A Real Turn On

Electrical Engineering Professor Thomas Little is using LEDs to create the next generation of wireless technology.

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Blink and you just might miss the next big technological breakthrough. Little and his team in BU's Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center are developing a technology that uses visible light instead of radio waves to transmit data.

Imagine if network access
were as ubiquitous as light. Wherever there is human-made light, you'll potentially have access.

"Imagine if your computer, iPhone, TV, radio and thermostat could all communicate with you when you walked in a room," says Little, "just by flipping the wall light switch."

The ability to rapidly turn LED lights on and off–so fast that the change is imperceptible to the human eye–is key to the technology.

Flickering light in patterns enables data transmission without any noticeable change in room lighting.

Electrical Engineering

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What Is Electrical Engineering?

Electrical engineering draws on many disciplines all linked by a common thread: the generation, control, and use of electromagnetic energy. Electrical engineers use its various forms—including direct or alternating currents, radio waves, visible light and X-rays—to sense the world around us, shape the flow of energy and data, explore and cure the human body, activate remote robotic systems and more.

What Do Electrical Engineers Do?

Electrical engineers can be found driving innovation in a wide range of industries. Here are just a few examples:

  • Communications: designing hardware and algorithms for energy-sipping 4G cell phones, high-definition TVs, and Bluetooth devices
  • Health Care: developing sensors and instruments for diagnosing diseases (CAT, MRI, PET)
  • Remote Sensing: designing radar and optical systems that probe Earth and space to monitor weather, ecology and global warming
  • Consumer Electronics: developing digital cameras, Blu-ray players, GPS devices and noise-canceling headphones
  • Transportation: designing sensors and control systems for smart highways and high-speed railways
  • Robotics: creating robots that can see, feel, and understand their environment
  • Defense and Homeland Security: developing hardware and advanced algorithms for autonomous vehicles, secure battlefield communications, automated luggage scanners and video surveillance

Graduate Programs & Research Opportunities

As part of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering – home of one of the nation’s premier doctoral programs – graduate students in electrical engineering study and conduct research in electro-physics, and information science and systems. Faculty and graduate student researchers often collaborate with colleagues in other departments to solve interdisciplinary challenges. Some research areas include:

  • Fibers, lasers and non-linear optics
  • Nano- and bio-photonics
  • Solid-state circuits, devices, and materials
  • Space physics
  • Quantum optics and communications
  • Biological and medical signal processing
  • Communication and sensor networks
  • Computational and systems biology
  • Decision theory, control and optimization
  • Image and video processing
  • Information theory and communications
  • Machine learning and statistical signal processing
  • Network security
  • Tomographic imaging and inverse problems

Where Do Our Alumni Work?

  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Motorola
  • Dreamworks
  • Raytheon
  • Teradyne
  • Draper Labs
  • Toyota
  • Citibank
  • Massachusetts General Hospital

Why Study At BU?

Two words: our faculty. As leaders in their respective fields, they are well-grounded in the latest technologies and are often the masterminds behind them. Faculty members provide undergraduate students with one-on-one advising and opportunities to work in their research labs.

In addition, our high-tech instructional labs provide an unparalleled environment for coursework, extracurricular exploration and teamwork. Our challenging curriculum prepares students for both the workforce and graduate school—many of our graduates go on to study engineering, business, law and medicine at top-ranked schools.

Our graduate students have opportunities to work on cross-disciplinary topics, ranging from nanobiology to fiber lasers, smart lighting to advanced signal processing. They collaborate with researchers throughout the BU campus and work with other Boston-area universities and companies. We expect our graduate students to present their work at national and international conferences, publish in leading journals and become active members of our community, and we offer excellent possibilities for funding and support.

What Does BU Offer?

Visit the Electrical & Computer Engineering website for more information.

View a full-color brochure on intelligent systems research at the College of Engineering