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Doctoral Programs

Doctoral Programs

Doctor of Philosophy Programs

  • Doctor of Philosophy Program in Electrical Engineering (EE)
  • Doctor of Philosophy Program in Computer Engineering (CP)
Admission Requirements
Plan of Study
Program Duration
Transfer Credit
ECE Qualifier Exam
Candidacy Requirements
Academic Requirements

Objective

The primary goal of the Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering is to provide a research intensive program with the rigorous course work to strengthen the student's knowledge in the fundamentals of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  The programs include advanced graduate coursework in Electrical/Computer Engineering and allied subjects and research culminating in a doctoral dissertation.

A complete description of the doctoral programs are found in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Doctoral Student Handbook which is updated annually and available from the department office.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a BS or MS degree in Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering or their equivalent from a recognized college or university with an acceptable quality of prior academic work. Applicants must submit official transcripts of all prior undergraduate and graduate courses. Each applicant must submit an official report of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores. The TOEFL exam is required for students from abroad whose native language is not English.

Plan of Study

Each student entering the program must develop a plan of study in consultation with his/her advisor.

Visit the ECE Graduate Website.

Transfer Credit

  1. A student with a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering / Computer Engineering or a closely related field may apply to have all coursework and thesis for the master's degree up to a total of 30 credits. Please consult with your PhD advisor and Associate Chair responsible for the Doctoral Programs (PhD program coordinator) and fill out the required petition form (link given below) for course transfer requests. This form is to be submitted to the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Programs for approval.  (https://www.uml.edu/docs/petition_grad_tcm18-87176.pdf
  2. A student with graduate-level course work earned (but not completed a degree program and graduated) at an accredited US or Canadian university may apply for transfer of up to 24 semester credits in acceptable graduate engineering courses (with grade of B or better) towards the doctoral program, upon approval by the Associate Chair responsible from the Doctoral Programs (PhD program coordinator).
  3. Students may be required to make up prerequisites which they lack in comparison to the equivalent Engineering curriculum at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
  4. Course transfers are initially handled by the Graduate Program Coordinator (Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program). Course transfer will follow the steps below:

                           i.           Student’s previous institution must send student’s official transcript to UML Registrar through an email (registrar@uml.edu). The official transcript should only be send by the previous institution directly to UML’s Registrar.

                           ii.           Course Transfer petition form filled out completely and signed/dated (student to submit to the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program),

                          iii.           Unofficial transcript from the past institution that you are trying to transfer credit from (student to submit to the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program),

                          iv.           Information on the accreditation (ABET or similar) for your department/institution (student to submit to the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program),

                           v.           Course description, credit and course number for each course being intended to transfer (student to submit to the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program).

                          vi.           Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program) will evaluate and approve the courses that can be transferred, and will make a request to the Associate Dean to do a final evaluation and approval. Dean’s office requests registrar to complete the course transfer process.

Course transfers are not allowed for the BS to PhD program. In other words, students who are admitted into our PhD program student directly after completing their BS degrees cannot transfer any MS/PhD level technical elective courses they have taken as part of their BS degree pathway or for their minor. However, those courses may be transferred into the MS program, if student choses to do MS first. 

ECE DEPARTMENT QUALIFIER EXAM

The Qualifier Exam (QE) consists of three parts: i) course requirement; ii) oral presentation on a selected topic; and iii) written documentation on the same topic. Please see details below.

Qualifier Exam Committee

The QE Committee consists of three ECE faculty. One member is the faculty advisor. An additional member is selected by the student and the advisor. The 3rd member will be assigned by the ECE Qualifier Exam Sub-Committee (QESC**) and can be from ECE or non-ECE Dept. Selection of a non-ECE member shall be made only with the approval of the student’s advisor.  If the student of a QESC member will be taking the exam, he/she must recuse themselves from the QESC for their student’s exam. To allow sufficient time for the QESC to add the 3rd member, the ECE Request for Approval of PhD Qualifying Examination Committee form must be submitted to the graduate program coordinator at least one month prior to the anticipated QE date. The Chair of the committee can be either the advisor/student selected committee member or the third member, at the committee's discretion. A fourth member can be added at the discretion of the advisor. 

** The QESC will be comprised of 7 members: 6 elected plus the Doctoral coordinator. Yearly elections will be held for the 6 members from the ECE Faculty. 

Qualifier Exam Course Requirements

The student must complete two graduate ECE courses in their primary research area and one additional graduate ECE core course by the term the QE is scheduled. One of the three required courses may be taken during the semester when the QE is administered. The student must receive an average GPA of at least 3.3 for these courses. 

Failure to do so will be considered a failed attempt.

Qualifier Exam Policies and Procedures:

• The purpose of the Qualifier Exam (QE) is to test the fundamental knowledge acquired by the student over prior coursework and assess the ability to apply this fundamental knowledge to approach research questions/problems.

• The student must take the qualifier exam within the first 3 semesters of their entrance into the doctoral program. If taken in the Fall semester, the exam must be administered by mid-November and by mid-April in the Spring semester. If the student fails, then an advisor-led appeal may be submitted to the QESC and if approved, must be scheduled for a date within the following semester of the failed attempt. If the appeal is not approved, then the student fails and is no longer in the PhD program.

If the appeal is granted, the QE committee remains the same for the second attempt. If the advisor changes between the first and second attempts (if appeal is approved), the two other committee members remain the same. If a student fails the second time (if appeal is granted) the student is no longer in the PhD program. 

If the student does not take the QE during the semester he/she is required to take it, this will be considered a failed attempt. Any extenuating circumstances may be brought up to the QESC by the advisor. 

Qualifier Exam Format: 

i. ORAL COMPONENT:

The exam will be 90 minutes long. The student will be asked to give a short presentation (20-30 minutes) on a research topic chosen by the advisor and the student. This research topic should be submitted to the QESC within the first semester of the student’s entrance into the program to make sure that the student progress is on a timeline.  The presentation will be a literature survey of the particular topic based on recent (<5 years) high impact publications. It cannot be a conference paper submitted by the student AND it cannot have any author other than the student taking the exam.

The presentation will be followed by 15 minutes of questioning by each member, followed by a second round of final questions. The committee will ask questions: (a) directly about the research topic presented (as would be typical at a conference), and (b) in the general area of the research topic (to test the student's grasp of the problem area) and will be on fundamentals testing the student's ability to integrate the material learned in the courses they took, the ability to apply their knowledge to solve research problems; and these questions do not have to be associated with the presentation. The student will supply 3 undergraduate courses most aligned with their research topic they are presenting when they submit their QE registration form.

It is expected that the student answers the questions on their own without the assistance of the advisor. The advisor should not assist the student in preparation of the presentation and the paper (see below)

ii. WRITTEN COMPONENT:

At least one week prior to the oral presentation, the student will provide a four-page two-column document, in the standard format for conferences in their area, to all committee members. This write-up will be a written version of the oral presentation. The student will also provide a copy of this document to the ECE Qual Exam Subcommittee. The quality of the written component is expected to be ready for submission and should be clear, well organized, and free of spelling and grammar errors. The advisor should not assist the student in preparation of the paper –it should be independent work. The paper cannot be a conference paper or journal publication the student has prepared and there should only be ONE author ( the student who is taking the qualifying exam).

iii. RESULTS: 

When the committee is finished asking questions, the committee members will meet in closed session to discuss and vote on whether the student passed the oral exam. During the exam, there will be a form filled out by the committee members which will be used to discuss the results of the exam. The student is considered to have passed the oral exam with a unanimous vote from the committee.  

If the decision is not unanimous, then the following procedure will be followed:

i. The person or persons who do not agree with the decision to pass the student will write a detailed reason for why they believe they do not agree and present to the QE Subcommittee. The QESC will then make a decision.
ii. If a unanimous vote is not obtained as a result of the QESC decision, and the student is deemed to fail the exam, then advisor can appeal for a second chance as written above. 

Candidacy Requirements

  1. Thesis Proposal and Oral Exam - Having passed the qualifying examination, a student may submit his/her dissertation proposal and defend the proposal before the Doctoral Committee (minimum of 3 members, including the Thesis Advisor). The proposal examination will also include an oral examination on topics connected with the student’s area of research. It is highly recommended that there is a minimum of 6 months between the proposal defense and the PhD final defense. On passing this examination, the student’s name will be submitted to the College Doctoral Committee and the Registrar's Office for acceptance as a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree. Admission to candidacy status does not guarantee the obtaining of the degree.
  2. Final Defense of Dissertation  - This is the final oral examination, conducted by the Doctoral Committee. The membership of the committee may be augmented by non-voting faculty. The candidate has to submit a written Dissertation based on the research during the period of the Ph.D. degree. After receiving the approval of the advisor and the Doctoral Committee, the final oral examination shall be conducted. In order to pass, the candidate may not receive more than one dissenting vote from the membership of the examination committee.

At least two weeks (14 days) prior to the date of the presentation of the dissertation proposal AND the final defense, an announcement document must be submitted to the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Engineering. After the committee members and the posting is approved by the Associate Dean for Graduate studies, posting will be forwarded to the UML News by the Dean’s Office. The template for posting thesis and dissertation announcement can be found at defense announcement template.

The dissertation proposal is open to the public. The proposal will outline the motivation for the research, give a summary of the related past work in the area and present the scope of the proposed dissertation research. The proposal should clearly articulate the proposed contribution of the student to the knowledge base and how it differs from the past work. The examinee will be expected to answer questions from the audience to demonstrate his/her understanding of the proposed research, as well as his/her proficiency in the general research field related to the dissertation proposal. The dissertation committee may require the candidate to retake the proposal defense after additional work.

The final defense entails a PhD student defending their doctoral dissertation and is expected to utilize the same committee that was put together by the advisor for the dissertation proposal defense. Any changes to the committee must be approved by the Associate Chair for the Doctoral Program. Upon a successful presentation and submission of a high quality doctoral dissertation students will become eligible to graduate if they have completed all of the required credits (course, dissertation and seminar credits). Student must file a Declaration of Intent to Graduate Form (pdf) (aka DIG form) with the Registrar's Office. Deadlines can be found on the University’s Academic Calendar. The Registrar's Office will verify course credit, grade and GPA requirements, and submission of dissertation prior to the awarding the degree.

 Academic Requirements

1. Credit Requirement

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree requires completion of a minimum of 63 semester hours of academic credit beyond the Bachelor of Science degree. A typical program consists of the following:

  • A minimum of 30 approved credit hours of graduate-level engineering courses (10 courses), including associated science and math courses.
  • A minimum of 21 credit hours of doctoral dissertation.
  • The balance of the remaining 12 credits can be a mix of graduate-level engineering courses including associated science and math coursework and dissertation credits at the discretion of the department, faculty advisor and dissertation committee.

2. Core Requirement

The core courses are beginning graduate courses. They emphasize the fundamentals, concepts, and analytical techniques relevant to Electrical/Computer Engineering. They also help the student prepare for the qualifying examination.

Required Core Courses for Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering: (choose three courses)

Students in Electrical Engineering must take three courses of the above courses.

Required Core Courses for Ph.D. degree in Computer Engineering: 

3. Grade-Point Average (GPA) Requirement

To successfully complete the program, a student must achieve a cumulative grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.25 in all course work.