Professor Keeps Electromagnetics Program Moving at High Speed

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ed Wheeler

'Rock Star' Educator: Ed Wheeler, the Lawrence J. Giacoletto Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering, has played a key role in establishing Rose-Hulman's leadership in undergraduate electromagnetics education.

The waves in Rose-Hulman's electromagnetics and high-speed design program may have frequencies measured in gigahertz, but it's the students and professor Ed Wheeler who are really moving fast.

Just drop by the program's campus laboratories and you will find senior and graduate students elbow-deep in unique educational experiences that inspire them to enter challenging high-tech careers in industry or continue their studies in graduate school.

Electromagnetics, though a long-established area within electrical and computer engineering, has many exciting emerging areas of application in wireless communication, high-speed and high-performance computing, and medical diagnostics. Common household appliances utilizing microwave-frequency technologies include mobile phones, computers, televisions and microwave ovens. Rose-Hulman's efforts in developing this area began in 2004 and has expanded in scope and influence ever since.

"Introducing our undergraduates to electromagnetics, high-speed design and microwave engineering is something we do as well as anyone," says Wheeler, the Lawrence J. Giacoletto Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Few students get the type of education we're providing at the undergraduate level, with leading-edge technology backed with technically challenging projects with industry and outside laboratories, and supported with exceptional classroom and laboratory facilities."

Courses in electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic waves and high-speed digital design are core courses in the electrical and computer engineering curriculum, and are followed by advanced elective classes in microwave engineering, antenna engineering, electromagnetics, signal and power integrity, and electromagnetic metamaterials.

Georgia Tech electro-optical research leader Chris Valenta, a 2008 alumnus, observes that electromagnetics is a challenging academic area that many students typically avoid. However, Wheeler provides a caring environment that puts the focus on students through interesting projects, award-winning conference presentations and academic journal publications.

"The faculty is the best part of the program," remarks Valenta. "Professor Wheeler and other faculty members help stimulate their students' academic interests, and help foster their ideas and passion."

Those interests have led 2010 graduate Blake Marshall to become an Apple input device design engineer who has helped develop the Apple Pencil and other innovative devices. As a Rose-Hulman student, he worked on an electromagnetic interference project with the Air Force. "The electromagnetics program provides a variety of interesting projects for students to work on," he says. "Professor Wheeler created my passion for this field and built the foundations of knowledge that I still use every day at Apple."

Wheeler, a past recipient of the Board of Trustees' Outstanding Scholar Award, was ahead of other college educators in teaching about electromagnetics, according to Ryan White, a 2010 graduate who is a radio frequency design engineer with Ball Aerospace. "Professor Wheeler was so engaged in teaching the material. He allowed us to figure things out on our own, but at the same time provided us with great insight into any difficult questions that would arise," he says.

Veer Nairyani, a 2015 graduate who is a senior systems integration engineer at Tesla Motors, simply states: "Professor Wheeler's understanding of the electromagnetics world is unparalleled. I enjoyed having my brain melted in his classes on a daily basis."

"What people are doing [at Rose-Hulman] is highly regarded across the country, with faculty and alumni who are considered rock stars in the industry," says Ben Cook, a 2010 graduate of the program who is director of printed electronics and foundational technology and team leader on printed electronics for Texas Instruments' Kilby Labs. "The quality of the program's alumni speaks volumes about the quality of instruction and research being done on campus."

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