DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING OR MECHATRONIC SYSTEMS ENGINEERING DEGREE REQUIREMENTS
The objective of the PhD in ECE or MSE degree programs is to provide an educational environment that encourages students to develop the ability to contribute to the advancement of science, engineering and technology through independent research. The PhD students of the 21st century may pursue academic, research, entrepreneurial and/or industrial careers. We offer opportunities to develop individualized plans of study based on the students’ previous experience and desired research areas. The plan of study allows students to work on interdisciplinary research, while also satisfying the PhD in ECE or MSE degree requirements.
Admission to the PhD Program
Students with a MS in CpE, MS in MSE, MS in EE, MS in ME, or closely related areas may apply for admission to the PhD in ECE or PhD in MSE programs. Admission with only a BS in this field is also possible, but students with only a BS degree are strongly encouraged to enroll first in the MS (CpE, EE, MSE) programs. Admission to the PhD programs is based on review of the application and associated references. Normally, a GPA of at least 3.0 is required. All graduate engineering courses presuppose mastery of the subject matter of a modern ABET-accredited curriculum in engineering. Students with a BS in other engineering or related science fields and students with a BSCpE, BSEE, or BSME who have not taken graduate academic work for some time may be required to complete preparatory courses that are prerequisites for the core courses of the engineering concentrations on which the qualifying exams are based. These courses carry no credit toward the graduate degree.
Research requires an in-depth study of engineering problems with a broad knowledge base in science and engineering. Therefore, advanced courses are offered to strengthen the fundamentals and to broaden the engineering and science perspective. The minimum credit requirements are different for individuals entering a program with a closely related master’s degree and for those entering with a bachelor’s only. All requirements for the degree must be completed within seven years (eight years without a master’s degree) from admission to candidacy. A grade of C or better must be obtained in each course in order for that course to count toward the credit hour requirements. An overall minimum GPA of 3.0 is also required for graduation.
PhD in ECE
The PhD in ECE is appealing to students because it offers the much needed specialization component and the ‘degree identity’ required to be competitive in the job market. Graduates from this program will be well equipped to follow academic careers, or be hired in federal laboratories, industry and the private sector.
PhD in MSE
The PhD in MSE is at the forefront and intersection of the coupled disciplines of Electrical, Mechanical, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science. This unique degree is appealing to students because they will acquire the knowledge and ability to deal with and solve highly complex problems where integration is a key component. This degree provides a holistic approach to graduate education focusing on the ability to cover both breadth and depth of knowledge. Graduates of this program will lay the foundation for the modern engineering departments of the future, where ‘integration’ will be the key ingredient of studies.
All PhD students who have been admitted to the PhD in ECE or PhD in MSE programs must successfully complete three milestones before the PhD degree can be conferred. These milestones refer to:
• Demonstrating that the student is qualified to begin PhD studies
• Demonstrating that the student may identify and formulate a research problem
• Demonstrating that the student can defend her/his thesis
These three milestones are referred to as the “PhD Qualifying Exam”, the “Comprehensive Exam” (also known as the “PhD Proposal”), and the “Thesis Defense”.
Each student must demonstrate sufficient breadth and depth of basic engineering knowledge relevant to electrical and computer engineering. Each student must demonstrate ability to organize and present her/his thoughts in a convincing manner. The PhD Qualifying Exam achieves this through three components: a written Common Exam of basic engineering knowledge (breadth), two written Specific Area Exams (depth), and an oral Design Exam (breadth, depth, organization and presentation). Failure to pass any component of the PhD Qualifying Exam will prevent the student from continuing in the PhD program.
All students admitted into the PhD program must take all three components of the PhD Qualifying Exam within one year of admission. All students must pass the PhD Qualifying Exam within two years of admission to the PhD program.
A student may take the PhD Qualifying Exam at most twice. If a student fails in any component(s) of the exam the first time, she/he must take the same component(s) during the second attempt. Appeals for a third attempt may be considered on an individual basis, but they are rarely granted. They will be reviewed by the entire faculty of the department with clear, convincing evidence supporting the reasons for the appeal. The time table for such third attempts shall be determined by the department. In general, third attempts will not be permitted.
A student shall be considered to have passed the PhD Qualifying Exam only after all three components have been successfully completed within the time constraints specified.
The Common Exam is a two-hour written exam. Each student, in consultation with her/his advisor, must choose one of three options for the Common Exam:
• Engineering Mathematics (Calculus, Engineering Analysis, Linear Algebra)
• Circuits and Electronics
• Digital Design, Computer Organization, and HDL
Specific Area Exams
The PhD Qualifying Specific Area Exam component is designed to demonstrate depth in two chosen areas of expertise. Each Specific Area Exam is two hours in length. The two areas of expertise must be chosen at the time of the first attempt of the PhD Qualifier and cannot be changed. Specific Areas for the PhD Qualifier include, but are not limited to:
- Digital Design, Computer Organization, and HDL (only if NOT taken for the common component)
- Circuits and Electronics (only if NOT taken for the common component)
- Data Structures, Algorithms, & Operating Systems
- Control, Signals & Systems
- Physical Electronics
- Power Electronics, Power & Energy Systems
- Optical Fiber Communication
- Communication & DSP
- Image Processing & Computer Vision
- Pattern Recognition
- Control, Signals & Systems
Specialization Design Exam
: Design is the cornerstone of engineering. Every PhD student will be required to demonstrate ability to follow a sound design approach toward an engineering problem in her/his area of expertise and to convincingly defend her/his design in written and oral communication. The Specialization Design Exam will be an open-ended design problem, developed by the candidate’s advisor with the candidate’s area of study in mind. The candidate must complete the design exam in one week. The results of the candidate’s design exercise will be evaluated by a committee of three faculty, in both oral and written form. The candidate will have five (5) days to complete and submit a written report of her/his design solution and an additional two (2) days to prepare an oral defense of the design. Upon submission of a sufficient written report, the committee will schedule the oral defense of the design.
The purpose of this design examination is to demonstrate the candidate’s ability to follow good design procedures at the level of an undergraduate senior design course and to explain/justify the tradeoffs that are tantamount to design. For the purposes of this examination, “good design procedures” shall include the following steps as outlined in the DU ENGR 3313/3323/3333 sequence in the undergraduate curriculum:
- Conceptual Design
- Requirements Analysis
- Architectural Design
- Detailed Design
- Test and Validation
- Maintenance and Support
In general, it will not be possible to fully execute a design solution to an open-ended design problem in one week. The emphasis of this exam is on the candidate’s ability to complete the above steps to some convincing level of detail, the candidate’s ability to explain/justify the tradeoffs considered at each step of the process, and the candidate’s ability to communicate the completeness of the design exercise to the committee at a level appropriate for a beginning graduate student in engineering. As part of this exercise, comparisons to the existing body of literature are expected.
The examining committee for the Specialization Design Exam shall consist of the candidate’s advisor and two other faculty members. At least one of these other faculty members must be from the ECE department. Final constitution of the committee must be approved by the student’s advisor. If the student’s advisor is unavailable, the Department Chair will assign the committee based on recommendations provided by the advisor, if possible.
The purpose of the Comprehensive Examination is to ascertain the potential of the student for PhD quality research. At least two quarters prior to the final defense, the student shall schedule and take the Comprehensive Examination. This oral and written examination will be attended by a minimum of three faculty members, the same faculty who will attend the student’s final dissertation defense. The Comprehensive Exam may be open to other students based on the requirements of the student’s advisor. The student is expected to make a 30 to 40 minute concise presentation on her/his dissertation topic. The oral and written presentation will highlight previous work in this area, demonstrate a need for the given research, and explain how the given research will contribute to the advancement of the area. The student will also present completed work and results, anticipated work and results, and a detailed plan for project completion. In addition, the student will be expected to answer general fundamental questions in the area of her/his concentration and detailed questions in the area of the student’s graduate course work.
The PhD Qualifying Examination must be taken and passed prior to the student taking the Comprehensive Examination. The Comprehensive Examination can be taken 2 times. If the student does not pass the Comprehensive Exam on the second try, the student will be terminated from the program. The comprehensive exam will be graded on a pass/fail system, revisions maybe required.
The student is required to complete and defend a dissertation of publishable quality based on the student’s original research. The dissertation must be completed in written form in accordance with the University’s Graduate School guidelines. A summary of the dissertation must be presented in a public seminar and subsequently defended by the student in the final oral examination. The examining committee will consist of the student’s entire PhD committee.
One year of full-time graduate work and two consecutive years of part-time graduate work satisfy the minimum residency requirement at the University of Denver. For those applicants from industry with established special degree programs with the School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS), the residency requirement can be waived by the dean of SECS.
The PhD committee should consist of at least four faculty members. Three faculty members must be from within the student’s specialty area; these can include the student’s advisor, other faculty in that degree program and, if necessary, off-campus experts. Finally, for the final oral defense of the thesis, an oral defense chair, who must be a tenured faculty member outside the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical and Materials Engineering, needs to be identified in consultation with the DU Graduate Studies Office. The PhD committee must approve the student’s plan of study and research plan and must be in place before the PhD comprehensive exam.
Minimum credit requirements
Students with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering/Science
For students admitted to the PhD program with a bachelor’s degree, 90 QH are required, 72 of which must be completed at the University of Denver. A minimum of 48 QH must be at the 4000-level or higher and may include as many dissertation research hours (Independent Research and Independent Study) as considered appropriate by the advisor. The student with his/her advisor will develop an appropriate plan of study with core requirements, an area of specialization (depth requirement), breadth requirement and advanced mathematics. The core will consist of 8 QH of coursework. The area of specialization will consist of 16 QH of coursework. An additional 6 QH of coursework (excluding independent research) is required as related breadth requirement. The student must complete a minimum of 16 HQ at the 4000-level courses, excluding independent research. Prior to completion of the comprehensive exam, the plan of study must be approved by the student’s PhD committee.
Students with a Master of Science in Engineering/Science
If a student is admitted with a closely related master’s degree, up to 45 hours may be transferred and applied to the doctorate degree. A minimum of 45 quarter hours is required at the University of Denver. The student with his or her advisor will develop an appropriate program consisting of a minimum of 45 quarter hours at the 4000-level, which may include as many dissertation research hours (Independent Research and Independent Study) as considered appropriate by the advisor. The student with his or her advisor will develop an appropriate plan of study with an area of specialization, breadth requirements and advanced mathematics. Prior to completion of the comprehensive exam, the student’s plan of study must be approved by the student’s PhD