Gabriel Marcano

Gabriel Marcano

PhD Candidate, Computer Science Engineering, University of California San Diego

Résumé | GitHub | GitLab | Research & Engineering Blog

I am a 4th year PhD candidate at UC San Diego, specializing in extremely low power embedded systems.

Sloan Scholar Fellow


I was born in upstate New York as the son of Dominican graduate students at Cornell University. Once my father completed his PhD, we moved to the Dominican Republic, hoping that we would be able to remain there with the rest of our family. Due to tough economic circumstances, we moved when I was 10 to Worcester, MA, and have been in the United States since. I have always enjoyed using, tinkering with, and breaking electronics (and video games).

I attended Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in Software Engineering, focusing mostly on embedded systems software. After graduating from RIT, I moved to northern Virginia to work for the MITRE Corporation. In my 5 years there, I worked mostly on research projects involving embedded systems, from stand off, handheld hyperspectral sensors, to low power, high performance embedded systems programming for autonomous vehicles. It was during my time in Virginia that I met and married my wife, Elizabeth.

While working at MITRE, I felt very acutely the phrase “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”. I decided to pursue a PhD at UC San Diego in low power embedded systems to fill in some of those gaps in my knowledge, and to contribute more openly in open source projects and research that will hopefully help people’s quality of life.

I am a fervent proponent of Open Source Software, without which I would never have learned how to program. In my free time I sing in the La Jolla Symphony Chorus, I play many video games (over 29 years of experience and counting!), and I tinker with designing circuits and hacked-together systems.

In more recent events, I am now the father of a baby girl, Ana María!

Research Interests

I am interested in low power embedded computing, in many of its forms. At the moment, most of my research involves maximizing the utility of energy harvesting for sensing applications. Specifically, I am working on improving energy harvesting for the novel soil-based microbial fuel cells (sMFCs). Currently, my work involves in designing a novel algorithm for extracting energy from sMFCs leveraging their unique biological behavior. Additionally, I am mentoring a group of undergraduate students under the UC San Diego Early Research Scholars Program, with the goal of deploying a small array of sensors powered by sMFCs, to prove, finally, that even with suboptimal energy harvesting chips it is possible already to power devices off these cells.

I am also collaborating on work led by Jen Switzer at UCSD on reusing old smart-phones for datacenter-like computations, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of computations.

I have contributed to the Tock operating sytem, “an embedded operating system designed for running multiple concurrent, mutually distrustful applications on low-memory and low-power microcontrollers.” Notably, this operating system is written almost completely in Rust (with just a small amount of assembly language).

Additionally, I have, in my own personal time, done some basic firmware reverse engineering for ARM devices, and I have almost 20 years of Linux experience (15 with Gentoo Linux). I am also interested in the use of FPGAs to create application specific accelerators. I also have a personal interest in computer/device emulation.