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Antenna Specialty within EE

  1. May 13, 2017 #1
    I am contemplating about pursuing EE bachelor. My goal is to deal with antennas, signal processing, electronic communication, etc. But all the curricula that I have examined (USA), universities don't seem to offer any courses on antennas. Sig proc - yes, and so are circuit analysis present there as well. But what do I need to do in order to work with antennas and signals? Is it possible to get into that specialty right after BS in EE?
    Thank you, looking forward into your insights.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2017 #2

    Baluncore

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    The specification of antennas actually employs very few RF engineers. Most EE courses will have an introductory guide to antenna specification, design or selection. The majority of manufacturers now supply commodity antennas with their type approved transmitters and receivers.

    You cannot just walk from a University degree into antenna design. Employed antenna engineers build up their knowledge over many years of experience solving antenna and propagation problems. If you can focus on signal processing you will get all the skills you need to understand the design of antennas. You will also be employed while you gain strength in the field of antenna design.

    It is wise to avoid studying your primary interest at University. Study something that will get you immediate employment. Use your parallel interest to enhance those skills. To increase your chances of being paid to design antennas, get an amateur radio licence and experiment with antennas. When an opening for an antenna engineer arises, you will be known to be skilled in the field and be available.
     
  4. May 14, 2017 #3

    jim hardy

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    I hope you like Vector Calculus.

    Balun gave great advice . Amateur Radio enthusiasts build their own antennas. And we learn best by doing.
    Get yourself ARRL "Antenna Handbook" .
    I'd have not passed my university's antenna course without the practical introduction from that text.
     
  5. May 14, 2017 #4

    marcusl

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    You can learn antenna design in college and be ready to walk into an industry position, particularly since antenna design is a scarce skill in recent grads. The aerospace industry is one field that hires antenna designers. Ohio State, Arizona State and the University of Oklahoma offer antenna design courses, as do Penn State and Colorado School of Mines. Virginia Tech is very strong in communications (telecom) and may also offer antenna-related courses.

    Becoming a ham is good advice.
     
  6. May 14, 2017 #5
    Here's a different perspective. I'm a physicist, not a EE, and I have no hands-on experience with antenna design. I did, however, work for almost 10 yrs as a patent agent. I handled applications in a variety of fields, including a slew of applications on antennas and signal processing. Here's my take.

    (a) Courses in signal processing won’t prepare you for antenna design. Antenna design is primarily based on the physics of carrier waves, rather than the signals encoded on the carrier waves. You need a strong background in E&M, wave propagation (including reflections and scattering off surfaces), and transmission lines (especially impedance matching). The output of the antenna in receivers is typically fed to a low-noise amplifier (LNA), so you should also learn about LNAs and the proper coupling of an antenna to an LNA. Similarly, learn about transmitters and coupling of antennas to transmitters.

    (b) Basic background is covered in physics E&M courses or EE electromagnetics courses. If you wish to pursue R&D in new antenna designs [rather than implementing existing antennas into a system], you will need graduate-level courses, including graduate-level math. The inventors I dealt with all had at least an MS, most had PhDs. Once you have the proper background coursework, there are courses specifically directed at principles of antenna design; just do a Google search on “university courses antenna design”.

    (c) There is on-going R&D for miniature antennas for use in mobile devices, such as cellphones and GPS receivers. These antennas are often fabricated using printed-circuit board (PCB) or integrated circuit (IC) techniques, so you should get some background in PCB and IC fabrication. Also E&M properties of materials (taught in physics, EE, or materials science and engineering).
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
  7. May 15, 2017 #6

    Baluncore

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    The future is now. It uses arrays of simple antennas, with complex digital signal processing.
     
  8. May 16, 2017 #7
    Jim, I'm new here and was just browsing. Came across this thread on antennas and it caught my eye because I am a ham radio operator. Was just curious if you have a license and are active?
     
  9. May 16, 2017 #8
    "The future is now" ... until someone comes along to disrupt it. Antennas are used in a wide range of applications and have a wide range of designs (e.g., from large units mounted on towers to miniature ones that are wearable or implantable). Some areas of antenna design are more mature than others.

    The OP stated that he was contemplating a bachelor's in EE, but didn't indicate whether he's still in HS or already in college (but hasn't declared a major). My recommendation to the OP is to at least scan publications devoted to antennas and propagation; e.g., IEEE by itself has three publications (transactions, letters, and magazine), which by itself gives some indication that the field is not dead. Titles and abstracts are available online, but articles generally require a subscription; so you'll need access to a technical library or know someone who is a subscriber; versions of some articles are publically available on some authors' websites. You can also do a web search for issued patents and published patent applications on antennas. These are publically available; and you can filter by date to get a sampling of recent ones. The technical and patent literature should give you a snapshot of the current state of R&D in antenna design. You can decide for yourself whether this is a stagnant or vibrant (or somewhere in between) field, and whether anything excites you. Of, course, the field will have evolved by the time you graduate, but it's a good place to start. I don't think antenna design is in the same state as photographic film chemistry.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  10. May 16, 2017 #9

    jim hardy

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    Been procrastinating since 1963..... will make it though !
     
  11. May 17, 2017 #10

    Baluncore

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    Academics publish or perish. The relative employment prospects for a new graduate is NOT proportional to the number of academic papers published in that field over the last few years.

    As an old antenna engineer I can tell you that there is simply not enough work any more. Almost everything has now become wideband conversion with digital signal processing. As an antenna consultant your honest professional advice will probably be for your clients to buy commodity antennas made in China. Antenna design is still a fascinating science, but it is no longer a primary source of employment.
     
  12. May 18, 2017 #11
    You make a valid point that the number of jobs is not proportional to the number of academic papers; after all, e.g., there are a lot of publications in high-energy physics, but few jobs in that field. I don't have any info on the number of antenna papers from industry vs university. But I also did recommend a search of recent patent literature (which tend to be less academically biased; though there are exceptions, depending on the field). Just to correct what you wrote: I'm not an antenna consultant advising clients how they should design their antennas. As a patent agent, some of my clients were inventors who wanted to patent new antenna designs. Technical and financial analyses were done by the clients (typically vetted by the clients' technical, business, and legal organizations). The clients were not university professors; they were R&D engineers working in industry [one was an IEEE fellow, so I certainly wouldn't have presumed to advise him to consider other options]. Most of their designs were manufactured and commercially sold.
     
  13. May 18, 2017 #12
    I found all of your insights very valuable, and interesting to read. They helped me to form a clearer view of prospects in antenna engineering. I thank each and everyone of you for your time and effort.
    /////AMG63
     
  14. May 20, 2017 #13
    Ah, an OP who sends a thank-you note. That's refreshing. Speaks well of you. You're welcome. I wish you good luck and great success in your future endeavors, whether they include antennas or not.
     
  15. May 20, 2017 #14

    marcusl

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    True that arrays, digital signal processing, and beamforming and MIMO algorithms are exciting and here to stay, but the antenna elements in those arrays still need to be designed. In telecomm, there is dearth of design engineers who can work at mm waves where 5G applications are headed, for example. Our company does algorithms and arrays, but we also have over 50 antenna designers who work on a wide variety of antenna types, and our experience is that talented antenna design engineers don't show up very often. There's definitely a market for them.
     
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