Electrical engineering opens new student computer lab with differential tuition dollars

Students working in computer labThe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University inaugurated an open access computer laboratory for undergraduate students as part of its allocated differential tuition Funds.

Dr. N.K. Anand, interim dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering, and Dr. Costas N. Georghiades, Delbert A. Whitaker Chair Professor and department head, officially opened the laboratory to students Nov. 8. The new laboratory includes 90 state-of-the-art computer workstations and two high-capacity laser printers in space recently allocated to the department when it became available with the construction of a new building and the relocation of two departments from the Zachry Engineering Center to the new building.

“This is a much-needed addition to our open access computer facilities in the department,” Georghiades said. “I am very pleased that we were able to provide it to our students using their differential tuition funds and new space allocated to us.

“We have further plans to enhance our laboratories using differential tuition funds very soon, and I hope the allocation of further space in the future to meet our laboratory needs will make it possible for us to further enhance our students’ experience.”

Like many peer universities, the college of engineering approved differential tuition starting fall 2011. It is an additional $400 tuition per regular semester from all undergraduate engineering students paid directly to the college of engineering to help provide the best education available to its students at the lowest possible cost. It is designed to help maintain and improve the college’s standing among peer universities, since engineering and other professional educational programs are significantly more expensive to operate than other programs due to the cost of equipment, facilities and top faculty. Other possible uses for differential tuition in the college include: faculty salaries and support, such as retention of faculty, smaller classes and improved student to faculty ratios; educational enrichments; and targeted scholarships. Students also will have strong input as to uses since the money goes directly to the college, except for a mandated 20 percent set aside for scholarships.

In addition to the new open access laboratory, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has received funds to hire two lecturers with industrial experience who can further assist the department and improve students’ education. The first lecturer hired, Dr. Sam Villareal, joined the department in the fall semester.

Villareal received his first taste of teaching as a teaching assistant in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M, where he received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. While pursuing his Ph.D., Villareal also taught courses for the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution and The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which also gave him valuable experience working with industry partners. During his tenure with the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution, he received three Outstanding Faculty Awards.

“I am very proud of the Outstanding Faculty Awards from the engineering technology department since these are based mainly on student input,” he said.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1999, Villareal joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Dallas for more than five years. In December 2004 he began working as a product engineer for Texas Instruments in Dallas, though he continued as an adjunct faculty member at UT Dallas.

“Interestingly, teaching was also an important part of my work at TI as I was asked to develop and teach new training materials to TI engineers both nationally and abroad,” Villareal said.

And this enjoyment of teaching eventually brought him back to Texas A&M.

“Eventually I realized that, for me personally, the technical contributions and successes in industry could not compare with what I experienced in the university environment,” he said. “Thus, I am delighted to be back at the electrical and computer engineering department of Texas A&M and look forward to leveraging my industry and teaching experience to enhance the undergraduate experience here.”