Department Chair Greg Pottie discusses the renaming of the department to Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Gregory PottieAs the field of electrical engineering is evolving to include new technologies, so is the UCLA department, which is renaming itself Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The change goes far beyond the surface and heralds an energized focus in computer engineering. In collaboration with the Computer Science department, the rebranded Electrical and Computer Engineering department will begin offering an undergraduate Computer Engineering degree, which will expand the pool of faculty and coursework specializing in this area. The degree program will offer two tracks: networked embedded systems and data science.

Unlike past curricula in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the program will be hands on from the start, said Greg Pottie, the department’s chair. Students will begin practical, design coursework starting their first year instead of waiting until they take upper division classes.

“Why do students go into engineering in the first place?” Pottie said. “To play with cool stuff and get paid for it for the rest of their lives.”

This coursework will not only create an experience similar to the reality of industry for students, but strengthen the school’s research program. Undergraduates’ work in design classes often advances faculty and graduate students’ research and prepares for their own involvement in research in on-campus labs.

New faculty and other resources will be needed to staff this program and Pottie said it has been generally recognized within the department that this change, which has been two years in the works, is long overdue. The shift in priorities for the department not only reflects computer engineering’s growth as a field, but students’ interests in it.

“A larger number of jobs involve smart processors embedded in the physical world and how to use and improve them compared to designing what we classically think of as computers,” Pottie said. “More applicants now are interested in this end of computer engineering.”

Through these changes, electrical engineering will still remain a priority for the department.

“It is our goal to make both programs successful,” Pottie said. “One of the reasons we’re one of the top electrical engineering departments in the world is because we’re willing to make changes.”