Areas of Specialization

The electrical engineering major offers many areas of specialization. Below are brief descriptions of some of these areas along with a list of pertinent Penn State courses. Many courses apply to multiple areas. When choosing technical electives, it is probably a good idea to make sure to include courses from at least 2-3 different areas rather than focus on a single area. Except where noted, completing the EE core courses (EE 210, 310, 330, 350, and CMPEN 270) is sufficient prerequisite for each of the courses listed below.

In addition, various minors complement the EE degree quite well.

Communications

Society requires information to be transmitted in a fast, reliable, and secure way. Study in communications involves the analysis and design of information transmission systems. Principles such as different modulation schemes (such as AM and FM), noise suppression, various transmission media and computer networking are discussed in detail. Different examples of some communications systems include radio, television, the telephone system, computer networks, GPS satellite systems, and microwave transmission lines.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 350 – Continuous-time Linear Systems
  • EE 330 – Engineering Electromagnetics
  • A Statistics Course (STAT 418 recommended)

Suggested Electives

Because communications is such a broad-based industry, we can identify several technical specialties that are relevant. It is probably not feasible to take all of the communications-related courses, due to the sheer number of courses available. Rather, students need to decide on which aspect(s) of communications to focus.

First, we include the communication theory courses that focus on systems aspects of communications:

  • EE 360 – Communication Systems I: a junior-level elective which provides a broad introduction to both analog and digital communication systems and modulation schemes
  • EE 362 – Communication Networks: studies data encoding, network architecture, and the routing of data streams, which are important in the computer communication industry
  • EE 460 – Communication Systems II: a follow-up to EE 360 which focuses on the design of communication systems in the presence of noise and the corresponding statistics-based theoretical analysis
  • EE 466 – Software-defined Radio: a an applications course that uses digital signal processing to implement the building blocks of a communications system

Next, we may identify those courses that deal with the transmission of communication signals:

  • EE 421 – Optical Fiber Communications: a follow-up to EE 320 which provides students with a fundamental understanding of the operation of fiber optic systems, including transmitters, receivers, as well as the fibers themselves
  • EE 432 – UHF and Microwave Engineering: discusses the analysis and design of microwave transmission lines, amplifiers and filters, which are key elements in many communications systems
  • EE 438 – Antenna Engineering: analysis and design of many types of antennas, with laboratory work in AM/FM antenna and array design
  • EE 439 – Radio Wave Propagation: a theoretical and practical treatment of how radio waves are affected by the earth, atmosphere, and buildings during the transmission process
  • EE 474 – Satellite Communications: a follow-up to EE 360 which provides an overview of satellite communication systems, including modulation schemes, satellite components, satellite link design and orbital mechanics

Other courses that are tangentially related to communications are the following:

  • EE 424 – Lasers: Principles and Applications: a follow-up to EE 320 covering the operation of lasers as well as applications such as optical signal processing, holography, spectroscopy, remote sensing (LIDAR), and optical communications
  • EE 351 – Discrete-time Systems: a junior-level elective follow-up to EE 350 which provides a mathematical foundation for subsequent study in digital signal processing, digital control systems, and image processing
  • EE 453 – Digital Signal Processing: a follow-up to EE 351 that covers both the theory and application of DSP, including A/D and D/A conversion, digital filter design, and implementation of the Discrete Fourier Transform via the Fast Fourier Transform algorithm

Computer Hardware

With the proliferation of digital electronics, most electrical engineering systems will include computer hardware as an integral part of the system. Computer hardware courses are equally split between the Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering majors. These courses are generally accessible to EE students who have no advanced software courses.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • CMPEN 270 – Digital Design: Theory and Practice
  • EE 200 – Design Tools

Suggested Electives

  • EE 362 – Communication Networks: studies data encoding, network architecture, and the routing of data streams, which are important in the computer communication industry
  • EE 416 – Digital Integrated Circuits: looks at the design of digital integrated circuit building blocks such as logic gates, memory elements, flip-flops, and multiplexers at the discrete component level
  • EE 417 – Field Programmable Devices: a special topics course that teaches the fundamentals of programmable gate arrays (PGAs) and VHDL
  • CMPEN 331 – Computer Organization and Design: a junior-level introduction to computer architecture which discusses how the microprocessor, memory, I/O, etc. interact with each other
  • CMPEN 411 – VLSI Digital Circuits: a follow-up to CMPEN 471 which provides an exposure to the fabrication and layout of Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) circuits
  • CMPEN 431 – Introduction to Computer Architecture: a follow-up to CMPEN 331 which deals more with design issues in computer architecture
  • CMPEN 471 – Logical Design of Digital Systems: a follow-up to CMPEN 270 which discusses the design of sequential circuits and other switching theory topics
  • CMPEN 472 – Microprocessors and Embedded Systems: a follow-up to CMPEN 331 which teaches the basics of microprocessor programming and interfacing and using embedded microprocessors in larger systems

Computer Software

Like computer hardware, computer software is used, to some extent, by almost all electrical engineers. Many EE courses use specialty software packages to assist in the analysis/design of various electrical engineering systems. In addition, however, courses SPECIFICALLY related to computer software are available. For the most part, these courses are taught by the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department, for Computer Science and Computer Engineering majors. EE students, however, are allowed to take these courses on a space available basis. Computer software courses can be divided into 2 areas -- programming courses and applications courses. Electrical Engineering students will generally be able to take the applications courses only with prior study of intermediate or advanced programming courses. Programming experience in itself is not a sufficient prerequisite.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • CMPSC 201 – Programming for Engineers with C++
  • CMPSC 121 – Introduction to Programming Techniques

Suggested Electives – General Programming Courses

NOTE: These courses DO NOT count as EE technical electives. They count only as ENGINEERING electives or RELATED electives.

  • CMPSC 122 – Intermediate Programming: a follow-up to CMPSC 201 which teaches C++
  • CMPSC 221 – Object-oriented Programming: a follow-up to CMPSC 122 that teaches web-based programming using JAVA
  • CMPSC 311 – Introduction to System Programming: a follow-up to CMPSC 221 which focuses on operating system (UNIX) level programming
  • CMPSC 442 – Introduction to Artificial Intelligence: a follow-up to CMPSC 122 which covers the theory, implementation, and application of artificial intelligence
  • CMPSC 450 – Concurrent Scientific Programming: a follow-up to CMPSC 201 which teaches the solution to problems encountered with synchronization and concurrent execution in distributed systems
  • CMPSC 451 – Numerical Computations: covers algorithm development for Fourier Transforms, interpolation, numerical integration, differential equation solutions, etc.
  • CMPSC 455 – Introduction to Numerical Analysis: similar to CMPSC 451 but a bit more mathematical

NOTE: Students can NOT take both CMPSC 451 and CMPSC 455 for credit.

Suggested Electives – Programming Application Courses

NOTE: These courses DO count as EE technical electives.

  • EE 454 – Fundamentals of Computer Vision: discusses topics such as object recognition, feature extraction from an image, and dynamic image analysis
  • EE 455 – Digital Image Processing: overview of image processing techniques and applications such as image enhancement and restoration
  • EE 466 – Software-defined Radio: a an applications course that uses digital signal processing to implement the building blocks of a communications system

Control Systems

Control systems are encountered every day, including in temperature/climate control systems in buildings or navigational systems in vehicles, and they also play an integral role in any manufacturing process, including assembly lines monitored and regulated by electronics. A control systems specialization provides students with the necessary mathematical and computer programming background to analyze and design both analog and digital control systems. Associated lab work helps illustrate thecontrol algorithms learned in the classes. One sub-category of control systems is robotics. At Penn State, robotics is covered more in industrial or mechanical engineering. However, a controls background, in addition to courses in signal and image processing, provides students with many of the fundamentals needed for future work in robotics.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 350 – Continuous-time Linear Systems
  • A statistics course (STAT 418 recommended)

Suggested Electives

Basic control theory is covered in a 2-course sequence (EE 380/482) following junior-level linear systems courses which provide the mathematical background (EE 350/351)

  • EE 351 – Discrete-time Systems: a junior-level elective follow-up to EE 350 which provides a mathematical foundation for subsequent study in digital signal processing, digital control systems, and image processing
  • EE 380 – Linear Control Systems: introductory course, with lab, which provides a theoretical and practical overview of classical analog control methods such as PID control and lag-lead control
  • EE 482 – Digital Control Systems: a follow-up to both EE 351 and EE 380 which focuses on modern digital control techniques and the corresponding A/D conversion

Other Courses that are Tangentially Related to Control Systems

  • EE 387 – Energy Conversion: modeling and analysis of motors and generators, electromechanical energy conversion machines that are integral parts of industrial applications and other control systems
  • EE 413 – Power Electronics: studies high-power semiconductors that interface with mechanical systems or convert electric power between different forms
  • EE 454 – Fundamentals of Computer Vision: discusses topics such as object recognition, feature extraction from an image, and dynamic image analysis
  • ME/IE 456 – Industrial Robot Applications: introduction to robots, with an emphasis on robot selection, programming, and economic justification for manufacturing applications (Note #1: This course has prerequisites that are not normally taken by EE majors. Note #2: This course counts as an ENGINEERING elective , not an EE technical elective.)

Electromagnetics

Electromagnetics apply in many ways within the field of electrical engineering. Students pursuing careers studying wave propagation, designing antennas, or microwave communications will thrive in this area. This area strongly emphasizes Maxwell’s equations, Faraday’s laws, and wave phenomena, which are often understood much more easily when time varying visual simulations replace equations and static diagrams.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 330 – Engineering Electromagnetics

Suggested Electives

  • EE 430 – Principles of Electromagnetic Fields: a follow-up to EE 330 which discussed E/M in theoretical detail, along with applications such as transmission lines, wave guides, and signal propagation
  • EE 432 – UHF and Microwave Engineering: discusses the analysis and design of microwave transmission lines, amplifiers and filters, which are key elements in many communications systems
  • EE 438 – Antenna Engineering: analysis and design of many types of antennas, with laboratory work in AM/FM antenna and array design
  • EE 439 – Radio Wave Propagation: a theoretical and practical treatment of how radio waves are affected by the earth, atmosphere, and buildings during the transmission process
  • EE 471 – Introduction to Plasmas: gives students a basic introduction to electromagnetic properties of plasmas, primarily in astrophysical and geophysical contexts
  • EE 477 – Fundamentals of Remote Sensing: studies various techniques for atmospheric measuring using both radio frequency approaches (RADAR, radiometry) and optical approaches (LIDAR – laser radar, spectroscopy)

Electronic Design

We define “electronic design,” as the assembly of basic electronic components to accomplish some fundamental task that is replicated many times over in a practical system, although almost every electrical engineering sub-discipline uses electronics to some extent. The field of electronic design ranges from the basic design of ICs using discrete semiconductor devices to the fabrication of complex circuits on a single IC chip using VLSI techniques.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 200 – Design Tools
  • EE 210 – Circuits and Devices
  • EE 310 – Electronic Circuit Design I
  • EE 340 – Nanoelectronics
  • CMPEN 270 – Digital Design: Theory and Practice

Suggested Electives

  • EE 311 – Electronic Circuit Design II: a follow-up to EE 310 which focuses on multi-stage amplifier design, feedback, and frequency response characteristics of electronic circuits
  • EE 410 – Analog Integrated Circuits: looks at the design of analog integrated circuit building blocks such as operational amplifiers, voltage regulators, current sources, and amplifiers
  • EE 413 – Power Electronics: studies high-power semiconductors that interface with mechanical systems or convert electric power between different forms
  • EE 416 – Digital Integrated Circuits: looks at the design of digital integrated circuit building blocks such as logic gates, memory elements, flip-flops, and multiplexers at the discrete component level
  • EE 417 – Field Programmable Devices: a special topics course that teaches the fundamentals of programmable gate arrays (PGAs) and VHDL
  • CMPEN 411 – VLSI Digital Circuits: a follow-up to CMPEN 471 which provides an exposure to the fabrication and layout of Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) circuits
  • CMPEN 471 – Logical Design of Digital Systems: a follow-up to CMPEN 270 which discusses the design of sequential circuits and other switching theory topics

Other Courses that are Tangentially Related to Electronic Design

  • EE 441 – Solid State Device Technology: a practical study of the fabrication of MOS integrated circuits, with a strong laboratory component in which students become familiar with clean room equipment
  • EE 442 – Solid State Devices: a follow-up to E SCI 314 which focuses on the physics of semiconductors and the modeling/design of various semiconductors using BJT, JFET, CMOS, NMOS, and BiCMOS technologies
  • EE 432 – UHF and Microwave Engineering: discusses the analysis and design of microwave transmission lines, amplifiers and filters, which are key elements in many communications systems

Grad School Preparation

Unless you know exactly what you are going to do in graduate study, the recommended strategy for an undergraduate intending to study beyond the baccalaureate level is to take a series of foundation courses covering several different areas of technology. Specialization can then come at the graduate level. Two reasons for doing this are (1) most graduate programs have some sort of breadth requirement which requires technical courses in multiple sub-disciplines of electrical engineering and (2) exposing yourself to many facets of electrical engineering as an undergraduate may help you decide WHAT to specialize in during your graduate program.

Suggested Electives

  • Any of the 300-level EE Electives (EE 311, 320, 351, 360, 362, 380, 387)
  • EE 420 – Electro-optics: Introduction to Holography: a follow-up to EE 320 that covers the topics more in-depth, with an emphasis on holography
  • EE 430 – Principles of Electromagnetic Fields: a follow-up to EE 330 which discussed E/M in theoretical detail, along with applications such as transmission lines, wave guides, and signal propagation
  • EE 442 – Solid State Devices: a follow-up to E SCI 314 which focuses on the physics of semiconductors and the modeling/design of various semiconductors using BJT, JFET, CMOS, NMOS, and BiCMOS technologies
  • EE 453 – Digital Signal Processing: a follow-up to EE 351 that covers both the theory and application of DSP, including A/D and D/A conversion, digital filter design, and implementation of the Discrete Fourier Transform via the Fast Fourier Transform algorithm
  • EE 460 – Communication Systems II: a follow-up to EE 360 which focuses on the design of communication systems in the presence of noise and the corresponding statistics-based theoretical analysis
  • Other courses that are listed in the Graduate Bulletin as prerequisites for 500-level courses

Optics

Optical systems have become increasingly popular for manipulating information (optical signal processing), transmitting information (fiber optics), and remote measurement of electrical properties (LIDAR). Furthermore, electro-optical devices, such as liquid crystal displays (LCDs) have become a mainstay in high-tech electronic gadgets and laptop computers. The broad field of optics provides students with knowledge about the many building blocks within an optical system.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 330 – Engineering Electromagnetics
  • EE 340 – Nanoelectronics

Suggested Electives

  • EE 320 – Introduction to Electro-optical Engineering: an introductory course in optics/electro-optics which covers lenses, mirrors, polarization, lasers, diffraction, wave motion, and geometric optics
  • EE 420 – Electro-optics: Introduction to Holography: a follow-up to EE 320 that covers the topics more in-depth, with an emphasis on holography
  • EE 421 – Optical Fiber Communications: a follow-up to EE 320 which provides students with a fundamental understanding of the operation of fiber optic systems, including transmitters, receivers, as well as the fibers themselves
  • EE 422 – Optical Engineering Laboratory: a laboratory-oriented follow-up to EE 320 providing students with hands-on exposure to lenses, lasers, diffraction, holograms, and other optical devices
  • EE 424 – Lasers: Principles and Applications: a follow-up to EE 320 covering the operation of lasers as well as applications such as optical signal processing, holography, spectroscopy, remote sensing (LIDAR), and optical communications

Other Courses that are Tangentially Related to Optics

  • EE 477 – Fundamentals of Remote Sensing:studies various techniques for atmospheric measuring using both radio frequency approaches (RADAR, radiometry) and optical approaches (LIDAR -- laser radar, spectroscopy)

Power Systems

Once the bread and butter of electrical engineering, the power systems field deals with the generation of electrical power on both the large scale and small scale. Large scale power system study involves the understanding of how power is generated at the power plant and then transmitted to homes, businesses, and factories. On the smaller scale, power systems studies motors and generators, which convert energy from electrical to mechanical form and vice versa, and the associated power electronics.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 210 – Circuits and Devices
  • EE 310 – Electronic Circuit Design I
  • EE 350 – Continuous-time Linear Systems

Suggested Electives

  • EE 387 – Energy Conversion: modeling and analysis of motors and generators, electromechanical energy conversion machines that are integral parts of industrial applications and other control systems
  • EE 413 – Power Electronics: studies high-power semiconductors that interface with mechanical systems or convert electric power between different forms
  • EE 487 – Electric Machinery and Drives: builds on EE 387 by discussing machinery that is used for industrial automation
  • EE 488 – Power System Analysis I: an overview of the entire power system process: transformers, transmission lines, power system control, power flow, stability
  • Any course in CONTROL SYSTEMS

Other Courses that are Tangentially Related to Power Systems

NOTE: These courses DO NOT count as EE technical electives. They count only as ENGINEERING electives or RELATED electives.

  • AE 311 – Fundamentals of Electrical and Illumination Systems for Buildings: a fundamental coverage of electrical and illumination systems in modern buildings
  • AE 456 – Solar Energy Building System design: teaches analysis and design of solar radiation collection systems
  • NUC E 401 – Introduction to Nuclear Engineering: provides an overview of Nuclear Engineering (including reactor physics and fission) for non-Nuc E majors

Remote Sensing and Space Systems

For many years, the largest research group in the EE Department at Penn State, the Communications and Space Sciences Laboratory (CSSL), has studied the ionosphere and related effects such as weather and thunderstorms. Problems of interest include the design of instrumentation as well as the study of natural phenomena. The research interests have influenced undergraduate courses in many ways, especially in COMMUNICATIONS, ELECTROMAGNETICS, and OPTICS. In addition, courses specifically in the area of space sciences have also been developed.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 330 – Engineering Electromagnetics

Suggested Electives

  • EE 471 – Introduction to Plasmas: gives students a basic introduction to electromagnetic properties of plasmas, primarily in astrophysical and geophysical contexts
  • EE 472 – Introduction to Space Sciences: introduces students to the fundamentals of space sciences by providing a background in the physical/chemical properties of the atmosphere and ionosphere and discussing other topics such as solar wind and sun-trapped particle belts
  • EE 474 – Satellite Communications: a follow-up to EE 360 which provides an overview of satellite communication systems, including modulation schemes, satellite components, satellite link design and orbital mechanics
  • EE 477 – Fundamentals of Remote Sensing: studies various techniques for atmospheric measuring using both radio frequency approaches (RADAR, radiometry) and optical approaches (LIDAR – laser radar, spectroscopy)

Semiconductor Devices

Because semiconductors are the active components inside nearly all modern electronic devices, all advances in electronics ultimately come down to making better semiconductor devices and understanding how they work. Silicon is the basic ingredient in most devices and the primary material studied at the undergraduate level, though the principles are easily extended to other materials.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 210 – Circuits and Devices
  • EE 310 – Electronic Circuit Design I
  • EE 340 – Nanoelectronics

Suggested Electives

  • EE 441 – Solid State Device Technology: a practical study of the fabrication of MOS integrated circuits, with a strong laboratory component in which students become familiar with clean room equipment
  • EE 442 – Solid State Devices:a follow-up to EE 340 which focuses on the physics of semiconductors and the modeling/design of various semiconductors using BJT, JFET, CMOS, NMOS, and BiCMOS technologies
  • CMPEN 411 – VLSI Digital Circuits: a follow-up to CMPEN 471 which provides an exposure to the fabrication and layout of Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) circuits

Other Courses that are Tangentially Related to Semiconductor Devices

Signal and Image Processing

Signals—both 1-D signals such as speech and audio signals, and 2-D signals such as images and video signals—represent information. Processing these signals means extracting certain parameters from that information, filtering it to remove undesired components, coding it for efficient transmission, or many other operations. Because digital technology supports extensive manipulation and interpretation of signal/image data, signal processing is increasingly becoming digital. Therefore, a basic understanding of the effects of analog to digital conversion is key in understanding the design of modern signal processing algorithms. The signal and image processing field is a programming-intensive one in which various algorithms to perform these tasks are implemented.

Pertinent Required Courses

  • EE 350 – Continuous-time Linear Systems
  • CMPSC 201 – Programming for Engineers with C++
  • A statistics course (STAT 418 recommended)

Suggested Electives

  • EE 351 – Discrete-time Systems: a junior-level elective follow-up to EE 350 which provides a mathematical foundation for subsequent study in digital signal processing, digital control systems, and image processing
  • EE 453 – Digital Signal Processing: a follow-up to EE 351 that covers both the theory and application of DSP, including A/D and D/A conversion, digital filter design, and implementation of the Discrete Fourier Transform via the Fast Fourier Transform algorithm
  • EE 454 – Fundamentals of Computer Vision: discusses topics such as object recognition, feature extraction from an image, and dynamic image analysis
  • EE 455 – Digital Image Processing: overview of image processing techniques and applications such as image enhancement, deblurring, and restoration

Other Courses that are Tangentially Related to Signal and Image Processing

  • EE 360 – Communication Systems I: a junior-level elective which provides a broad introduction to both analog and digital communication systems and modulation schemes
  • EE 460 – Communication Systems II: a follow-up to EE 360 which focuses on the design of communication systems in the presence of noise and the corresponding statistics-based theoretical analysis
  • EE 466 – Software-defined Radio: a an applications course that uses digital signal processing to implement the building blocks of a communications system
  • CMPSC 442 – Introduction to Artificial Intelligence: a programming-intensive course which provides the foundations for developing computer algorithms capable of decision making
 

About

The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was created in the spring of 2015 to allow greater access to courses offered by both departments for undergraduate and graduate students in exciting collaborative research in fields.

We offer B.S. degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering and data science and graduate degrees (master's degrees and Ph.D.'s) in electrical engineering and computer science and engineering. EECS focuses on the convergence of technologies and disciplines to meet today’s industrial demands.

School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

The Pennsylvania State University

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Department of Computer Science and Engineering

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Department of Electrical Engineering

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