ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

From the chair of
the advisory board

Michael Newkirk

Michael Newkirk

On behalf of the advisory board of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, I thank you for your interest in and generous support for the department’s many activities. As you will see in this year’s annual report, it is a fun and exciting time for ECE at Virginia Tech.

This year we are very pleased to welcome Luke Lester as head of the department. Luke brings a wealth of academic and entrepreneurial experience, as well as remarkable energy and enthusiasm for the profession. The advisory board was able to interact with him even before his fist day on the job, as he participated remotely in our spring 2013 advisory board meeting from New Mexico. From the beginning, we knew that ECE would be in excellent hands, and that was reinforced when we met him at our fall 2013 meeting in Blacksburg. We want to sincerely thank Dr. Paul Plassmann for his willingness to take on additional duties serving as interim head during the search and wish him continued success in his endeavors.

We are also thrilled to learn that the incoming president of Virginia Tech, Timothy Sands, is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and that his tenure will be transferred into the ECE department. We welcome Dr. Sands and his wife, Laura, to the university and look forward to working with him and Richard Benson, the dean of the College of Engineering, to continue strengthening the programs and reputation of the department.

After a year of reduced activity during the department head search, the advisory board is excited to support the newly approved two-semester Senior Design Capstone Course that will be led by a man who is very familiar to the advisory board. Gino Manzo is a former advisory board chair that has joined the ECE Department to run this promising new program for ECE seniors that is described in this report. At this point, nearly all companies represented by the advisory board have pledged some level of support by providing one or more project ideas, subject matter expertise, and/or financial resources. This new program was conceived by Luke and quickly embraced by the board. We all look forward to the interactions with the students as they work in small teams on our real-world problems, building on their strong knowledge base to prepare them for a quick start in their future careers—hopefully with one of our companies!

As I close my second and final year as chair, I want to thank my colleagues on the advisory board for their active participation over the years. They are a truly exceptional group that I know will continue to support the department in the exciting times that lay ahead. I also want to thank the faculty and staff in the department for their continued excellence in teaching and research, which prepares Virginia Tech ECE students to quickly become outstanding and productive members of our profession.

I hope you enjoy reading about the wide array of projects featured in this year’s report, and that it will trigger some new level of interest in the department. Whether you are a prospective student, proud alum, corporate partner, or simply interested in this world-class teaching and research organization, I believe you will find may amazing things in the pages that follow.

Michael Newkirk, Ph.D. ('94)
Chair, ECE Advisory Board