January 26, 2007

Electrical and computer engineering SIUC will offer new doctoral degree program

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale's electrical and computer engineering department, part of the College of Engineering, will soon offer a doctoral degree.

The program, approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, will begin this summer. The electrical and computer engineering department currently participates in the doctoral program in engineering science, which also offers concentrations in civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering and energy processes, and mining and mineral resources engineering.

Department chair Glafkos D. Galanos believes establishment of the new doctoral program will attract more graduate students and research dollars.

"This is something we have been pursuing for the last 15 years," he said. "It's significant for the development of the department and research development. Most research funding agencies are requiring departments to have a Ph.D. program."

Interim Associate Dean John W. Nicklow, who directs the engineering science doctoral program, anticipates the college will start accepting new students into electrical and computer engineering's doctoral program this summer. Current ECE-concentration doctoral students will start transitioning from engineering sciences into the ECE doctoral program around the same time, he said.

There are about 48 electrical and computer engineering doctoral students, representing about 60 percent of engineering sciences' doctoral program enrollment, and it makes sense for electrical and computer engineering to pursue its own doctoral program, Nicklow said.

Students in the electrical and computer engineering concentration wanted to see a change in the title of the degree, Nicklow said. Having a separate designation can also be important in obtaining research funds, according to Galanos and Nicklow.

"Many funding agencies want to see that we have personnel and resources available to conduct quality research," Nicklow said. "Having a Ph.D. in that specific field is one component that demonstrates that quality."

The department has the second-largest doctoral program in Illinois, behind the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the largest graduate program on SIUC's campus — with about 210 master's degree students and 48 doctoral students, Galanos said.

Galanos emphasizes that while the department will take over its doctoral program, it will also participate in the engineering science doctoral program because of the value of interdisciplinary studies. According to the department's request to the IBHE, doing so "could provide ideal opportunities for candidates of diverse backgrounds interested in interdisciplinary programs, such as programs involving the cooperation of Engineering, Medicine, Agriculture and Science."

Nicklow noted that the remaining doctoral concentrations within engineering sciences are growing, and that the change "will allow us to focus additional efforts toward the other areas."

:"This is extremely good for the college from a research standpoint and from an enrollment standpoint. Literally, there is no downside to this," he said.