Tapping a Laser’s Pulse

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A little over 50 years ago, CU graduate Theodore Maiman demonstrated the world's first working laser—the ruby laser—at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California.

Since then, lasers have become an integral part of our lives with applications in consumer electronics, communications, sensors, and medicine. Every compact disc player contains a semiconductor laser, and airplanes rely on laser gyroscopes for navigation, to name a few examples.

"The world just celebrated the 50th birthday of the laser, but there are still many more research opportunities in laser technology," says CU Assistant Professor Juliet Gopinath, who is pursuing research on short-pulse and high-power lasers, mid-infrared sources, spectroscopy, and microfluidics.

The research is interdisciplinary, spanning several core areas of optics and photonics, solid-state devices, and nanotechnology, and Gopinath likewise has joint appointments in electrical and computer engineering, and physics.

In one project, she is working with students in her research group to generate a train of short optical pulses by controlling the optical phase and frequency of different lasers—research that is of particular interest for communications, sensing, imaging, and the study of materials.

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Why study at CU-Boulder?

At CU-Boulder, electrical engineering students receive a solid foundation in the fundamentals of the field, and then specialize their major through elective courses related to their particular interests. Areas of specialization include electromagnetics and wave propagation, optoelectronics, digital signal processing and communications, power electronics, solid-state materials and devices, controls, and computer engineering. Curricular options in biomedical engineering and renewable energy and power electronics also are available.

Electrical engineering undergraduates gain hands-on experience through extensive laboratory components within the curriculum as well as undergraduate research projects, Space Grant projects, service outreach projects such as Engineers without Borders, Earn-Learn apprenticeships, internships, and co-op positions in industry. 

Research Opportunities

The department hosts the Colorado Power Electronics Center and the Center for Environmental Technology, as well as the following research groups: biomedical engineering, communications and signal processing, computer engineering, dynamics and controls, electromagnetics, RF and microwaves; nanostructures and devices, optics and photonics, power electronics and renewable energy systems, remote sensing, and VLSI/CAD.

Where do CU graduates work?

CU electrical engineering graduates are employed at a wide range of companies and organizations, including Advanced Micro Devices, Agilent Technologies, Covidien, Lockheed Martin, National Instruments, Qualcomm, Seagate Technology, Xcel Energy, and the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce, to name just a few.

Many also choose to continue onto graduate school. About 20 percent of CU-Boulder engineering bachelor’s graduates (college-wide) continue onto graduate school, gaining admittance to top schools such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, University of California Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Job Outlook

Electrical engineers are expected to have a slower than average growth rate with employment growth projected to be about 2 to 4 percent through 2018. No data is available yet on the new emphasis in energy. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Starting Salary

The average salary nationally for an electrical engineering graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 was $54,030; CU-Boulder graduates reported an average starting offer of $58,600.

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