When Joseph Greene was inducted into IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu almost a decade ago, the undergraduate EE student never imagined the impact IEEE-HKN would have on his life. As a member of the Kappa Sigma chapter at Boston University, he learned leadership and communications skills while accepting different roles. Through his network of honor society members, he also found a mentor who helped him get an internship at a major research institute in Georgia.
“What I find incredibly alluring about IEEE-HKN,” Greene says, “is that not only can I engage with this organization that’s brought so many benefits to me, but I also get to work with others to have an impact outside the walls of IEEE-HKN.”
Now a Ph.D. candidate in computational imaging at BU, Greene continues to be involved with the honor society by mentoring grad students and organizing events to engage alumni.
An active and involved volunteer
Greene’s parents are not engineers. He says he picked up his love of engineering from the science fairs he participated in throughout middle school and high school in Westford, Mass. Also, his father, a senior sales manager for Thermo Fisher Scientific, a provider of medical equipment headquartered in Waltham, Mass., exposed Greene to the field of medical imaging by bringing him along to trade shows.
“It was there that I got to explore and engage with a diversity of different engineers,” Greene says. “It was really those experiences that helped show me the fascinating products you can realize and the amazing applications you can apply those technologies to with a little bit of engineering know-how.”
While a freshman in high school, Greene took a mechanical engineering course, which he says solidified his decision to pursue an engineering career.
“As our final project, we built a modified chair to support one of the students at our school who had special needs,” Greene says. “She had a tendency of injuring herself if she sat on too rigid a structure. What was memorable about this project is that it was my first chance to experience how engineering can be applied to have a tangible impact.” For his high school senior project, he built a movement-tracking eyeball robot using an Arduino microcontroller with ultrasound detectors.
He got involved with IEEE-HKN in 2014 after attending an event held by the Kappa Sigma chapter at BU, where he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
“I really enjoyed spending time with the community,” he says, “so when I had the opportunity to join its ranks and have an impact on the local campus and bond more with my peers, I was ecstatic.”
After that he became active in the chapter’s events such as tutoring students for upcoming tests and finding speakers from the university or local companies to talk about their research projects to students.
He also created several programs for the honors society, including an Arduino and coding workshop for high school students and BU undergrads. Greene was a guest lecturer for an introduction to engineering course at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, also in Boston.
“If you want to make sure that you’re on the forefront of engineering leadership, you should definitely consider joining IEEE-HKN. It makes sure you have the opportunity, resources, and network to thrive and succeed.”
One of his favorite activities, he says, has been building a sense of community among the honor society’s members.
“When our chapter was struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, I held virtual town hall meetings and game nights, where students could congregate, talk about their concerns in an open environment, have some fun, and forget about their worries for a brief moment,” he says. “By offering a consistent community and safe space, our events impacted approximately 30 to 50 students over the year and also helped our chapter focus on community service to overcome the challenges of COVID.”
Greene became more involved in leading the chapter, holding several positions including vice president and president. He also served as a student governor on the IEEE-HKN board.
“The thing that’s impacted me most about IEEE-HKN is that by engaging as a volunteer, you’re taken seriously,” he says. “For example, when I served on the board of governors, I was one of two students on this board of very impressive professionals with long, successful careers, and my voice was taken as seriously as theirs. My vote counted just the same as theirs.
“I felt like when I gave my opinions, the rest of the board was more than willing to listen, engage, and help me build my vision for the organization as a whole. It truly was a defining experience that gave me the opportunity to grow as a student leader.”
Greene participated in several of the society’s student leadership conferences, where he was a presenter and keynote speaker.
It wasn’t until he attended his first IEEE-HKN international student leadership conference, held in Boston in 2019, that he realized just how large the honor society was.
“It was awesome to be in the same room with like-minded student leaders from across the world, collaborating on great ideas about how they can benefit not just the organization but also the community outside the walls of IEEE-HKN,” he says.
Kappa Sigma received the 2021 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award for its activities.
Joseph Greene and IEEE-HKN’s program director Nancy Ostin display the honor society’s banner at the 2022 IEEE-HKN Student Leadership Conference. Joseph Greene
Helping other grad students succeed
Even after earning his bachelor’s degree in EE in 2018 and a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2019, Greene has continued to volunteer.
He launched and runs a number of events and programs for his fellow grad students to show them the value of their membership and keep them involved with IEEE.
One is a professional-to-student mentoring program that partners people from industry and academia with students to build working relationships between the two as well as provide career, technical, and personal advice. Since the program launched last year, Greene says, more than 40 people from five continents have participated.
“Across the board, students find the experience invaluable,” he says, “and carry their mentoring relationships well beyond the end of the program.”
Another of his creations is the IEEE-HKN GradLab YouTube podcast series, which he says covers “everything about grad school that they don’t teach you in a classroom.”
“How to Survive and Thrive in Your First Semester of Grad School” is one of Greene’s podcasts.
The series addresses topics such as how to survive the first semester, ways to mitigate conflict, and learning what it takes to transition from graduate school to a career in industry or academia.
“We try to give graduate students the tools they need to succeed,” he says. “Going through graduate school myself, there’s a lot you end up figuring out along the way!”
The importance of mentorship and soft skills
Greene, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in computational imaging, is on track to graduate next year.
He describes computational imaging as a mixture of optical design, algorithms, and deep learning to try to push the physical limits of conventional systems.
He spent his summer this year as a graduate research intern at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, in Atlanta. There he applied his knowledge of computational imaging to remote sensing technologies, and he explored the effects of atmospheric propagation and turbulence on remote sensing tools.
He credits his mentor—M. Ryan Bales, IEEE-HKN president—for helping him get the internship. The IEEE senior member is a chief scientist with GTRI’s Sensors and Electromagnetic Applications Laboratory.
Greene says he believes every student needs a mentor.
“What I found most rewarding about having a mentor is they offer a much broader perspective than just your collegiate needs,” he says. “Ryan and I discuss everything, from what I want out of a career and what will matter to me five or 10 years down the line in terms of formulating my career, to skills to help me get through the Ph.D. program and even personal advice such as managing a work-life balance.”
Greene credits IEEE-HKN with giving him the soft skills that many employers are looking for.
“College teaches you how to invest well in your technical skills, and it does a phenomenal job of preparing you for the workforce. “However,” he says, “there are many other aspects I found from my internships that go into being a complete professional, such as the leadership, project management, and soft skills I was able to grow through IEEE-HKN.
“If you want to make sure that you’re on the forefront of engineering leadership, you should definitely consider joining IEEE-HKN. The organization, staff, and volunteers are dedicated toward making sure you have the opportunity, resources, and network to thrive and succeed.”
Kathy Pretz is editor in chief for The Institute, which covers all aspects of IEEE, its members, and the technology they're involved in. She has a bachelor's degree in applied communication from Rider University, in Lawrenceville, N.J., and holds a master's degree in corporate and public communication from Monmouth University, in West Long Branch, N.J.