So, a lot of people can give you a lot of definitions of what electrical engineering is/ what it means to be an electrical engineer. Instead of trying to narrowly define such a broad field, I will share with you some of my own experiences as a student in this field, what the degree means to me, and what I hope to do with it. I know when I was in high school, the concept of engineering itself was so intangible to me. In my mind, I vaguely equated it with mathematics, science, “building stuff”, software, and technology at large. While I wasn’t completely wrong, I’ve realized this is mostly because it is hard to singularly define what any one engineering discipline is. To be very general, I would say that electrical engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with the design, construction, and practical uses of electrical systems. As such, our curriculum focuses a lot on circuitry, both linear and digital. In my coursework thus far, I have learned a lot about linear circuits, primarily in a linear circuits based class and an eletricity/magnetism based physics class. Understanding how these circuits work is fundamental in later learning on how to implement them into larger systems for use in both cool and necessary technologies. I’ve also learned a lot about digital logic, which basically stems from the idea that everything can be represented with binary, a system of 1’s and 0’s.
As electrical engineering majors, our curriculum demands that we take a lot of math and physics in order to be able to do computations in many of our engineering classes. At first this seemed daunting to me, but I’m definitely seeing connections between my engineering/math and physics classes now. Having a solid foundation of math especially makes it so much easier to get through the concepts/solve problems in classes that require it. It is so much easier to focus on the concepts/bigger picture when you don’t have to focus on learning the math for the first time too. Besides the mathematics and physics foundation, a USC electrical engineering degree has some intro/general EE classes all EE’s take, and thereafter there are 4 “specialties” one can choose to focus their studies on. I have personally chosen to focus on computer engineering and linear circuits. Computer engineering is where my interest truly lies. Many electrical engineers have success in industry as hardware engineers, where they are able to use hardware description languages (Verilog and VHDL) to program awesome things that can be run on actual, existing hardware. In my ee201 class right now I am learning Verilog, and in our lab section we program things like number locks and simple voting machine designs that we test/simulate in debugging software like Modelsim, and on an actual FPGA board with LED’s. Last summer, I was lucky enough to intern at Qualcomm (where I will be returning this summer:) , and learn VHDL, the industry standard for hardware programming. I was able to learn about data transfer/networks, and get a great intro to digital logic before I took any coursework on it.
However, my true passion lies with the law. I hope to use my electrical engineering degree to become either an intellectual property or patent attorney, to help tech firms protect any sweet intellectual property they create, or patent their cutting edge creations. I feel like to me, electrical engineering is a path. This degree will open so many doors, and I feel that there are very few it will close. While I don’t see my true calling as being a straight up electrical engineer per se, I am so excited to see where this degree will take me. I see it as a worthwhile study, that continues to further explain to me how the things I use in everyday life function/work, and how I can have a hand in creating those things.
For more info on the intro to digital logic class, ee101, check out one of my earlier blogs, https://viterbivoices.usc.edu/radhika/hardest-class-v-s-favorite-class/.
Feel free to email me or tweet at me with any questions you may have about EE. Also feel free to do the same with Leah or Ryan, to get the perspective of an older, more experienced EE:)