From the Department Head...
Computer and electrical engineering are hot. As the two fields provide much of the technology underlying our booming economy, it sometimes seems that anything associated with CPE or EE is in demand.
Here at Virginia Tech, our students are in demand. Our BSEEs
and BSCpEs are earning record salaries when they graduate. Our
master's and doctoral students are often recruited and leave
for the dot coms and the big corporations even before completing
Our educational programs are in demand. Our undergraduate and
graduate degrees have increased 40 percent over the past four
years, and now represent 28 percent of the total degrees awarded
by the College of Engineering.
Our research expertise is also in demand. Total research expenditures in the department are approaching $20 million. Sponsored research alone has grown 47 percent in the past four years, and the ECE department now generates 36 percent of the colleges outside funding.
Although this growing demand reflects widespread approval of
our excellent programs, it creates significant stress on our
faculty and facilities. We are bursting at the seams and are
asking the college for a reallocation of space based on our teaching
and research activity.
We currently have five open faculty positions for which we are
aggressively recruiting. However, like other ECE departments
nationwide, we are having difficulty recruiting new faculty.
Industry's lure of equity, high salaries, and technical facilities
offer tough competition for universities.
As a result, our faculty members are straining once again under
some of the highest teaching loads in the college. I particularly
commend the computer engineering faculty who are meeting the
challenge of teaching almost triple the number of students as
four years ago with less than sufficient resources.
Meeting the Challenges of Change
The computer and electrical engineering fields are changing as
quickly as they are growing, and we are responding to those changes
with new or expanded programs to provide the best opportunities
for our students.
For example, to meet the calls for advanced knowledge and training
throughout the state, we have spearheaded Tech's Master in Information
Technology degree, which is part of an innovative Graduate
Program in Information Technology (GPIT). This program allows
students to take courses in six different subject area modules,
which ultimately leads to a master's degree or certification
in a specific area of study. The efforts of Bill Tranter and
his interdisciplinary steering committee have set the program
on a strong foundation. Demand for the program far exceeds the
resources available, and we have capped enrollment at 170 students.
In Northern Virginia, Saifur Rahman has been growing the one-year-old
Alexandria Research Institute
(ARI), which now hosts 10 faculty members and 11 graduate
students and visiting researchers. The ARI faculty collaborate
across disciplines in research, education, and outreach, bringing
Virginia Tech technology and expertise to Northern Virginia and
to international venues.
ARI's reputation and capabilities are growing quickly. The ARI
is the home of the new World Institute
for Disaster Risk Management, which is a joint venture
between Virginia Tech and the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.
In addition, Scott Midkiff received approval for funding for
a $2.5 million effort to help educate graduate students in computer
networks at ARI and on the Blacksburg campus.
On campus, we are restructuring and expanding our microelectronics
education and research capabilities to broaden student understanding
and faculty expertise in emerging areas of this field. Bob Hendricks
is taking the lead as we develop new curricula, create new, interdisciplinary
laboratories for teaching and research, and hire additional faculty
specialists in microelectronics.
A major educational effort of the past few years has been our
Virtual Corporation program,
captained by Krishnan Ramu. Students in the program work in an
engineering-company structure to gain hands-on project experience
in a real-world setting. We believe the technology developed
by this program has the potential to solve some major transportation
issues in Virginia and nationwide. Although it was not an original
goal of the program, we now believe the technology has great
commercial value and are working to spin it off (see Virtual
Corporation Paving Way to MagLev Venture)
The department's research laboratories have made several significant
advances this year, including a technology to transfer power
in Pentium II chips, which allows the chip to operate at their
designed speeds. This technology, from the Center for Power Electronics
Systems (CPES), directed by Fred Lee, has already provided a
tremendous boon to the industry.
In wireless communications, the Center
for Wireless Telecommunications, directed by Charles Bostian,
deployed the world's first rural TDD network using the LMDS spectrum
that Virginia Tech purchased last year.
This year, Tech established the new Optical Sciences and Engineering
Research (OSER) Center to explore and develop optical applications
in biological research. Rick Claus, director of the new center,
brings his optics expertise and successful track record of the
Fiber & Electro-Optics
Research Center (FEORC).
In addition to major new initiatives and successful ventures,
our department was honored this year when two of our faculty
members were named University Distinguished Professors. Fred
Lee and Arun
Phadke received this highest honor that the university can
bestow on a faculty member.
Our continued growth, advances, and prestige result entirely
from the hard work and dedication of our world-class faculty.
I thank all my colleagues in the Bradley Department of Electrical
and Computer Engineering for another year well done.
Leonard A. Ferrari
The Bradley Department
of Electrical and Computer Engineering