Areas of Concentration

ECE majors must select a minimum of four upper-level courses in at least two areas of departmental areas of concentration, with no less than two courses in one of the elected areas. For students expecting to enter the engineering profession after graduation, a two-course or three-course sequence prepares the student for professional work in that area of concentration. For all students, including those expecting to enter fields such as medicine, law, or business management, these upper-level courses reinforce the broad relevance of the powerful problem-solving methodologies of engineering and illuminate enabling technologies for breathtaking applications of technology.

Some concentration areas have a foundation course identified in bold (e.g., ECE 340L(122) in Photonics). If two or more courses are taken in such a Concentration Area, the Foundation Course for that area must be taken. The Solid State Devices and Integrated Circuits area has two foundation courses, either one of which will satisfy this requirement.

There are five areas of concentration with more detail and associated courses below.

  • Computer Engineering and Digital Systems
  • Signal Processing, Communications, and Control Systems
  • Solid-State Devices and Integrated Circuits
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Photonics

Note: Current course numbers are shown followed by former course numbers in parentheses (...). Prerequisite courses are indicated by square brackets [...].

Computer Engineering and Digital Systems

The discipline concerned with the operation and design of computers and computer-based systems. Although analog computers, in which electrical signals directly represent physical quantities, were historically important in the development of modern computers (and continue to be used in some systems), digital computers are today predominant and are the primary focus of the computer engineering effort in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Pratt School. The Computer Engineering curriculum begins with a course in logic design that studies the binary language of digital systems, and the means for manipulating and storing ones and zeroes to accomplish useful functions. Students can then study computer architecture (how modern computers work, and how to design them), computer networking, VLSI chip design, and other advanced topics. Computer engineering interfaces strongly with many other areas of electrical engineering (electronics, electromagnetics, signal processing, and control theory) as well as with computer science.

The Digital Systems curriculum is a set of advanced courses in the Computer engineering curriculum; it assumes that students have mastered the material in the two prerequisite courses ECE 250D(52L) and ECE 350(152).

Computer Engineering and Digital Systems Courses

  • FOUNDATION COURSE - ECE 350L Digital Systems (Sp) [ECE 250D & COMPSCI 201(100)] - Note: for those who took ECE 52L Digital Systems, the Foundation Course is ECE 152 Intro to Computer Architecture (taught as ECE 496.04 in Sp13)
  • ECE 353(253,153) Intro to Operating Systems (C/L COMPSCI 310(110))(F, Sp) [COMPSCI 250(104) or ECE 250D or (ECE 152)]
  • ECE 356(156) Computer Network Architecture (F) [ECE 250D(52L)]
  • ECE 459(154) Introduction to Embedded Systems (F) [ECE 350L(152) and ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 534(264) CAD for Mixed-Signal Circuits (F) [ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 536(266) Synthesis & Verification of VLSI Systems (F) [ECE 350L(52L)]
  • ECE 538(269) VLSI System Testing (Sp) [ECE 350L(52L)]
  • ECE 539(261) Full Custom VLSI Design (F) [ECE 350L(52L) and ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 552(252) Advanced Computer Architecture I (F) [COMPSCI 250(104) or ECE 250D(152)]
  • ECE 553 Compiler Construction (Sp) [ECE 250D(152) or COMPSCI 250(104) or (ECE 550 and ECE 551)]
  • ECE 554(254) Fault-Tolerant and Testable Computer Systems (F) [ECE 250D(152) or COMPSCI 250(104)]
  • ECE 555(255) Probability for Electrical and Computer Engineers (F) [MATH 216(107)]
  • ECE 556(256) Wireless Networking and Mobile Computing (Sp) [ECE 356(156) or COMPSCI 310(114) or Instructor Permission]
  • ECE 557(257) Performance and Reliability of Computer Networks (Sp) [ECE 356(156) and ECE 555(255)]
  • ECE 558(250) Computer Networks and Distributed Systems (C/L COMPSCI 514(214))(F)
  • ECE 559(251) Advanced Digital System Design (Sp) [ECE 331L(163L) and 350L(52L)]
  • ECE 561 Datacenter Architecture (F) [ECE 250D or COMPSCI 250 or ECE 550D] 
  • ECE 562 Energy-Efficient Computer Systems (F) [ECE 250D or COMPSCI 250 or ECE 550D]
  • ECE 565 Performance Optimization and Parallelism (F) [ECE 250D and COMPSCI 310 and ECE 552]
  • ECE 590(299.03) Nanocomputing (Sp07, Sp12, F15) [ECE 250D(152) or COMPSCI 250(104)]
  • ECE 590 Cyberphysical System Design (F15, Sp18) [ECE 350L and ECE 353/COMPSCI 310]
  • ECE 590.01 Cyberphysical System Formal Methods (Sp17) ECE 350L and ECE 353/COMPSCI 310]
  • ECE 590 Datacenter Architecture (Sp16) [ECE 250D or COMPSCI 250 or ECE 550D] - now taught as ECE 561
  • ECE 590 Performance Optimization and Parallelism  (F16, F17) [ECE 250D or COMPSCI 250 or ECE 550D] - now taught as ECE 565
  • ECE 590.03 Enterprise Storage Architecture (F17) [COMPSCI 310/ECE 353]
  • ECE 590.04 Emerging Memory and Computer Architecture (F17) [ECE 250D]
  • ECE 611 Nanoscale and Molecular Scale Computing [ECE 350L and ECE 511(310)]
  • ECE 652(259) Advanced Computer Architecture II (Sp) [COMPSCI 550(220) or ECE 552(252)]


Signal Processing, Communications, and Control Systems

The disciplines concerned with representing, storing, interpreting, and transmitting information in systems of finite capacity in the presence of interference and noise; with extracting information from speech, image, video, radar, sonar, and medical data signals; and with using information, including feedback information comparing actual and desired system states, for controlling, shaping and stabilizing system performance in the presence of noise, delay, and inertia. Applications include telecommunications, intra- and inter-system communications, remote sensing, imaging, robotics, feed-back stabilized electronics, and the remote control of electro-mechanical systems, both large and small

Signal Processing, Communications & Control Systems Courses

  • ECE 381(180) Fundamentals of Digital Signal Processing (F) [ECE 280L(54L) and one of STA 130(113), MATH 230(135), ECE 380, or ECE 555(255)]
  • ECE 382(141) Linear Control Systems (Sp) [ECE 280L(54L)]
  • ECE 383(142) Introduction to Robotics and Automation (F) [ECE 280L(54L) or ME 224L]
  • ECE 483(184) Introduction to Digital Communication Systems (Sp) [ECE 280L(54L) and one of STA 130(113), MATH 230(135), ECE 380, or ECE 555(255)]
  • ECE 485 Digital Audio and Acoustic Signal Processing (Sp) [ECE 280L(54L)]
  • ECE 486(186) Wireless Communications Systems (F) [ECE 280L(54L) and one of STA 130(113), MATH 230(135), ECE 380, or ECE 555(255)]
  • ECE 488(189) Digital Image and Multidimensional Signal Processing (Sp) [ECE 280L(54L) and one of STA 130(113), MATH 230(135), ECE 380, or ECE 555(255) or permission of instructor]
  • ECE 588 Image and Video Processing (Sp) [ECE 280L(54L) and Math 216 or equivalent background]
  • ECE 590.06 (Sp14), ECE 590.03 (Sp15), ECE 590.01 (Sp16), ECE 590.03 (Sp17) Image and Video Processing (given permanent number ECE 588 after Sp17)


Solid-State Devices and Integrated Circuits

This area is concerned with the properties and manufacture of building-block devices (diodes, transistors, lasers) used in integrated circuits (IC's) to build electronic and photonic systems, and with their integration into circuits. Example applications include: digital computer components (CPUs, RAM, CDROM), telecommunications equipment components (parts essential for cell phones, digital switches, modems), and displays, which underlie a large array of consumer products (televisions, CD players, VCRs etc). It also encompasses the burgeoning field of microelectromechanical, micromechanical and microfluidic devices made possible by the fabrication techniques underlying integrated circuit manufacture.

Solid-State Devices and Integrated Circuits Courses

  • FOUNDATION COURSE - ECE 330L(162) Microelectronic Devices (F) [ECE 230L(51L)] or ECE 331L(163) Integrated Circuits (Sp) [ECE 230L(51L)] Note: Either may be taken as the Foundation Course; if both courses are taken, they both count as Concentration Courses.
  • ECE 511(310) Foundations of Nanoscale Science and Technology (Sp) [Physics 152L and Chem 101DL]
  • ECE 512 Emerging Nanoelectronic Devices (Sp) [ECE 230L]
  • ECE 526(216) Devices for Integrated Circuits (F) [ECE 330L(162)]
  • ECE 527(217) Analog Integrated Circuits (Sp) [ECE 526(216)]
  • ECE 528(218) Integrated Circuit Engineering (Sp) [ECE 330L(162) or ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 529(219) Digital Integrated Circuits (Sp) [ECE 330L(162) and ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 532(262) Analog Integrated Circuit Design (Sp) [ECE 330L(162) or ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 534(264) CAD for Mixed-Signal Circuits (F) [ECE 331L(163L)]
  • ECE 539(261) Full Custom VLSI Design (F) [ECE 250D(52L) and ECE 331L(163L)]


Electromagnetic Fields

The discipline concerned with the interaction of electromagnetic waves with materials. Applications of electromagnetics include microwave circuits (used in satellite communication systems, mobile/cellular radios, aeronautical navigation instruments), optical fiber communication systems, radar (tracking, imaging, guidance), radio astronomy, antennas (single and phased arrays), transmission lines and waveguides. Also, radio frequency (RF) signals and microwaves are used in numerous industrial, scientific and medical applications. These include: RF and microwave induced hyperthermia for cancer therapy, drying, sterilization, thawing and curing of materials (including the cooking of food!).

Electromagnetic Fields Courses

  • ECE 571(271) Electromagnetic Theory (alt F) [ECE 270L(53L)]
  • ECE 572(272) Electromagnetic Communication Systems (Sp) [ECE 270L(53L)]
  • ECE 573(273) Optical Communication Systems (F) [ECE 270L(53L) & 280L(54L)]
  • ECE 574(279) Waves in Matter (Sp) [ECE 270L(53L)]
  • ECE 575(275) Microwave Electronic Circuits (Sp) [ECE 270L(53L)]
  • ECE 577(277) Computational Electromagnetics (F) [ECE 270L(53L)]



The discipline concerned with the application of optical and optoelectronic technologies in information science. Photonic applications include information transmission on fiber and free space networks, data storage on disks and volume media, visible and infrared imaging systems, and displays. The Duke photonics program emphasizes hands-on experience with optical systems in communications, sensing, and display applications. Photonic engineering at Duke spans experiences as diverse as logical layer analysis of network protocols over fiber systems, analysis and testing of fiber dispersion, materials studies for optical memory, design of 3D microscopes for biomedical imaging, testing of liquid crystal materials and interfaces, analysis and construction of quantum dynamic systems, and explorations of laser-material and laser-tissue interactions.

Photonics Courses

  • FOUNDATION COURSE - ECE 340L(122L) Optics & Photonics (F) [ECE 270L(53L)]
  • ECE 341L Solar Cells [Physics 152L or equivalent]
  • ECE 449(135) Sensor and Sensor Interface Design (Sp) [ECE 330L or ECE 331L or ECE 340L]
  • ECE 496.01 Solar Cells (Sp16) - now taught as ECE 341L
  • ECE 523(227)/PHYSICS 627(272) Quantum Information Science (alt Sp) [ECE 521(211) or PHYSICS 464(211), or equivalent] (Note the similar but different ECE and PHYSICS course numbers!)
  • ECE 545(225) Foundations of Nanoelectronics and Nanophotonics (Sp) [ECE 230L(51L) and ECE 270L(53L)]
  • ECE 546(226) Optoelectronic Devices for Optical Fiber Networks (F) [ECE 526(216)]
  • ECE 573(273) Optical Communication Systems (F) [ECE 230L(53L) & 280L(54L)]