PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering

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The doctoral degree (Ph.D.) is primarily intended for students pursuing a career in research, development and/or collegiate teaching. Some of our graduates pursue careers in academia, while others work in national labs, big tech, start-up companies, consulting or even Wall Street. The focus of the program is on advanced ECE topics and making innovative and fundamental/applied research contributions based on these topics to advance knowledge and impact society. Our more than 100 doctoral students specialize in research areas including nanoelectronics and photonics, RF engineering, embedded systems and integrated circuits, hardware and software design, smart grid and energy systems, machine learning and large-scale data analysis, cybersecurity, high performance computing, quantum information and engineering, signal processing and imaging systems, and communication systems.

Financial support is available in the form of Research Assistantships, Teaching Assistantships and Scholarships, all of them providing competitive stipends, full tuition waiver and subsidized health insurance.

Application to the Ph.D. Program

Applications for the Fall semester must be received by August 1, while the application deadline for the Spring semester is January 1. February 1 is the deadline to be considered for departmental funding. Admission to the ECE Ph.D. program is competitive. Those who meet stated requirements are not guaranteed admission, nor are those who fail to meet all of those requirements necessarily precluded from admission if they offer other appropriate strengths.

Exceptional applicants are encouraged to apply for one of our “First Year Departmental Scholarships”. Students awarded these Scholarships are fully supported by the ECE Department during their first semester, so that they are able to explore different research groups. At the end of the first semester, first year scholars will choose a doctoral advisor, who will fund them as Research Assistants during the second semester. Applications should be received by February 1 for full consideration.

Program Requirements

Students pursuing the Ph.D. degree begin in pre-candidacy, with formal Ph.D. candidacy achieved after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and having an approved Research and Study Program. Following formal admission to candidacy, students must complete the Pre-Dissertation Examination, the Ph.D. Dissertation, and the Final Oral Examination. Specific Ph.D. degree requirements are detailed in the Department Graduate Policy and summarized below.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is typically offered once a year at the beginning of June. Ph.D. students must complete it within two years of admission to the Ph.D. program, and it can be taken at most twice. The Qualifying Examination consists of written and oral components, with both being considered in reaching the final pass/fail decision.

Written Component. The written component assesses comprehensive knowledge of the material covered in Foundation courses [link], which are offered in each of the major research areas within the Department. The Exam includes two questions based on each Foundation course. Each student must answer three questions in his/her area of concentration and three questions outside his/her area of concentration [link], for a total of six questions answered.

Oral Component. The oral component consists of a closed question and answer session with a committee of three faculty members. Questions may cover foundation course material and current research topics in the student’s area of concentration.

Research and Study Program

Students must submit a Research and Study Program (RSP) prior to taking the Qualifying Examination. The RSP details: (1) all courses taken by the student, (2) all future courses planned to be taken in fulfillment of the degree requirements, (3) an abstract of the research to be undertaken in fulfillment of the degree requirements, and (4) a list of the individuals that have agreed to serve on the student’s dissertation committee, which must consist of at least four individuals. The committee is chaired by the student’s faculty research advisor and must include at least two additional faculty members from the Department.

Pre-Dissertation Examination

The pre-dissertation examination is an in-depth written document and presentation of the student’s thesis proposal to members of his/her committee. The proposal must present sufficient evidence to justify its acceptance as a dissertation topic. Candidates must complete the pre-dissertation examination within one and a half years of passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and having an approved RSP. The written proposal must be distributed to the committee members for review no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled proposal presentation.

Ph.D. Dissertation

Candidates must carry out a program of substantial original research, which forms the basis of a written dissertation that must be read and approved by the student’s committee as adequate for the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation research should form the basis of several research papers in refereed professional journals.

Final Oral Examination

The written dissertation must be distributed to the committee members for review no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled final oral examination. In the final oral examination, the student presents the results of his/her dissertation research to members of the faculty. The format of the presentation is that of a seminar in which questions from the audience take the place of formal exam questions. The student’s dissertation committee meets afterwards, in closed session, to decide if sufficient research progress has been made to warrant the granting of the Ph.D.

General Requirements

In addition to the specific requirements noted above, the following general requirements must be satisfied by all candidates:

  • Candidates are required to complete one continuous academic year of full-time study as a residency requirement.
  • Candidates must complete the course requirements for the thesis master’s degree, or have been awarded a master’s degree in electrical or computer engineering, or a closely related field.
  • Candidates must take at least two foundation courses outside their area of concentration.
  • Candidates must take at least 9 credits of Doctoral Dissertation (ELEG 969).


Students in the Ph.D. program may elect to choose a concentration area of study. Concentrations are available in Computer Systems & Networking, Signal Processing, Communications, and Controls, Materials and Devices, Electromagnetics and Photonics, and Biomedical Engineering. Students selecting a concentration must meet the concentration requirements in addition to meeting their general degree requirements. Concentrations are voluntary, and students selecting multidisciplinary or other specialized studies need not declare a concentration.