Where the next generation of innovative engineers was born
A driving force for growth, discovery, and innovation – that’s perhaps the best way to describe the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte). As an urban research institution, UNC Charlotte fuels American innovation in everything from resilient and sustainable architecture and environmental systems to epidemiological modeling and sustainable energy.
The university’s electrical and computer engineering department is leading this wave. The programs here are designed to strike a balance between theory and practical knowledge, ensuring a holistic education in the field.
“For more than 60 years, the William States Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte has been one of the premier engineering and technology programs in the Southeastern United States,” said Dr. Asis Nasipuri, President of the department of electrical and computer engineering. “We emphasize applied research, with opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience tackling real-world problems.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the graduate programs offered at the department, where modules are meticulously targeted to ensure career readiness. “The courses offered are very industry-focused which would help build one’s profile and experience in meeting the needs of the wider community,” shares Indian student Ushma Bharucha.
Bharucha opted for the MS in Electrical Engineering (MSEE), which aims to provide students with advanced knowledge of the theory and practical applications of electrical systems and signal processing. She credits the flexibility offered as a determining factor in the choice of program.
“UNC Charlotte offers a good program where you have a certain amount of time in which you can choose the courses you want,” she explains. “For the [first] month, I evaluated different courses offered and tried to work out my schedule for the semester. All classes provided the roadmap of how I would progress throughout the semester and how to get the most out of the course.
Throughout the year, students are guided through a number of high-demand areas of interest including communications and networking, signal and image processing, electromagnetics, antennas and RF , power systems, power electronics and machinery, etc. The breadth of knowledge they acquire ensures that at the end of the year they are confident to choose between a thesis or a non-thesis assessment.
“After a year, I was quite sure of the path I wanted to follow for my master’s degree,” says Bharucha. “I opted for the dissertation option because I was quite interested in some of the topics taught in one of my classes and wanted to go deeper.”
She remembers one class in particular that made her head spin: heterogeneous computing. It is taught by Dr. Hamed Tabkhi, one of UNC Charlotte’s leading faculty, and aims to give students a comprehensive understanding of the various hardware architectures involved in computer systems.
Dr. Tabkhi is working on a project that aims to develop an end-to-end privacy-preserving computing vision for real-time situational awareness focused on smart city applications – one of the only existing projects of its kind in the world.
“We also have a full team of UX designers, visual artists, and mobile app developers to bring this insight back to decision makers, stakeholders, and the general public,” Dr. Tabkhi shares. “Several faculties of transportation engineering, social sciences, criminology, architecture, urban design and public policy collaborate with us on social/community aspects of technology. The testbed creates a great opportunity to position UNC Charlotte as a leader in AI-powered smart city research.
Students often have the opportunity to work with faculty members on projects such as these, serving to expand their own expertise.
“I did research under Dr. Tabkhi for the Smart City project and worked a lot in the action detection team,” says Anbumalar Saravanan, an electrical engineering student. “I received moral support in the form of his mentorship and my doctoral team. In addition to this, I received financial support in the form of teaching and research assistantships which helped me cover the cost of my tuition.
Another program offered at the department is the MS in Computer Engineering (MSCPE). Here, students are trained in current and future computer hardware and software technologies. Technical areas of interest include computer architecture and hardware design, computer systems and application software, and distributed and real-time computer systems.
MSCPE students can engage in individualized research and projects. Active research areas in computer engineering include: embedded systems, robotics, computer architecture, hardware/software co-design, real-time systems, reconfigurable and high-performance computing, VLSI design, Big Data , mobile and edge computing, computer networks, Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems, digital signal and image processing, deep learning and machine learning algorithms, computer vision, hardware security, low-power electronics, Smart Grid operation and control, etc.
UNC Charlotte’s end goal is to meet the employment needs of the greater Charlotte area with qualified, career-ready graduates.
“As one of the fastest growing regions for technology in the country, Charlotte demands an increasing number of hardware engineers, software developers, application developers, systems developers and network engineers,” shares Dr. Tabhki. “Needs in this area correspond to the emergence of new application areas, including artificial intelligence and machine learning systems and high-speed communication networks.”
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