Born out of industry demand and guided by the College of Charleston School of Sciences and Mathematics Advisory Board, the College launched its electrical engineering major for the fall 2021 semester.

“We set up the program to support companies in the region, including Bosch, Mecedes-Benz Vans, Volvo, Boeing and Cummins,” says Sebastian van Delden, dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics. “Our electrical engineering program focuses on autonomous electric vehicles — a market projected to grow from $50 to $500 billion dollars in this decade.”

Kebin Xu

Kebin Xu, electrical engineering instructor

Joining the program is Kebin Xu, who first came to the College as a visiting instructor of computer science in 2018. Now, as an electrical engineering instructor, Xu will be able to share her two passions with students: electrical engineering and computer science.

“With the hiring of our second rock star engineering faculty member, Dr. Kebin Xu, engineering at the College of Charleston is firing on all cylinders, and we are just getting warmed up,” says van Delden. “The program immediately enrolled a dozen freshman on the first day of the fall 2021 semester. This immediate enrollment speaks volumes about the student demand for this program since it wasn’t officially approved until July 2021, long after inbound students had applied and were accepted to CofC.”

This fall Xu’s course for future electrical engineers has a computer science focus: Engineering Programming. She is also preparing another course for electrical engineers: Computer Organization and Assembly Language Programming.

“Both courses are very important for engineering majors,” says Xu. “They need project skills and domain knowledge to succeed. During their time at the College, they will have a strong mix of hands-on laboratory and theoretical courses.”

Xu, a native of China, obtained her B.S. in electronics from Minzu University, an M.S. in electrical engineering from Beijing Polytechnic University and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the Beijing Institute of Technology.

For her doctoral thesis, Xu’s supervisor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong recommended she conduct her research on data mining. She realized that this cross-disciplinary research required that she study computer science. When her husband began his Ph.D. program at the University of California, Irvine, Xu seized the opportunity to get her M.S. in information and computer science. She then went on to be a visiting instructor of computer science at the University of Southern Mississippi – Hattiesburg campus before joining the College of Charleston.

kebin xu teaches an electrical engineering class

Kebin Xu teaches the course Engineering Programming to electrical engineering majors for the fall 2021 semester. (Photos by Heather Moran)

When they graduate, CofC electrical engineers will have technical know-how together with a strong foundation in the liberal arts. Funke Oladimeji, director of the College’s Engineering Program, says with a curriculum focused on electrical autonomous vehicle design, the electrical engineering major is built to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in its students, who will be trained as leaders in developing the next generation of cars.

“So in addition to a traditional electrical engineering curriculum, students will have to take courses in automation, navigation, programmable logic controllers and control systems,” says Oladimeji, noting that with scholarship and program support from partners like Boeing, Google and Bosch, students will have even more opportunities to be prepared for the workforce.

With a well-rounded background, not only will CofC engineers have the ability to handle complex technical issues, they will do so with excellent communication and leadership skills.

The College’s focus for the engineering program plays in to Xu’s cross-disciplinary way of teaching, and her students have responded positively to her style.

“The enthusiasm of the students has been outstanding,” says Xu. “They are so eager to learn. I’ve had 100% attendance in my classes. I look forward to more professors joining the electrical engineering program so that we can make the experience for our students even more robust.”