Chalmers University of Technology: where experts in wireless, photonics and space engineering are made

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For Teanette van der Spuy, the route from her home country of South Africa to Sweden –– home of Chalmers University of Technology –– was crystal clear. During her undergraduate years, she discovered her passion for microwave engineering. Around this time, she visited a radio astronomy observatory, where she realized that engineers face unique challenges every day and overcoming them involves clever methods that only a world-class education can teach.

The university’s wireless, photonics and space engineering master’s program closed the deal. “Not only does it cover all my specific interests (communications, microwave detection, space observation), but it also offers a unique association with the Onsala Space Observatory,” she explains.

The program Spuy is talking about was designed to produce technological innovators whose creations will serve as the basic engines for cell phones, antennas, quantum computers, sensors, robots, communication systems and satellites of the future.

Especially in light of emerging infrastructures like data centers; 6G mobile communication networks, new applications such as industrial automation; autonomous driving; as well as the growing number of private space industry companies offering new ubiquitous satellite constellation services for global communications, navigation, Earth observation and space science -–– this postgraduate degree has never been so relevant.

It aptly prepares learners to manage progress and provide solutions to future challenges. By combining basic knowledge of photonics and microwave devices with an in-depth understanding of how these components work at the system level, each student is assured of industry-relevant expertise.

Chalmers has implemented smaller classrooms to not only ensure the health and safety of its students, but also to provide more personalized attention in state-of-the-art spaces. Source: Chalmers University of Technology

Compulsory courses in 1st year include: electromagnetic waves and components; wireless and photonic systems engineering; microwave engineering; space science and technology; as well as photonics and lasers.

Christian Fager –– Professor and Head of the Microwave Electronics Laboratory in the Department of Microengineering and Nanosciences–– has been directing the Wireless and Photonic Systems Engineering course for about 12 years. Its main purpose is to keep it fresh. “I significantly updated the content at the very beginning,” he says:

“For example, lessons around analogue FM radios have been replaced by digital and more modern techniques. Today, 5G and 6G are important, so we cover that. Additionally, we invite guest speakers or industry speakers to give us updates on industry trends.

For a more interdisciplinary experience, students can chart their own course by choosing at least three of the 13 required electives: Active Microwave Circuits; electromagnetic sensor systems; antenna engineering; integrated photonics; radar systems and applications; MMIC design; optoelectronics; satellite telecommunications; semiconductor devices for modern electronics; millimeter wave and THz technology; fiber optic communication; satellite positioning; and wireless link project. All courses lead to a master’s thesis in the 2nd year.

The topical lessons kept Spuy engaged enough to look back on his first year at Chalmers as “one of the most exciting times” of his life –– even in the midst of a pandemic. When full online classes finally ended, she recalls her program director hosting a class-wide lecture on everything Spuy and his peers should be looking forward to. “It was a relief for me that all the lessons were in English!” she says.

His first lab session was equally exciting, which involved designing and building a hologram. The fact that the university implemented smaller classrooms — to ensure the health and safety of its students — only meant more personalized attention in state-of-the-art spaces.

Chalmers University of Technology

With every minute spent in the labs, students bear witness to the groundbreaking research conducted at Chalmers. Source: Chalmers University of Technology

“Chalmers has a wealth of lab resources and is well known for its excellent high-frequency circuit designs,” says Spuy. “I was especially excited to be able to manufacture and test my own high-frequency design projects.”

With every minute spent in the labs, students bear witness to the groundbreaking research conducted at Chalmers. Each educator in the program is an active researcher. Some are in the Department of Microengineering and Nanosciences. Together and separately, they conduct application-oriented research on high-speed microwave and THz electronics. They are also exploring future communications and remote sensing applications, optoelectronics and fiber optics for long-distance transmission and short-range interconnections, THz imaging systems, and advanced receivers for space applications.

In the Department of Space, Earth and Environment, experts study microwave and optical remote sensing, space geodesy and radio astronomy. Several projects focus on Earth observation using satellites for climate and weather, for example measurements of atmospheric gases, forests and sea ice. A team is currently developing methods to quantify gas emissions from active volcanoes –– providing information on ozone depletion and climate change in the process. Another project developed a method based on UV/visible light to quantify hydrocarbon emissions from petroleum-related industrial activities.

Chalmers University of Technology

Onsala Space Observatory (OSO), Sweden’s national infrastructure for radio astronomy, provides scientists with equipment to study the Earth and the rest of the Universe. Source: Chalmers University of Technology

Meanwhile, at the Onsala Space Observatory –– a fundamental geodetic station –– the university operates several radio telescopes for astronomy and geodesy while participating in international radio astronomy projects (e.g., EVN, ALMA and SKA).

With each discovery made in these spaces, the educational experiences of countless students are further enriched. “Since each lecture is presented by a professor from a research group, each session brings an astonishing wealth of knowledge,” enthuses Spuy.

“I found the millimeter wave and terahertz technology class lab to be exceptional. We had the opportunity to design their own terahertz waveguide twist and have it manufactured – an opportunity I don’t know if I will ever have again!”

With the Chalmers qualification she will soon receive in 2022, Spuy will certainly do so – but this time, as an expert herself. To follow in his footsteps, click here to register for information on the two-year MSc in Wireless, Photonics and Space Engineering today.

With a variety of scholarships available for international students, becoming part of this renowned Swedish university has never been easier. All international students from outside the EU who submit a program application are eligible to apply for funding valid for two years of study. Secure your place at this top Swedish university and apply to the course today.

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