The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ECE Newsletter: Summer 2018

c.v. hollotDear UMass Amherst ECE alumni and friends:

Happy Summer – I hope this message finds you in a relaxing state of mind and body. I would first like to muse and then provide an update on ECE’s new undergraduate curriculum.

Musing: Since my arrival on campus (1984), I feel that the present leadership at UMass Amherst is the best ever – from Chancellor Subbaswamy, to Provost McCarthy, to our engineering Dean Tim Anderson. They promote an atmosphere to pursue academic excellence and provide the encouragement, incentives, and resources to constantly improve. The upshot is that I urge you to advise your daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and anyone else to attend UMass Amherst – especially if they are interested in engineering, and ECE in particular.

Speaking about ECE, we’ve changed the name of our Computer Systems Engineering (CSE) undergraduate program to Computer Engineering (CompE).This better aligns with the department’s name ECE (electrical and computer engineering); better aligns with the naming of similar programs across the country; and helps to avoid confusion with the “CS” in “CSE.”

This fall of 2018 we welcome sophomores to our brand new CompE/EE undergraduate curriculum. It took us four years to design, and we thank alums in responding to our survey and providing valuable feedback. Here are some features of this new curriculum.

  • ECE, CompE, and EE cores: We started by identifying topics that we felt every ECE, EE, and CompE student needs to understand by graduation. In the process of mapping these topics to courses, we ended up removing, adding, and combining courses. We really did a curricular housecleaning through 40 years’ worth of accumulation in the “attics” and “basements” of our courses.
  • Great first year: Our first semester course (Intro to ECE) provides students with a pithy view of ECE technology and concepts, while our second semester provides balance in offering courses in both ECE software and hardware.
  • Computing across the curriculum: In addition to incorporating the different computing/software needs for CompE and EE students, every homework in the ECE core courses will now include computation (python, java, matlab, excel, etc.) coordinated by a single instructor – the inaugural instructor being our prized Professor Bill Leonard!
  • Advanced mathematics and physics courses: We introduce two new math and physics oriented courses, taught by ECE instructors, preparing our students for signal processing, fields/waves, and semiconductor devices and materials.
  • Pillar courses in 6th semester: In the process, we better distill UMass ECE curricular pillars: CompE (hardware, software & security), and EE (signal processing, electronics, E&M, and semiconductors).
  • Junior design: “Design” distinguishes engineering from the sciences, and a pan-ECE design course in the 7th semester will better prepare students for their senior design projects.
  • Electives start in 6th semester: ECE students will now start their electives one semester earlier. This allows for flexibility in developing depth and breadth; allowing deep dives into an area or, to be more of an ECE generalist – say completing both the CompE and EE cores.

In closing, I provide some statistics (below). CompE is now the larger part of ECE (this last occurred in early 2000’s) and ECE salaries are competitive – another reason to point potential students to UMass Amherst ECE.

CompE increasingly larger fraction of ECE
UG Class CompE/EE 
2016 42%
2017 62%
2018 80%
2019 135%
2020 116%

ECE starting salaries by degree
ECE Degree Median Salary
BS $73K
MS $88K
MS (Thesis) $100K
PhD $120K

Enjoy the articles featured in this newsletter, and, as always, please pay ECE a visit if you are in Western Massachusetts.



C.V. Hollot
Professor and Head
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department



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