The Doctor of Philosophy Program
The Doctor of Philosophy Program
The purpose of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in electrical and computer engineering Is to produce graduates who think independently and solve engineering problems based on first principle scientific and mathematical concepts. The training involves the in-depth study of a challenging research problem that has not been previously solved to a desired level of effectiveness.
Many ECE professors are renown worldwide as some of the top experts in their field. The programs of study they offer provide students with the chance to work on groundbreaking research, helping to advance society as a whole.
Please visit the ECE Faculty Directory and ECE Research Areas to learn more about faculty and their research.
The ECE department offers two different tracks to pursue a PhD:
1. Course requirements include:
2. Transfer credit:
3. Dissertation research requirements:
MS degree counts for 30 credits.
Dissertation research requirements
Summary of Additional Requirements in the ECE PhD Program
Both Direct from BS and from MS
1. The PhD plan of Study must be submitted by the end of the first semester.
2. PhD students must have a permanent advisor by the end of the second semester.
3. PhD students are expected to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5.
4. Graduate seminar (ECE 8891): at least two credit hours is required. Credit for these seminars is in addition to the 80-credit degree requirement.
5. The PhD proposal is submitted at the time of the candidacy examination. Two attempts are allowed.
6. Submission of at least one substantial, original paper based on the dissertation research is required.
9. Successful completion of the dissertation (PhD thesis) and final oral examination complete the degree requirements.
- The doctoral student is expected to obtain a commitment from a faculty advisor and submit the PhD Plan of Study by the end of the first semester in the PhD program.
- The PhD Plan of Study will define an ECE primary research area of emphasis, an ECE secondary research area of emphasis and other graduate courses approved by the advisor and the ECE Graduate studies committee.
- By graduation, students must have completed at least two primary area courses and 6 credits in the secondary research area.
- If a student has earned a master’s degree from another institution, a transcript must accompany the Plan of Study form.
- Two faculty signatures are required to approve the plan prior to submission: the faculty advisor and a secondary area faculty.
The PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) serves as one of the key filters in allowing a student to pass from simple admission to the PhD program to regular doctoral student status.
The QE is designed in accordance with the following principles:
- The purpose of the Qualifying Exam 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.
- Both BS to PhD and MS to PhD students are required to take the QE in the first semester of their second year.
- Two (2) attempts are allowed. The second attempt must be during the time window in the semester following the semester of the failed attempt. If a student fails after two attempts, the student is no longer in the PhD program and can earn an MS degree after completing MS requirements. 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.
- Effective autumn 2019: Students starting the ECE PhD program in autumn 2019 and after must complete three graduate letters graded ECE courses by the scheduled exam term, including during the semester when the QE is administered. At least two of the three courses must be in the student's primary research area. ECE 5000 - level courses will meet the ECE QE course requirement.
- Failure to do so will be considered a failed attempt.
Both MS to PhD and BS to PhD students are required to schedule the ECE Qualifying Exam in the 1st semester of their 2nd year in the PhD program.
- Students who begin the PhD program in autumn semester are required to schedule the Qualifying Exam during the following autumn semester.
- Students who begin the PhD program in spring semester schedule the exam during the following spring semester.
- Students who begin the PhD program in summer term schedule the Qualifying Exam during the autumn semester of the following year.
- The Qualifying Exam must be scheduled during a one-month window in autumn and spring semesters. The autumn semester scheduling month is October and the spring semester scheduling month is March. The March time frame is extended to April 15 due to spring break.
- Failure to do will be considered a failed attempt.
Qualifying Exam Guidelines - Exams Scheduled Autumn 2022 & Spring 2023 Only
For students whose 1st term in the ECE PhD program was summer 2021, autumn 2021 or spring 2022.
Students scheduling the ECE PhD Qualifying Exam in autumn 2022 or spring 2023 must complete three graduate letters graded ECE courses by the scheduled exam term, including during the semester when the Qualifying Exam is administered. At least two of the three courses must be in the student's primary research area. ECE 5000-level courses will meet the ECE Qualifying Exam course requirement.
Qualifying Exam Committee
The Qualifying Exam committee consists of three P-status 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 Graduate Studies committee and will be outside the student's primary research area. To allow sufficient time for the Graduate studies committee to add the 3rd member, the ECE Request for Approval of PhD Qualifying Examination Committee form must be submitted to the ECE graduate program coordinator at least one month prior to the anticipated Qualifying Exam date.
Revised Qualifying Exam Guidelines for Exams Scheduled Autumn 2023 and After
For students whose 1st term in the ECE PhD program is summer 2022 and after.
- Students will submit the ECE PhD Plan of study by the end of their first semester in the PhD program and indicate their primary and secondary research areas from the 6 ECE research areas:
Computer, Networks and Communication
Control, Signal Processing and Computer Vision
Power and Energy
Solid State Electronics and Photonics
- Students will be tested mainly from their primary research area material. Students should contact their primary research area chair for additional information on the exam guidelines for their research area. Students will not be required to take course(s) from the secondary area for the Qualifying Exam.
- Students must complete three ECE letter-graded graduate courses in their primary research area by the semester the Qualifying Exam is scheduled. One of the three required courses may be taken during the semester when the Qualifying Exam is administered.
- The Qualifying Exam committee will consist of 3 faculty members, 2 members are selected by the student.
- The committee can include the student’s advisor, but can also exclude the advisor. If the student has more than one advisor, at most one of the advisors can be included, i.e., at least one of the two members selected by the student must be a non-advisor.
- At least one of the two faculty members selected by the student must be from the primary research area and should be designated the chair of the committee.
- The 3rd Qualifying Exam committee member is assigned by the Graduate Studies Committee. The 3rd member is preferably selected from the student's primary research area, but may be a secondary area faculty member based on availability.
The Qualifying Exam will be 90 minutes long.
10 minutes: Student presentation including student's academic background, coursework, and a technical topic of interest within the allowed time.
80 minutes: Questions/answers from the committee.
0 – The student has difficulty recalling the basic concepts/results on the main topics.
1 – The student is aware of the basic concepts of the area topics, and can fully solve basic-level questions on these topics. However, the student has difficulty fully solving more advanced questions (e.g. questions posed in exams of the associated courses).
2 – The student can solve more advanced questions fully. In addition, the student can satisfactorily approach open-ended and research-oriented questions.
Specific requirements may differ by research area.
Exam Decision - Based on the sum of the 3 ratings
0 – 3 -> student fails
4 – 6 -> student passes
The Candidacy Examination is intended to establish the student’s preparation and readiness for independent doctoral level research by assessing the following:
- Intellectual independence of the candidate.
- Familiarity of the candidate with the literature relevant to her/his research area(s).
- The ability to formulate a meaningful research problem and a corresponding research plan.
The Candidacy Examination is comprised of a research proposal, a written exam and an oral exam. The candidacy exam is usually taken in the third year in the PhD program after all coursework is completed.
Candidacy Examination Committee
The first step in the process leading to the student's candidacy exam is the formation of the candidacy examination committee.
- This committee consists of at least four faculty members: the student’s advisor (who must have graduate faculty P-status in ECE) and at least three other faculty members chosen by the student and advisor together, subject to the approval of the Graduate Studies committee.
- One of the members of the exam committee must be an ECE faculty member from the student’s secondary research area.
- There must be at least three faculty members (including the advisor) with graduate faculty P-status in ECE. The fourth member can have graduate faculty P-status or M-status.
- To add external members without graduate faculty P-status in addition to the four regular members described above, requires permission from the Graduate Studies Chair.
Exam Schedule and Timeline
The candidacy exam is usually taken in the third year in the PhD program after all coursework is completed. The timeline of the exam is as follows:
- After the candidacy examination committee has been formed, the student submits the ECE form, Request for Approval of Candidacy Examination Committee, to the ECE graduate program office for Graduate Studies Chair approval.
- The student works with her/his advisor and the members of the exam committee to set a date for the oral portion of the exam that is agreeable to all parties.
- The student must be given at least 3 weeks to complete the written portion of the candidacy exam.
- The oral portion of the candidacy examination must be completed within one month of the written portion.
- At least two weeks prior to the scheduled date for the oral exam, the student submits the Application for Candidacy online at gradforms.osu.edu. The Application for Candidacy must be approved online by the faculty advisor and the ECE graduate program. This deadline is strict.
- A Committee Petition submitted through gradforms.osu.edu is required to add non-faculty external members to a graduate exam committee.
- The research proposal and the written exam must be submitted to the members of the exam committee at least one week before the scheduled date for the oral exam. This deadline is strict.
The research proposal forms a major part of the exam. The proposal must be a complete document with a thoughtful, in-depth treatment of the dissertation topic. It should be substantial enough to form the basis of a meaningful oral examination, establishing a worthy research problem and developing an effective research plan. It should only be written after the student has done enough work on the problem to speak meaningfully about it, including discussing her or his preliminary investigations. Above all, it should be a technically sound and scholarly document, not to exceed 15 pages (single spaced, one column, 11 point or larger font), excluding title page, abstract, table of contents, references cited and appendices.
The proposal should include:
- A cover sheet including title, a one-page abstract and a table of contents.
- A discussion of the problem and its significance.
- A history of the problem and previous relevant research.
- A summary of the student’s own preliminary work on the problem and results to date (details of the preliminary results can be placed in appendices).
- A research plan leading from the current status toward a clearly defined goal or goals. Listing multiple methods of attacking the problem, or other options, by priority is strongly advised. The research plan should typically be about 5 of the 15 pages.
- Anticipated results and expected contributions to the state-of-the-art in the relevant field of study.
- A list of references compiled in IEEE Transactions format.
The written portion of the examination is formulated by the student's advisor with input from the entire Candidacy Examination Committee. The written part of the exam consists of:
- At least one significant, open-ended problem (to assess intellectual independence).
- A critique, simulation or analysis of one or two key papers written in the student’s area of study (to assess familiarity with the relevant literature).
Attendance to the oral exam is limited to the student and members of the Candidacy Examination Committee. Except when video conferencing is involved, all members of the Candidacy Examination Committee must be present during the entire oral examination. The oral portion of the candidacy examination lasts approximately two hours. Questioning of the student should occupy the entire period of the examination. All committee members are expected to participate fully in the questioning during the course of the examination and in the discussion and decision on the result of the candidacy examination.
The vote must be unanimous in order for the student to pass the exam. Results of the candidacy exam are submitted by each committee member online at gradforms.osu.edu.
Outcome from the Candidacy Examination
For the direct BS to PhD program, three outcomes are possible:
- The student passes and is awarded the MS degree.
- The student fails; however, the student is awarded the MS degree.
- The student fails and is not awarded the MS degree.
For the MS to PhD program, two outcomes are possible:
- The student passes.
- The student fails.
Please refer to the Graduate School Handbook for a complete list of rules and regulations. http://www.gradsch.ohio-state.edu/Depo/PDF/Handbook.pdf
Dissertation, Final Defense, Submission of a Paper
Research conducted by students in the PhD program culminates in a dissertation that must be defended orally before the advisor and two other Dissertation Reading Committee members.
Submission of at least one substantial, original paper based on the dissertation research to a refereed, archival journal is required before approval of the final defense of the dissertation is granted. A signed Submission of Paper form by the faculty advisor must be provided with the Application to Graduate at the beginning of the semester of graduation. If the paper has not yet been published, the student must provide a copy of the email acknowledging the acceptance or submission of the paper to the journal. Typically, advisors expect two or more journal papers from their PhD students.