Cal Poly EE

Overall, I would rate my experience in the EE department as a 7/10. The facilities are generally to par and there are plenty of opportunities for research and projects. You’ll definitely obtain an excellent education should you choose to come here and most of the professors in the department are highly knowledgeable and eager to help students achieve their academic and professional goals. The department and its administration aren’t very supportive, though they are going through lots of flux at the time of writing. Still, I’ve always gotten what I’ve needed/wanted in terms of course substitutions and permission numbers, though not always without significant effort even for simple requests.

As for the school itself, the campus is generally nice, though the surrounding areas can get boring quickly if you’ve already visited the major landmarks and aren’t a big beach or hiking person. Classes can be very difficult to get into as an underclassman, though things usually work out if you keep track of your registration dates/times and plan out multiple backup schedules. I almost always packed my own lunches, but food on campus is sparse, expensive, and below-average in quality from what I’ve seen. On the other hand, the recreation center is massive and the weather is generally great.

Below are my reviews for some of the professors I have taken courses with at Cal Poly. Given the virtual nature of some of these courses, certain reviews may be more focused on the course than the professor.

Major Courses & Electives:

Gary Perks
Course: EE 112

Perks is an excellent professor who always appeared perfectly organized and conveyed the subject matter with accuracy and ease. His lectures were very digestible, laid an extremely solid foundation, and served as a more than adequate preparation for circuits two. Further, his exams and grading were both very fair and if you put in the effort to truly understand the material, you did very well. Overall, if there’s anyone you should start your degree with, it’s Perks.

Sussan Einakian
Course: CPE 101

I went into this course with plenty of Python and general programming experience. As such, it was more of a formality than anything else for myself and about five others in the class. Professor Einakian loosely assigned groups with an equal spread of programming experience to encourage those more proficient in Python to help those who weren’t. This generally worked out and as far as I know, everyone was able to complete the assignments throughout the quarter and pass the class. However, the lectures weren’t particularly engaging and some of the projects were quite difficult for those without prior experience. All in all, though Professor Einakian wouldn’t be my first pick if I was going into this course without prior programming experience, her class is doable.

Ahmad Nafisi
Course: EE 211

EE 211 with Professor Nafisi was the perfect follow-up to EE 112 with Professor Perks. He was just as amazing a professor and made the quarter rewarding and enjoyable. The lectures thoroughly covered all of the topics we needed and the two exams were very fair. He is retiring so I’m not sure how many more quarters he’ll be teaching for, but definitely take him if you can!

Asit Rairkar
Course: EE 241

Dr. Rairkar made EE 241 quite enjoyable and was always there to help when necessary. He did grade a tad ruthlessly but I suppose it was good preparation for upper-levels and the precision required in professional or research papers. He is no longer teaching at Cal Poly at the time of writing but overall, he was a great lab instructor!

Maxwell Muscarella:
Course: EE 242

I took this course in the first virtual quarter following the start of the pandemic; it was also taught by a graduate student. The only thing I remember from this class is three-phase power systems, and the graduate student made them generally enjoyable (as much as a thrown-together virtual class can be).

William Ahlgren
Course: EE 402

Professor Ahlgren seems to have a good understanding of electromagnetics and magnetism and conveys topics fairly well during office hours and at times during lecture. However, he lacks an organizational structure during lecture and will often spend 80+% of lecture time going over one student question or example problem. This leaves little time for the lecture itself and forces students to either self-study or leave with an incomplete or shallow understanding of the material. The multiple-choice testing format only adds to this problem, as evidenced by the midterm averages (5/15 and 10/15), and a majority of students will rely on the curve. This is confirmed by the grade distributions for past quarters, and all students who get a score above the “guessing threshold,” defined as a 5/15 by Professor Ahlgren, will get at least a B-. Overall, Professor Ahlgren seems like a decent professor but requires more structure and planning (say 40 min of lecture and 10 min at the end of class for questions, with any additional elucidations provided in office hours).

Paul Hummel
Course: EE 329

329 with Hummel is one of those courses that gets burned into your soul. This is no ordinary course – it is a full-time job of a practical and real-world set of engineering assignments. The quarter starts off normally, with a fairly light workload and weekly assignments/projects. As it progresses though, 329 starts to give you a weekly slap across the face, and your long hours working on assignments in Discord VC go up exponentially. By the end of the course, you have been molded and forged, and are ready to read another 1000-page reference manual for a random MCU. Theatrical writing aside, Hummel is an excellent professor who conveys the subject matter extremely well and is always ready to help you should you need it. While you may spend long hours debugging something, Hummel is there to do the same with you should you require it. He does not make the class easy and the grading is far from lenient at times, but I would take 329 with him again in a heartbeat. As Hummel contends, this is the Stockholm syndrome talking.

Samuel Agbo:
Course: EE 306, EE 314

If you see his name, close the page immediately and enroll later.

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