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Graduate Program General Information

Why it is compelling to join the EE Graduate Program at Cal Poly?

The Electrical Engineering Department is very proud of its Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program. With 35,000 square feet of laboratory space, we offer a "hands-on" and "Learn by Doing" graduate experience. A large fraction of our graduate classes offer both Lecture and Laboratory Experience, which is very different than most Master's programs where only Lectures are offered.  Additionally, we highly value all of our MS students. They are an integral part of our Electrical Engineering Department culture. All graduate students are assigned an office upon arrival at Cal Poly. Most graduate students are also eligible to be laboratory instructors for our first and second-year undergraduate courses. Graduate students get to know each other very quickly at our every-Friday department EE563 graduate seminars.  Our faculty concentrates its graduate education emphasis on the Master's Degree at Cal Poly. At Cal Poly, you will get the full attention and support of our faculty.

GETTING STARTED DURING THE FIRST QUARTER: One of your first goals as a new graduate student at Cal Poly is to meet the Professors and Project teams around the department and the University. The EE field is broad and it is important that you find a research group that aligns with your interests. Speaking to your graduate student office-mates is always a good starting point. The Friday graduate seminar is a good starting point too, as the first meetings of the year have Research teams giving their presentations to see if these are of interest to you. Our faculty colleagues are eager to meet you. Please visit and email faculty ASAP upon your arrival.

HOW MANY UNITS TO GRADUATE? It takes 45 units of study to complete your MS degree. The break-down of units is as follows and more detailed descriptions are in the MS handbooks below:

-9 units of EE599 Thesis

-3 units of EE563 Seminar (Every Friday afternoon all year long)

-4 units of EE525 or EE513 are required

-12 Units minimum of Electives at the 5XX level. The department is very flexible on the nature of these 5XX electives and they can be taken from multiple departments.  The main goal is to work with the EE graduate coordinator to get a study plan approved for your graduate work.

-17 units of Electives either at the 5XX or 4XX level.  

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GRADUATE? The fastest possible route to graduation would be 3 quarters at 15 units per quarter.  During each quarter you would take 3 units of EE599 (Thesis) and 1 unit of EE563 (graduate seminar), leaving 11 units on average each quarter for coursework (about three classes per quarter). Students have done this in three quarters, but the key to achieving this is having your MS thesis topic chosen prior to the start of the MS year and doing some preliminary background research on the topic. 

The second fastest route would be three quarters during the main academic year plus the following summer quarter. This allows for additional time without distractions during the summer quarter to complete the research work, write up the results and hopefully send a research paper out for publication.

Another common route is to take 4 quarters and a slight slower pace by taking only two lecture courses per quarter allowing more progress to be made on a thesis topic.  Students often choose to do industry internships over the summer to obtain additional background before deciding what employment path they will follow.

Cal Poly also has several industry research partnerships that allow the MS thesis portion of the graduate program to be accomplished while working off campus. In this case, the student works closely with both the industry research partner and the faculty research supervisor in completing the research program.


A. Power Electronics.   The power systems laboratory is located in 20-104 and 20-101. This field of study is very active with a wide range of topics. The range of employers is quite large, ranging from semiconductor companies to automotive engineering of electric vehicles. Professors Taufik and Dolan are key contacts.

B. Electric Power Systems.   The field of Electric Power Systems is in high demand as society transitions away from fossil fuel energy resources. Employers in this field include Electric Power Utilities,  Electrical Construction Engineering Firms, Renewable Energy Solutions Providers and Groups designing smart city and transportation systems. The department has some of the top laboratories in this area with extensive equipment. The Electric Power Systems Microgrid research team has extensive project opportunities. Professors Taufik, Dolan, Poshtan, Shaban, Nafisi, and Ahlgren are key contacts.

C. Integrated Electronics and VLSI design.   The field of Electronics and VLSI design are popular MS Thesis topics at Cal Poly.   Students can design custom analog/digital integrated circuits and have them fabricated through the MOSIS foundry service.  Professors Smilkstein, Prodanov, and Callenes-Sloan are key contacts in this area.  

D. Computer System on a Chip Design.   Industry vendors are now providing fixed microprocessor and configurable Field Programmable Gate Arrays on the same integrated circuit. This flexibility allows for making custom computing hardware optimized for specific computing tasks. The designer has the ability to choose to do a function in software or customized hardware. Professors Danowitz and Callenes Sloan are key contacts in this area.

E. Radio Frequency and Microwave Design.   The field of designing electronic systems at frequencies above 1 GHz is rewarding and challenging. Designs above 1 GHz require extensive CAD modeling and the highest performance electronic devices. Cal Poly EE has some of the best equipped high frequency laboratories in the nation. Vector Network Analyzers, Vector Signal Generators, Vector Signal Analyzers, High Frequency Sources and Spectrum Analyzers are a few examples of test equipment found in our laboratories. We also have two screen rooms and two anechoic chambers. Professors Arakaki, Derickson and Prodanov are key contacts.

F. Computational Intelligence, Image Processing, Neural Networks, and Machine Learning.   We live in a data intensive world. New engineering disciplines are emerging around taking large data sets and making good decisions with the data.    Our EE graduate program has several foundational courses around Control Systems with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and how to optimize decisions around those inputs. Neural Networks are an example control system topology that are used to implement machine learning from complex data sets. Image processing is also a data intensive operation that needs to be done in a computationally efficient manner with machine learning elements. Professors Jane Zhang and Helen Yu are key contacts in this area.

G. Photonics Research Area.   Photonics is a combination of Electronic Systems and Lightwave Systems. Active research areas include design of LIDAR systems, Silicon Photonics, and Optical Links. Professors Derickson, Jin and Agbo are key contacts in this area.

H. Signal Processing.  Signal processing is a broad area of study that can be applied to a wide range of problems. Example projects include digital filters and demodulation of signals. The department has a wide range of software defined radio equipment and also DSP boards that are used as part of signal processing research.  Key contacts Professors Pilkington and Yu.

I. Small Satellite System Design (Cube Sat).   Cal Poly has a very active research group in small form factor satellites. This group hosts the annual cube-sat workshop in April of each year.  Key contacts are found at the link  

J. Biomedical Electronics, Imaging and Microfluidics.   Cal Poly EE has active projects in the areas of microfluidic systems (Professor Hawkins), Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), Imaging (Professor Derickson), and Electronics for Biomedical Applications (Professor Smilkstein)

K. Contacts us for more discussion: This listing of research areas is only a sampling.  Give the contact below an email or phone call to discuss how your interests might match our program offerings.


First level contacts include;

a. Department Chair Dale Dolan,, 805-756-2495

b. Graduate Coordinator Jane Zhang, 805-756-7528

c. Electrical Engineering Front Desk,  805-756-2781

d. Electrical Engineering Faculty members can be contacted individually



The following are resources helpful for current or prospective students interested in Electrical Engineering Graduate Studies:


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