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Daniel Enciso

Enciso Eager to Learn the Code

[lead]Like many athletes, Daniel Enciso thrives on challenging himself.[/lead]

That’s why, with his back-to-back state championship winning soccer days drawing to a close at the end of his senior year of high school in 2014, Enciso charted his course toward a new challenge: engineering.

Now, he’ll once again be on the lookout for the next goal to overcome, as Enciso took part in UT’s fall commencement ceremony on Friday, December 14.

“Challenge yourself to do big things, be willing to adapt, and you’ll have no limit to how far you can go and what you can do,” Enciso said. “Don’t give up on your passions, but use them to change yourself and define yourself. You can help determine exactly who you will be.”

Enciso, who majored in computer engineering, said he narrowed his focus to computing before ever starting college.

He said the combination of the guidance his parents gave him and his passion to continue to push himself the way sports previously did made him look at engineering in general, while opportunities presented by the collaborations between the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Oak Ridge National Laboratory made him go through that department, in particular.

In fact, ORNL didn’t just play a role in drawing him in, but in shaping his experience while at UT.

“For me, personally, the research opportunities at ORNL have prepared me for life after college in a way that taking an internship with businesses couldn’t have,” Enciso said. “Beyond computing, when you look at the history of the lab, the mix of disciplines all across the board, the researchers they have coming in from other universities and labs from around the world, it really sets UT apart and provides opportunities beyond what other places can offer during an undergraduate experience.

“When you really step back and look at all the ways we work with them and the people we get to collaborate with through them, it really is awesome.”

While he interned with ORNL, he also co-opped with OSIsoft, a software company based in California, where he worked with the development of internal analytics and web services.

Software engineering, in fact, is perhaps his favorite aspect of computer engineering, something he started the summer after his senior year at Franklin High School.

Now, it is an integral part of what he plans to do with his career, and he credits UT’s faculty for helping him learn about it in a way that sticks by tasking every student to reach her/his maximum potential.

“Michael Roberts (professor emeritus) and Jens Gregor (professor and associate department head) really pushed us, but their approach helped guide our abilities,” Enciso said. “Josh Dunn was another good one that started out as a teaching assistant and doctoral student my freshman year and is now a lecturer in the department. He was my professor for one of my last classes at UT this semester. He helped give insight from the perspective of a graduate student that helped shape our undergraduate learning, taught us how to communicate like older students, and stretched our capabilities.”

Although it might seem like Enciso’s time at UT was spent in the lab, the reality is that his out-of-class experiences helped shape him as much as anything else.

A Haslam Scholar, he credits the program for helping him as a student and as a citizen in a number of key ways.

Beginning with what he called a “daunting” selection process, Enciso was one of just 15 freshmen taken into the program for the 2014 cohort.

From there, shared classes, experiences, and free time helped provide the group with instant friends, which can be an important early boost for students new to campus.

“We had all different backgrounds, viewpoints, ideas, and the like, as you would expect from a random selection of students,” Enciso said. “But, because we were bonded as a group and through common classes, it allowed us to share ideas in a civil way, for people to have different thoughts and it be ok. It’s really important to have discussions like that.”

The program also offered Enciso the opportunity to travel, both near and far.

“Science Saturdays” help bring hands-on science, engineering, and physics to students at Knoxville’s Pond Gap Elementary.

Led by the Haslam Scholars and volunteers from the Society of Physics Students, the program brings experiments and learning to the elementary students, while giving them names and faces of mentors who encourage them to excel.

“It’s a big deal to these kids to be getting these experiences that they might not otherwise have,” Enciso said. “Being present. Being around. Being there to answer their questions and spark their imaginations. It’s a big deal to help them develop confidence.”

The Haslam program also led to Enciso traveling abroad thanks to a four-week stint his class spent in Edinburgh, Scotland, studying about the Scottish Enlightenment.

Enciso also spent time on his own at the London School of Economics, studying consumer behavior.

Through his travels at home and abroad, one thing Enciso said he noticed wherever he went was the “Volunteer Spirit” found between UT alums, especially through the networking initiatives that the electrical engineering and computer science department started in Silicon Valley and continuing with GARMIN during Enciso’s time at UT.

“You can go to a big city and see groups from any number of schools, but it’s just different with UT,” Enciso said. “Whether I’m in Silicon Valley, New York, or a big city somewhere, people see that you’re from UT and it is just an instant connection. It’s just something that makes this place special.”

As he moves forward onto the next phase, he concluded with a sense of gratitude, saying that he worked hard and took the initiative to get results but that he also had “major blessings from the big man upstairs.”

“It takes a village and I know it would not have been possible without the support of my parents and siblings, the Haslam family, Steve and Laura Morris, Sylvia Turner, Travis Griffin, Leon Tolbert, Min Kao, Rajasekar Karthik, Shaun Gleason, Taylor Eighmy and countless others,” Enciso said. “Thank you all; I’m glad to be a Vol for life.”