ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Letter from the Department Head

Scott Midkiff

Scott Midkiff
Department Head

It continues to be my great honor to serve as the head of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This is a special edition of our annual report in that it marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Bradley Endowment. On May 11, 1987, Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors approved the naming of our department as the Harry Lynde Bradley Department of Electrical Engineering in memory of Mr. Bradley and in recognition of the generous gift of his daughter, Mrs. Marion Bradley Via, to support the department. In 1997, our name changed again to become the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to recognize the prominent roles of both computer engineering and electrical engineering in our teaching and research programs. Of course, the history of the department goes back much further — to 1892 when the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering was formed and to 1898 when the Department of Electrical Engineering became a stand-alone unit.

An anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect upon the past. From 1892, when electrical engineering began at Virginia Tech, until 1987, when the Bradley Endowment was created, electrical engineering had established itself as an outstanding department. But, the significant impact of the Bradley Endowment over the past 25 years is tangible. Funds from the endowment allow us to let the world know about our achievements through publications such as this annual report, hold events that bring together our extended ECE family such as the annual Bradley Banquet, and support two Bradley Professors, Gary Brown and Bill Tranter.

However, by far the greatest benefit of the Bradley Endowment is the scholarships and fellowships that attract excellent undergraduate and graduate students to Virginia Tech’s ECE Department. Our students benefit from generous scholarships and fellowships, the department benefits from the contributions of these students to the department and its research, and our nation benefits from the many contributions made by our Bradley alumni. This annual report lists 96 Bradley Scholar alumni and 105 Bradley Fellow alumni and gives a small sampling of the difference they are making today.

As an aside, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to former ECE department head and Dean Emeritus Bill Stephenson whose hard work and persistence led to the nearly complete list of past Bradley Scholars and Fellows that is contained in this annual report.

The annual report also presents our current Bradley Scholar and our 13 current Bradley and Webber Fellows. These students, and our other fine students, will shape the future of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and society as whole.

Looking internally, the future of our department lies with our faculty and staff. They apply their considerable expertise and energy to advance discovery, learning, and engagement. Here, I offer a few highlights from the past year. Dave Fritz’s excellent support of undergraduate learning in the Open Electronics Laboratory earned him one of two annual Exemplary Employee awards from the College Association for Staff in Engineering. Patrick Schaumont and Yong Xu were promoted to the rank of associate professor and granted tenure, JoAnn Paul was granted tenure at the rank of associate professor, and Luiz DaSilva was promoted to the rank of professor. Jason Lai was named the James S. Tucker Professor. Kristie Cooper and Carl Dietrich were promoted to the rank of research associate professor.

As just one indication that our department’s future is particularly bright, three of our assistant professors, Joseph Baker, Chao Wang, and Yaling Yang, received highly competitive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Awards from the National Science Foundation during the past year. And, we are fortunate to welcome five new outstanding individuals to our faculty: Charles Clancy specializes in wireless security and serves as director of the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, Greg Earle joins our Center for Space Science and Engineering Research, Yaman Evrenosoglu teaches and conducts research in power systems, Kwang-Jin Koh brings expertise in radio frequency integrated circuits, and Chao Wang adds new depth and breadth in embedded software and systems. Also, Bob McGwier joined the department as a research professor and the director of research for the Hume Center.

The future of our department is also deeply linked to our alumni and friends. I am especially grateful for our ECE Advisory Board and, particularly, past chair Mike Hurley and new chair Michael Newkirk. The Advisory Board has contributed greatly by sharing fresh perspectives and insights, providing advocacy, and working with student design projects. Financial support from alumni, corporate partners, and other friends has never been more important than it is today as state support for universities, including Virginia Tech, meets only a small part of the cost of educating our students.

While of great help, the Bradley Endowment alone is insufficient to do the work that we must do. Private and corporate donations are essential if we are to move forward to increase quality, impact, and innovation. External support is needed for many needs, including additional scholarships and fellowships to allow the most deserving students to benefit from a Virginia Tech ECE education; innovative integrated design projects that prepare our students to meet important and increasingly complex challenges; international experiences to ensure that our graduates can successfully compete and collaborate in the global engineering workplace; research experiences for undergraduates to prepare them for advanced studies in ECE; and other innovative programs that allow our students to be tomorrow’s leaders.

While this ECE Annual Report reflects on the difference that the Bradley Endowment has made over the past 25 years and offers a glimpse of our recent achievements and impact, we must continue to dedicate ourselves to the future — our students and solutions to societal challenges. Given the energy and ability of our students, the expertise and dedication of our staff and faculty, and the strong support of our alumni and friends, I am confident that Virginia Tech’s ECE department will make an even greater difference over the next 25 years.

Scott Midkiff
Deparment Head