April 2014 Newsletter

ECE Banner

Greetings from West Lafayette

2014 has been a year of highs and lows for Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Purdue.  We were of course deeply affected by the loss of one of our undergraduate students, Andrew Boldt, in January.  As we continue to heal from this loss, the education of the next generation of engineers continues to be at the heart of what we do, and we take comfort and pride in the success of our students who continue to impress us with their creativity, work ethic, and ambition.

This newsletter highlights the journeys of a few exceptional students.  From a young alum’s successful startup company, to a group of young women who were inspired by an opportunity to travel to the largest conference of women in computing, our students’ stories speak for themselves.

Vital to undergraduate education, our faculty and staff continue to serve as an example for innovative and thoughtful engineering education with a group dedicated to sharing ideas and successes in instructional methods.  This focus on improving the quality of our programs is reflected in our reputation – ECE at Purdue enjoyed an increase in U.S. News & World Report ranking for both our undergraduate and graduate programs in the past year.

I invite you to explore the work and accomplishments of ECE undergraduate students and instructors featured here.  As always we welcome your feedback and appreciate your continued interest in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue. 


V. Ragu Balakrishnan
Michael and Katherine Birck Head
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Young ECE alum enjoys startup success

Akshay Kothari’s (BSEE ’07) startup success led him to his current role at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.  Akshay has been a product manager at LinkedIn for Pulse, an application he created, since April 2013 when LinkedIn acquired Pulse for $90 million.

Founded in 2010 by Akshay and a grad school classmate from Stanford, Pulse is an award-winning newsreader app for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, and the web.  Pulse has been named to Apple’s App Store Hall of Fame, chosen as an Android Editor’s Choice app, selected as one of TIME’s top 50 iPhone apps of 2011, and honored with the Apple Design Award. At the time it was acquired by LinkedIn, Pulse served about 30 million users in more than 190 countries.  More than 750 of the world’s leading publishers distribute their content through Pulse.

As an undergraduate student in Purdue’s electrical engineering program, Akshay was at the top of his class.  Beyond the classroom, Akshay was involved on campus and was even one of seven Homecoming king candidates in 2006.  After leaving Purdue with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a minor in management, Akshay connected with fellow Purdue EE, Dr. Don Scifres (BSEE ’68).  Akshay worked for Dr. Scifres’ company, SDL Ventures, as an investment analyst in Silicon Valley.  This experience contributed to his decision to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University.

Undergraduate women inspired by annual Grace Hopper Celebration

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), in part, sponsored five female Grace Hopperundergraduate students to attend the world’s largest gathering of women technologists: The Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing Conference, held in October 2013 in Minneapolis. 

The five students from Purdue ECE were chosen via a competitive application process.  Beyond the inspirational messages of the conference, the students gleaned valuable leadership skills and prospective on topics from confidence to finding an internship.

“I really enjoyed Sheryl Sandberg's message about confidence.  Statistics show that women tend to underestimate their knowledge and skills more than men.  Since the conference, I've become much more conscious about how I think about my abilities,” said Caitlin Cowden, an ECE sophomore.

The conference promotes the research and interests of women in computing, bringing them together for a weekend of collaboration, networking, and mentoring.  Women from varying career levels attended to hear keynote speakers, participate in poster sessions, and take advantage of a career fair and networking opportunities.  The theme, "Think big, drive forward" was affirmed by keynote speakers such as Megan Smith (Vice President, Google[x]), Maria Klawe (President, Harvey Mudd College), and Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook).

“I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to meet several other motivated and strong-minded women with their own stories to tell,” said Dipannita Shaw, an ECE sophomore.

Focus on impactful education prompts instructional innovation

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) is making cutting-edge educational methods a priority with its ECE Instructional Innovation Group (EI2G).

The group, founded by Dr. Mark Johnson, ECE’s director of instructional laboratories, was formed in 2004 to promote new engineering education methods within the school.  Its mission is to implement, encourage, promote visibility, and verify the effectiveness of instructional innovations in electrical and computer engineering education.  The ultimate purpose of innovating will be to prepare our students to be competitive as engineering leaders in a global environment.

“ECE has a strong tradition of faculty and staff advancing instructional innovation, student project work, and hands-on lab curricula. However, unlike traditional research areas in ECE, prior to 2004 there was no cohesive group for instructionally focused activities,” said Johnson.

EI2G serves as a formal venue for faculty members to share and coordinate new educational practices. One example is the Directed Problem Solving (DPS) approach, developed and implemented by Professors Cordelia Brown and David Meyer.  This is a kind of "flipped" classroom model where students spend time out of class learning fundamental concepts (often via online presentations), and spend class time applying concepts learned through active problem solving and work with instructors and classmates.  The lectures then become less about direct dissemination of material and more about critical discussion and engaged learning activities. 

Faculty have also shared strategies for effective utilization of a classroom response technology known as “clickers,” which allow students to instantly give feedback and answer multiple choice questions.  Instructors use the technology to gauge students’ understanding and their ability to apply what they’re learning.  Based on in-class responses, they can immediately assess whether a concept was understood or needs more discussion.

Now led by Dr. Brent Jesiek, who has a joint appointment as an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and engineering education, EI2G meets monthly to discuss an instructional topic of interest.  Any faculty member who has an interest in the group’s mission is welcome.

“The group enables networking and community-building among faculty and staff who are passionate about teaching and learning in ECE,” said Jesiek.  “At one end of the spectrum are those wishing to simply introduce new innovations into their classrooms.  At the other end of the spectrum are individuals who are carrying out full-scale engineering education research projects focused on more fundamental questions.”

Help ECE on Purdue Day of Giving!

Purdue day of givingThe first-ever Purdue Day of Giving — set for Wednesday, April 30 — is a 24-hour online fundraising event designed to boost visibility and giving for all of Purdue University. ECE will be one of over 40 campus units involved in promoting Purdue during this event — granting opportunity, launching dreams, and achieving greatness while promoting an affordable and accessible Purdue. Save the date and be one of the first to share in the excitement and support for your alma mater! Follow ECE on Facebook or visit Purdue Day of Giving to participate.

New matching opportunity to support affordability for ECE students

A generous matching program will allow your donation to go even further. An anonymous donor has gifted $5 million to Purdue with the intent to inspire additional giving with a matching funds program.  Of the $5 million, $3.75 million is available to be matched 1:1 resulting in the potential for $7.5 million in new scholarship support for students from the State of Indiana. For the specifics of the matching policy, contact Brian Silotto at BKSilotto@prf.org or Andrea McIntyre at AJMcIntyre@prf.org.

Give to ECE
Purdue University
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

465 Northwestern Avenue
West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
(765) 494­-3540