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Electrical and Computer Engineering

Department History 

At its start, the Department of Electrical Engineering at Rice presented a modern, challenging program to a small, bright group of undergraduate students. In the 1940’s and 50’s there were five or six faculty and a graduating class of 15 to 20 in a B.S. degree program that required five years. There was also a modest M.S. program. In the late 1950’s, the University faculty decided to expand the department and further develop its graduate program. At this time, the faculty was expanded by hiring graduates from top programs.

In the late 1960’s, the B.S. was changed to a four-year program, and a non-thesis M.E.E. degree was introduced. By 1970, the faculty had grown to 18, the B.S. graduating class to 29, and the M.E.E. class to 23. Approximately 10 Ph.D.’s graduated each year from a total research graduate population of about 75. The department had modest national visibility and was beginning to bring in grant support. The curriculum received considerable attention and was probably as modern as any in the country. The computer science group and the bioengineering group in the department gave a new dimension to both the educational and research pictures.

In July 1984 the Computer Science Department was formed, primarily from the computer science faculty in the Mathematical Sciences Department. To emphasize the increasing importance of computers in all areas of Electrical Engineering, the name of the department was changed to Electrical and Computer Engineering.

By 1985, the number of electrical and computer engineering gradates had exceeded 90 and accounted for approximately 1/6 of the total number of Rice bachelors degrees. By this time a number of the department’s previous graduates were becoming influential in academia and industry.

During the next decade, there was a significant increase in research activity and funding. Programs in signal processing and lasers gained national prominence. The department’s industrial affiliates program was started in 1990 to facilitate research collaboration with industry.

Traditionally, a computer engineering curriculum centers around the design and realization of computer hardware, from transistor to integrated circuits to microarchitecture. In the 2010’s, Rice’s computer engineering curriculum underwent a forward-looking expansion of scope from computer hardware to computer systems.  This mirrored the shift in research and industry that was happening, and resulted in a more interdisciplinary and diverse array of courses students could choose to take.


History of Departmental Chairs 

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
2014-   Edward W. Knightly
2004-2014   Behnaam Aazhang 
2000-2004    Don J. Johnson 
1995-2000    J. Robert Jump 
1992-1995    Frank K. Tittel 
1991-1992    C. Sidney Burrus 

Department of Electrical Engineering
1990-1991   C. Sidney Burrus 
1989-1990    Frank K. Tittel 
1985-1989    C. Sidney Burrus 
1979-1985    Thomas A. Rabson 
1974-1979    J. Boyd Pearson 
1964-1974   Henry C. Bourne 
1960-1963    Paul E. Pfeiffer