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in Hawaii

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Winter 2003

Special Report:
What's Next for ECEs?
April 2003

From the Department Head

This year’s senior class has seen many changes in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering since entering as sophomores. Many changes have taken place in the student body, the academic and research programs, and the faculty.

The demand for our undergraduate and graduate programs has increased dramatically. Of the applications for graduate school at Virginia Tech last year, 28 percent requested admission in ECE! Our total graduate enrollment at 608 is an all-time high. At the undergraduate level, we are near capacity for the number of students we can handle, so we must increase efficiency by retaining more students after they enter ECE in the sophomore year. So, we have increased performance requirements in the entry-level courses. The result of this competitive environment is that we have even brighter and more qualified students. We graduated 159 EEs and 145 with bachelor degrees in CPE in 2001-02. This is the perfect balance of degree productivity that we sought when the first CPE degrees were conferred in 1989. And last year both EE and CPE BS degree programs were awarded the top rating by ABET, the national accreditation organization. As a department, we remain ranked among the top ECE departments in the country, both in quality and size.

In spite of a weak commercial economy, ECE’s research funding has increased. Much of the new research is in support of government programs that have taken renewed emphasis. In 2001-02, ECE reached the $25 million research expenditure level for the first time. This is a tribute to our faculty who continue to find sponsors willing to fund research in the competitive climate. This attests to the importance of our research.

Change has come in our educational offerings. Even while facing severe budget cuts, this past year alone, our faculty developed two dozen new courses, ranging from multimedia networking, to computational techniques using particle simulation, to imaging systems for engineering and medical applications.

Change has also come in the makeup of our faculty. In the past three years, 15 new faculty members have joined the department, adding capability and expertise as varied as bioinfomatics, video networking, microelectronics, and underwater systems. These new capabilities complement our existing skills and background and provide a strong foundation for our continued excellence. We have added faculty to meet demand in computer engineering and there are now nearly two dozen faculty members teaching and conducting research in the field. More change is ahead in the faculty ranks by the end of this spring, as we will have lost seven of our senior faculty members to the university’s budget-induced early retirement incentive. These professors, Ionnis Besieris, Dan Chen, Richard Conners, David de Wolf, Gail Gray, Butch Nunnally, and Arun Phadke, represent nearly 150 years of service to Virginia Tech. Their efforts and those of their colleagues established the modern foundations of this department, enabling us to continue to evolve with the changing educational and technological worlds.

In a sense, the change we have experienced these past few years is to be expected of any excellent engineering department. As an educational institution, we are constantly seeking to hold on to the timeless component of education that is the fundamental knowledge that certainly will be needed by future engineers, while at the same time seeking new ways to prepare our students for modern careers involving popular applications. As engineers and scientists, it is our efforts that have often shaped the future and we continue to seek new technical challenges.

When today’s seniors were sophomores, I was serving as Interim Department Head. Again, today I am in this position with the departure of Bob Trew, who has gone to North Carolina State University. Although recent times of limited resources have been difficult, I remain excited about the progress we have made and the possibilities of even bigger things in the future. It is my privilege to continue to serve the department.

Warren Stutzman
Interim Department Head

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Last updated: Tue, Sep 9, 2003