Architecture, Computer Systems, and Embedded Systems (ACSES)         

Computer Architecture, Computer Systems, and Embedded Systems is a technical area within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Computer architecture is at the interface of computer hardware and software. Its practitioners are responsible for specifying, designing, and implementing at the architecture level the hardware structures that carry out the work specified by computer software. Computer architects share the responsibility for providing mechanisms that algorithms, compilers, and operating systems can use to enhance the performance and/or energy requirements of running applications. Computer architecture spans many dimensions, such as the scope of a processor (embedded processors, desktop systems, servers, and supercomputers); the target application (general-purpose versus domain-specific); the characteristics of the design objectives (speed, power consumption, cost, reliability, availability, and reconfigurability); and the measurement and analysis of resulting designs.

Area Advisor: Jonathan Valvano, UTA7.343, valvano@mail.utexas.edu 
I have a phone, but it is best to email me.

Major/Supporting Work Classification
Planned undergraduate courses for the future
Planned graduate courses for the future

What courses do I need for a Masters Degree?
There are no specific ACSES graduate classes that are required for all students. However, it is recommended that all ACSES students have the equivalent experience of our EE360C Algorithms and our EE460N/EE382N.1 Computer Architecture. Both are undergraduate level computer engineering classes. If you have not had substantial classes or work experience in algorithms or architecture, then you should consider taking one or both of these classes. It is recommended that all ACSES students discuss their particular academic preparation with an EE360C instructor and an EE460N instructor to determine whether or not they need to take them. If you have to take them, most people can count these classes in their program of work towards the MS degree. Your supporting work does not have to be concentrated in a single area, but it could be if you wanted. EEx97C (Research Problems), EE397K.1 (Conference Course) EE397M (Internship), EE398T (Teaching), or EEx97G (Research Problems) do not count towards the MS degree.
Thesis Option:
8 courses; 4 to 6 courses in Major Work and 4 to 2 courses in Supporting Work, excluding EE698A and EE698B. You take EE698A only once, and in a separate semester before taking EE698B. You must take EE 698B in the semester you file to earn the MSE degree, even if you have to repeat it. You can count no EE397K, Topic-1 Conference Courses.
Report Option: 9 courses; 5 to 7 courses in Major Work and 4 to 2 courses in  Supporting Work, excluding EE 398R. You take EE398R in the semester you file to earn the MSE degree, even if you have to repeat it. You can count no EE397K, Topic-1 Conference Courses.
No-Thesis/No-Report Option: 10 courses: 6 to 8 courses in Major Work and 4 to 2 courses in Supporting Work. You can count no EE397K, Topic-1 Conference Course courses.

Three MS Options

Number of Formal Courses Required

Major Work

Supporting Work

Total

Total

Graduate

Total

Thesis

EE698A/B

5 to 6

1 or more

3 to 2

8

Report

EE398R

5 to 7

1 or more

4 to 2

9

No Thesis or Report

6 to 8

1 or more

4 to 2

10

Min GPA Required

3.0

3.0

3.0

3.0

1) No more than 6 semester hours of upper-division undergraduate course work may be included on the ECE MSE Program of Work.
2) For the No Thesis/No report option, at least 30 semester hours of formal classroom instruction is required. Formal classroom instruction excludes Conference Course.
3) For the MS report option, at least 27 semester hours of formal classroom instruction, plus 3 hours of the report course (EE398R) for a minimum total of 30 semester hours. Formal classroom instruction excludes Conference Course.
4) For the MS Thesis option, at least 24 semester hours of formal classroom instruction, plus 6 hours of thesis courses (EE698A, EE698B) for a minimum total of 30 semester hours. Formal classroom instruction excludes Conference Course.
5) No course of less than a grade of C and no more than one course with a grade of C or C+ may be included on the ECE MSE Program of Work.

6) At least 5 courses must be ECE courses.


How do I get an RA?
Individual faculty make RA decisions based on their research grants. Go down the list of all EE faculty sorting the list according to your research interests. Then you should contact faculty directly about RAs. A list of ACSES faculty can be found at
http://www.ece.utexas.edu/graduate/tracks/architecture-computer-systems-and-embedded-systems-acses
and all tracks are listed at
http://www.ece.utexas.edu/graduate/tracks
Most have websites describing their research. You choose your research area by asking professors currently doing research in areas in which you are interested. In your first two semesters, it is a good plan to take graduate classes from these professors.

How do I get a TA?
1) The ACSES Admissions committee handles recruiting TA offers. Unfortunately, we make very few such offers -- if you have not yet received one, it is unlikely that you will.
2) Some existing graduate students get TA offers by applying to the department TA job request and then contacting professors who teach classes with TA vacancy. If you have a thesis supervisor, and ask the supervisor to help you get a TA. During their office hours, go see the professors that teach classes that have TA’s when they are making the selections (1 month before and up to 5 days into each semester.) You could also try other departments like Computer Science, Math, and General Engineering . The General Engineering Program (GE Program) offers supplemental instruction courses in math, physics and chemistry during the Fall and Spring semesters.

How do I find a research supervisor?
Individual professors decide on their own whom they want to work with. Consequently, this advice is broad and multifaceted. Any member of the ECE graduate studies committee (GSC) can supervisor your MS or PhD research. Once admitted to the graduate program, feel free to contact any professor in whose research you are interested. However, I suggest you first study what research they are interested in before contacting them (e.g., read some of their papers and review their web sites). It is annoying to get email asking for money from students before they are admitted. It is ineffective to ask a professor for RA money unless you have a sincere interest and ability in their research area. Some professors prefer email, others prefer a face-to-face meeting, and many would like to see you in their graduate class before committing to do research together. So I suggest you take graduate classes from potential research supervisors until you find one.

Which professors can supervisor my MS or PhD research?
Any member of the ECE graduate studies committee (GSC) can supervisor your MS or PhD research. This committee includes all full time (not adjunct) ECE professors, and a few professors from CS, ME ,and BME . The up-to-date list of professors who are on the GSC members can be found at http://www.ece.utexas.edu/graduate/gsc. Other professors can your research if your have two supervisors, called cosupervisors, and one of the cosupervisors is on the ECE GSC.
 
What courses do I need for a PhD Degree?
• At least 30 hours of "regular classroom instruction," all classes at the graduate level
• no individual instruction classes count towards the 30 hours of "regular classroom instruction", with no grade less than B minus
• at least 12 hours of the 30 should be taken in residence at UT-Austin
• 6 hours should be "outside the principal area of study" (no requirement for inside or outside of department; student's qualifying committee will examine appropriateness of courses indicated as "supporting work")
• GPA in each category ("major" and "supporting") should be at least 3.5
Each PhD-bound ECE student must take at least one three-credit non-classroom, non-conference research course every long semester (i.e. Master's Report, Master's Thesis, Research Problems, Dissertation Reading, or Dissertation Writing) unless petitioned by his/her ECE GSC PhD supervisor, and approved by ECE Graduate Advisor.

I want to graduate. How do I get my MS degree?
1) Go to http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/pdn/. Type and print the MS Degree Candidate Form and MS Degree Certification Form due in Main 101, get supervisors’ signatures as needed, & bring forms to the ECE graduate advising office.
2) Go to the ECE web site and get the Program of Work form
http://www.ece.utexas.edu/graduate/forms
Make a copy of this form, and fill the copy out in pencil.
3) Bring the ECE form with your unofficial transcript to Valvano’s office.
4) Valvano decides what courses are major/supporting work.
5) You type up the Program of Work form.
6) Valvano signs the Program of Work
7) You turn in the packet to the graduate advising office for Dr. Neikirk's signature.

How do I tell if a course is a major or a supporting work?
1) If you are a MS student, look it up in the Major/Supporting Work Classification, or
2) If you are a PhD student, which courses are major and which are supporting is determined by your PhD qualifying committee.

Can I take undergraduate courses for my master’s degree?
Yes with the limitations (regardless of the thesis/report/NT-NR option)
1) You must take it for a letter grade
2) There is a limit of 2 total undergraduate courses allowed
3) There must be at least one graduate course in the supporting work category
4) The course cannot be required by all ECE undergraduates
   (see the major/supporting work guidelines for specific classes that are OK)
5) It cannot have a 0,1 as the middle number in the course number
6) It must be a class that students in that department use for their degree. It cannot be a survey class for nonmajors.
Under most situations it is a good idea to get approval before you take it

Can I transfer classes into my master’s degree?
Yes, even courses taken as a non-degree seeking student, with the limitations (regardless of the thesis/report/NT-NR option)
1) Up to 2 graduate classes  (course must be strictly for graduate students, and not open to undergraduates)
2) You must have taken it for a letter grade at an accredited university
3) You must not have counted it towards another awarded degree

How do I transfer classes into my master’s degree?
Go to the ECE graduate office and ask for the forms.

Can policies be changed/waived for me?
If you have a thesis supervisor, have that professor petition to the appropriate body (ACSES faculty, ECE graduate studies committee, or the Graduate School) for the change/waiver. Without an official supervisor, any ECE professor can be your advocate.

How do I qualify for PhD program?
Discuss this with your supervisor. See http://www.ece.utexas.edu/graduate/tracks/computer-architecture-and-embedded-processors/prequal

How do I transfer into Computer Architecture and Embedded Processors?
Transferring is like the original admission process. You will need a transcript, letters of reference, statement of purpose, GRE scores etc. Transfers are evaluated at specific times during the year along with the regular new admissions. Discuss the transfer process with chairman of the ACSES admissions committee.

I want to register for classes but can’t find Valvano in his office. What do I do?
1) Any professor can sign your advising form (but only Valvano signs the Master’s degree graduation form.)
2) Contact him by email at valvano@mail.utexas.edu. List all the courses you have taken, what you wish to take next semester, and when you plan to graduate. After you and Valvano agree on your courses, then email him the completed ECE registration form.

How do I get advising by email and register by fax?
1) email (valvano@mail.utexas.edu) to Valvano
     a list of all courses you have taken so far including this semester.
     Please include the course number, course name, semester, and your grade.
2) Then fax/email Valvano the advising form. Valvano will sign and give it to the graduate office. Email is much faster, and more reliable than fax.

Can I take business classes for my supporting work?
Yes, as long as they are regular business classes meant for business majors. You can not count business classes intended for nonmajors.

Can I take computer science classes for my supporting work?
Because of the overlap between computer engineering and computer science, there are many CS classes that will be considered major work. On the other hand, because of the breadth of computer science, many CS classes will be considered supporting work. In general, you can count a CS class towards your degree in ECE as long as the course is regular CS class meant for CS majors. You cannot count computer science classes intended for nonmajors. To tell if a CS class is considered major see Major/Supporting Work Classification.

Does the supporting work have to be concentrated in a single area?
No, but it could be concentrated if you wanted it to be.

How many EE397K.1 Conference Courses can I count towards my MS degree?
Students can count no EE397K.1 Conference Courses for their MS or PhD degrees.
 
What do I do to work off campus full-time during a long semester?
This applies only to full-time graduate students, not part-time students. First, you find a computer engineering job with a commitment for the entire semester. Second, you find a CE faculty member in an area close to the job functions you will be performing. You must register for EE397M under the supervision of that CE faculty member. To be a full-time student, you need to take 9 hours. If you are working in Austin you could take regular courses. You could also register for EE397M three times.

What if I am a foreign student and want to work off campus full-time during the summer semester?
This applies only to full-time graduate students, not part-time students. First, you find a computer engineering job with a commitment for the entire semester. Second, you find a CE faculty member in an area close to the job functions you will be performing. You must register for EE397M under the supervision of that CE faculty member. Under some circumstances, you have the option of registering for EE397M either in the summer or the next fall. If you register in the fall for EE397M covering work performed over the summer, you register for EE397M in addition to the 9-hour full-time course load. All full-time students must register for at least 9 hours for both the Fall and Spring semesters.
Questions regarding full-time status should be referred to the Office of the Registrar or the Office of Graduate Studies. Certification of full-time status, when needed, is provided by the Office of the Registrar.

What is a full-time course load during the summer semester?
The Graduate School recognizes three hours during a summer term as a minimum full-time course load. Individual graduate programs may require more, but the ECE Department approves 3 hours as full-time in the summer.  The three semester credit hour minimum course load for the summer session may be satisfied in one six-week term, or in the nine-week or twelve-week terms. Under various circumstances, graduate students must be registered for and must remain registered for a full-time load, including: holders of Graduate School-administered fellowships and scholarships; assistant instructors, teaching assistants, assistants (graduate), and graduate research assistants; and students living in University housing or receiving certain student loans. In conclusion, bear in mind that outside agencies that grant loans or provide for educational funding can set their own requirements about what constitutes full-time status. Students need to be familiar with the regulations of any agency to which they have an obligation.
Questions regarding full-time status should be referred to the Office of the Registrar or the Office of Graduate Studies. Certification of full-time status, when needed, is provided by the Office of the Registrar.

What is a report?
There are two types of reports. A regular report is a project that typically takes 1 semester at 20 hours/week to complete. The scope can range from any engineering process: research, design, implementation and/or evaluation. Reports, unlike theses, do not usually include all four of the above processes. The second type of report is an industrial report, which is available only to full-time employees working in a computer engineering field. For this you get approval from your boss at work and a professor at UT. You write a report about a project for which you made a major engineering contribution. You work out some way to convince the professor at UT that you personally performed enough design, implementation and testing to be classified as a major engineering design project without having to disclose into the UT library the company secrets. The official report may be short and contain general statements about the project. This report follows all the format specifications defined by the University and is recorded in the library. If you perform all the efforts at the outside company, then the University of Texas will not attempt to obtain ownership. On the other hand, if some of the creative ideas come from the professor, or if any of the design/development/testing occurs on campus, then this is not an industrial report and the usual collaborative arrangements will apply. Your boss at work and the professor at UT are cosupervisors of the industrial report.

What do you think that I need to know as a Grad student?
Get to know other students. Be careful about advice from students, because the rules can change semester to semester.  Although a good source of ideas to think about, please verify the specific information with a faculty advisor or someone in the ECE Graduate Office.

Where could I find information as regards which courses are being offered? Which Professors will be teaching? Which books will be required?
What you ask is not readily available. But if you start with the ECE web page, you can find the up to date list of exactly what classes will be taught in the next semester. If you wish to plan for subsequent semesters, use last year's listing as a starting point. Most of the classes offered last fall/spring/summer will be offered next fall/spring/summer. Then, if there is a professor defined, contact them directly. If no professor is defined, look at last year's page to see who taught it last year. (See the list of classes planned for the future.)  Contact the professor teaching the class for details such as the textbook and syllabus.

I would also like to know if I would have to take up any deficiency courses and if yes then which ones?
The only two deficiency classes we make sure everyone has are: 1) EE360C Algorithms, and 2) EE360N Computer Architecture. Both are undergraduate level computer engineering classes. If you have not had substantial classes like these, then you will have to take them here. I strongly suggest that every CE student discuss their particular academic preparation with an EE360C instructor and an EE360N instructor to check whether or not they need to take them. If you have to take them, most people can count these classes in their program of work towards the MS degree.

Can GRS 389T be counted towards the MS/PhD degrees in the CE area?
Although worthwhile, GRS 389T can not be counted towards the MS or PhD degrees. It does count towards your hours as a full-time student

I don’t have an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. What do I do?
If your undergraduate degree is in a related field like Computer Engineering, then you are exempt from the usual preparatory class requirements. If your undergraduate degree is in Computer Science and you are going into a Software Engineering graduate program, then you are exempt from the usual preparatory class requirements. If your undergraduate degree in not in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering or Computer Science, then you must fulfill the Computer Engineering undergraduate deficiency BEFORE you can take graduate courses. Go to the ECE graduate office for the appropriate form/procedure.

Can I defer enrollment?
You can request deferment for one long semester. Make a written request to the graduate advisor or Dr. Valvano, sending a copy also to the ECE graduate office. To defer more than one long semester will usually require readmission via the normal application process.

How many credit hours would you recommend for me?
A typical load for full-time graduate students is 9 hours. A new MS student in his/her first year typically takes 3 classes per semester. A PhD-bound student (with or without an MS) in his/her first year typically takes 1 research class and 2 regular classes per semester. Later, while the student is performing research, he/she typically takes 0 to 2 classes and registers for one or more research class (e.g., EE397C, EE397G, EE698A).

What are the prerequisites?
Officially, most graduate classes state "consent of the instructor". The university does not officially check graduate students for prerequisites, so you can register for whatever classes you want. Undergraduate students do have formal prerequisites which are systematically and officially checked, but a graduate student taking an undergraduate class is not officially checked. However, for every class and for every semester, all graduate students should have a one on one discussion with the professor to make sure you understand the course content and the professor agrees you have the prerequisite knowledge. Prerequisite checking for graduate students is done face to face because graduate students are from all around the world, and each year graduate classes are updated with state of the art information. Although there is no formal process and no paperwork, most students do this during the couple of days before classes start. Most problems with students dropping classes or getting C's can be traced to students having a poor understanding of the course content and/or expected prerequisite knowledge.

Some courses are titled -ECD and -SE. What does it mean?
There are two special MS programs called Circuit Design (ECD) and Software Engineering (SE). These are entirely separate programs and regular ECE graduate students can not take classes designated -ECD or -SE.

Many graduate courses (e.g., 382C) have multiple courses/instructors listed. Why?
The first digit signifies the number of hours (with the exception EE698A and EE698B, which are 3 hours each). Thus, EE382C is 3 hours. The second digit signifies the level. EE301 to EE319 are lower division undergraduate, and EE320 to EE379 are upper division undergraduate classes. ECE graduate courses have numbers EE380 to EE399. Most courses also include a letter. There are not enough number-letter combinations for all our graduate classes. So, course numbers like EE382C have multiple topics. Sometimes there is a dot followed by a number, like EE382M.7, and sometimes there is no dot followed by a number, like EE382V (which is used for new classes). You can take a course multiple times, as long as the topic is different.  Research courses can be taken multiple times.

What is EE397K Intellectual Property? Can I count it towards a degree?
It's a business school course. It counts as supporting work for an MS CE track. The course is listed under LEB380.14 in the business school. "LEB" stands for "Legal Environment of Business", and there are a number of other graduate level business-law courses under LEB380 in the business school course schedule. For more info at the McCombs school site: www.mccombs.utexas.edu. Whether or not you can count Intellectual Property towards a PhD degree is up to the five (or six) professors on your PhD committee.

Can I count EE397K Advanced Written Communications for International Engineering Students towards a degree?
No, this EE397K can not be used for the MS or PhD degrees.

Can I take a leave of absence?
 
You can take a total of 2 Leaves of Absence as a graduate student.  It’s harder to get approved for LOA if you’re a Ph.D. candidate.  One Leave of Absence is for one semester.  While you're on a LOA you do not have student status.  You have to apply for readmission even if you’ve been on a LOA, and you cannot have a gap of non-enrollment for a semester or more between a LOA and the semester of reapplication-and-re-enrollment or it voids the benefits of having taken a LOA.  When you earn your degree, your courses that you list on the Program of Work aren't supposed to be more than six years old; the clock keeps on ticking even if you're on leave.  However, we can petition for inclusion of older coursework and the petitions almost always get approved. The two benefits of a LOA are:
       1) You don’t have to pay the reapplication fee when you apply for readmission .
       2) We readmit you automatically without comparison to new applicants as long as you've been on LOA during the preceding semester.