Illinois ECE alumni are some of the most interesting people we know. To celebrate them, we’ve decided to ask them questions both serious and fun. Here, you’ll find their Ten Answers.


Aran Hegarty (BSEE '90) is President of Hegarty Research in McLean, VA.  His company provides acquisition and engineering services to the U.S. Department of Defense and Intelligence Community. As president, Hegarty works directly with senior military engineers, scientists, and program managers on projects ranging from cyber warfare to signals intelligence.  He is also the current President of the Illinois ECE Alumni Board. Learn more about Aran here.


What was your favorite place to study?

The Illini Union vending lounge. This was before the new ECE building was built and the Electrical Engineering Building aka EEB (later called Everitt Lab) did not have gathering or study space for undergraduates. Since the Union was across the street from the EEB, it was the natural place for ECE undergraduates to congregate and study. It I wanted to "pretend" to study, then it was at Cafe Royal for a cappuccino across from Krannert.  

 What was your favorite ECE course and why?

My senior project course when I was able to build a microstrip patch antenna and apply everything that I learned from Prof. Paul Klock and Prof. Paul Mayes with the able and wise guidance of Prof Y. T. Lo. It was wonderful to combine theory and practical application using the microwave lab's network analyzers and then documenting radiation patterns using the measurement equipment and test fixtures and in the anechoic chamber.

 What was your greatest accomplishment while at Illinois ECE?

Developing self confidence that I could compete with the best students in the world.

 What do you think is the next big idea that's going to change the way we live?

Natural language processing integrated with image processing that breaks down communications barriers around the globe with real-time translation services in visual and audible domains.

 What's your favorite technological advancement so far?

The modern cell phone. It combines everything that is today's ECE; electromagnetics, communications theory, integrated circuits, display technology, power, sensing, and computing.

Why did you choose Illinois/ECE?

I was offered a full scholarship covering tuition and fees. Plus it was a great way to teach my parents that the real "U of I" is in Urbana-Champaign and not in Iowa City where they met in graduate school.

How did your time at Illinois affect your career?

A degree from Illinois provides instant credibility in the engineering community. But more importantly, it is the problem solving skills, self reliance, and tenacity that we learn as students that identifies a Grainger - ECE graduate.

Advice you would like to share to current/future students?

Network, connect, and volunteer - the bonds you make with others are keys to identifying future opportunities.

What is something you've learned during the pandemic?

That there is always time to stop and enjoy a cappuccino. 

What is the last book you read or movie/TV show you watched?

I really enjoyed the French TV series "Le Bureau des Légendes."

Do you have answers? Email us at ece@illinois.edu, and we may feature you in the future.