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U.Va. Offers New Degree In Computer Engineering

January 20, 2000 -- It’s official: The University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is offering a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

U.Va. engineering students have been able to concentrate in computer engineering since 1997. But their degrees have been granted either in computer science or electrical engineering. Now, with the recent endorsement of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, U.Va. has begun offering an accredited degree program in computer engineering.

The first students are expected to receive their degrees in computer engineering in December 2000.

"This new computer engineering program is an excellent example of how two departments can work together to create a key program that will benefit students and industry," said John Stankovic, chairman of U.Va.’s Department of Computer Science. "The skills attained by students in this program position them to become major contributors to the computer revolution."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer engineering is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country, second only to "database administrators, computer support specialists and other computer scientists." The bureau estimates that between 1996 and 2006, there will be 235,000 new openings for computer engineers.

Joanne Bechta Dugan, a professor of electrical engineering at U.Va. who has been a strong supporter of the new degree program, says computer engineering lies somewhere in the middle between computer science -- which covers theory, algorithms, software, networking, graphics, and computer architecture -- and electrical engineering -- which covers microelectronics, electrical circuits and devices, networks, communications systems, computer architecture, hardware design and systems analysis.

"Computer engineering provides a balanced view of both areas -- electrical engineering and computer science -- that students will need for many of the new jobs being created by our booming Internet economy," Bechta Dugan said.

Previously, to concentrate in computer engineering, students had to complete all the requirements for a degree in electrical engineering or computer science as well as all the requirements for a degree in computer engineering. That left almost no elective courses at all, Bechta Dugan noted.

"By reducing the number of required courses to that of other engineering tracks -- 128 credits of course work -- the new program offers the students new flexibility," Bechta Dugan said. "They can fulfill their degree requirements and still have a few electives available for other intellectual pursuits."

The new degree program will be jointly administered by the electrical engineering and computer science departments. For now, no new courses have been created. However, some courses have been newly cross-referenced, so they will count toward degrees both in electrical engineering and computer science.

In the future, new courses likely will be developed for the computer engineering degree that also will count toward degrees in computer science and electrical engineering.

The program was granted accreditation by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) last summer.

"Computers are a part of our everyday life and will be even more critical to our existence in the future," said James Aylor, chairman of U.Va.’s Department of Electrical Engineering. "This collaboration between the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science provides an exciting opportunity for students to prepare for the fast-moving, rapidly expanding, technically advanced world of computing."

The program’s goal is to reach an enrollment of 150 undergraduate students within five years.

The formal creation of a program in computer engineering comes as enrollment in classes in electrical engineering and computer science continues to climb.

Organizers believe the new computer engineering degree will draw students from existing degree programs in computer science, electrical engineering and systems engineering, as well as bringing in new students to U.Va.’s engineering school.

Founded in 1836, U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science offers a diverse program in engineering education, with special focus areas in information technology, technology in medicine, advanced materials, and microelectronics and semiconductors. The school, ranked among the top 50 in the country by U.S. News & World Report, just reached a $50 million milestone in its capital campaign.

For more information, contact Joanne Bechta Dugan at (804) 982-2078 or jbd@virginia.edu.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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