ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Perspectives from the
Advisory Board Chair

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Photograph of Dan Sable

It is an honor and a privilege to have been reelected as chair of ECE’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) for a second year. The events of last April are still fresh in our memory. The resulting challenges that they have brought to the ECE department and the entire university appeared at first to be insurmountable. We mourn the loss of ECE student Henry Lee, and our other friends and students who were killed. We are encouraged by the determination and healing of those who were injured. Our entire community still is dealing with the emotional fallout. However, in the face of this adversity and the continuing emotional and financial burden that is being placed on Virginia Tech and the ECE department, in fact, we have become stronger.

The Virginia Tech ECE department has truly outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs with excellent faculty world-renowned for teaching and research. I can still remember 25 years ago when Dusan Boroyevich and I were graduate students together taking the first course in Power Electronics offered by Fred Lee. “Dr. B.,” as the students call him, is now one of the most well respected lecturers in the ECE department. Boroyevich and Lee are now completing their 10th and final year as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC). This puts them into an extremely elite group of only six other universities in the country with graduating NSF ERCs in the electronics area. The list of ECE accomplishments in the past year continues. The recent Franklin Institute Award to ECE Department Head Jim Thorp, and ECE University Distinguished Professor Emeritus Arun Phadke puts Virginia Tech ECE in a league with Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Marie and Pierre Curie. ECE graduate students took top honors in the Inaugural Smart Radio Challenge at the 2007 Software Defined Radio Forum conference in November. Tech was the only school with two teams among the final 10 competitors.

ECE assistant professors Jung-Min Park and Masoud Agah were awarded NSF CAREER Awards for their work on improving the security of cognitive radio networks and development of a credit-card sized gas chromatography platform. CAREER awards are NSF’s most prestigious award for creative junior faculty members considered to be future leaders in their academic fields.

ECE assistant professor Scott Bailey was the co-principal investigator of the NASA AIM Satellite, which was launched April 25, 2007. He was able to convince NASA at the last minute to place a logo on the rocket in memory of the Virginia Tech victims.

As alumni and members of the Industrial Advisory Board, it is in our own interest to see the ECE department prosper and gain greater reputation. My vision for the IAB is to encourage an active role for the members in several ways:

1. Alumni and IAB member companies can encourage practical experience by sponsoring undergraduate and graduate student interns.

2. Alumni and IAB member companies can participate directly in the classroom through guest lectures. Relating practical problems encountered in industry to the classroom theory goes a long way with student understanding of course material.

3. Alumni and IAB member companies can sponsor research in areas of most concern to them.

4. Alumni and IAB member companies can take an active role in being an advocate for the ECE department at the college and university level. The ECE department has been a traditional strength of the university. It is critical that it continues to receive appropriate priority.

5. Finally, alumni and IAB member companies can support the ECE department through generous financial donations.

The ECE department head, Jim Thorp, has demonstrated remarkable leadership in focusing the Department and the IAB fully supports his efforts. The university is fortunate to have person of his stature, integrity, caliber, and vision as the ECE Department Head.

Great teaching, great research, great students, great alumni, great leadership – what more can one ask for?

Dan Sable (MS ’85, Ph.D. ’91)
Chair, ECE Advisory Board