# Areas of Specialization

The EE major offers many areas of specialization, including:

**Communications****Computer Hardware****Computer Software**

**Control Systems****Electromagnetics**-
**Electronic Design** **Grad School Preparation****Optics****Power Systems****Remote Sensing and Space Systems****Semiconductor Devices****Signal and Image Processing**

Below are brief descriptions of some of these areas along with a list of pertinent PSU 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 (PGA's) 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 -- Computer Programming for Engineers Using

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

**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 are the following:**

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 IC's 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 (PGA's) 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 are the following:**

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 are the following:**

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 are the following: (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 are the following:

any course in ELECTRONIC DESIGN.

**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/image processing are the following:**

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