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Degree Specialization

Electrical and Computer Engineering represents a very broad discipline, with many potential areas of focus.  Students earning a bachelor of science in electrical engineering (BSEE) may wish to specialize in a specific area to add greater depth to her undergraduate study.  Several specialization options are outlined below.

Computer Engineering

Computer engineers work on components, devices, programs, algorithms and systems that are used in computers, and on techniques of computation, analysis and implementation that are applicable to single computers or to systems of computers.  In the past, work in this area used to be compartmentalized between hardware and software, but the boundaries between these two categories have become less distinct. Many computer engineers (and electrical engineers) are well versed in both hardware and software, and provide “hybrid” solutions on a regular basis.

Due to the wide use of computers across industries and applications, we find computer engineers in many diverse areas. For example, computer engineers design application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for use in cellular phones; they devise and program field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for control systems in manufacturing plants and power stations; they develop microprocessors for personal computers; they introduce embedded systems into diverse applications such as digital watches, portable music players, traffic control systems, and systems that control nuclear power plants.

To specialize in this area, students should choose ECE and technical electives from the following list:

  • ECE 410 Digital Integrated Circuit Design
  • ECE 430 Digital Hardware Design
  • ECE 432 Computer Architecture
  • ECE 433 Embedded And Portable Computing Systems
  • ECE 434 Introduction To Computer Networks
  • ECE 436 Digital Systems Rapid Prototyping
  • ECE 454 Digital Signal Processing
  • ECE 456 Pattern Recognition And Machine Learning
  • ECE 457 Digital Image Processing
  • CS 331 Computer Security And Information Assurance
  • CS 361 Introduction To The Theory Of Computation
  • CS 421 Design And Analysis Of Algorithms
  • CS 430 Parallel Computing
  • CS 455 Distributed Systems

Devices and Processing

Devices and processing is a specialty within the electrical and computer engineering program that is concerned with the fabrication of electronic materials and devices, as well as non-electronic micromechanical structures. This includes structure layout, electronic testing of devices, design of new device structures or materials, and in-depth knowledge of processing equipment.

Process engineers design fabrication processes and work with fabrication instrumentation in areas such as photolithography, film deposition, etching, diffusion, and chemical and mechanical polishing. They also work extensively with thin film characterization equipment such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), x-ray diffraction (XRD), atomic force microscopy (AFM), profilometers, 4-pt probe resistivity, and ellipsometers to check the properties of their films and processes.

Device engineers design and test new devices based on novel materials or based on novel device structures. They develop skills in making electrical measurements on devices. Some device engineers also develop processing skills in addition to electrical measurement skills.

To specialize in this area, students should choose ECE and technical electives from the following list:

  • ECE 320 Semiconductor Devices
  • ECE 340 Electrical Properties of Materials
  • ECE 420 Advanced Device Design and Simulation
  • ECE 440 Intro to Integrated Circuit and Mems Processing
  • ECE 441 Advanced Silicon Technology
  • ECE 442 Photolithography
  • ECE 443 Introduction to Mems 
  • MSE 404 Materials Analysis
  • MSE 415 Materials Processing
  • MSE 461 Microelectronic Packaging Materials 
  • PHYS 309 Introductory Modern Physics with Applications
  • PHYS 415 Solid State Physics 
  • PHYS 423 Physical Methods of Materials Characterization

Integrated Circuit Design

Integrated circuit design, or IC design, is a specialty area within electrical engineering that is concerned with the design of microchips.  Today, the microchip is found in virtually all consumer products, from appliances to automobiles.  A specialization in this area will involve students with the design, layout, and simulation of integrated circuits (microchips). Students, as part of their education, will actually have their chip design fabricated so that it can be tested and evaluated. This specialization involves a practical, hands-on approach.

To specialize in this area, students should choose ECE and technical electives from the following list:

  • ECE 410 Digital Integrated Circuit Design
  • ECE 411 CMOS Analog IC Design
  • ECE 413 RF Design 
  • ECE 418 Memory and PLL IC Design 
  • ECE 420 Advanced Device Design And Simulation 
  • ECE 430 Digital Hardware Design

Power Systems Engineering

Power systems engineering is a subdiscipline within electrical engineering that is concerned with the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical energy. Power engineers typically work for electric utilities companies and plan and design new power plants, transmission lines and distribution substations. They may work in planning departments where they plan new equipment and transmission lines and run scenarios on how to prevent or react during emergencies following the outage of a major generation or transmission component. Power engineers also work for consulting engineering firms that design distribution systems for industrial and commercial buildings. They can also be employed in the automotive and aviation industries.

A related aspect of electrical engineering is power electronics.  This emphasis area is focused on the processing and control of electrical energy from one form to another. For example, power electronics engineers design switch-mode power supplies, choppers, inverters, and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for computers. They also design the power processing units and their low-level electronic controls in DC and AC motor drives. Other applications of power electronics in power systems include high-voltage DC systems (HVDC) and flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS) devices for electric power control.

To specialize in this area, students should choose ECE and technical electives from the following list:

  • ECE 470 Electric Machines
  • ECE 472 Power Electronics
  • ECE 473 Power System Analysis I
  • ECE 474 Power System Analysis II
  • ENGR 320 Thermodynamics
  • ENGR 330 Fluid Mechanics

Signals and Systems

The signals and systems subdiscipline focuses on the manipulation and analysis of both analog and digital (sampled and quantitzed) signals. Signals are mathematical functions that measure a quantity over time or space like voltage, current, force, and light. Systems are devices or concepts that changes these signals, like circuits and machines or they can be done numerically on computers. Control Systems uses feedback to obtain desired system performance in the presence of uncertainties.

Examples of applications within the signals and systems field include communication systems (radio, telephone, television, radar, computer communications), signal processing (image processing, computer vision, speech recognition, computer music, filtering, noise removal, remote sensing) and controls (robotics, biomedical aids, mechanical end electrical system controls). Since the applications of Signals and Systems are many, students with a strong background in signals and systems can find jobs in numerous industries including communications, biomedical, manufacturing, and more.

To specialize in this area, students should choose ECE and technical electives from the following list:

  • ECE 451 Communication Systems
  • ECE 452 Wireless Communications
  • ECE 454 Digital Signal Processing
  • ECE 456 Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning
  • ECE 457 Digital Image Processing
  • ECE 461 Control Systems
  • MATH 301 Introduction to Linear Algebra
  • MATH 314 Foundations of Analysis

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to select a specialization?

The EE curriculum is designed to prepare students to practice as electrical engineering professionals, undertake graduate studies, and conduct research.   Undergraduate students who develop a broad background in electrical and computer engineering topics by taking a variety of elective courses have the flexibility to take on may different career paths.  If you already have a passion for energy, embedded systems, or nanomaterials and want to dig in deeper, a specialization might be the right choice for you.

Will a specialization be printed on my diploma?

Whether you opt for the general track or you pick an ECE specialization, you will be earning a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.  Your diploma will only show the title of the degree (bachelor of science) and major (electrical engineering).  The best way to emphasize your specialization is to include it on your resume.  When you talk with prospective employers, you get the chance to tell your story and you can highlight relevant coursework, including your specialization.