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UW ECE launches new undergraduate degree program to reflect cutting-edge research and provide greater flexibility for students

April 28, 2022

By Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News

Photo illustration of undergraduate students working on cutting-edge research projects

Starting autumn quarter 2022, UW ECE will offer a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering (BSECE). This new undergraduate degree program provides students with increased flexibility and is highly adaptable to technological advances in popular research areas such as neural engineering, sustainable energy, quantum computing, data science, photonics and nanotechnology. Photo illustration by Ryan Hoover

Starting autumn quarter 2022, the University of Washington Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) will begin a four-year transition toward offering a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering (BSECE) rather than a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE). This evolution of undergraduate curriculum and degree offerings is aimed at better reflecting recent changes in electrical and computer engineering, as well as ongoing studies and research at UW ECE in cutting-edge areas such as neural engineering, sustainable energy, quantum computing, data science, photonics and nanotechnology. The move will also allow the Department to provide greater flexibility for students and enable it to respond more nimbly to advances in technology.

“I am thrilled at the prospect of providing new academic opportunities and greater flexibility for our undergraduate students studying electrical and computer engineering,” said UW College of Engineering Dean Nancy Allbritton. “This reinvention of curriculum by UW ECE faculty, in partnership with academic and industry advisers, is stellar. They have simply done an amazing job of creating a framework for students that is aligned with the latest advances in engineering, while providing students with maximum flexibility to achieve their goals.”

In 2018, UW ECE changed wording within its name from ‘electrical engineering’ to ‘electrical and computer engineering’ to better illustrate the breadth and depth of the Department and acknowledge the tight integration that exists today between computing and electrical engineering. The Department is also consistently ranked as one of the top 20 schools for electrical engineering in the country. The new BSECE degree program reflects this high caliber of education and closely aligns the undergraduate curriculum with the Department name.

“Electrical engineers have been working with and building computers for years, and because of how the field has evolved, we now expect our graduates to be highly knowledgeable and proficient in computing,” said UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins. “The new BSECE degree program is part of a larger set of changes our Department has made over the last few years to ensure our students are fully prepared to achieve their goals and empower them to have the kind of positive impact on society that you’d expect from those graduating from one of the best electrical and computer engineering departments in the country.”

The transition from the existing BSEE to the new BSECE degree program will occur gradually over time, beginning with direct-to-college and transfer students entering the UW College of Engineering autumn quarter 2022. Beginning autumn quarter 2024, the BSECE will be the only degree available for undergraduate admission. The final BSEE degree is expected to be awarded in 2026.

Making student-centered changes

Both the existing BSEE and the new BSECE offer students access to outstanding faculty and interdisciplinary learning environments with opportunities for in-depth study and internships in a wide array of focus areas such as biosystems, computing and networking, data science, photonics and nanotechnology, power and energy systems, robotics and controls. But a key difference between the two programs is that the BSECE will offer students flexible academic pathways through which to gain their degree, whereas the BSEE offers a more structured approach to undergraduate curriculum.

Students pursuing the new BSECE degree will have the flexibility to seek broad knowledge of the field or to focus on one or more specific areas. The program also enables the Department to better meet student demand for popular courses. Enrollment can be factored into which courses are offered and when they will be available. This will allow students to have the capacity to pursue minors or even consider double degrees that might offer greater versatility in careers after graduation.

“The key words I would use to describe the new BSECE are ‘flexibility, versatility and adaptability,’ said UW ECE Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Education Payman Arabshahi. “The program provides students with greater flexibility in their academic pathways, versatility for their futures after graduation, and it is highly adaptable to changes in the field and developments in new technology. We at UW ECE are fully committed to our students’ success, and this new degree program will provide outstanding support and opportunities for their future.”

Learn more about this new undergraduate degree program on the BSECE webpage.