Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)

[ undergraduate program | courses | faculty ]

Undergraduate Affairs, Room 2906
Graduate Affairs, Room 2718
Jacobs Hall, Warren College

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice. Updates may be found on the Academic Senate website: http://senate.ucsd.edu/catalog-copy/approved-updates/.

The Graduate Programs

Master of Science

The ECE department offers MS programs in electrical and computer engineering. The MS programs are research oriented and are intended to provide the intensive technical preparation necessary for advanced technical work in the engineering profession or subsequent pursuit of a PhD. The MS may be earned either with a thesis (Plan 1) or with a comprehensive examination (Plan 2). However, continuation in the PhD program requires a comprehensive examination so most students opt for Plan 2.

Course Requirements: The total course requirements for the master of science degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering are forty-eight units (twelve quarter courses),respectively, of which at least thirty-six units must be in graduate courses. Note that this is greater than the minimum requirements of the university. The department maintains a list of core courses for each disciplinary area from which the thirty-six graduate course units must be selected. The current list may be obtained from the department graduate office or the official website of the department. Students in interdisciplinary programs may select other core courses with the approval of their academic adviser. The course requirements must be completed within two years of full-time study. Students will be assigned a faculty adviser who will help select courses and approve their overall academic curriculum.

Degree Requirements: Only upper-division (100-level) and graduate (200-level) courses in which a student is assigned grades A, B, or C (including plus [+] or minus [–]) can be used to satisfy degree requirements. The forty-eight units of required course work must be taken for a letter grade, except in cases where students take ECE 299, the ECE graduate research course. ECE 299 is the only course where the S/U grading option is allowed. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 overall.

Thesis and Comprehensive Requirements: The department offers both MS Plan 1 (thesis) and MS Plan 2 (written comprehensive exam). Students in the MS program must select either Plan 1 or Plan 2 by their fourth quarter of study. Students in the MS Plan 1 (thesis) must take twelve units of ECE 299 (Research) and must submit a thesis as described in the general requirements of the university. Students in the MS Plan 2 (written comprehensive exam) may count four units of ECE 299 (Research) toward the thirty-six graduate units required and must attempt to pass the departmental written comprehensive examination not later than the fall quarter of their second year of study. Students who pass the written examination at the MS level will receive a terminal masters degree, if they do not already have one.

Transfer to the PhD Program: Students in the MS program wishing to be considered for admission to the PhD program should consult their academic adviser as soon as possible. Students must notify department of their intent to transfer by their fourth quarter of study. Transfer from the MS to the PhD program is possible provided that the student

A student who has fulfilled all of the above requirements should, after passing the departmental PhD preliminary (comprehensive) exam, submit a petition to change his or her degree objective from MS to PhD.

Master of Advanced Studies

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers the master of advanced studies (MAS) degree in Wireless Embedded Systems (WES). The degree requires thirty-six units of work, including a capstone team project. This program is for part-time students with an adequate background in engineering. All the requirements can be completed in two years, with one or two courses taken each quarter.

Final Project Capstone Requirement, No Thesis: In the MAS-WES program, an “alternative plan” requirement is satisfied by a four-unit capstone project requirement.

Required Courses: Students entering the MAS program in Electrical and Computer Engineering for a degree in Wireless Embedded Systems will undertake courses in the Wireless Embedded Systems program.

The program requires eight four-unit core courses totaling thirty-two units and one four-unit capstone team project course for a total of thirty-six units.

All courses must be completed with an average grade of B. The courses required of all students are as follows:

The Doctoral Programs

The ECE department offers graduate programs leading to the PhD in twelve disciplines within electrical and computer engineering, as described in detail below. The PhD is a research degree requiring completion of the PhD program course requirements, satisfactory performance on the comprehensive (PhD preliminary) examination and university Qualifying Examination, and submission and defense of a doctoral thesis (as described under the “Graduate Admission” section of this catalog). Students in the PhD program must pass the comprehensive exam (PhD preliminary) before the beginning of the winter quarter of the second year of graduate study. To ensure timely progress in their research, students are strongly encouraged to identify a faculty member willing to supervise their doctoral research by the end of their first year of study.

Students should begin defining and preparing for their thesis research as soon as they have passed the comprehensive exam (PhD preliminary). They should plan on taking the university Qualifying Examination about one year later. The university does not permit students to continue in graduate study for more than four years without passing this examination. At the Qualifying Examination the student will give an oral presentation on research accomplishments to date and the thesis proposal to a campuswide committee. The committee will decide if the work and proposal has adequate content and reasonable chance for success. They may require that the student modify the proposal and may require a further review.

The final PhD requirements are the submission of a dissertation and the dissertation defense (as described under the “Graduate Admission” section of this catalog).

Course Requirements: The total course requirements for the PhD in electrical engineering are essentially the same as the MS, and consist of forty-eight units (twelve quarter courses), of which at least thirty-six units must be in graduate courses. Note that this is greater than the minimum requirements of the university. The department maintains a list of core courses for each disciplinary area from which the thirty-six graduate course units must be selected. The current list may be obtained from the ECE department graduate office or the official website of the department. Students in the interdisciplinary programs may select other core courses with the approval of their academic adviser. The course requirements must be completed within two years of full-time study.

Students in the PhD programs may count no more than eight units of ECE 299 toward their course requirements.

Students who already hold an MS in electrical engineering must nevertheless satisfy the requirements for the core courses. However, graduate courses taken elsewhere can be substituted for specific courses with the approval of the academic adviser.

Degree Requirements: Only upper-division (100-level) and graduate (200-level) courses in which a student is assigned grades A, B, or C (including plus [+] or minus [–]) can be used to satisfy degree requirements. The forty-eight units of required course work must be taken for a letter grade, except in cases where students take ECE 299, the ECE graduate research course. ECE 299 is the only course where the S/U grading option is allowed. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 overall. In addition, a GPA of 3.4 in the core graduate courses is generally expected.

Teaching practicum is required of all ECE PhD students prior to graduation. Teaching practicum is defined as service as a graduate student instructor in a course designated by the department. The total teaching requirement for new PhD students is one quarter at ten hours per week. Students must enroll in and successfully complete four units of ECE 501 (Teaching) concurrent with the practicum experience. Students must contact the Student Affairs Office to plan for completion of this requirement.

Comprehensive Exam (PhD Preliminary): PhD students must find a faculty member who will agree to supervise their thesis research. This should be done before the start of the second year of study. They should then devote at least half their time to research and must pass the PhD preliminary examination before the beginning of the winter quarter of the second year of study. This is an oral exam in which the student presents his or her research to a committee of three ECE faculty members, and is examined orally for proficiency in his or her area of specialization. The outcome of the exam is based on the student’s research presentation, proficiency demonstrated in the student’s area of specialization and overall academic record and performance in the graduate program. Successful completion of the PhD Preliminary Examination will also satisfy the MS Plan 2 comprehensive exam requirement.

University Qualifying Exam: Students who have passed the comprehensive exam (PhD preliminary) should plan to take the university Qualifying Examination approximately a year after passing the comprehensive exam (PhD preliminary). The university does not permit students to continue in graduate study for more than four years without passing this examination. The university Qualifying Examination is an oral exam in which the student presents his or her thesis proposal to a university-wide committee. After passing this exam the student is “advanced to candidacy.”

Dissertation Defense: The final PhD requirements are the submission of a dissertation, and the dissertation defense (as described under the “Graduate Admission” section of this catalog). Students who are advanced to candidacy may register for any ECE course on an S/U basis.

Departmental Time Limits: Students who enter the PhD program with an MS from another institution are expected to complete their PhD requirements a year earlier than BS entrants. They must discuss their program with an academic adviser in their first quarter of residence. If their PhD program overlaps significantly with their earlier MS work, the time limits for the comprehensive and qualifying exams will also be reduced by one year. Specific time limits for the PhD program, assuming entry with a BS, are as follows:

  1. The Comprehensive Exam (PhD Preliminary) must be completed before the start of the winter quarter of the second year of full-time study.
  2. The University Qualifying Exam must be completed before the start of the fifth year of full-time study.
  3. Support Limit: Students may not receive financial support through the university for more than seven years of full-time study (six years with an MS).
  4. Registered Time Limit: Students may not register as graduate students for more than eight years of full-time study (seven years with an MS).

Half-Time Study: Time limits are extended by one quarter for every two quarters of approved half-time status. Students on half-time status may not take more than six units each quarter.

PhD Research Programs

  1. Applied Ocean Sciences: This program in applied science related to the oceans is interdepartmental with the Graduate Department of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE). It is administered by SIO. All aspects of man’s purposeful and unusual intervention into the sea are included.
  2. Applied Optics and Photonics: These programs encompass a broad range of interdisciplinary activities involving optical science and engineering, optical and optoelectronic materials and device technology, communications, computer engineering, and photonic systems engineering. Specific topics of interest include ultrafast optical processes, nonlinear optics, quantum cryptography and communications, optical image science, multidimensional optoelectronic I/O devices, spatial light modulators and photodetectors, artificial dielectrics, multifunctional diffractive and micro-optics, volume and computer-generated holography, optoelectronic and micromechanical devices and packaging, modeling and design of photonic devices and systems, photonic integrated circuits and systems, optical sensors, fiber optics, wave modulators and detectors, semiconductor-based optoelectronics, injection lasers, and photodetectors. Current research projects are focused on applications such as optical interconnects in high-speed digital systems, optical multidimensional signal and image processing, ultrahigh-speed optical networks, 3-D optical memories and memory interfaces, 3-D imaging and displays, and biophotonic systems. Facilities available for research in these areas include electron-beam and optical lithography, material growth, microfabrication, assembly, and packaging facilities, cw and femtosecond pulse laser systems, detection systems, optical and electro-optic components and devices, and electronic and optical characterization and testing equipment.
  3. Communication Theory and Systems: This program in electrical and computer engineering involves the detection of signals, the prediction and filtering of random processes, the design and analysis of communication systems, the analysis of protocols for communication networks, and statistical processing of images. Specific topics include the use of signal processing and error correction coding, and modulation techniques for both data transmission and digital magnetic recording, the use of spread spectrum techniques for wireless communications, and the design and analysis of multiuser communication networks. Additional areas of research include time series analysis, adaptive filtering, sampling design, and wavelet theory. Applications are made to such fields as communications, radar, sonar, oceanography, holography, and image processing. Both theoretical and practical aspects of information processing are studied.
  4. Computer Engineering: This program consists of balanced programs of studies in both hardware and software, the premise being that knowledge and skill in both areas are essential both for the modern-day computer engineer to make the proper unbiased tradeoffs in design, and for researchers to consider all paths toward the solution of research questions and problems. Toward these ends, the programs emphasize studies (course work) and competency (comprehensive examinations, and dissertations or projects) in the areas of VLSI and logic design, and reliable computer and communication systems. Specific research areas include computer systems, signal processing systems, multiprocessing and parallel and distributed computing, computer communications and networks, computer architecture, computer-aided design, fault-tolerance and reliability, and neurocomputing.
  5. Electronic Circuits and Systems: The electronic circuits and systems program involves the study of the processes of analysis and design of electronic circuits and systems. Emphasis is on analog and digital integrated circuits, very large-scale integration (VLSI), analog and digital signal processing, and system algorithms and architectures. Particular areas of study are analog, digital, radio frequency, and microwave electronic circuits and systems, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters, wireless communications transceivers, phase-locked loops, low-power integrated circuits, parallel and multiprocessor computing, electronic neural networks and associative memories, VLSI and algorithmic/application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design, microwave and millimeter wave integrated circuits (MIMIC), gallium arsenide ultra-high-speed integrated circuits and devices (UHSIC), algorithms and architectures for analog and digital signal processing (DSP), high-speed digital communications, computer arithmetic and numerical analysis of finite word length processors, fault-tolerant VLSI systems, design for testability, the design of reliable digital electronic systems, computer-aided design (CAD), and computer-aided engineering (CAE) of DSP/communications systems.
  6. Applied Physics—Electronic Devices and Materials: The field of electronic devices and materials includes the synthesis, characterization, and application of metals, semiconductors and dielectric materials in solid-state electronic and opto-electronic devices. It encompasses the fabrication, characterization, and modeling of prototype electronic materials, devices, and integrated circuits based on silicon and III-V compound semiconductors as well as processing methods employed in present-day and projected integrated circuits. Current research includes growth by molecular beam epitaxy and chemical vapor phase epitaxy, metallurgical aspects of interfaces, the electronic, optical, and electro-optic properties of heterostructures, and the study of superconductors and magnetic materials.

    Research thrusts cover the study of ultrasmall structures (nanotechnology) as well as ultrahigh speed transistors and optoelectronic devices. The department has available a complete facility for fabricating prototype silicon and III-V compound transistors and other devices, electron-beam lithography, a Rutherford backscattering facility, molecular beam and organo-metallic vapor-phase epitaxy, cryogenic temperature facilities, scanning tunneling microscopes, microwave and mm-wave measurement facilities, as well as auxiliary apparatus for X-ray, optical, and galvanomagnetic characterization of materials, devices, and components.
  7. Intelligent Systems, Robotics, and Control: This information sciences-based field is concerned with the design of human-interactive intelligent systems that can sense the world (defined as some specified domain of interest); represent or model the world; detect and identify states and events in the world; reason about and make decisions about the world; and/or act on the world, perhaps all in real-time. A sense of the type of systems and applications encountered in this discipline can be obtained by viewing the projects shown at the ECE department website.

    The development of such sophisticated systems is necessarily an interdisciplinary activity. To sense and succinctly represent events in the world requires knowledge of signal processing, computer vision, information theory, coding theory, and databasing; to detect and reason about states of the world utilizes concepts from statistical detection theory, hypothesis testing, pattern recognition, time series analysis, and artificial intelligence; to make good decisions about highly complex systems requires knowledge of traditional mathematical optimization theory and contemporary near-optimal approaches such as evolutionary computation; and to act upon the world requires familiarity with concepts of control theory and robotics. Very often learning and adaptation are required as either critical aspects of the world are poorly known at the outset, and must be refined online, or the world is non-stationary and our system must constantly adapt to it as it evolves. In addition to the theoretical information and computer science aspects, many important hardware and software issues must be addressed in order to obtain an effective fusion of a complicated suite of sensors, computers, and problem dynamics into one integrated system.

    Faculty affiliated with the ISRC subarea are involved in virtually all aspects of the field, including applications to intelligent communications systems; advanced human-computer interfacing; statistical signal- and image-processing; intelligent tracking and guidance systems; biomedical system identification and control; and control of teleoperated and autonomous multiagent robotic systems.
  8. Magnetic Recording is an interdisciplinary field involving physics, material science, communications, and mechanical engineering. The physics of magnetic recording involves studying magnetic heads, recording media, and the process of transferring information between the heads and the medium. General areas of investigation include: nonlinear behavior of magnetic heads, very high frequency loss mechanisms in head materials, characterization of recording media by micromagnetic and many body interaction analysis, response of the medium to the application of spatially varying vectorial head fields, fundamental analysis of medium nonuniformities leading to media noise, and experimental studies of the channel transfer function emphasizing nonlinearities, interferences, and noise. Current projects include numerical simulations of high density digital recording in metallic thin films, micromagnetic analysis of magnetic reversal in individual magnetic particles, theory of recorded transition phase noise and magnetization induced nonlinear bit shift in thin metallic films, and analysis of the thermal-temporal stability of interacting fine particles.

    Research laboratories are housed in the Center for Magnetic Recording Research, a national center devoted to multidisciplinary teaching and research in the field.
  9. Applied Physics—Space Science: This program focuses on the study of radio waves propagating through turbulent media. The theory of such propagation is also studied with a view to removing the distorting effects of the turbulent medium on astronomical observations and providing an accurate restoration of the intrinsic signals.

    Space science is concerned with the nature of the sun, its ionized and super-sonic outer atmosphere (the solar wind), and the interaction of the solar wind with various bodies in the solar system. Theoretical studies include the interaction of the solar wind with Earth, planets, and comets; cosmic dusty-plasmas; waves in the ionosphere; and the physics of shocks. A major theoretical effort involves the use of supercomputers for modeling and simulation studies of both fluid and kinetic processes in space plasmas.

    Students are trained in one or more of the interrelated fields, electromagnetics, space plasma physics, radio astronomy, wave propagation, numerical methods, and signal processing.
  10. Signal and Image Processing: This program explores engineering issues related to the modeling of signals starting from the physics of the problem, developing and evaluating algorithms for extracting the necessary information from the signal, and the implementation of these algorithms on electronic and opto-electronic systems. Examples of research areas include filter design; fast transforms; adaptive filters; spectrum estimation and modeling; sensor array processing; image processing; motion estimation from images; and the implementation of signal processing algorithms using appropriate technologies with applications in sonar, radar, speech, geophysics, computer-aided tomography, image restoration, robotic vision, and pattern recognition.
  11. Nanoscale Devices and Systems: This program area addresses the science and engineering of materials and device structures with characteristic sizes of ~100nm and below, at which phenomena such as quantum confinement and single-electron effects in electronics, near-field behavior in optics and electromagnetics, single-domain effects in magnetics, and a host of other effects in mechanical, fluidic, and biological systems emerge and become dominant. Both fundamental materials, processing, and device technologies, as well as the integration of such technologies into complex systems with consideration of system drivers and constraints as guides for the development of new materials and devices, are encompassed within this program. Specific topics of current interest include the following: nanoscale CMOS technologies; nonsilicon nanoelectronic devices and systems; semiconductor nanowires and other solid-state nanostructures; plasmonic phenomena in nanostructures; nanophotonic materials, devices, and systems; high-density magnetic storage media and systems; nanomagnetic and spintronic devices; micro- and nanofluidics; new technologies for energy generation, conversion, and storage; and advanced sensor devices.

    Facilities for research in this area include the following: a state-of-the-art shared facility for micro- and nanofabrication (the Qualcomm Institute); electron microscopy and scanned probe microscopy; metal organic chemical vapor deposition and vapor phase epitaxy reactors for thin-film and nanostructure synthesis; molecular-beam epitaxy; high-speed laser systems; comprehensive dc and rf/microwave electrical device characterization systems; optoelectronic and photonic device characterization; and extensive facilities for simulation and computational analysis, including access to facilities at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
  12. Medical Devices and Systems: The program is established for students interested in applying their knowledge in electrical and computer engineering to medicine. The goal of the program is to educate graduate students to improve, develop, and invent electrical engineering hardware/software tools and techniques for the medical field to benefit patients, caregivers, and society. Medicine is one area that has been immensely impacted by electrical and computer engineering. As examples, electrical and computer engineers have played important roles in developing medical imaging scanners, pacemakers, and cochlear implants. One can hardly think of any advanced medical tool for diagnosis, analysis, or treatment that does not involve multiple disciplinary areas of ECE. As point-of-care, genetic, preventive, personalized, and remote medicine become the global trends for twenty-first century, medicine, electrical, and computer engineers will play an increasingly important role in developing safe, effective, and inexpensive health-care solutions. Students choosing to focus their graduate study in this area will be prepared for an industrial or academic career in medical devices and systems. They may find positions in the biotechnology and medical instrument industry, pharmaceutical industry, health-care industry, or electronics and communications industry since many electronic and communication companies are pursuing businesses in medical electronics, telemedicine, cloud computing for medicine, wireless health care, and bioinformatics. Students with advanced degrees may also find academic and research positions in universities, research institutes, government laboratories, and international institutions.

Research Facilities

Most of the research laboratories of the department are associated with individual faculty members or small informal groups of faculty. Larger instruments and facilities, such as those for electron microscopy and e-beam lithography are operated jointly. In addition the department operates several research centers and participates in various university-wide organized research units.

The department-operated research centers are the Center for Wireless Communications which is a university-industry partnership; the Institute for Neural Computation, and the Center for Information Theory and Application in conjunction with the Qualcomm Institute.

Department research is also associated with the Center for Astronomy and Space Science, the Center for Magnetic Recording Research, the California Space Institute, the Institute for Nonlinear Science, and the Qualcomm Institute (http://www.calit2.net). Departmental researchers also use various national and international laboratories, such as the National Nanofabrication Facility, the National Radio Astronomy Laboratory, and the Center for Networked Systems (CSE).

The department emphasizes computational capability and maintains numerous computer laboratories for instruction and research. One of the NSF national supercomputer centers is located on the campus. This is particularly useful for those whose work requires high data bandwidths.