Chris Feilbach ’13 is exactly where he wants to be—facing lots of questions and tough problems.
“I help to find bugs in products that don’t physically exist yet,” is how he boiled down his job as a senior CPU verification engineer at NVIDIA, a technology company in Santa Clara, California.
NVIDIA is well-known for its development of graphics cards for video games. The company is also a global leader in artificial intelligence, deep learning and supercomputing.
Feilbach helps write computer code, runs tests and then tackles any glitches before NVIDIA hardware is released into the market. The type of computer chip he’s working on now will be inside self-driving cars by the early 2020s. “If we have a bug in a final product, the amount of money it costs to fix is astronomical,” explained Feilbach. “So, a lot of time is spent on verification prior to release of the products to make sure we hit every single thing.”
Feilbach said he’s always had an interest in computers, beginning with the first time he sat in front of his family’s computer at age 3. “I was fascinated I could type on the keyboard, and letters would come up on the screen,” he said. “I wondered, ‘How does that work?’”
That first question sparked countless others. His interest in computers grew into a passion, and he enjoyed gaining knowledge and making discoveries on his own. When it was time for college, he knew MSOE would be a good fit and he decided to major in computer engineering. “I wanted something rigorous,” he said. “I knew I’d learn a lot there.”
MSOE allowed him to take advanced courses ahead of schedule, offered small class sizes and access to professors. Feilbach said he benefited from the practical aspects of the teaching, as well as the hundreds of hours spent on lab work.
Feilbach also appreciated the opportunity to do an independent study with Dr. Russ Meier, a professor in MSOE’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He said that experience let him delve deeper into material usually covered in graduate school.
The MSOE Career Fair was where Feilbach launched his career with NVIDIA. He obtained a summer internship with the company after his junior year, and again the next summer before graduate school. He continued his work with NVIDIA throughout his grad school years while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison until he eventually packed up and moved to Santa Clara full time.
It made for a very busy few years, but Feilbach said he was excited about the work at NVIDIA and embraced the opportunity.
Feilbach has run into a number of MSOE alumni working at NVIDIA, most notably Dr. Dwight Diercks ’90, who, with his wife, donated $34 million to MSOE for the new Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall. Feilbach looks forward to attending the opening, targeted for 2019.
Being surrounded by exceptional people is one reason he’s happy to be with NVIDIA. The company also offers a lot of opportunity for growth and ownership. “And I get to work on innovative projects that have a lot of technical depth to them,” he said.
As technology rapidly advances, Feilbach is excited by new challenges headed his way. “There’s going to be a lot of hard problems,” he said. “But hard problems aren’t bad things. They’re usually pretty fun.”