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Q + A with Stephen Gedney, chair of electrical engineering

In fall 2014, Stephen Gedney joined the College of Engineering and Applied Science as chair and professor of electrical engineering. He is also the first recipient of the Donald G. and Karen M. White Endowed Professorship in Electrical Engineering. Gedney teaches courses in electromagnetics, computational electromagnetics, circuits and microwave circuits, and antennas; his research focuses on computational electromagnetics for application areas including electromagnetic scattering, stealth technology, low-frequency magnetic signature modeling, antenna design, optical scattering, and electromagnetic compatibility. We sat down with Gedney to learn more about him and to get his perspective on his first year at CU Denver. Engineering_019_D3_3983

Q: How did you become interested in engineering?

A: I’ve always loved applied math, physical science and building things. Engineering was a natural career choice for me. I chose electrical engineering because it was the broadest of all the engineering fields, and I’ve never looked back.

Q: What inspired you to work in academia/higher education?

A: While a PhD student, I really enjoyed research. I also was given the opportunity to teach the undergraduate electromagnetics courses for three semesters at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and I really enjoyed it. I decided I wanted a mix of teaching and research with the flexibility of an academic environment.

Q: What made you decide to take the position with CU Denver?

A: I saw the opportunity to lead a department with excellent, bright, young faculty and a new PhD program. I also saw a department positioned to move to the next level and decided to take on the challenge.

Q: How does it feel to be the first recipient of the Whites’ endowed professorship?

A: I am very honored and humbled to have received this professorship. Don and Karen White have done so much for the college and for the electrical engineering department. I am grateful they established the endowment, and I hope to serve this honor well.

Q: What are your thoughts on your first year at CU Denver? What were some of the challenges and successes?

A: The biggest challenge has been adapting to the role of being both department chair and professor. Another challenge is patience. There are a lot of changes that I want to make, but I can only do so much at once.

We have had a lot of successes. This year we totally renovated our undergraduate labs, including establishing a new electronics lab, renovating the senior design lab, automating benchtop equipment and more. I feel we are now providing quality lab space and experience to our students.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as chair of the electrical engineering department?

A: I have six major goals I want to accomplish for the department over the next few years:

Faculty growth: My goal is to provide faculty with the resources and assistance they need to be successful in growing their research, their labs and their courses.

Research funding: In the next three years I would like to grow our research expenditures from our current level of $250,000 per year to more than $1 million per year. With recent grants awarded to our faculty just this summer, we are already on this path.

Recruitment: Our strength is in our students, and better students equal better programs. We’ve begun to actively recruit middle and high school students—bringing them to campus, showing them who we are and what opportunities they can pursue with an electrical engineering degree. I really would like to establish an endowment to support undergraduate scholarships.

Curriculum: My goal is to standardize courses and enhance our students’ learning and experience by “flipping” a number of our core courses, meaning that faculty give the lectures for our core electrical engineering curriculum and part-time instructors facilitate students’ active learning. I want our students to have hands-on experience throughout the curriculum. We are doing this now with our freshman embedded systems class. With current technologies such as the Digilent Electronics Explorer board, students can have their own portable electronics lab. With this, we can have students building, designing, testing and measuring circuits as early as Circuits Analysis I, and then throughout the curriculum. This parallels theory with practical experience that enhances student learning.

Graduate program: I want to continue the current growth of our PhD program—about 20 percent per year—by increasing external funding, instituting recruiting efforts, establishing graduate scholarships, increasing exposure of our faculty and program, and improving the graduate curriculum.

Service to the Denver high-tech industry: This fall, we are piloting two interactive online graduate classes, one at CU South Denver and one at CU Denver. Both will have enrollments of full-time and part-time graduate students. I hope to broaden this and to expand our classes of interest to local engineers.

Q: How do you like living in Colorado? Where are you from originally?

A: Very much! I am originally from upstate New York. I graduated high school in Burlington, Vermont, and then lived in Montreal, Canada, for four years while attending McGill University. I spent the next 30 years in Illinois and Kentucky. Colorado is very different for us, but we are really enjoying the outdoor opportunities here.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: Spending time with my family. I have six children at home who keep me very busy. We love to hike, bicycle and do some skiing. We are also very involved with our church.

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