As the current Project Engineer in the Radio Astronomy Systems Laboratory, we’re excited to publish this month’s spotlight on graduate student Mitch Burnett!
Burnett has certainly made his mark here at the BYU Electrical & Computer Engineering Department. His time with the department dates to 2013, when he began studying Electrical Engineering for his undergraduate degree. After graduation, Mitch then went on to obtain his Master’s degree through our graduate program.
Burnett wasn’t always set on the electrical engineering path, however. Having been born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he attended the University of New Mexico where he was a declared music major, continuing the route he took in high school. Before he attended college, Burnett was involved in marching band, jazz band, garage bands… the impressive list goes on. You should ask him how many instruments he plays!
As he was busy with music, he also took notice of how many math and physics classes he was taking. Reflecting on his experience, he noted that he always had a hunch he was going to be an engineer. After the commencement of his freshman year, Burnett served a 2-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fresno, California.
Returning from his mission, Burnett decided to attend BYU, where he changed his major and began studying electrical engineering. While in the program, he connected with Dr. Brian Jeffs and Dr. Karl Warnick in the Radio Astronomy Systems Laboratory. “I liked signal processing, the math behind statistical signal processing… that was right up Dr. Jeff’s alley.”
Once graduated, Burnett moved to Tucson, Arizona where he worked for over a year with a government contractor. While there, Dr. Jeffs reached out and notified him of a BYU position for which he could apply for. While working, he would also be able to complete his PhD.
“At the time, I had always wondered if I wanted a PhD, but when the offer came along to apply, it felt like it was now or never.”
Working as the Project Engineer in the Radio Astronomy Systems Laboratory, Burnett is responsible for the “big moving parts” of their work. In other words, he manages the assembly and development of the instrument they are building — a new cryogenic phased array radio camera.
In the full scope of the project, Burnett also oversees the digital backend development of the camera, where he’s responsible “for coding and implementing the algorithms that are used to operate the radio camera.”
Living here in Provo, Burnett, and his wife are parents to two children, with a third expected this summer. Because of their great location here in Provo, they decided to sell their car during the pandemic and now “e-bike everywhere. You'll probably see my family biking along University Avenue, or anywhere in Provo.”
If he could give advice to students who are currently in the program, he explained that “if you just take a chance and get to know the people around you, you're likely to form some good friendships and support networks. We had our group of students in the same classes that we relied on. I'm still close friends with many of them.”
The other piece of advice he has is for students to always stay curious. “If you find yourself in engineering, you're here for a reason and the opportunities are endless. In my current position, I find myself time-limited more than I find myself opportunity limited. There's no end to the opportunity.”