University of Delaware

Online M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering Infosession

Video Transcript

JON HYMES: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the University of Delaware. I'm glad to have you on campus with me virtually to discuss our online Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering program.

We have a busy agenda tonight, including a guest speaker. Let's get right into it. In the meantime, we want to hear from you via the chat box, as displayed on the screen. This will be a way to connect with me and our guest and ask questions real time throughout the event.

Let's hear from where you are. Please text in your state abbreviation. Actually could-- looks like immediately I see quite a few students from all over. Of course, several in state in Delaware.

One, two-- few in Pennsylvania. Now I see Maryland and New Jersey-- excellent, OK. Couple out in the Midwest-- Ohio, Indiana.

Couple more coming in-- now I see Florida-- someone always from Florida. I see California-- good diversity so far. That's a good example of how an online class may look as well with engineers from all over the country taking advantage of this online platform.

Here's our agenda. Tonight, we're going to introduce our department chair, learn about the university itself, and then dive into the actual programmatic information regarding the online ECE program. We will, of course, be taking questions real time.

I will address them as they come in. As you think of them, please jot them down in that chat box we just used earlier to go over our state abbreviations. We may end up covering some of those questions. If not, I or a faculty member will address it directly.

My name is Jon. I'm the admissions counselor. I've been in higher education now for over seven years. I work with our students, just like yourself, all the way into class. I completed my Master's online as well after going through a traditional campus undergrad program and can speak to those differences and expectations.

Our guest this evening is Dr. KENNETH BARNER, who is our professor and chair of the department. Dr. Barner has worked in many areas of the industry, from big data to machine learning. Now not only serves as the chair, but also teaches in the program. His current research involves information processing and human-computer interaction. Hi, Dr. Barner, how are you today?

KENNETH BARNER: Very good.

JON HYMES: Thanks so much for joining us.

KENNETH BARNER: I'm happy to be here with you and the students.

JON HYMES: Always appreciated. Can you detail some more of your current research or discuss some of the courses that you teach?

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, so I've been with the department since 1998. My background was originally in robust signal processing and now I do a lot of sparse signal processing, machine learning, classification, detection and tracking-- things along those lines. I'm an IEEE fellow, I've been active in numerous publications, in conference organizations with the IEEE and the courses I teach are related to the signal processing area, including statistical signal processing, which blends statistical methods and machine learning approaches.

JON HYMES: Perfect, good. Excellent, very relevant. Now we'd like to share a little background about our school as many of you don't live in the immediate area and might not be as familiar with the University of Delaware. UD is one of the oldest and most recognized institutions in the nation, being founded in 1743.

The school and programs are fully accredited and the overall size of the school is just over 20,000 total. With top rankings from Forbes and US News, the UD name is nationally recognized and highly sought after. Ken, can you provide any insight into the school as well?

KENNETH BARNER: So the department has-- how about I give you some information-- the department has about 500 students in the department between undergraduates and graduate students. We have a very active graduate program, including MS and PhD programs. We do about $10 million a year in the research funding, so we're very active with the National Science Foundation, with various DOD agencies in terms of funding, and the students work on projects outside of classes, both in terms of undergraduates and graduates related to research of their interest.

JON HYMES: Definitely gives the students a lot of opportunities they may not find elsewhere in the long run. Looking at the department overall-- this is the ECE program that it's housed under-- you can see the relevant focus on topics like signal processing and visual communications. Like Dr. Barner mentioned, the department has state-of-the-art facilities with research budget over $10 million. Dr. Barner, can you describe how these focus areas are relevant for students given the demands on today's systems and products?

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, so the signal processing communications and controls group are basically the branch of the faculty that work on algorithms, information processing, big data, classifications-- things along those lines. It's the mathematical side of the department and much of the online in this program is focused in this particular area. The computer engineering has some overlap with that and includes focuses on cybersecurity, networking, and high-performance computing. And there's some overlap between these two areas in terms of courses in the MS program.

The nanoelectronics and photonics is basically the physics side of the house-- nanofabrication. And then we also have a number of faculty and coursework related to bioinspired problems, so that's the bioengineering aspect. And of course, the cybersecurity is a major focus that's both related to signals and data processing as well as the computer engineering side.

JON HYMES: Sure, securing all that data that's ultimately being processed.

KENNETH BARNER: Exactly, and discovering.

JON HYMES: Yep, definitely, yep. In some of the key partnerships with Aberdeen Proving Ground and with Chase and the Army-- can you speak to how competitive that was?

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, so we are located in northern Delaware, which is geographically very advantageous. We're just a couple hours south of New York, very close to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and just two hours north of DC, so it puts us in a very dense northeast metropolitan area and within that area, there are many key partnerships. So two of the ones that we have-- one is with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, which is about 35 minutes south of here and much of the Army's R&D work is conducted at Aberdeen. And we have collaborative research projects with folks at Aberdeen-- we actually teach classes on-site at Aberdeen also related to our MS programs and cybersecurity. And so we have a very active relationship with them that's been very productive for both institutions.

Also in Delaware, we have a large banking industry-- one of the main banking interests is JPMorgan Chase. And JPMorgan is very active with the University of Delaware and a collaborator. And we have a great internship program with them-- we have joint-collaborative [INAUDIBLE]. They're very interested in really the processing of information and data because they do lots of, as you could imagine, financial transactions. So they deal with a lot of big data sets and there's a lot of overlap with the e-Discipline and improvements and business processes, particularly in the financial industry, so they're another key partner at the University of Delaware with lots of activity.

JON HYMES: Definitely, yeah. With those contracts that we were awarded, we were just given the relevance of the curriculum because of the research, the faculty, that the program brings-- really, we're rewarded with those opportunities. And all that leads to the solid ranking that you can see with US News World Report and that's something I know is very important technical programs.

In analyzing the industry and its demands, really no engineer should be working on design implementation or updates without first knowing and understanding the security aspects. These industry leader quotes we're showing support that. We've spoken to experts at Lockheed, F5 Networks, and American Electrical-- we know that retrofitting systems for security can be extremely costly. It's best to do it from the beginning of the design and implementation phase. There are, however, few electrical engineers out there skilled in cyber security. If you are, you're uniquely positioned in your career. Dr. Barner, can you please elaborate on this importance of how the two areas really go hand in hand?

KENNETH BARNER: So I think really any educational program, any industrial applications now have to consider some aspect of the security. And so, we have really taken a conscious decision to look at signal processing and communications aspects and marry that with the needs for cybersecurity. So the MS program includes courses in both areas so that people are fully aware of the trends and challenges in the cybersecurity area and can be prepared to apply those in this big data, data information processing world that we're in now, both to make sure that they address security concerns as well as using these techniques really to ferret out anomalous behavior and such from the large data sets to be able to detect anomalous potential security risks.

JON HYMES: Absolutely, yeah, ever-evolving. We've really seen over the decades the evolution of the industry and then, of course, in a lot of courses and electives that we offer. Take for example the cryptography or computer networking courses now being involved with the EE degree. How are those relevant to our electrical engineering landscape?

KENNETH BARNER: Well, you need to be able to know how to protect your data, so cryptography is critically important in just about anything that has to do with data. Looking at examples like-- we have a course related to the smart grid-- which, again, is a real world example of how you take a physical system that has lots of sensors-- it's a very changing and dynamic system-- and how you do the processing analysis of that system, but also taking into consideration the security challenges that are paramount.

JON HYMES: Definitely. Looking at things like autonomous automobiles-- the way the industry is changing there. People don't realize that those are the types of signals and different things that can be exploited.

KENNETH BARNER: I have to say it has the kinds of things that are taking in a lot of data-- a lot of different kinds of sensor data and need to be able to process that and, quite frankly, learn from the driving examples and learn how to navigate a vehicle. Those are how those modern systems are working, so really the automobile's an excellent example in almost all of the technical advances in the automobile industry in at least the last 10 years. I've really been on the ECE side, both in terms of electronics and smarts in terms of algorithms for controlling various aspects including the self-driving that you're mentioning.

JON HYMES: Yeah, really excited for the next 5 to 10 years and where it will go-- to see big demand for people with grad degrees in ECE just given that massive shift. And to support this change in the industry, we've design this curriculum specifically. Dr. Barner, can you highlight some key courses that may be of particular interest to students?

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, so I'll go down a list a little bit. But we start off on a list with mathematical methods for signal processing. So really, this is a fundamental course in the mathematical approaches and toolboxes to be used in the processing of data, so this gets everyone up to speed on those techniques and tools for using them.

Signals and systems covers how you record signals and how you process them and how you shape them, mold them, analyze them in a system. And digital signal processing-- we know now that essentially all signals are digital, so that is a fundamental underpinning of the discipline is how you process in a theoretically rigorous but application-driven domain digital signals. Communications deals with, of course, how you communicate from point A to point B, whether that would be in a cellular environment or whether that would over a fixed physical system, right-- the right ways to code, protect your data, and transmit it from a to b.

And the statistical signal processing course is what I was mentioning before. This is really a [INAUDIBLE] looking at signals from a statistical point-of-view-- meaning probabilistic, but not deterministic signals-- and machine learning, so how do we learn from data examples, how do we adapt them-- and those kinds of processes are covered there. Computer networks, of course, are fundamental, again, to how we communicate information over networks, including ad hoc networks. The security course is fundamental in terms of really understanding the security risks and how we can mitigate some of those, so anything that you're going to do with data needs to have an understanding and appreciation for the security of that.

And of course when you're dealing with large sets of data, you want to be able to extract things, so you want to be able to search and mine that data for useful information-- so search and data mining covers those aspects. And applied cryptography, again, goes to the core-- how do we keep our data safe, what are the modern methods for encrypting things, what are the pros and cons of different approaches-- and, again, both from a fundamental and an application perspective. And then the smart grid is really a course that brings a lot of these things together.

It's a real world application dealing with the electric grid that we know is changing in fundamental ways. We have renewables coming online-- wind, solar, so now it's a much more dynamic system than it used to be when it was just coal-fired and nuclear plants. So you have to deal with the control aspects of it, you have to deal with the security aspects of it. So it's really a very interesting real world laboratory in dealing with both the processing and control of the system through the data, as well as the security of it.

JON HYMES: Definitely, perfect-- that was a good break down. That is a full curriculum-- those courses are offered in entirely online, each of them individually taken one time. Looks like we've have quite a few questions come in over the last two slides that's given all the relevant information Dr. Barner provided. Dr. Barner, if you can go over how would labs be handled in the online environment?

KENNETH BARNER: Right, so we do a lot of labs that would be ground in simulations-- a key tool that we use is MATLAB. So for instance, the mathematical methods for signal processing goes over very clearly the kind of methods that you can be employed in MATLAB, both built-in approaches as well as how to, essentially, code and script in MATLAB. And then virtually all of these other courses use that as a basis for doing experiments and simulations on signals, so that's the primary mechanism for dealing with that. Of course, specialty courses-- such as cyber and some of the others-- use other specialized tools and VMs and virtual machines to deal with certain case studies and such-- but that's the basic way that labs are handled.

JON HYMES: Perfect, good, makes sense. Let's take some more questions about some of the user functions. Can you just generalize about how much time a student might expect week-to-week to spend on a class-- [INAUDIBLE] with one of your classes, for example.

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, so the courses are taught in 7-week semesters-- serially, so back-to-back. So we don't ask individuals to take parallel courses at the same time, so that has the advantage of being able to focus on a single relevant topic at one time, rather than juggling a separate class at the same time because we know you already have jobs and lives outside of that. And so we found that that could be a much more effective way.

So of course, a typical course involves [INAUDIBLE] good materials, some videos related to the explanation by some of our expert faculty members on a particular topic, and then some implementations or work that would be followed from that. So these can vary from course to course, but a couple hours a week and these can be done in flexible in terms of timing, so they can be done in the weekends, it can be done in the evenings-- people are in different time zones, so there's flexibility in terms of that. So I don't mean to minimize the amount of [INAUDIBLE]-- certainly several hours a week is going to be required to be able to comprehend the material and such, but it's done in such a way that it's flexible to fit into your schedule in the most convenient way possible.

JON HYMES: Yeah, there'll typically deadlines throughout the week when [INAUDIBLE] project would be—

KENNETH BARNER: There will be modules, right-- there will be modules and this week, this model is due and you have to complete component 1, 2, and 3. And so those will be laid out exactly what you've got to do and you've got to keep on task with those in a given week. And there'll be discussion groups and we have an online community there-- the cohort of students often get to know each other and they collaborate on various aspects. So [INAUDIBLE] keeps it marching along and progressing in the 7-week sequence.

JON HYMES: Exactly and meant to be paired with what's already probably a full-time job. So this has deadlines, but we're never going to say you have to be online right now. Let's take some questions-- are there any office hours where students are able to speak with professors or schedule time to meet with them, even virtually?

KENNETH BARNER: Yes, so faculty are available virtually. They'll do this in a couple different ways-- they will specify specific times when they will be available directly on a real-time communication basis to go back and forth and they will also field questions if you're in a different time zone or in a different area or you happen to do your work late at night or something. Those questions will be queued up and then they will be answered within a day for the faculty member to get back to those.

So we really use both approaches-- there will be virtual office hours when people make themselves available, but if you cannot participate at that time, then those questions can be queued up. And in the community approach, you'll also be able to learn from the questions that others have since many questions are often common to different people in the course. So those will be made-- unless it's a direct communication with a faculty member-- if it's in the open forum, those questions and the answers will be made available to the other students.

JON HYMES: Nice, very good. Yeah, and just thinking about it, I have engineers that I've spoken with who have just varied schedules. Many field engineers constantly on the road, engineers at Three Mile Island who work different shifts-- some work 2:00 to 10:00 working on different control systems. So for someone without an ability to get to a traditional campus, this is meant to provide you with the technical, hands-on program but virtually, so you can still maintain what you're doing no matter the schedule.

Let's discuss some of the learning objectives students will have in seeking this program. We'll cover the core of electrical engineering-- you'll also learn that foundation in the cybersecurity essentials. Dr. Barner, what are some goals you have for your students entering this program?

KENNETH BARNER: So we have several goals here-- objectives laid out on this slide. So clearly when the courses relate to cybersecurity, we want to make sure that everybody has the fundamentals for security. We want to make sure that they learn and understand the fundamentals of communication and these are used in all of these protocols that are used here [INAUDIBLE].

Wireless communications, Wi-Fi, cellular-- all these approaches use fundamental approaches and different variations. You will be able to analyze data and process that data-- so extracting, looking for information that is of a particular user, extracting something out, or being able to detect either an anomaly or something that is critical to your particular application in the data. So we want to build both the fundamental theories and skills, so you'll go spend a fair amount of time going over those fundamental principles, but then also motivate that and have the examples and work in class related to hands-on problems.

So you both understand the theory as well as how to apply those theories to address specific problems. So that's really our goal is to have people have a well-rounded background that includes both a good appreciation and understanding of the core theories and fundamentals, as well as the ability to apply those because we know people are going to apply them in many different settings-- working for a bank and looking at financial transactions, you could be working for a company that's looking at developing new and better communications protocols, you could be working in the medical field trying to do detection of anomalous cells in slides to detect cancer or something. All of these use the fundamentals and the same basic principles of signal processing and the processing of data and information. So that's our goal is to have both strong fundamentals and understand an array of applications-- how to apply those skills.

JON HYMES: Perfect, good, excellent-- and like mentioned, brought to you by real-world faculty that are PhD-level that are on campus. And speaking to other universities, ask about their faculty, ask about their credentials, what research they're doing, where they are, is the whole program made up of adjunct faculty or are they all dedicated to serving the students-- like our faculty is at UD. Let's discuss the end results and many common goals that students expect to have in earning a degree like this. Dr. Barner, can you discuss more on the student end what they can expect to be doing career-wise in the field after obtaining a degree like this?

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, well it depends on what people's current positions are and what their ultimate goals are. But by learning both-- having a really firm understanding beyond what is capable of teaching in a typical undergraduate program, these are the advanced skills of dealing with today's world of the internet of everything, where everything is connected and information is just pouring in from all different areas, and we have to be able to process that and deal with that. And so you're going to be equipped to make a difference and be a leader in this high-value world.

You go back to the example of the self-driving car, right? You need to be able to apply machine learning techniques there, you need to be able to understand sensing of signals and detection of various objects-- this is a perfect example of the kind of skills that will be taught in this program. And so you'll be in a position to be a leader in these wide array of fields that are now demanding these kinds of skills.

JON HYMES: Definitely, yeah-- and will continue. It's tough to even expect-- that's the gift and the curse, too, of the security aspect is trying to stay one step ahead, but really acknowledging that's impossible to do. Really it's tough to know exactly where the industry is going with the next design phase and security application may need to be, but that's why we need to be—

KENNETH BARNER: Right, that's why there's a mix of fundamentals and applications. Because the applications will always change, right, applications evolve and change. Fundamentals-- they do evolve and they do change, but certain principles can be applied to many different kinds of applications and set you up for if there's new advances to help develop those new advances, so having the appropriate mix is very important.

JON HYMES: Perfect, excellent. Listen, I have some questions from maybe some Delaware students-- they're wondering how local students might be able to utilize campus resources.

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, well, students enrolled are matriculated university of Delaware students, so the facilities of the university are available then-- good library, various other kinds of things-- that they're physically in the area. They can obviously have the advantage of being able to come and meet and discuss with faculty directly, so that is one advantage of being proximal. Certainly, we go to great lengths to make sure that people that are fully online have the access that they need as well. But if you happen to be directly in the area, that gives you another avenue for being able to do that.

JON HYMES: Definitely, yeah-- take advantage for students who are. Even for students, in say, the greater mid-Atlantic region-- how do students take advantage of career services, alumni networking-- how are those opportunities also utilized?

KENNETH BARNER: Sure, so we have a career services unit at the university and they organize job fairs, they give people feedback on resumes, they have postings of jobs. And so everybody will have access to those services and those job postings and connections out to various opportunities. And the department has about 3,000 graduates and we have a relatively active alumni group. And so people that are students or graduates of the online program will be part of that community and are welcome to both come to functions on campus or virtual functions that we do to take advantage of that network, so there's a big Blue Hen Network that they can take advantage of.

JON HYMES: Definitely, yep, and please do. Let's take a look at our expectations of students coming in for admission. We look for a minimum 3.0 GPA from a Bachelor's degree in relevant fields. Computer science, engineering, math, or physics-- what we consider STEM fields-- science, technology, engineering, or math. However, students with other degrees and work have gained admission too, so please don't assume you may be unqualified. Anything to add here based on the files you reviewed, Dr. Barner?

KENNETH BARNER: I think that's a good overview and we do have many people that are coming from either different disciplines or their original undergraduate degree was perhaps several years ago and their job has sort of morphed them into a different discipline where they would like to gain additional skills. And so we see that all the time, so I agree with you. You should not assume that your background is not in a pure and, I would say, EE or computer engineering degree-- don't necessarily assume that you're not the right fit for that. We can deal with that on a case-by-case basis. But the traditional degrees that feed into this are really almost any of the engineering disciplines, the STEMs-- the math, physics, as you said.

JON HYMES: Excellent, perfect-- Yeah, I've spoken to students from many different backgrounds-- especially those with different military training can be very diverse without necessarily the exact traditional BS degree to go with it, so that's what admissions counselors are here for-- to cover your backgrounds one-on-one. I've spoken with students 22-years-old to 80-years-old, literally, and everything in between. Online students are more nontraditional-- definitely consider it.

So to apply, this is what will be required of you to enter into the online application. Follow the link at the top or speak with an admissions counselor-- that's available online. Have your unofficial transcripts-- now these can be opened or web versions that you obtained from your previous school directly, then upload it to the application for admissibility sake. We'll look for resume and three letters of professional recommendation, as well as a personal statement, which can be added in a Word or a PDF document.

Now regarding the GRE-- Graduate Record Exam-- it is a requirement. Some may be able to waive it-- many students will have already taken the test or are planning to take it now. For waivers, we're looking for that STEM undergrad degree and then successful completion over a 3.5, ideally, to prove acumen and technical skills to be able to waive that exam. Having already completed some grad school, however, maybe having some industry professional certificate-- that can also waive the requirement.

Fall courses begin on August 30, deadlines are roughly three weeks prior to that. Students are reviewed on a as they come in basis. Follow this link and give us a call if you have questions. Thank you so much for attending. Anything, Dr. Barner, that you'd like to add?

KENNETH BARNER: I really look forward to-- we have a great cohort this past year and so I think online experience is great. We try to make it a community of learners and have as much interaction with faculty and those taking the course as possible, while being flexible on time commitments because we know people have other obligations in their life. So I encourage people to consider the opportunity and we look forward to hopefully receiving an application and seeing in our next cohort.

JON HYMES: Absolutely, yep, please give us a call-- let us know any questions. Thank you so much for your time this evening, have a great day.

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