ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

From the ECE department head

Luke Lester with Hokie Bird

Luke Lester, ECE's new department head, made fast friends with the HokieBird when he joined the Virginia Tech faculty. Lester is committed to sharing his passion for ECE with students and faculty alike. "ECE should be fun!" he says.

It is a distinct pleasure to greet you as the new department head of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the brief time that I have been at Virginia Tech, I have come to know a dedicated group of faculty, staff, and students that includes some of the best and brightest minds in research and education in the country. This tradition of excellence is reflected in the university’s commitment to expand the faculty ranks across the College of Engineering by 12.5 percent in the next several years. Students around the country recognize the prestige of a Virginia Tech engineering degree by applying in record numbers. Undergraduate applications to the college have increased by more than 1,000, which represents a 13.5 percent increase in a single year.

Within our own department, this past year has been an exciting one for achievements and milestones by our faculty. We have graduated our largest number of Ph.D. students ever at 52 and surpassed the $32 million mark in research expenditures. Four new Fellows of professional societies have been added to our faculty ranks, including Sandeep Shukla (IEEE), Thomas Hou (IEEE), Luke Lester (IEEE, SPIE), and the new president of Virginia Tech, Timothy Sands (IEEE, Materials Research Society). We are particularly proud to count Dr. Sands among the ECE faculty ranks as he brings a wealth of experience in research and academic administration and a deep technical knowledge in nanotechnology and heterogeneous integration.

Dushan Boroyevich of the Center for Power Electronics Systems was elected this year to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for advancements in control, modeling, and design of electronic power conversion for electric energy and transportation. We are very proud that one of our most distinguished faculty members has been recognized with this prestigious honor. Dushan has been and continues to be a role model for faculty and students at Virginia Tech. The impact of his research, graduate student advisement, and professional service in the field of power electronics has been profound. In winning this award, Dushan joins three other members of the ECE family who are members of the NAE: his former Ph.D. advisor, Fred Lee, Professor Emeritus Arun Phadke, and Professor Emeritus and former Department Head Jim Thorp.

There is good news to report on the rankings front. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Virginia Tech’s online Master of Information Technology program, which is co-administered by ECE, the department of Computer Science, and the Pamplin College of Business, at second in the country, which is up from third last year. Our undergraduate ECE program continues to be ranked at a very solid 15th in the country. Our graduate programs in electrical engineering and computer engineering are now at the 27th position. Although this level is below our all-time best from last year, we expect to be back on top next year given the substantial successes in recruitment and research recognition.

One of my goals when I came to Virginia Tech was to initiate a two-semester senior design experience that would teach team building and project leadership skills while immersing students in a technical project that is sponsored primarily by industry. It is my belief that the two-semester format not only lets students take on more challenging projects, but also permits them to pursue their passion and have FUN! In the midst of all the required courses, time-consuming homework and rigorous exams, it is important that we allow engineering students ample opportunity to pursue their creative side and stay inspired. After pitching this idea to the ECE Industrial Advisory Board in September 2013, the response has been very positive. Combining the mentoring and equipment resources of the department with the financial and technical expertise of the loyal ECE alumni in various companies, we are ready to launch the two-semester senior design sequence in fall 2014 with about 20 team projects. In fact, this kind of capstone design experience is really not new, but in a department with a graduating class approaching 200 or more, the logistics of organizing this course can appear daunting at fist. I am pleased to inform you that ECE has hired a new professor of practice with the express purpose of having him run the new two-semester course. Gino Manzo, who recently retired from BAE Systems with more than 38 years of experience and was on the ECE Industrial Advisory Board for several years, will fill this role. Welcome, Gino!

In the following pages you will meet the students, faculty, and alumni who conduct cutting edge research in electronics and nanotechnology, solve challenging design problems, and serve as inspiring role models for the next generation of outstanding electrical and computer engineers and devoted Hokies. I think that you will agree with me that our department is serving the Commonwealth of Virginia and the whole nation in an exemplary way!

Luke Lester
Department Head