Director's Newsletter: Fall 2023

It’s Not Your Seniors’ Project Track

Professor David Janes poses for a portrait in the atrium of the MSEE building.
David Janes, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Project Track Master's Program

A number of significant changes/additions have been made for 2023-2024 and we have welcomed a large and diverse cohort of students.

This year’s cohort has a healthy mix of students with a few year’s of industry experience and  students straight out of undergraduate programs.  A number of students have shared insights from their professional experiences and their motivation for joining the Project Track program.  This has included interests in learning how to define an overall scope for a project and see it end-to-end, building expertise in a different technical field and developing broader perspectives on the context and challenges associated with defining and solving an engineering problem. 

Students from our 2022 cohort continue to be involved in the program.   Through their work in I2I-3 (Summer or Fall 2023, see details below), a number of them have developed proposals for follow-on topics and associated tutorial materials.  This provided a unique experience for them to define key next-steps in a development project and a number of these proposals were taken up by teams in the 2023 cohort.   Several students are serving as mentors for new teams, helping the incoming students identify appropriate focuses which build on last year’s successes.  The 3rd-semester students also have the opportunity to continue analysis and implementation of their project ideas.

An extended interaction with Dr. Marcus Weldon, former President of Bell Labs and CTO of Nokia, provided unique opportunities for students.  As part of his activities as Neil Armstrong Distinguished Visiting Professor, Dr. Weldon presented three public lectures covering the history of innovation and future trends in technology. Following each lecture, Project Track students participated on panels and were able to provide unique insights into opportunities and challenges for 21st Century innovation leaders.   I2I-1 teams also presented “pitches” of their project topics and engaged in an interactive dialog with Dr. Weldon on their focuses, the competitive landscape and significance of their work.  

The Ideas to Innovation Project (“I2I”) courses have been modified to streamline the project definition process and to allow students to analyze a topic of their choice prior to joining a team. The starting point for project definition (in I2I-1) is a set of descriptions of faculty-suggested, company-suggested, follow-on and patent/start-up topics.  Students analyze a topic of their choice via a series of “context” and “challenge” assignments, aimed at defining a specific problem statement, analyzing the competitive landscape and technology challenges and identifying what the proposed system needs to do.   Students then choose to join teams based on the suggested topics.  Teams then complete a context, challenge, approach and results (CCAR) analysis to further refine their topic into a specific project focus, including the performance goals (qualitative (functionalities) and quantitative (metrics)).  From ~ Nov. 1 teams through the end of Spring semester, teams focus on various stages of design aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of their main approaches.

New courses related to “Ideation” and intellectual property/patents are under development and will be part of our portfolio in 2024.  The descriptions of these courses will be posted on our web page.

We’ve also added new instructional staff to the program.  Prof. Tillmann Kubis and I have been with the program for a number of years, with strong support from Lynn Hegewald, Prof. Vijay Raghunathan and the ECE Graduate Office staff.  In 2023, we’ve been joined by Prof. Santokh Badesha, who has 40+ years of industrial R&D experience, Prof. Arnold Chen, who has 20+ years of industrial R&D experience along with 5+ years in the Purdue Foundry, and Prof. Babak Ziaie, who is returning to Purdue after several years in an industrial R&D role.   Along with our current teaching assistants (Qiming Cao, Nicholas Morrissey and Manas Pratap), we’ve been able to engage and mentor the students in both their individual work and the team formation phases.

It’s an exciting time to be at Purdue and we celebrate the quality and engagement of our students.

Professor David Janes

Director of ECE Project Track Program

p.s. For those of you not familiar with the use of “Seniors”, in this context it means students who have gone through a program previously (either this program or a student from your undergraduate university).