Strategic Research Areas

Research in Electrical and Computer Engineering covers an extremely broad range of topics. Whether in computer architecture, energy and power systems or in nanotechnology devices, the research conducted in ECE is at the cutting edge of technological and scientific developments. 

At Cornell ECE, we have categorized our research into five strategic areas. Explore them below.

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Computer Engineering

Computer engineering concerns itself with the understanding and design of hardware needed to carry out computation, as well as the hardware-software interface. It is sometimes said that computer engineering is the nexus that connects electrical engineering and computer science. Research and teaching areas with a significant computer engineering component include digital logic and VLSI design, computer architecture and organization, embedded systems and Internet of things, virtualization and operating systems, code generation and optimization, computer networks and data centers, electronic design automation, or robotics.

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Information Theory and Communications

Our research and courses focus on fundamental aspects of information acquisition, processing, security, privacy, storage, and communication.

We are interested in problems arising in a broad range of applications, such as wireless and wireline communication systems, cellular systems and WiFi, heterogeneous and ad-hoc networks, peer-to-peer systems, big data, and the smart grid. Through our research and courses, students will learn how data is communicated in the presence of interference. Our students will learn powerful technologies for compressing and protecting data, as well as techniques for efficiently routing data in wired and wireless systems. Finally, they will see how our critical infrastructure, from cellular to the smart grid, are complex information systems that hold the promise for a wide variety of applications.

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High Energy Density Plasma Physics, Electromagnetics

Electromagnetics involves a variety of applications of electromagnetic wave propagation and other time-varying phenomena in the presence of electric and magnetic fields. Plasma science involves the interaction of large numbers of charged particles with electric and magnetic fields in a variety of configurations ranging from the surface of the sun to the interior of fluorescent electric light bulbs.

At Cornell, we specialize in High Energy Density Laboratory Plasma (HEDLP) research, in which the product of the density of the ionized matter (plasma) and its temperature (more than a million degrees C) that it exceeds the ability to of any material to confine it even for a tiny fraction of a second. An example of a high energy density plasma is the center of the sun, where the plasma is 15 million degrees kelvin, the density is 1000 times the density of normal matter on earth, and gravity is the confinement method. In our laboratories, we use pulsed power generators to produce very large currents (300,000-1,000,000 amperes) to produce hot plasmas; we use the high magnetic fields produced by the currents to confine the plasmas far away from material walls. This enables us to study the properties of 1- to 25 million degree high density plasmas for up to 0.1 microseconds using many different measurement techniques. Applications of our experimental, theoretical and computer simulation results include possible approaches to fusion reactors and understanding high energy astronomical observations.

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Solid State, Electronics, Optoelectronics, MEMs

Solid State Devices, Integrated Circuits, Optical Devices and MEMs (microelectromechanical systems) have generated a monumental change in high performance electronics over the past several decades, enabling complex computer chips, optical communication, integrated sensors, transducers and systems that can be miniaturized to the point of being implanted and/or seamlessly connected to the environment.
At Cornell ECE, we work on diverse topics aimed at transforming the way we view the world. Our interdisciplinary research reveals fundamental similarities across problems and prompts new research into some of the most exciting and cutting-edge developments in the field. These areas include all aspects of communications, sensing, power regulation, and computing related to solid state and optical devices, circuits and MEMs.

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Bio-Electrical Engineering

Biological and Biomedical Electrical Engineering (B2E2) consists of both applied and fundamental work to understand the complexity of biological systems at different scales, e.g., from a single neuronal or cancer cell, all the way to the brain or malignant tumor. B2E2 aims to develop new hardware and computational tools to identify, characterize, and treat diseases. In the physical domain, electrical engineering approaches to integrated microsystems lead to new biological and medical sensors. These sensors consist of state-of-the-art ultrasonic, RF, optical, MRI, CT, electrical impedance transducers. 

The integration of sensors, electronics are used to develop implantable and wearable devices, with decreasing size, weight, and power and increased functionality. B2E2 microsystems can help create interfaces for sensing and actuation to help understand the physiological and pathological mechanisms of diseases, and enable advanced robotic interfaces in medicine. Medical devices can generate vast amounts of data, which require both real-time and post-acquisition processing. B2E2 faculty, sometimes in collaboration with medical researchers, develop advanced computational tools to learn from and exploit data and apply artificial intelligence approaches to impact medical practice by improving: early disease detection, disease diagnosis, response to therapy assessment, and guided surgical procedures.

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