Engineering His Future
Erick Castillo, BS’19 (Metro), Electrical Engineering Graduate Student
By Julie Kayzerman
“Send us money when you’re rich and famous!”
Those are the parting words engineering graduate student Erick Castillo, BS’19 (Metro), is often left with after hanging up from a phone call to his relatives in Mexico.
His family beams with pride as they watch Castillo, the first in his family to attend college, excel in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus.
And he’s pushing his academic goals even further — Castillo is not only the first in his family just to graduate with a college degree — but also has a master’s degree in electrical engineering in sight. “My parents are very proud, that’s for sure,” he shyly admits.
Being a first-generation college student has molded Castillo throughout his career at FDU. Castillo’s parents immigrated to the United States shortly before he was born so that he could have a better life. “You need to have a strong mentality. There have been times when I’ve thought, ‘This is getting to be too much. Can I really go through with this?’ But, I need to succeed, I can’t fail. I have no other choice but to succeed,” he says.
That’s the attitude and approach the Queens, N.Y., native maintains every day, guiding him to prioritize being involved on campus and to give back by mentoring others.
In the midst of his demanding class schedule, Castillo foregoes sleeping in on Saturdays so he can teach high-school students real-life applications of engineering through FDU’s Technical Enrichment and Outreach Program (TEOP) — an opportunity he wishes had been available to him when he was in high school.
“I’m not someone who wants to wake up early! But … when I started being part of [TEOP], there was a sense of fulfillment,” Castillo says. “When some of the students say, ‘Oh! I want to pursue electrical engineering now!’ I get that feeling of joy in my heart.”
In addition to his work with TEOP and his courses, Castillo has worked as a hands-on teaching assistant in the green energy and electromechanical systems labs with Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Kalyan Mondal’s classes.
In his spare time, he tutors his peers in math and engineering through the Academic Resource Center and gives campus tours to prospective engineering students.
“[Being involved] is mostly for personal growth. There’s always some way that a person can grow, and involvement in many different things can help you grow as a person,” he says.
Castillo’s involvement with TEOP allowed him to discover his passion for teaching, and his high-school calculus and physics teachers had a heavy impact on his decision to pursue the STEM fields. He aspires to be a high-school engineering teacher, after working in the field for several years, in order to motivate students to study STEM.
Most importantly, Castillo’s constant campus involvement has provided him with close friends in the engineering community. His group of friends, formed during his freshman year, has remained strong throughout the years at FDU, as they continue to plan their class schedules, form study groups and enjoy free time together.
“The people I’ve met at FDU, I would want to stay in touch with for sure,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to imagine my life without them.”
Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of FDU Magazine.