willing to help me at any moment,” he said. “Every semester has weeks in which you feel like you will not get everything done, but this is the nature of an engineering degree. It is meant to be a challenging experience that pushes your knowledge to its limits. Just because you do not understand the material very quickly or have a few bad experiences with math or science courses, it does not mean engineering is not for you. The truth is engineering students make mistakes like any other students, but they are inspired to put in the extra effort.

“The fact that University of Illinois considers College of DuPage equivalent to its engineering school confirms the prestige of COD.”  

More about the Engineering program

Learn more about Felipe Arias' research projects