- Engineering Mathematics: Composed of vector calculus, complex algebra and differential equations, along with frequency domain analysis, Fourier and Laplace Transforms, all important tools for an engineer.
- Electromagnetic Theory: Based on vector calculus, this teaches you the basics of electric and magnetic fields, electromagnetic waves and their propagation, and the applications of these, like waveguides, transmission lines, and antennae.
- Network Analysis: This consists of analysing circuits and networks by using various methods, studying various circuit topologies, studying alternating current circuits.
- Electronics: A vast subject covering: a) Device fundamentals, teaching the physics and working of common electronic components, b) Analog electronics, that teaches the design of analogue systems and components like amplifiers, oscillators and electronic wave generators, and c) Digital electronics, that teaches designing digital systems like memory devices, ICs. This field also transitions into computer architecture, hardware, and microprocessor programming and interfacing.
- Machines and Power: This heavy subject involves the basics of electrical generators, motors, transformers, power generation and transmission and the distribution of electrical energy in grids. From making power to moving things electrically, it teaches you all.
- Signals and Systems: This involves, as the name says, analysis of electrical signals and their interaction with electrical systems. You study the properties of signals and the nature of systems and use mathematics to model their responses to various kinds of signals. Signal processing is the manipulation of electrical signals and has applications in audio, video and image processing and communications.
- Control Engineering: This subject studies the mathematical techniques and physical implementations towards the goal of automation and control of the behaviour of electrical systems. It is perhaps the heart of engineering, and involves a blend of physical visualisation and mathematics.
- Communications: The generation and processing of communication signals, with focus on communication media and more efficient transmissions. Involves mathematics, and teaches you the working of everything from FM to mobile phones.
- Instrumentation: Teaches you the design of sensors and instruments to measure quantities and convert them into electrical signals. Used everywhere, from radio telescopes to particle accelerators to aircraft, because sensing comes before taking action.
Electrical engineering seeks to apply the basic laws of electrodynamics to design applications in a myriad of areas, and is a ubiquitous cornerstone of modern technology. From the primitive telegraph, to the largest particle accelerator in the world, it is the lifeblood of all of humankind’s technological thrusts, with a wide array of fields, like control systems, power, electronics, communications, signal processing and computers.
If science is the pursuit of truth, engineering is the art of moulding those truths into applicable systems. Engineering is the vehicle that carries the world into the future every day. And one of the core branches of engineering is also its most widely-applied: electrical engineering.
As aspirants for a bachelor’s degree in engineering, we are stage-actors in a play of irony. The tests that are used to judge us for admission test only minimally on actual engineering subjects. The issue is compounded by the near-total lack of awareness about what engineering truly entails. And thus begins the great façade of surviving through a rigorous engineering degree without having an iota of knowledge of its true depth, usage or avenues, and without real interest. Ergo, it is most essential to brief oneself with the inside-out of the fields we are asked to pick between.
To understand the wide applications of this field, let us look at the working of one dish of the Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope, one of the largest in the world, at Khodad in Pune. You want to observe one part of the sky, so you move the dish in one direction. Electronics in your computer convert the motion of your mouse to a signal that moves a motor under the dish, automated using control theory. The observed light, an electromagnetic wave, is converted to a signal by electronics again, and through well-designed circuits travels to the computing centre, where a system of programmed digital electronics stores it. This simple act combines multiple branches of electrical engineering, and comes through as a result of their beautiful conjunction. An undergraduate course will set you on your path to dreaming and designing such wonders.
The study of currents was a part of physics curricula earlier, but in the 1900s universities began providing degrees in electrical engineering. The courses at the IITs and BITS provide an overview of the various branches of this wide subject, readying you for research, higher education, or technical jobs. A typical set of courses offers a rigorous preparation with these thrust areas: mathematics, electromagnetic theory, network analysis, electronics, machines and power, signals and systems, communications, and instrumentation (a series of notes on each of these is given as the postscript for the interested reader).
An electrical engineering degree requires hard work due to the challenging and voluminous nature of the coursework, and is often labelled the toughest engineering branch to study. It combines visualisation, insight and mathematical rigour and trains you for a variety of applications. Apart from usual classroom pedagogy, laboratory work is vital in a complete understanding of this field, especially in machines, electronics and communications, and thus a major part of the degree, along with electronics simulations and the usage of computer applications like MATLAB and SimuLink for modelling and analysis.
The intense coursework, with focus on practical experience and engineering software, prepares one for a phalanx of future avenues, ranging from core technical jobs to research and development. Post an electrical engineering education, one can take up a job with electronics companies like Intel and Nvidia, or in the power grid sector, which is becoming a hot area, or with research and development wings of robotics or aeronautics companies. Or one can go for science applications, communications, instrumentation, signal processing, audio engineering, computer applications, hardware design and architecture. You can try to follow one branch further by exploring the endless roads to higher education in India and abroad. Or, you can hop on to the wagon of research, with a thriving community.
Core engineering jobs involve significant hands-on training in the initial years, and your employers invest in you in that regard, leading to your lower compensations than, let’s say, computer engineers. Social discourse, in India especially, might sometimes bemoan the relatively lower “packages” of core engineers, but let that never be a deterrent. With enough passion and focus, you can enjoy this deep and rich subject, and reap satisfaction too.
The art of electrical engineering is everywhere, and thus, as an artist-in-training, you have the potential to be indispensable. There is no dearth of possibilities when in fact, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN employs more engineers that physicists! So, you know your opportunities are endless. There is nowhere you can’t go!
Postscript: A Coverage of EEE Fields
Himanish Ganjoo is a graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering from BITS Pilani with a strong interest in physics. He is currently interning at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (TIFR), Pune, having interned previously at CERN, Geneva. He dabbles in writing, singing, and cricket when he is not guzzling kebabs.
I don't remember the exact point in my past three years of life in BITS, or the two years of slogging for the entrances when I realized that Physics will be the starting point of my career path. However having delved deep enough, I am certain that it is going to be an essential part of whatever I choose to pursue as my career in future.
Before college, preparing for entrances introduces us to the topics of Newtonian Mechanics, Electrostatics, Thermodynamics and Modern Physics out of which are churned out those myriad questions involving systems of pulleys, capacitors, wedges, spheres and whatnot. But what we are offered in those two years is a cocktail of Physics and Mathematics that has been mostly developed over the last 500 years (since the time of Newton and his predecessors). Getting comfortable with all the physics being taught at the intermediate level one usually notices how even almost every engineering science ultimately traces its roots to some very fundamental Physics, and the fascination of this can be enough to spark a flame for Physics. It is imperative that one knows to what extent the jungle thickens as he ventures further into it which is the moment after his intermediate studies end and the academic life of college starts. It depends very slightly on the college or the discipline you have chosen for yourself, but most top tier colleges offer some Physics courses in the first year that are common for students from all disciplines. This is the time when you may not have even recovered from the hangover of the mechanical and objective way of looking at Physics problems as a legacy of the two years before, and you are expected to be able to solve even more rigorous situations subjectively. For some of you, the fresh new techniques of calculus that you have recently been only introduced to in Mathematics and are expected to apply in solving the physical problems as well can be a little daunting for now. But they start forming an essential part of almost every course you study in your undergraduate life. And it only helps to have formed a solid understanding of their use and application before starting off with college. For those of you going for undergraduate degrees in Physics, the scene could get a murkier in the next three or four years after the first year when you finally start with 're-learning' the concepts that you studied in +2 in a more rigorous and general way. The 'mathematics' that is involved throughout an undergraduate Physics course has a radically different genre than what we get used to at the intermediate level. Recounting my own experience from second year on wards, I took courses on Classical Mechanics, Optics, Electrodynamics, Mathematical Methods for Physics, two Quantum Mechanics courses, Statistical Mechanics, Nuclear and Particle Physics - all of which focus on the theoretical aspects of fundamental Physics, and without Advanced Calculus, it really doesn't make much sense! Other courses like Computational Physics, Atomic and Molecular Physics and Solid State Physics, and the lab courses have more to do with Applied and Experimental Physics.
The undergraduate programmes in Physics in IITs and BITS Pilani are usually designed so as to give you a very brief introduction to the major fields of research active in the present time, all the while equipping you with the necessary fundamentals skills and aptitude that'd be essential if you ever decide to take up research as a career option. But a lot of this comes with serious effort from the student's side as well. To be honest, 4 years is too short a time to have a achieved a strong grasp over each of the courses you study, when each of them last only a semester long and before you actually start getting a feel of the subject (assuming you haven't given up already!) the grades will have already been awarded. And with courses of another major also on your hand (in the case of BITS), following every course up to the brink of satisfaction can turn out to be a painstaking task. However for those of you who do manage to sustain the same enthusiasm to pursue research in Physics and related fields as a career option, working to fill up any gaps in the basic concepts and skills these courses introduce to you becomes indispensable. Regardless of the hectic coursework, the professors are always eager to help provided you seek it! The curriculum is peppered with elective courses on Astronomy, Quantum Computation, Relativity, Semiconductors etc. that can help narrow down the specific research topic that you might want to take up in future. For me, the Project type course offered as a part of my curriculum helped me learn the basics of documentation and presentation required for a generic research work. A further advantage can be from Summer schools and research internships that again serve to add to your experience and help you form a clearer picture of your specific goals. A time well spent in the summers and winters can be crucial in filling up any vacuum that you might be feeling even after spending the last semester on some topics.
There is a plethora of opportunities available to choose from once you graduate with a Physics degree. You gain a chance to be part of all those exciting projects that you have only read or heard about as of yet. There are equally interesting (but lesser known) research opportunities to take about which you only come to know about during your undergraduate studies. Many Research Institutes in India (like TIFR, IUCAA Pune, IISc Bangalore and more!) have turned up to some really exciting places to be, with the Summer Internships programs and the fellowships that they offer. Speaking for Astronomy, India is a part of some major projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope, LIGO-India and CERN, and they have ample opportunities for diligent and skilled Physicists. But for all this, the flame needs to be kept alive and rekindled all the long way.
A third year student pursuing a dual degree in M.Sc Physics and Electrical and Electronics Engineering, with interests in Astrophysics, Space Science and Space technology. Vatsal is currently a summer undergraduate research student at National Central University in Taiwan.
Find Vatsal on LinkedIn.
What do Chatur Ramalingam, Cisco Ramone, Tony Stark and Elon Musk have in common? Aside from the fact that they work in super awesome places, of course. They’re Mechanical Engineers. Before we get into the mumbo jumbo of post entrance exam stream choosing, take a minute. Ever seen a machine? ANY machine? And wondered about its beauty and working? The answer to the thoughts you had while trying to satisfy that intrinsic curiosity, penned down, is called Mechanical Engineering. From that cradle you rocked in as a kid, to the rocket you might end up designing and sending into space, or the robot you build that’ll wipe humans out(please, no), the world works on the principles of Mechanical Engineering.
There is one question that I have come across very frequently, as a Mechanical Engineering student, and in general as well. “Should girls take up Mechanical Engineering? Its not for them, right? Too much physical labour, no?” The answer to that is a big “YES. THEY SHOULD TAKE UP MECHANICAL ENGINEERING IF THEY’RE INTERESTED IN IT.” As I said earlier, it isn’t some grease covered guy(or girl, in this case), underneath a truck. There are various profiles, like design and analysis, research and development, application etc. Not everyone goes into fieldwork, especially if they don’t wish to. Hence, if a girl finds this branch of engineering interests her, there is absolutely nothing to stop her from becoming one of the best in the world, and it will hardly involve the kind of work you’re worried she might have to do.
And PLEASE, wipe that image of some grease-covered guy trying to fix some truck with a giant wrench from your head. Those are mechanics. WE don’t do that, at least not directly.
Delving into the slightly technical side, let me describe some of the courses that are taken up in BITS, for example. Our core disciplinary courses(CDCs) begin with advanced versions of the Mechanics you studied while preparing for your entrance examinations. In the subsequent semesters, courses include Machine Design and Drawing, CAD, Production Techniques, Kinetics and Dynamics of Machines, Mechanical Vibrations and Oscillations, IC Engines, to name a few. While the titles may vary, the content essentially remains the same throughout various institutes. The courses are an amalgamation of the Math and theory you need in order to quantify phenomena into more than just “intuition”, and then be able to predict the nature of the unknown, like the time a machine can run before it wears out, for example. These courses are designed and delivered by each Professor keeping in mind the current research and developments in the subject coupled with the tried and tested concepts that are the very basis of the subject. A good grasp of these courses is what defines your knowledge of Mechanical Engineering. Aside from the CDCs, we get the option to choose whatever related courses we might wish to pursue, as electives. So you can go ahead and dive into Robotics, Image Processing, Automotive Vehicles, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Numerical Fluid Flow and Heat Transfer, and basically whatever else gets your heart racing. And hands-on experience in labs, wherever possible, makes it a joy!
That gets us to the related topic of jobs. Depending on the institute you are in, various companies arrive on-campus to recruit fresh graduates into their companies. Depending on your resume, CGPA(cut-off varies for each company), electives completed, internships, activities etc. these companies shortlist candidates for various profiles, some of which I described above. After rounds of written tests, Group Discussions, Group Activities, Personal Interviews(all of these varying from company to company), the companies then offer jobs to the selected candidates. Some of the Core companies that Mechanical Engineers typically aspire for are BMW, Honda Motors, Airbus, Schlumberger, Cairn etc. There is also an option of not sitting for on-campus placements and sitting for off-campus options. There, you’re pretty much on your own, regarding what companies to sit for.
Still reading? Good. Now that you have a somewhat clear picture of what it is, let us take a look at some things to satisfy your parents. Academic and job prospects. This branch of engineering is possibly the most vast there is, panning almost everything from automobiles, to aviation, nuclear science, rocket science, equipment design, petroleum refining, thermonuclear astrophysics(get the reference?) etc. In some form or another, you’ll need a Mechanical Engineer there. Which goes to show that if your heart goes to any such field, whether you lean towards research or practical work, you have more options than you could possibly wish for. It is fair to wonder, though, about how you’ll know what you’re interested in. After all, all that glitters isn’t gold, right? Well, starting from an undergraduate level, there are a lot of national and international events, competitions, internships etc. that take place all over the country, and sometimes outside, which are focused on either hardcore Mechanical Engineering or a mix of various branches. These events give you an excellent opportunity to interact with the best and brightest minds around and also broaden your horizons by networking with mentors, teachers etc. In short, it is paradise if you want it to be so. And at the end of it, having gained some knowledge, or building something with your own hands, gives you immense satisfaction.
If you’re a fan of supercars, space missions, airplanes, or basically any of the stuff the Discovery Channel airs with Mega- suffixed on the title, you’ve already stepped into our world. Mechanical Engineering gives you the platform from which to see the world from the eyes of the people who created everything around you, to experience the wonder of being able to build whatever is humanly possible, and to make the world a better place. I’ve always loved it, and have had the good fortune to be a part of several projects in this field, working with some of the best minds around the country. I can tell you this much, if you have the slightest interest in how the world around you works, why things happen in one way and not the opposite, why you can’t just go ahead and saw cars in half with one punch, or why Leonardo Da Vinci was super awesome, Mechanical Engineering might just be the way to go. Go ahead, explore.
Rounaq Dhar is a Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate student at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani Campus. He has worked on various projects in industries like Automobile, Cement and Oil. When he isn’t sleeping, he can be found reading, composing and playing music, composing poetry, playing football or tinkering with machines. Being a Kashmiri and foodie, he has high standards of non-vegetarian cuisine. And he can speak five languages. He has been active in a lot of activities on campus, and has an internship with Schlumberger this summer. You can follow him at @raw_knuck.
B.E (Hons.) Mechanical Engineering
BITS Pilani, Pilani Campus