Abdul's diary entry - Spring 2011

Choosing the right courses in your final year of university is a very important - and stressful - undertaking, as Abdul shares in his latest IET diary entry.

Abdul Jabbar Tomorrow marks the first day of my last year on my computer engineering degree. Just the thought of having only two more semesters left brings a mixture of feelings - those that give a sense of joy and those that give a tinge of anxiety.

The sense of joy is in imagining myself finally completing my degree and seeing myself graduating from the university, having spent the most crucial years of my life successfully. The tingling anxiety is thinking of the even broader vista of opportunities and challenges that will dawn upon me as I leave the (comparatively) protected 'world' of being an undergraduate engineering student. Very often I find I ask myself will I be really prepared to face the world out there? Well, lets wait and see.

Choosing the right electives

These two final semesters will be filled with specialised courses in computer engineering and that means I have another daunting task ahead of me: deciding on the right combination of elective courses.

As a computer engineering student, I have options that allow me to focus on areas like computer networking, network security, image processing, very large scale integration (VLSI), wireless networks, mobile computing, smartcard and RFID technology, computer performance evaluation, signals and systems, embedded systems…the list goes on. Since most of you will face the same dilemma at least once in your life, let me pass on to you what I've learn from my seniors and others.

Firstly, if you are really damn sure of what area you want to work in, or pursue a masters degree in, then you choose courses that can help you with that. Secondly, and most commonly, if you're still unsure, then simply eliminate the options that do not fit in your interest area(s).

The problem is that many of us at this stage are still not sure what we're most interested in. In this case, choose your options so that by the time you graduate, you would have acquired (at least) the basics of at least two to three areas of specialisation in your discipline of engineering. Then when you go for a masters, a PhD, or enter industry, you can dive deeper into one or more of these.

This is exactly the route I am following. In the coming semester, I've opted for mobile computing and signals and systems to give me knowledge in the field of communications, but I've also chosen the image processing course to give me good hands-on experience and knowledge in this field which can be applied to the healthcare, industry, military, security and medical physics sectors etc. Also, I have a course in the principles of human behaviour, which I believe will broaden my thinking and dealing with people at home, work and school.

Preparing for the future

The final year of your study involves lots of other things as well. You need to pave the way for your future. If you're intending to pursue a masters degree, then you have to look around for the universities you could apply into. There are so many factors you need to think of, like scholarships/fees, the faculty, the society/surrounding itself, the student life there, the school's reputation, etc. You also need to prepare for some examinations that you may need to sit for and ace to qualify for admission.

So, all this is there hanging like a heavy sack on my shoulders and I am worried as to how I will manage all this along with my course work and volunteering commitments. By the time I write my next diary entry I hope I will have passed this phase of life successfully. I'll let you know how it goes…