A large sector of the electrical and computer engineering profession is regularly involved with planning, performing, managing, and evaluating both applied and theoretical research. In academic and government facilities, in the laboratories of individual consultants and corporate giants alike, success in research often dictates the overall success of the institution. Furthermore, although it is not possible to work in each of the many sub-disciplines of science and engineering, research techniques in one area are often transferable to another. Thus, the electrical and computer engineering department believes that involvement in research can begin to prepare you for a successful and rewarding career.
The honors program at Lafayette College is designed to give selected students a special opportunity to pursue a challenging project of their choice at a depth not normally possible in an undergraduate course. While students work in close collaboration with a faculty mentor, they are also guided toward independent investigation and are expected to formulate and carry out many of their own research ideas. In the past, this has proven to be a confidence-building experience for students and richly rewarding for students and faculty alike. Needless to say, a transcript bearing the legend “Honors in Electrical Engineering with Thesis” is of high value on résumés, graduate school applications, and future job interviews.
Participation in the honors program normally begins with an invitation from the electrical and computer engineering department head, generally in April of your junior year.
The ECE department requires an overall and in-major GPA of at least 3.0 for consideration in the program.
Your first step in pursuing an Honors Thesis should be to identify an area of interest, set up a time to speak with the professor in that area, and discuss potential research projects for the upcoming summer and following year. It is also possible to propose a research topic of your own, although it is still necessary for you to find an ECE faculty member who will agree to serve as your research adviser. Keep in mind that the ECE Department requires an overall and in-major GPA of at least 3.0. The next step is for you to inform the department head in writing of your intention to pursue honors, noting the research area and the professor with whom you will work. This by the end of spring semester classes. In addition, you should register for either ECE 495: Thesis for the following fall semester. Before leaving campus for the summer, you should also work with your research adviser to determine what steps you should take during the summer to begin investigating your topic in preparation for formal course requirements in the fall. Typically, some background research and preliminary planning will be required so that you can present a proposal during the coming Fall.
Your thesis work will be advised and judged by a committee composed of the research supervisor, another member of the ECE Department, and one person from outside the department or even outside the College. While the primary responsibility of the committee is to determine the merit of your work, as judged largely by the thesis and final defense, committee members may also be sought for advice as needed. It is wise to keep committee members involved in your thesis throughout the year so that their input can be incorporated as you go; otherwise, you run the risk of being at odds with a committee member who feels you have not adequately addressed a particular topic and not having enough time to meet any requirements they impose.
It is usually the responsibility of the research adviser to choose the other members of your committee, but your input on the matter would be considered. (For example, if you have a good working relationship with another professor or feel that another professor would be especially able to help you with a particular aspect of your work). The thesis committee recommends approval/disapproval of the honors thesis to the major department. Ultimately, it is the ECE department faculty who must approve the award of departmental honors.
Current policy dictates that in fall of senior year, ECE honors students should register for ECE 495: Thesis in the place of one free elective. In addition, they should register for ECE 491: Senior Project, which will be an ECE capstone experience. In the spring, students should sign up for ECE 496: Thesis but not ECE 492: Senior Project.
College policy requires that all students successfully completing honors work will receive the grade of A for both ECE 495 and ECE 496 (or EE 495 and EE 496). However, if for some reason you do not successfully complete honors requirements, your credits will be transferred to a free elective for work done in the fall, with an appropriate grade, and ECE 492 for work done in the spring.
Your thesis committee possesses the ultimate authority regarding the exact format of your thesis. However, in the absence of specific direction, the following guidelines should be used.
A properly written thesis usually includes at least the following components: