My self-study plan for electrical engineering


I’ve been interested in brain-computer interfaces for a while, and last summer I finally decided to do something about it. I’ve read through the Fundamental Neuroscience, The Hippocampus, and a bunch of other books and review papers. Now I think I have a basic grasp of what’s going on in the brain, and enough knowledge to be able to read journals, which I intend to keep doing.

What I really lack now is engineering knowledge. I’ve graduated from university with an applied math degree, and then spent 13 years in the workforce, first as a quant analyst at a hedge fund and then as a software developer and a technical lead. In that time, I had zero opportunity to learn or use electrical engineering, and now I need to make that up.

This is intended to plug that hole.


The general plan of study is to spend a year or two:

  • Reading the textbooks that cover the material that would be typically covered in the undergrad Electrical and Computer Engineering courses (taken from U of Waterloo curriculum), and
  • Doing practical hands-on projects that would help me learn them.

Ideally, I’d do this together with a number of other people with similar interests - maybe as a sort of study group, to make it both more fun and to have others with whom I could bounce around ideas. (By the way, if you’re interested in joining, message me -> email: ioukhr at the big email provider that starts with g and ends with mail.)


My main worries at this point are:

  • I am almost certainly missing something important, but I don’t know what. I’ll need to connect with people who work on miniaturized, implantable systems to help cover those gaps as much as possible. Are you one? I’d love to hear from you.
  • Once I’m done, then what? At the present, I don’t have a clear picture of how to transition from studying to working with brain-computer interfaces.

Phase 1: the basics

Do you have better suggestions? I’d love to hear from you.


  • Build a clock on a breadboard?
  • Something else - TBD


  • Intro to Electricity and Magnetism. Textbook: find one. Edit: “Electricity and Magnetism” by Purcell, rescued from my wife’s box of old univeristy books.
  • Digital circuits and systems.
    • Textbook: “Fundamentals of Digital Logic with VHDL Design”, Brown/Vranesic.
    • Textbook: “Digital Design and Computer Architecture” by Harris and Harris (per HN recommendation)
  • Linear Circuits.
    • Textbook: Probably something like “Practical Electronics for Inventors”?
    • “The Art of Electronics” by Horowitz and Hill (per HN recommendation)
  • Materials Chemistry for Engineers. Textbook: “Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change” by Silberberg
  • Electronic Circuits.
    • Textbook: “Microelectronic Circuits” by Sedra/Smith, or
    • “Microelectronics” by Behzad Razavi (per HN recommendation),
    • Or is it already covered by The Art of Electronics?
  • Signals and Systems. Textbooks:
    • “Signals and Systems” by A.V. Oppenheim and A.S. Willsky (HN recommends), or
    • “Linear Systems and Signals” by B.P. Lathi, or

Explicitly excluded:

  • Math, including calculus, linear algebra, stats, and Fourier/Laplace transforms. I’ve studied it in undergrad and got to use some of it in the professional setting. Though I’ll probably need a quick refresher here and there.
  • Software side of things, as I’ve been doing that for >10 years at work.

Phase 2: higher level core courses


  • Build a radio
  • Something with FPGAs?
  • Something with embedded real-time software?
  • TBD


  • Embedded Microprocessor Systems. Textbook: maybe “Embedded Microprocessor Systems” by Stuart Ball? Covered by the same textbook as Digital circuits and systems
  • Communication Systems 1.
    • Textbook: “Introduction to Analog & Digital Communications”, S. Haykin and M. Moher, or
  • Digital Hardware Systems. Textbook: TBD Covered by the same textbook as Digital circuits and systems
  • Analog control systems. Textbook:
    • “Feedback Control of Dynamic Systems” - G. Franklin, J. Powell, and A. Emami-Naeini, or
    • “Feedback Systems: An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers” - K. J. Astrom and R. M. Murray
  • Information theory. I’ve studied that before, just need a refresher.
  • Digital signal processing. Textbook: “Foundations of Signal Processing” - Martin Vetterli, Jelena Kovacevic, and Vivek Goyal
  • Electronic devices. Textbook: “Semiconductor Physics and Devices” - Neamen and Neamen
  • Radio frequency and microwave circuits. Textbook: “Fundamentals of Microwave and RF Design” - Michael Steer

Phase 3: deeper electives

I will almost certainly need to speak to someone who knows more by this point to validate that I’m on the right track.


  • TBD


  • Communication Systems 2.
    • Textbook: “Communication Systems” by John Proakis (HN suggestion)
    • Textbook: maybe “Wireless Communications and Networking” by J. W. Mark and W. Zhuang? Or totally off the mark?
  • Fabrication technologies for Micro and Nano devices.
    • Maybe this textbook? “Micro and Nano Fabrication Technology: - Yan, Jiwang
    • Is it even possible to do something like this at home?
  • Integrated Analog Electronics
    • Maybe this? “Analog Integrated Circuit Design” - Carusone, Johns, Martin
    • Textbook: “Analog CMOS Integrated Circuits” by Razavi (per HN suggestions)
  • Integrated Digital Electronics. Textbook: “Digital Integrated Circuits” - J. Rabaey, A. Chandrakasan, and B. Nikolic
  • Radio Wave Systems. Textbook: find one
  • Digital Control Systems. Do I need this? yes, I do. Find a textbook.
  • Radio Frequency Integrated Devices and Circuits. Textbook: find one.
  • Radio and Wireless Systems. Is this different from other RF systems courses?
  • Geometrical and Physical optics. Textbook: TBD