As you will read in these pages, the past year has been another year of significant accomplishments by our students, faculty, and staff. We also present several articles describing the many ways that our ECE faculty and students are now contributing in biomedical advances. This emphasis on biomedical engineering reflects the nationwide growth in this area.
The timing is right for the department to become more involved in biomedical engineering. Not only are current advances in need of ECE skills, but Virginia Tech also provides opportunity and expertise in the new School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES), which is a joint program with the Wake Forest University medical school, offering both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.
Through the generosity of the Via family, the Bradley Endowment continues to provide funding for Bradley Scholars and Fellows. With the financial burden removed, these students can devote their considerable talents to their studies in ECE. Since its beginning in 1987, the Harry Lynde Bradley Endowment has funded 93 Bradley Scholarships and 76 Bradley Fellow-ships. A section in this report presents the current Scholars and Fellows and provides updates on the Bradley alumni. Appreciation is extended to the Via family for the vision to establish the endowment and to John Rocovich, chair of the Via-Bradley Board of Directors, for his continuing strong support of ECE.
ECE is ranked 11th in the nation in the widely-cited NSF research expenditures rankings. Virginia Tech’s goal is to be ranked in the top 30 in the nation and the engineering college in the top 10. ECE currently produces one-third of all degrees in the college and one-third of the sponsored research. Thus, ECE is the leader in ranking ascent. To do this we must maintain our high level of research expenditures and improve in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, especially for the graduate program. Thus, we are increasing emphasis on our Ph.D. program. Ph.D. enrollment in ECE was 163 last year, and is now 269, including 36 direct-Ph.D. students. Of the current 19 Bradley Fellows, 10 are Ph.D. students and another two are direct-Ph.D. students.
The ECE academic program has been large for many years, usually in the country’s top 10. We are increasing emphasis on quality and are actively recruiting top-notch freshmen and Ph.D. students. The Bradley Scholars and Fellows awards have been slanted in this direction and are key to achieving the goal.
Our size has always provided our students with a broad range of opportunities not found in smaller departments. Our graduates provide technical and managerial leadership throughout the country.
We also have good news about our alumni. Harold Martin (Ph.D. ’80) received this year’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Achievement Award. Last year’s first such award went to Robert Richardson, a Nobel Laureate in physics. Harold is currently Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University and is acknowledged for his insightful leadership there and at North Carolina A&T (see Page 4). Jim George was elected to the college’s Academy of Engineering Excellence. Both Harold and Jim served on the ECE Advisory Board and remain very active with the college. Kent Murphy, a Ph.D. EE graduate and former ECE faculty member, was recognized as one of two 2004 winners of Virginia’s Outstanding Industrialists awards.
The future for both the fields of electrical and computer engineering and for the ECE Department remains very bright. ECE knowledge and skills are such that our engineers continue to be in demand. A measure of the continuing demand for our graduates is their starting salaries. Of all college graduates, computer, chemical, and electrical engineering majors are in first, second, and third place, respectively, for starting salaries.
We cannot relax, however. The current threat of job losses to foreign countries must be addressed by higher education. With technical professionals in Asia being paid about one-tenth of their U. S. counterparts, the economic pressures are in place to outsource overseas or to hire foreign engineers at much lower salaries than U. S. engineers. Universities must keep students on the cutting edge of technology in order for graduates to find the desired jobs with high salaries. With ECE’s emphasis on both applications and fundamental education, our graduates will certainly do well no matter what the future brings.
Interim Department Head