ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

The Great Potential

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Photograph of Advisory Board Chair Jim Thorp

There is no burden like the great potential. Fulfilling great promise requires great commitment, innovation, resources, and performance. When we were graduated from Virginia Tech, we were well prepared to begin our professional journeys in search of opportunity and service.

Each year, this report highlights the innovations from basic science to applied technology resulting from the efforts of ECE faculty members and students. We review curriculum changes, technological advances, research achievements, and faculty who are nationally recognized. The next page discusses work to be done in a new laboratory that ECE and Materials Science Engineering have developed that will help researchers across the university move forward in microelectronics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. ECE is enhancing their strengths in power electronics and systems, wireless communications and electromagnetics, optical sensors, devices, configurable computing and networking. ECE is also developing the emerging areas in embedded computing, nanomaterials, biomedical engineering, complex systems and networks, energy and the environment.

In other endeavors, ECEs lead the way in tapping new energy sources, such as fuel cells (p. 24), and in energy transmission (p. 26). ECEs are active in homeland security, applying communications, power, computation and sensor skills. Farther afield, Wayne Scales and colleagues have received funding for an initiative to study upper atmospheric space physics. Their NSF grant was one of only three such awards given nationally.

Virginia Tech is currently updating the university and college strategies. The new goals still include advancing in the ratings, expanding our research, and continually improving our performance. ECE will play an important role in any strategy, as it has built the largest multi-discipline research program in the College of Engineering, which, in turn, has the largest research program at Tech. The consistent performance and growing success of ECE faculty and students reveals their commitment and innovation. However, our department goals in a constrained investment environment create special short-term needs that alumni and their industries/agencies can support. ECE, along with its research stakeholders within and outside the university, is focusing on pursuits that create growth opportunities and impact our ratings. Although we are fortunate to have the experience and wisdom of Department Head Jim Thorp leading a great faculty team, ECE alumni input is critical at this time.

The ECE Advisory Board is working with Thorp and the faculty to develop and execute the ECE strategy. The Board has established four committees that focus on research, undergraduates, graduates, and special projects. The Research Committee, working with alumni, will identify areas where industry and government agencies expect to boost research expenditures. The Undergraduate and Graduate Committees, also working with alumni, will suggest performance improvements based on experience, observations, and data from ECE’s new formal assessment program. The Special Projects Committee will support the requests and priorities set by the department head.

We hope to encourage an environment where ECE faculty, the Advisory Board, and the alumni act together in this “great potential” to become one of the top departments in the country. As public universities in other states have shown recently, it can be done – but only with alumni involvement.

Wayne Snodgrass
Chair, ECE Advisory Board