Our history

In the middle of the 18th century, electricity was used to 'entertain the curious by giving them electric shocks'. Two hundred and fifty years later, it could still be said that electricity is being used to entertain the curious, but in ways that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors. Over that time, electrical engineers, together with physicists and mathematicians, have created a group of technologies which are one of the dominant industrial and commercial forces in modern society. From the great centres of the developed world to rural villages in the developing world, electrical energy and wireless telecommunications are transforming the way people live and work and changing the aspirations of the people who use them. 

This history of the UNSW School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications (EE&T) is more than an internal record of more than 60 years through which the School has evolved. There is a parallel narrative concerning the evolution of the profession of electrical engineering and, more importantly, a record of what electrical engineers have done, from the development of the Leyden jar with its ability to store static electric charge, to its tiny and very important descendant in the form of the semiconductor memory chip, uses the principle of charge storage to remember the countless terabytes of data which the modern world generates each day. 

This School grew out of a purely teaching institution and teaching was its main business in the early years. It made important contributions to the development of electrical engineering in this country and beyond, as overseas students returned to their countries to put their studies into practice. The School is now a vibrant mix of local and international students and EE&T graduates are found in senior positions almost everywhere in the world. 

Much of this history describes what the School has done to establish and maintain itself in this position. The steady evolution of teaching is driven by a complex process that involves considering industry requirements, 'best practice' in other institutions, inputs from accrediting bodies and, most importantly, inputs from the School's own researchers to identify the knowledge that new graduates need to contribute to the future of electrical engineering and telecommunications. The content of core subjects is modified and new electives are introduced. Laboratories are regularly re-equipped and redesigned. New teaching methods are also constantly being tested. 

The School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications has a number of obvious areas of strength and concentration. Examples include:

  • power systems (machine and drive technologies, power electronics, stability, monitoring, control and associated economic systems);
  • quantum computing (with new directions in quantum communications and control);
  • materials and devices (including novel photonic materials and MEMS devices);
  • and signal processing (covering fields as diverse as neural coding, forensics, speech, multimedia and biologically inspired signal processing).

Our researchers work in a much wider range of areas, where many have very strong international reputations within their fields of expertise. The School boasts several Fellows of the most prestigious relevant research societies. Our researchers bespeak many prestigious awards for the publication of ground-breaking research and numerous distinguished presentation roles at large international conferences. The School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications at UNSW is an outstanding destination for research studies, for postdoctoral research work and for research collaboration.