Doctoral Program

ECSE Doctoral Program

Below is a brief summary of some of the requirements -- Students are encouraged to consult with the ECSE Graduate Program Handbook for full description of requirements and guidelines, and to use the Program Planner appropriate for their degree.

Students pursuing the PhD in ELEC or CSYS need to complete the following:

  • 48 credits beyond the master's or 72 credits beyond the bachelor's degree
  • Two thirds of total credit hours (excluding thesis credits) at the 6000-level
  • No more than 15  4000-level credits
  • A minimum of 12 and a maximum of 36 dissertation thesis credits
  • One Math elective
  • No more than 15 transfer credits
  • No more than three credits of Independent Study
  • No 1000- or 2000- level courses may be applied towards the degree

Doctoral Qualifying Exam (DQE)
Students must take and pass the Doctoral Qualifying Exam (DQE) to be officially enrolled as doctoral students. The purpose of the exam is to determine the likelihood that the student will complete the doctoral requirements successfully and produce high-quality independent research. The current DQE consists of two parts: 1) the Research Qualifying Exam (RQE); 2) the Major/Minor course concentration requirements.  Anyone taking the RQE in Spring 2024 on, will use the new Major/Minor areas and courses (see here). For an understanding of the RQE from students who have previously passed the exam, please see a recent session below.

Sample RQE Reports:

An Overview of Convergence Analysis of Deep Neural Networks and the Visual Explanations of their Predictions - Mohammed Nowaz Rabbani Chowdhury

Deep Learning for Set Operations and Plug-and-Play Denoising - Christopher Wiedeman

Hardware Design and Testing for Optical Brain Imaging and Visible Light Communication - Md Nabil Shehtab Dhrubo

Overcomplete Representation Acceleration Methods in Source Localization and Object Detection - Zhengye Yang

Photonic Neuromorphic Computing For Neural Network Acceleration and Next Generation Optical Communication - Nicholas Gangi

Doctoral Candidacy Exam (DCE)
Each student is also required to pass a Doctoral Candidacy Exam (DCE) to determine whether they are making satisfactory progress on the chosen thesis topic  and demonstrate the ability to complete a doctoral dissertation with distinction. The student will form a doctoral committee consisting of no less than four full-time faculty members and will submit to them a written Thesis Proposal.

Doctoral Defense
The final step in the doctoral program is a public presentation of the doctoral thesis to the doctoral committee, where the candidate must defend his/her research results. The defense is typically open to the public, although the ensuing committee deliberation is not.

Finding an Advisor, Advising and Course Registration

All doctoral students must have an official ECSE faculty advisor. Students are welcome to choose a faculty advisor from another department but must have an ECSE professor as a co-advisor.

Students admitted with RA funding are automatically assigned an advisor. Those admitted as TA's or without funding are not assigned to a specific advisor and have the flexibility to choose from among the faculty. These students are encouraged to meet with professors in their area of interest as soon as possible after arriving to determine the best research fit. All students must submit an official advisor form (PDF) during the first semester of study. This form must be on file no later than October 1 for those entering in the fall and March 1 for those entering in the spring. If a student changes advisors during the course of study, a new form must be filled out and placed on file with the department.

Full-time students must be registered for 12-16 credits each semester until they graduate. The only exception is for TA’s, who may register for a minimum of 9, maximum of 16 credits in the semester(s) they are teaching. Part-time students must be continuously registered until they graduate to remain in good standing. Students who need to take a break from their studies for any reason should discuss the possibility of an official leave of absence with the department and the Office of Graduate Education before leaving.

It is the student's responsibility to meet with his/her advisor to discuss appropriate courses. PhD students may register for thesis credits as early as the first semester of study. Typically, students register for a combination of course and thesis credits until all the necessary coursework is complete. Students then register for thesis credits until completion of the thesis.

Plan of Study

All doctoral students must file a Plan of Study outlining all course and thesis credits that will be counted for the degree.

Students should discuss the plan of study with their advisor early in the program and have an initial plan of study on file with the department by the end of the first semester. The plan of study must be signed by both the student and the advisor and then submitted to the department for approval by the Graduate Program Director. The plan of study may be updated as many times as necessary to reflect any changes in the program. It is the student's responsibility  to make sure that an up-to-date plan of study is on file with the department.


  • Professor Rich Radke, Graduate Program Director
  • Ms. Kelley Kritz, Graduate Program Administrator


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