Shining possibilities

Oct. 21, 2016

Ernesto Zamora Ramos first saw a computer when he was seven. It was in his elementary school classroom in Cuba.

The size of a large TV, and with no internet access, the computer was slow and outdated. But to him and his classmates, it was something new and amazing.

“Other kids were happy playing a few games. But I wanted to know how it worked,” he reflects.

That curiosity drove Zamora Ramos on a path that led him, many years later, to UNLV, where today he is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.

“Through high school [in Cuba], I had very limited access to hands-on computer experience. So my knowledge was all theoretical.”

That knowledge is now being applied to researching how image and signal processing can be advanced through artificial intelligence. Working with Professor Evangelos Yfantis and other collaborators, Zamora Ramos is exploring ways to increase the efficiency of solar panels. Using data collected through a camera, weather instruments, and a computer, he is designing software that detects when panels require cleaning, before their energy output declines.

When Zamora Ramos received his B.S. from UNLV in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA, he was accepted into graduate programs at UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California. But he opted to stay at UNLV.

“UNLV supported me in many ways, including very generous scholarships. I will always be grateful to the donors who are allowing me to make the most of my education,” he says.

Zamora Ramos is a recipient of the Gilman and Bartlett Scholarship, the Wolzinger Family Research Scholarship, the Victor and Marjorie Kunkel Scholarship, and the Ralph S. Dippner Memorial Scholarship. As an undergraduate, he received support from the Konami Gaming, Inc. Scholarship for Computer Science.

“I love America for giving me opportunities that used to seem beyond my reach,” he says. “When I arrived in the U.S. with my parents, we had to start from zero.

“Now I have boundless possibilities to build a bright future for myself, my family, and my community. And I have UNLV and its supporters to thank for making it happen.”