Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Areas of Research

Research activities in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are organized around four main areas:

The computer engineering faculty include Drs. Cain, Hoelzeman, Jones, Levitan, Mickle, and Yang from electrical engineering and Drs. Chiarulli, Childers, Melhem, Mosse, Ramirez, and Znati from computer science. Studies are being conducted in Internet/intranet applications, VLSI computer-aided design tools, embedded computer systems, wireless identification tags, radio-frequency energy harvesting and optical, cluster, and parallel computing architectures, many in collaboration with faculty in the Department of Computer Science.

Laboratories used for these projects include:

Electronic Design Automation Laboratory

Contact: Alex K. Jones

Current fabrication technologies require sophisticated tools for designers to effectively utilize the capabilities available in a single chip. The capability of current design tools currently lags significantly behind manufacturing capabilities and the gap is continuing to increase. The Pitt Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Laboratory designs new tools and techniques to make the design of integrated computing systems efficient and accessible.

To be successful in creating next-generation design flows, entire systems must be designed in concert, taking into consideration the architecture, manufacturing process, and the design tools. However, for the the tools to be accessible, it is necessary to raise the level of abstraction for the design process. Areas of emphasis in the PittEDA lab include:

  • Hardware design from high-level languages
  • Low power synthesis
  • New reconfigurable paradigms and tools

Embedded System Laboratory

The John A. Swanson Embedded Computing and Interfacing Laboratory provides a variety of the latest equipment and development software that allows students to design and test real-time computer-control systems.

The laboratory is used in undergraduate courses that focus on the interaction and interconnection of computers with real-world physical devices and systems.

The facility contains 13 sets of interconnected workstations, oscilloscopes, and other related equipment used for demonstration and experimentation with modern computer networking. Included in the workstations is a complete set of software that allows students to analyze and debug their system designs.

In addition, the laboratory contains a set of nine high-performance workstations coupled to Altera Nios Soft Core Embedded Processors and associated development systems. Each of these includes a general purpose RISC processor core that is configurable to meet embedded system design needs.

Optical Computing Systems Laboratory

Contact: Steve Levitan

The Optical Computing Systems Laboratory supports joint research with the Department of Computer Science in guided wave optical computing, communications, and storage.

Equipment consists of two high-speed sampling oscilloscopes: a Tek 11402 3GHz digitizing scope and a Tek CSA803 50GHz Communications Signal Analyzer, as well as a Tek 1240 Logic Analyzer, assorted bench equipment (supplies, function generators, etc.), and facilities for PCB design and prototyping of opto-electronic sub-systems.

Pittsburgh Integrated Circuits Analysis Laboratory

Contact: Steve Levitan

The Pittsburgh Integrated Circuits Analysis (PICA) Laboratory supports investigation of computer-aided design, simulation, and testing techniques associated with the design and analysis of VLSI an optoelectronic integrated (OEI) circuits.

The lab is equipped with a network of workstations with 20GB of mass storage, a Tektronic color laser printer and a HP plotter, and LogicMaster ST series digital systems analysis station for testing of integrated circuits.

The software consists of CAD VLSI interactive graphic design tools and simulators for custom design of NMOS, CMOS, and GaAs, and analog and digital integrated circuits.

Radio Frequency Systems And Devices Laboratory

Contact: Ervin Sejdic

This laboratory is the home of the PENI Tag. The PENI Tag technology is an enabling technology that makes possible operational devices that are currently as small as three cubic millimeters in size with no batteries or connecting wires. The design of the small Systems on a Chip (SOC) requires the most modern computer workstations and software. Chips are designed and simulated in this laboratory by a team of researchers. They are then submitted for fabrication over the internet to a remote foundry. The completed chips are then tested here.

The PENI Tag technology makes it possible to remotely provide power to operate a wide range of devices and systems that are used for product identification such as bar codes in the supermarket as well as sensing things such as temperature and humidity, and, in addition, providing security functions.

In addition to computers (workstations) and software, the laboratory is equipped with a wide array of radio frequency test equipment.

Devices designed by the team using this laboratory have been the subject of extensive media coverage and have acquired the interest of technology and management persons of numerous major U.S. corporations.

Radio Frequency Shielded Laboratory

Contact: Ervin Sejdic

The Radio Frequency Shielded Laboratory supports the RF experiments and testing within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The walls of this laboratory are covered with copper plaques to prevent any radio frequency energy from entering or leaving the room. 

The RFS laboratory is 13 feet and 10 inches wide by 25 feet and seven inches long, with a height of nine feet two inches. 

View the configuration of the RF measurement equipment in the room as well as a typical setup configuration to perform the active interference tests.

Radio Frequency Prototyping And Measurements Laboratory

Contact: Ervin Sejdic

Radio Frequency (RF) technology is permeating most all aspects of everyday life well beyond cellular telephones and pagers. The components to use RF in various devices are relatively simple to use and they extend the functionality of common household, personal, industrial, scientific, and medical objects and equipment.

The RF Prototyping and Measurements Laboratory provides facilities to test and demonstrate novel and unique applications of this technology. The devices available include commercially available components and custom designed devices build by the Swanson School of Engineering of the University of Pittsburgh. Examples include medical equipment, communications, and industrial human interface systems.

Faculty in the Electronics Group include Drs. Chen , El Nokali , Kim , G. Li , Stanchina , and Yun .
The research interests of the group include gallium arsenide quantum well devices for optical switching, optical switches combining semiconductors and metal composites, oriented thin piezoelectric film for frequency tuning of GaS optical sources, ferro-electric memory devices, and modeling of metal-oxide, field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs), and power electronics.

Major laboratories associated with these efforts include:


The Laser Laboratory supports research in nonlinear optics, materials, and devices. High-power argon lasers are used for nonlinear optics and for light scattering measurements.
A Nd:YAG laser (including second and third harmonic generators) is used for studies of optical processes in semiconductors. A tunable Ti:Sapphire laser is available for investigations of linear and nonlinear optical properties of GaAs-based semiconductors.

Carbon dioxide lasers are used to probe transitions in bandgap engineered semiconductor devices, with applications to the thermal imaging wavelength range. A vast array of precision optics (mirrors, lenses, filters, and cryosat windows) and a large collection of optical hardware (mounts and translators) is also available.


Contact: Hong-Koo Kim
The Opto-Electronics Laboratory is equipped for the fabrication and characterization of electronic and opto-electronic materials and devices. III-V compound semiconductor heterostructures are grown by a metal organic chemical vapor deposition system.

Various functional films are also grown using radio-frequency planar-magnetron sputter systems, such as rare-earthed doped oxides and piezoelectric/ferroelectric films, and III-V refractory semiconductors.
Facilities are available for a broad spectrum of microelectronic processing and fabrication such as photolithography, plasma etching, deposition, oxidation, diffusion, and annealing.
Characterization facilities include a doping profiler, a probe station, a semiconductor parameter analyzer, a Hall-effect measurement system, a deep level transient spectroscopy system, and various optical characterization setups for waveguide materials and devices.


Contact: Kevin P. Chen
The equipment in the Planar Lightwave Circuit (PLC) Laboratory facilitates complete in-house design, growth, fabrication, testing, trimming, and packaging of both passive and active photonic circuits such as array waveguide gratings (AWGs). The lab includes an FHD deposition system, a deep reactive ion etcher, characterization facilities, and packaging facilities and expertise

The supporting equipment for the PLC laboratory includes optical spectrum analyzers, high-precision tunable lasers, optical multi-meters, Er-doped ASE light sources, diode lasers, polarization controller, high power UV light sources, a phase contrast microscope with motorized sample stages, a Metricon prism coupler, wet etching station, and simulation packages for waveguides and free-space optical elements.
Members of PLC laboratory also have excellent access to a wide array of facilities through off-campus collaboration, these include:
• GaAs- and InP-based semiconductor device fabrication facilities
• Photoluminescence and electroluminescence thin film growth
• PECVD low temperature thin film deposition
• Silicon micromachining
• One-dimensional and two-dimensional holographic grating fabrication facilities
• Waveguide bonding station
• Integration of microfluidic channel with silica-on-silicon waveguide arrays
• Low-loss silica waveguide deposition


Contact: Kevin P. Chen

Fiber Bragg gratings and long-period gratings are key enabling technologies for fiber optical communication and sensoring. Fiber Grating and Sensor Laboratory (FGS) is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for writing fiber Bragg grating (FBG) and long-period grating (LPG). In the FGS laboratory, fiber gratings are written by a high-power Lumonics 248-nm KrF excimer laser. The FGS laboratory has a rich set of WDM phase masks covering the entire telecommunication window.

Supporting equipment for the PLC laboratory includes an Ericsson fusion splicer (FSU995), optical spectrum analyzers, high-precision tunable lasers, optical multimeters, Er-doped ASE light sources, diode lasers (635 nm and 1550 nm), polarization controllers, an annealing oven, a CO2 laser for rapid thermal annealing, and a collection of fiber optic accessories (insulators, WDMs, circulators, and couplers, etc).
Through off-campus collaborations, members of the FGS laboratory also have excellent access to specialty fiber drawing facilities, 157-nm vacuum ultraviolet laser micro-machining facilities for sub-micron laser micro-machining, a near-field scanning optical microscope, setup for writing 10-cm Bragg grating for dispersion compensation, and a fiber diffuser fabricated in standard fibers without photosensitization.

Current research projects:
• Fiber Bragg grating sensor arrays
• Hollow fiber gas sensors
• Fiber optical voltage sensors
• Fiber diffusers
• Thermal poling in silica fibers and planar lightwave circuits


We are a group based in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh focusing on Nano-Electronics and Devices. The NEDL group was founded in 2005 under the PI, Professor Minhee Yun. We focus on:

  • The synthesis of nanostructure materials
  • The detection of chemical and biomolecules by using electrical signals such as resistance and current changes
  • The fabrication of nanodevices for environmental and biomedical applications
  • Development of electronics devices based on nanomaterials
  • Development of microfabrication techniques (MEMS, NEMS) for electric devices

The NEDL equips with the cutting edge fabrication and characterization instruments for the nanoelectronic devices. It also hosts delicate control and measurement systems for accurate bio/chem molecule sensing and carbon-based nanomaterial (Graphene and Carbon nanotubes) fabrication.

The Signals and Systems Group includes Drs. Boston, Chaparro , El-Jaroudi , Jacobs , C.C. Li , and Mao .

Drs. Boston, Chaparro, Li, and Loughlin are also involved in collaborative projects with faculty in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  

Research activities include projects in time-frequency analysis, applications of wavelets, speech recognition, communications, and analysis of medical signals. These projects are conducted in the following laboratories:


>Contact: C.C. Li
The Laboratory for Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition supports research in computer vision, pattern recognition, image processing, and video compression.
Special research interests include applications of wavelet transforms and sparse representation, image/video compression, and artificial neural networks.
The laboratory is equipped with PC-based image processing and pattern recognition workstations with associated video cameras.


Contact: Amro El-Jaroudi
The Applied Signal and System Analysis Laboratory supports research in time-frequency and time-scale analysis, spectral estimation of nonstationary processes, machine fault analysis, speech recognition, time-varying system identification and modeling, biomedical signal analysis, neural networks, and nonlinear processing of temporal signals and images.
The equipment consists of SUN workstations, X-terminals, and Imaging Technology's processor, tape and optical drives, and external hard disks, as well as audio and video equipment. Supporting software include Matlab, Entropic Signal Processing Software, and Imaging Technology ITEX packages.

The Electric Power Initiative  

Director: Dr. Gregory Reed

The Electric Power Initiative and related programs of the Center for Energy in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) have been developed over the past several years in collaboration with industry, government, and other constituents to provide innovative education and collaborative research programs in the areas of electric power and energy engineering. Working together with industry partners, along with strong government sponsorship and other constituency support, Pitt is contributing to solutions that address the aging workforce issue in the electric power and energy sector through modernized educational programs, as well as to advances in technology development, basic and applied research, and outreach. The initiative establishes a model program for the resurgence and sustainability of university based electric power engineering programs in the U.S.


Specifically in the area of electric power engineering education, concentrations have been developed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The curriculum consists of a strong set of courses addressing the core principals in electric power, while being augmented with new offerings in emerging technology areas. Through strong industry collaborations that contribute to course development, the program is not only educating the next generation of power engineers, but developing the future leaders of the electric power industry. The undergraduate concentration consists of a series of four elective courses within the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department - two required courses on power system analysis and controls, and two electives that can be selected among six other offerings. The graduate program curriculum is extremely robust, and covers a wide range of electric power engineering subject matter including new courses in smart grids, power electronics, renewable and alternative energy systems, and other relevant areas associated with modernized power grid and energy system development.


In addition to the strong educational programs in electric power, an advanced graduate research program has been established, and includes research and development efforts in emerging areas such as AC and DC micro-grids, advanced power electronics and control technologies (FACTS and HVDC systems), renewable energy systems and integration, smart grid technologies and applications, energy storage, and energy efficiency.

Industry and Government Partnerships

Current industry partners providing various means of support to the initiative include the following regional, national, and international organizations: Eaton Corp., ABB Inc., Siemens Energy Inc., Mitsubishi Electric, FirstEnergy, Pitt-Ohio Express, BPL Global Ltd., ANSYS Inc., and Westinghouse Electric. Many other industry organizations are engaged with the program, as well - including local and regional utilities such as Duquesne Light, FirstEnergy, Dominion Virginia Power, PPL, and AEP - through activities such as recruiting power engineering students and participation in other power and energy initiative related events on campus, including the annual Pitt Electric Power Industry Conference . In addition to strong industry involvement and collaborations in the research programs, support is provided from several different offices of the U.S. Department of Energy (OEDER, EERE, and NETL), ARPA-e (Solar ADEPT), the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Commerce, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, and others. Key foundation constituents include the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Electric Power Systems Laboratory

Through the partnership with Eaton, a new state-of-the-art Electric Power Laboratory   (pdf) has been constructed and was dedicated in January 2014, to further enhance both education and research programs in electric power engineering. The lab has a maximum power capacity of 480-V, 200-A, and 75 kVA. The research aspects provide opportunities for faculty and graduate students to perform advanced work in the areas of AC and DC micro-grid developments, smart grid technologies, power electronics devices and systems, renewable energy systems and integration, controls and communications, automation and relaying, distribution engineering, power quality, electrical safety, energy management, energy storage, and other emerging electric power technology areas. The educational components integrate new course developments in electric power engineering focused on these same emerging areas, utilizing the equipment and technologies of the laboratory. The design of the facility was inspired by Eaton's Power System Experience Center.  


The Pitt Electric Power Initiative has been featured prominently in local and national media, and has become a leader in our nation's efforts towards re-engineering the electric power grid of the future. One highlight related to the program's national impact, includes a significant leadership role in the newly established Energy Ambassador Program of the National Academies of Science and Engineering. Faculty and students are extensively involved in the IEEE Power and Energy Society, Power Electronics Society, and Industrial Applications Society, as well as the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Other outreach includes K-12 STEM activities with regional schools - a recent middle school curriculum on an Introduction to Energy and Electricity course was piloted at a local school with plans to scale the program.

Centers and Initiatives

Many of the current projects have a strong application component, in areas such as biomedical engineering and power. We also have collaborative research activities with faculty in the medical school, computer science, physics, and other engineering departments.

Pitt's RFID research is world renowned, and its research program has been identified as one of the top three in the world-with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Cambridge in England.

Partnering to Meet Industry Needs through Innovative Education and Collaborative Research

Leadership, Goals, and Vision

The Power & Energy Initiative is under the leadership of Dr. Gregory Reed , associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. The initiative aims to educate the next generation of power and energy engineering professionals, contribute to advanced research initiatives in the electric power, nuclear, and mining engineering sectors, and collaborate closely with industry partners, government sponsors, and other key constituents.

The Power & Energy Initiative will become a world-class power and energy center of excellence for education and research activities with international scope and reputation.


Research Interests

Professor Emeritus, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
J.T. (Tom) Cain joined the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1966. His current research interests are in the System-on-a-Chip area with emphasis on embedded systems, real-time systems, and systems containing MEMS.

Associate Professor, PhD, University of California at Berkeley
Luis Chaparro's research interests include statistical signal processing, time-frequency analysis, nonlinear image processing, and multidimensional system theory. He is a senior member of IEEE, associate editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute, past associate editor of the IEEE Transaction on Signal Processing, and member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Statistical Signal and Array Processing.

Associate Professor, PhD, University of Toronto
Kevin P. Chen's research interests include planar lightwave circuits, optical integration and optical interconnection, application of fiber Bragg grating technology, micro-nano-fabrication and coating in confined space, and micro-fabrication technology using ultrafast and UV lasers (157-nm F2 and 248-nm KrF excimer lasers).

Assistant Professor, PhD, Purdue University
Dr. Chen's research interests include nano-electronic devices (silicon and non-silicon), low-power circuit design and computer architecture, emerging memory technologies, nano-scale reconfigurable computing system and sensor system, energy harvesting for alternative renewable energy.

Associate Professor, PhD, Northeastern University
Amro El-Jaroudi's research areas focus on signal processing. Interests include speech processing, time-varying spectral analysis, and signal processing applications.

Associate Professor, PhD, McGill University
Mahmoud El Nokali's current research interests focus on power electronics and semiconductor device modeling, with special emphasis on short-channel MOSFET, high electron mobility transistor (HEMT), and HBT and BiCMOS modeling.


Professor, PhD, Stanford University
Joel Falk's current research efforts are principally concerned with (a) the use of semiconductor quantum-well materials for optical switches and modulators and (b) diode pumped solid-state lasers.

Professor Emeritus, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Ronald G. Hoelzeman teaches courses in systems, circuit analysis and design, digital design, computer organization, optimization, and computer design. His research is in the computer graphics, computer aided design, and several educational innovation areas.

Assistant Professor, PhD, Washington University
Steven P. Jacobs' research areas include model-based estimation, automated systems for joint tracking and recognition, and high-resolution radar.

Associate Professor, PhD, Northwestern University
Alex K. Jones' interests focus on the area of electronic design automation. Specific interests include designing and compiling hardware descriptions from high-level languages, automated System-on-a-Chip design, hardware and software co-design methodologies, and hardware design automation for low-power. Other interests include digital system design for high-performance, FPGA architectures, and parallel computing.

Professor, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University
Hong Koo Kim's research has been centered on developing new photonic and integrated optoelectronic/microelectronic devices based on various functional films such as erbium-doped oxides, self-organized nanostructures, ferroelectric films, and wide bandgap semiconductors.


Associate Professor, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University
George L. Kusic's research is in real time analog and digital control of power systems. He specializes in the application of integrated circuit designs for controlling large electromechanical machinery such as synchronous generators of earth-based utilities, as well as space power systems that share load between batters, solar panels ,and solar dynamic machinery.

John A. Jurenko Professor, PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Steven P. Levitan's research interest include computer-aided design for optoelectronic computing systems consisting of very large-scale integrated circuits (VLSI), optical mechanical electrical micro-systems (OMEM), and optoelectronic integrated circuits (OEIC). His research focus is on the design and implementation of optoelectronic parallel computing systems for computation, communication, and storage.

Professor, PhD, Northwestern
Ching-Chung (C.C.) Li's research interests are in pattern recognition, computer vision, biomedical image processing, and applications of wavelet transforms. His current research projects are focused on wavelet-based video compression, image supersolution, and multiresolution statistical signal modeling and estimation.

Assistant Professor, PhD, Michigan State University
Dr. Li's research interests include micro/nano robotics and systems to manipulate materials at nano scales; scanning probe microscopy; augmented reality interface to facilitate atomic force microscopy based nano-manipulation and nano-assembly; development of technology to study the structure and functionality of biological membrane and membrane proteins of living cells in situ as well as their roles in drug development; fabrication of MEMS/NEMS, nanodevices, biosensors; control theory and applications, real-time system design, implementation, and integration.

Associate Professor, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Zhi-Hong Mao's interests include automatic control, signal processing, and optimization, neural signals and systems, robotics and multi-agent systems.

Assistant Professor, PhD, Virginia Tech.
Electric power distribution systems, renewable energy integration, circuit simulation, electromechanical energy conversion, state estimation, electric power quality, lightning protection, adaptive control and power electronics applications.

Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Marlin H. Mickle's research areas include wireless networks, RF devices, energy harvesting, and single chip RF devices.

Professor, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Director, Electric Power Initiative
Associate Director, Center for Energy
Dr. Reed's research interests include advanced power & energy generation, transmission, and distribution systems and technologies, with specific activities in the following areas: power electronics (FACTS, HVDC and MVDC) and control technologies; microgrids and DC infrastructure development; renewable energy systems and integration; smart grid technologies and applications; energy storage systems; energy efficiency; and power quality.

Professor and Chairman, PhD, University of Southern California
Bill Stanchina's research interests include high-frequency compound semiconductor devices and integrated circuits, and optoelectronic and quantum devices, novel sensors, and fabrication technologies.

Associate Professor, PhD, University of Arizona
Jun Yang's research interests are in computer architecture, especially microarchitectures and memory systems. Her expertise include low power, thermal-aware architecture design; thermal-aware task management; leakage reduction; secure processors and memory systems; security in sensor networks; network processor design; processor modeling and simulation; low power, high performance cache/memory design; and bus encoding for energy efficiency. Prof. Yang is also interested in recent emerging topics such as chip-multiprocessors, three-dimensional processor designs, hardware reliability and dependability. Prof. Yang's research is currently funded by NSF.

Associate Professor, PhD, Arizona State University
Minhee Yun's research is in the development of nano-structured materials such as nanowires and nanoparticles with an emphasis on chemical and biosensor applications. He is investigating the nanoscale low-dimensional materials including electrical phenomena and biocompatibility.


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Senior Design posters are scaled to approximately 42"x32" for printing. A foam board is available in this size at most office supply retailers.
Senior Design posters are due the Tuesday before the Senior Design Expo.


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