Doctoral Program

ECSE Doctoral Program

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

  • Minimum of 48 credits beyond the Master's or 72 credits beyond the Bachelor's degree
  • No more than 15 transfer credits
  • Must pass the Doctoral Qualifying Exam
  • Must pass the Doctoral Candidacy Exam
  • Must complete a doctoral thesis and thesis defense

In satisfying the 48 credit hours beyond the Master’s degree, a typical plan of study has 15-24 credit hours of courses, including a reasonable “core sequence” in a focused area of research, and 36-45 dissertation credits.

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 successfully complete the doctoral requirements and produce a high quality piece of independent research.

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 4 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 12-15 credits each semester until they graduate. The only exception is for TA’s, who may register for a minimum of 9, maximum of 15 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 Director of Doctoral Programs. 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 Alhussein A. Abouzeid, Graduate Program Director
  • Ms. Priscilla Magilligan, Graduate Program Secretary
  • Ms. Leslie D. Davis, Graduate Program Administrator


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