Electrical & Computer Engineering

PhD Degree

General Degree Requirements


Before applying for graduation, a student must meet with the Graduate Student Coordinator to review their graduate file and ensure that all degree requirements including their Program of Study are satisfied and review the process for completing their manuscript and defense.

Overview


A student must meet with the Graduate Student Coordinator and complete the Program of Study Form prior to their final semester of study. After it is approved by the student’s Supervisory Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies it will be submitted to the Graduate School for approval.

Requirements


All PhD students are required to fulfill the following credits requirements, (regardless of path requirements):

*Students admitted to the PhD program prior to Fall 2022 are not required to enroll in ECE 7951 Teaching Engineering , although it is strongly encouraged so that students who require additional funding can serve as a department TA.

**Electrical Engineers should take ECE 7900 & 7910 PhD-level graduate seminar. Students who have already taken Graduate Seminar at the 6000- level during their University of Utah MS degree do not need to retake it at the 7000- level.

Additional courses may be recommended or required by a student’s advisor and supervisory committee.

Additional Criteria


  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 on coursework listed on the program of study with no grade lower than C- is required for graduation. Courses cannot be removed from a transcript after they are taken. If a student receives a grade lower than C- in a course listed on the Program of Study they must take a different course to meet the 30 credit requirement or repeat that same course and receive a higher grade, if the course is required for their track.
    • Students who receive an “Incomplete” grade in a class must complete the work as soon as possible.
  • Coursework cannot be used for more than one degree- see How to Transfer Graduate Credits
  • Cross-listed courses must be registered through the ECE course numbers.
    • A course taken for 5000-level credit cannot be taken again for 6000-level credit.
    • Where an ECE course has both a 5000- and 6000-level number, the 5000-level version is intended for undergraduates and the 6000-level version for honors and graduate students. The two versions of the class will meet together, but extra work will be expected of honors and graduate students.

All coursework should be completed within 7 consecutive years (not including any official Leaves of Absence). If a student needs to defer or take a leave of absence, they should contact the Graduate Student Coordinator. Students who are not granted a Leave of Absence and are unregistered will be discontinued and will need to reapply.

Graduate School Policies

Tuition Benefit Enrollment Requirements

Terms w/ Coursework: 9-12 credits*

Research-Only Terms: 3 credits of ECE 7970

*Thesis research will count towards this credit limit. Additional graduate-level credits taken beyond the 12 and/or undergraduate course credits will not be covered by the TBP.

Tuition Benefit Policy

International students must be registered for 9+ credits every semester (excluding summer) they are completing coursework. Once coursework has been completed they may register for 3 credits of research to maintain full-time status. International students requesting a leave of absence or reduced course load must consult with the ISSS office.

ISSS Policies

Allied Departments

Students who have not earned a prior MS degree at the University of Utah are required to complete additional coursework. This can include courses from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) or other allied departments:

  • ANAT – Neurobiology and Anatomy
  • ASTR – Astronomy
  • ATMOS – Atmospheric Sciences
  • BIO C – Biochemistry
  • BIOL – Biology
  • BLCHM – Biological chemistry
  • BME – Biomedical Engineering
  • BMI – Biomedical Informatics
  • CH EN – Chemical Engineering
  • CHEM – Chemistry
  • COMP – Computing
  • CS – Computer Science
  • CTLE – Center for Teaching Excellence
  • CVEEN – Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • ENGIN – Engineering
  • GEO – Geology and Geophysics
  • MATH – Mathematics
  • MBIOL – Molecular Biology
  • ME EN – Mechanical Engineering
  • MET E – Metallurgical Engineering
  • MG EN – Mining Engineering
  • MSE – Materials Science and Engineering
  • MST – Master of Science and Technology
  • NEUSC – Neuroscience
  • NSURG – Neurosurgery
  • NUCL – Nuclear Engineering
  • PHYS – Physics
  • RDLGY – Radiology
  • ROBOT – Robotics see Robotics Certificate

Overview


Each student forms a supervisory committee with members who will guide the student’s graduate program and conduct the student examinations (Qualifying Exam, Research Comprehensive Exam, and Final Oral Exam). The Ph.D. supervisory committee consists of five members – at least three of the committee members must be tenure-line ECE faculty members, and at least one must be from outside the ECE Department. When a student has established their committee they should notify the Graduate Student Coordinator who will enter it into their student file.

Committee Roles and Criteria


A student’s Ph.D. faculty advisor is the committee chair. The chair* and majority of the committee (3 out of 5 committee members) need to be:

  1. University of Utah Faculty
  2. Electrical and Computer Engineering (as Academic Home Department)
  3. Tenure-Line**

A list of faculty and their classifications can be verified on the OBIA Faculty Information page. If a committee member does not meet all three of these requirements, they are considered an Outside Committee Member. A PhD Supervisory Committee is required to have at least one Outside Committee Member. If one of the committee members is not University of Utah faculty, the student must request and submit their Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a Justification Letter for approval by the Graduate Committee. For more information, read Rules for Outside Member Necessities.

Any exceptions to these criteria must be submitted as a petition and are not guaranteed approval by the Dean of the Graduate School.

*Tenure-line faculty outside of the ECE Department may supervise a student as a co-chair with a tenure-line ECE faculty member.
**Adjunct ECE faculty are not tenure-line and may serve as an Outside Committee Member

Safety & Wellness


Your safety is our top priority. In an emergency, dial 911 or seek a nearby emergency phone (throughout campus). Report any crimes or suspicious people to 801-585-COPS; this number will get you to a dispatch officer at the University of Utah Department of Public Safety. If at any time, you would like to be escorted by a security officer to or from areas on campus, DPS will help — just give a call.

The University of Utah seeks to provide a safe and healthy experience for students, employees, and others who make use of campus facilities.  In support of this goal, the University has established confidential resources and support services to assist students who may have been affected by harassment, abusive relationships, or sexual misconduct. Read a detailed listing of University Resources for campus safety.

Your well-being is key to your personal safety. If you are in crisis, call 801-587-3000; help is close.

The university has additional excellent resources to promote emotional and physical wellness, including the Counseling Center, the Wellness Center, and the Women’s Resource Center. Counselors and advocates in these centers can help guide you to other resources to address a range of issues, including substance abuse and addiction.

Exams


In addition to coursework requirements, students must complete all of the following exams and each their components: Qualifying Exam (typically written), Proposal (written submission and oral presentation), Defense (written manuscript submission and oral presentation). The PhD proposal and the defense cannot be completed in the same or adjacent semesters. There must be at least one term gap between both, which may include Summer term.

Overview


The purpose of the qualifying exam is to determine the student’s readiness for research. This may include their ability to assess technical literature in their area of research, understand techniques (measurements, simulations, etc.) that they may need to use, their ability to critically analyze technical ideas, etc. The exam should consist of 3 to 5 questions that test the candidate’s breadth of ECE knowledge as it pertains to the candidate’s likely area of research. The students will have 5 weeks to provide a written response to these questions. The committee will review them and decide if an oral exam is recommended.

Students should complete the qualifying exam within their first 2 academic years. Students must be registered for at least 1 credit at the University of Utah the semester they complete the qualifying exam. It is the student’s responsibility to work with the Chair to follow up with the committee and the Graduate Student Coordinator to ensure that the steps described below are completed.

Process


Step Deadline
1. The student will confirm with their faculty advisor and the Graduate Student Coordinator that they are ready to begin the Qualifying Exam. The student should prepare a brief summary of their research area, interests, and professional goals. (1-2 paragraphs).

2. The Graduate Student Coordinator will email the student’s supervisory committee requesting them to select the 3 to 5 questions appropriate for a PhD Qualifying Exam. Upon receiving this email:

Dependent on PhD path
3. The student will send the supervisory committee a summary of their research area and interests. (This will assist the supervisory committee in creating a custom Qualifying Exam that best suits the student’s needs.) Within 1 week of receiving the Qualifying Exam starting email
4. The student will send the supervisory committee a summary of their research area and interests. Within 1 week of receiving the Qualifying Exam starting email
5. Each member of the committee should send 1-2 suggested questions to the Chair (see Graduate Writing Resources-Qualifying Exam for examples). Within 1 week of receiving the email
6. The Chair will facilitate discussion via email or in person with the committee to select 3-5 exam questions for the Qualifying Exam. Within 2 weeks of receiving the email
7. The Graduate Student Coordinator will work with the student to determine a deadline 5 weeks after the student has received the questions. The student will send their written response to the Graduate Student Coordinator and the Supervisory Committee by the deadline. Within 5 weeks of receiving committee questions*
8. The Chair will coordinate amongst the committee if the written response earns a pass, fail, or retry grade is appropriate. The committee will also decide if additional questions or an oral exam is recommended. Within 2 weeks of receiving student answers
9. The Committee chair notifies the Graduate Coordinator and the student when the qualifying exam is evaluated.
10. The Graduate Student Coordinator will record the results of the exam in the Graduate Records system.

*Request for an extension is discouraged because it demonstrates a lack of planning and judgment that is essential for success in a PhD program. Exceptions are rare; however, they may be approved by the PhD Committee supervisory on a case-by-case basis.

Instructions for Students


This exam is open-book/resources. Students may refer to any textbook, literature, or online resources. However, discussions with other individuals are strictly prohibited.

Students should be concise and clear in their responses. It is recommended that a submission not exceed five pages. If this does not seem appropriate for the questions, the student may discuss with their supervisory committee chair.

Answers should be submitted in IEEE format:

  • Visit IEEE Author Center for resources. It is recommended that students use the Author Tools and choose a template for a journal in their specialty.
  • For calculations or code/computations the student may consider any other professional format that their committee can understand.
  • Additional resources can be found on the Graduate Writing Resources page.

If a student needs clarification on what a question is asking, what format or length your response can take, or similar procedural questions, they may discuss these with their supervisory committee chair or the Graduate Student Coordinator.

Proposal Written Submission


The proposal is 15 pages written in an NSF or NIH format with a recommended outline available on the Graduate Writing Resources page (students should defer to their supervisory committee’s requests for alternative paper structures). The oral component is conducted by the supervisory committee according to Graduate School regulations.

Please note: The PhD proposal and the defense cannot be completed in the same or adjacent semesters. There must be at least one term gap between either which may include Summer. (Spring/Fall, Summer/Spring, Fall/Summer are acceptable).  As such, students should be respectful of their committee’s time and plan ahead and send the proposal several weeks prior the end of the semester.

Step Deadline
1. Students will complete their thesis in collaboration with their supervisory chair. After the student has verified that they and their paper are ready to be presented they will email the paper to their supervisory committee. Dependent on PhD path
3. After a week, if there are no immediate or major objections to student’s paper: the student will email their committee with several dates/times, at least 2 weeks in the future, to determine when would be best for the majority of the committee to participate. (Please note that PhD proposals take 1.5-2 hours) 1 week after sending paper to committee
4. Once an appropriate date/time has been found, the student will notify the Graduate Student Coordinator.

5. The Graduate Student Coordinator will send out an event invite to the supervisory committee with the information for the conference room and/or Zoom room link.

2 weeks before the proposal date

Proposal Presentation


The Proposal
Public Presentation 1. On the day of the exam, the student will arrive 10 min. early to the conference room/Zoom link to complete setup and verify that their audio and video are functional.
2. Once a majority of committee have arrived by the designated time, the student will begin their proposal presentation. If the proposal is broadcast over Zoom, the Graduate Student Coordinator will begin recording.
3. At the end of the presentation, the student will answer questions from the public (supervisory committee, guests invited by the student, etc.)
Private Presentation 4. After finishing the public presentation and question session the Graduate Student Coordinator will stop the recording and additional guests will be asked to leave. The student will remain to answer additional questions from the supervisory committee.
Supervisory Committee Deliberation 5. The student will be asked to leave the room/the Graduate Student Coordinator will place the student in a private Zoom room. The supervisory committee will then deliberate as to whether the student has either passed, failed, must make revisions and/or retry.
Results 6. The student will be invited to re-join the supervisory committee and will receive the results of their proposal.
7. The Graduate Student Coordinator will work with the student’s supervisory committee to process the paperwork.

Preliminary Review Submission


It is strongly recommended, that after completing/revising their proposal to their supervisory committee’s satisfaction, the student should now have the content to draft their preliminary pages and up to their 4th chapter of their thesis/dissertation. (see Graduate Writing Resources for chapter explanations and template)

They should submit this draft to the thesis office for preliminary review and feedback on proper formatting.

Overview


Students should use the formatting requested by their supervisory committee/chair when writing and organizing their work. If no specific formats are provided or suggested, students are recommended to use the department’s for outlines and additional helps when preparing their written reports and oral presentations.

If a student does not defend/submit their thesis by the semester target date, then they may need to re-apply for graduation the following semester as the Thesis Office cannot guarantee that it will be reviewed and released in time for graduation deadlines.

Minimum Credit Enrollment for Defending

Non-funded domestic student 1.0
Non-funded international student 3.0
Funded student (with tuition benefits) 3.0

Written Manuscript


All students must understand that they are responsible for ensuring that the submitted thesis meets the requirements of the Graduate School Handbook for Theses and Dissertations. Theses without proper formatting will be rejected.

Step Time before
Submission Target Date
If a student has not already, they should upload their thesis for preliminary review to the Thesis Office by semester target dates before they defend. Students are welcome and encouraged to re-submit any updates to their manuscript for additional preliminary reviews.

1. Students will complete their thesis in collaboration with their supervisory chair. After the student has verified that they and their paper are ready to be presented they will email the paper to their supervisory committee.

6 weeks before target date

(4 weeks before the defense)

After a week, if there are no immediate or major objections to student’s paper:

2. The student will email their committee with several dates/times, at least 2 weeks in the future, to determine when would be best for the majority of the committee to participate. (Please be aware that PhD defenses take 2-2.5 hours)

3. Once an appropriate date/time has been found, the student will notify the Graduate Student Coordinator.

4. The Graduate Student Coordinator will send out an event invite to the supervisory committee with the information for the conference room and/or Zoom room link.

5. The student will complete the Defense Information Form

5 weeks
6. The student will send their completed manuscript to their committee 4 weeks
7. The student will defend before the submission target date (this will allow time for manuscript adjustments and revisions based on feedback from committee). 2 weeks
8. The student will submit a PDF copy of their committee-approved manuscript to the Thesis Office

See steps 7-14 on Thesis Office Submission Procedure

0-2 weeks

Defense


The thesis defense is conducted by the supervisory committee according to Graduate School regulations. A student will be passed only if the committee is satisfied that the thesis research and documentation are unquestionably of the quality that will bring distinction to the candidate and the department. The committee may request further work from the candidate before a final decision is made.

The Defense
Public Presentation 1. On the day of the exam, the student will arrive 10 min. early to the conference room/Zoom link to complete setup and verify that their audio and video are functional.
2. Once a majority of committee have arrived by the designated time, the student will begin their proposal presentation. If the defense is broadcast over Zoom, the Graduate Student Coordinator will begin recording.
3. At the end of the presentation, the student will answer questions from the public (supervisory committee, guests invited by the student, etc.)
Private Presentation 4. After finishing the public presentation and question session the Graduate Student Coordinator will stop the recording and additional guests will be asked to leave. The student will remain to answer additional questions from the supervisory committee.
Supervisory Committee Deliberation 5. The student will be asked to leave the room/the Graduate Student Coordinator will place the student in a private Zoom room. The supervisory committee will then deliberate as to whether the student has either passed, failed, must make revisions and/or retry.
Results 6.The student will be invited to re-join the supervisory committee and will receive the results of their defense.

After the defense, the Graduate Student Coordinator will work with the student’s supervisory committee to process the paperwork and the student will need to:

If a student does not defend/submit their thesis by the semester target date, then they may need to re-apply for graduation the following semester as the Thesis Office cannot guarantee that it will be reviewed and released in time for graduation deadlines.

Paths and Recommended Schedules


Milestone Master's

This path is for students who have not earned a Master’s degree from a US or Canadian university.

Transfer Master's

This path is for students who have already earned a MS degree from a US or Canadian university.

PhD Only

This path is for students who have already earned a MS degree from the University of Utah.

Overview


This is for students who have not yet earned a Master’s degree from a US or Canadian University. International students who have earned a Master’s degree in their home countries are eligible for this pathway.

Students on this path will be required to complete the following coursework requirements:

A Milestone Master’s degree must be completed in the same department that the student completes their PhD in. A student must meet the following criteria prior to earning a Milestone Master’s degree:

2. Complete MS coursework requirements with an average GPA of 3.0 or higher

3. Apply for MS degree when requirements are met with the option of participating in convocations

Students should work with their advisor and committee to determine coursework relevant to their future research and professional goals.


Recommended Schedule for Milestone Completion


Year 1

Students starting in the Spring should reverse the order and start with Term 2

Term 1 Credits
Coursework 7.0
ECE 6950 Project 2.0
TOTAL 9.0

Required Track Coursework (Fall):

EE – ECE 7900 Graduate Seminar (1.0)
CE – ECE 6710 Digital VLSI (4.0) & ECE 6810 Comp. Arch. (3.0)

Term 2
Credits
Coursework 6.0
ECE 6950 Project 2.0
ECE 7951 Teaching Engineering 2.0
TOTAL 10.0

Required Track Coursework (Spring):

EE – ECE 7910 Graduate Seminar (1.0)


Year 2

Term 3
Credits
Coursework 9.0
ECE 6950 Project 2.0
TOTAL 11.0

Term 4
Credits
ECE 7970 Thesis Research 3.0
Coursework not required
TOTAL 3.0

Term 4 Milestones:

Establish Supervisory Committee
Complete Qualifying Exam


Year 3

Term 5/6
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

1st submitted journal article


Year 4

Term 7/8
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

Term 7
2nd submitted journal article
Proposal
Term 8
Submit for preliminary review – thesis draft
     – Thesis Draft: Preliminary Pages through Chapter 4


Year 5

Term 9
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

3rd submitted journal article
Defense
Apply for PhD Graduation
Apply for CPT – International students (optional)

Overview


Students who have already earned a Master’s degree from an American or Canadian university are required to complete the following coursework requirements:

All Students

Electrical Engineers

  • ECE 7900/7910 Graduate Seminar (2.0)
  • 12 additional credits of coursework

Computer Engineers

  • 7 additional credits of coursework

Additional courses may be recommended or required by a student’s advisor and supervisory committee.


Year 1

Term 1
Credits
ECE 7970 Thesis Research 3-4.0
Coursework CE
Coursework EE
3.0
4.0
ECE 7951 Teaching Engineering 2.0
TOTAL 9.0

Term 2
Credits
Research 2-3.0
Coursework CE
Coursework EE
6.0
7.0
TOTAL 9.0


Year 2

Term 3/4
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Recommended Course:

ENGIN 6960 Graduate Writing & Communication (3.0)

Milestones:

Term 3
Establish Supervisory Committee
Complete Qualifying Exam
Term 4
1st submitted journal article


Year 3

Term 5/6
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

Term 5/6
2nd submitted journal article
Term 6
Proposal


Year 4

Term 7/8
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

Term 7
Submit thesis draft for preliminary review
     -Preliminary Pages through Chapter 4
Term 8
3rd submitted journal article
Defense
Apply for PhD Graduation
Apply for CPT – International students (optional)

Overview


Students who have already earned a Master’s degree from the University of Utah before starting their PhD program are only required to complete the following coursework requirements:

*Electrical Engineers should take ECE 7900 & 7910 PhD-level graduate seminar. Students who have already taken Graduate Seminar at the 6000- level during their University of Utah MS degree do not need to retake it at the 7000- level.

This requirement includes students who completed an ECE MS Online/Remote-Learning degree and students who completed a non-ECE MS degree at the University of Utah.

Additional courses may be recommended or required by a student’s advisor and supervisory committee.


Recommended Schedule for Milestone Completion


Year 1

Term 1
Credits
ECE 7970 Thesis Research 7.0
ECE 7951 Teaching Engineering 2.0
TOTAL 9.0

Term 2
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

Establish Supervisory Committee
Complete Qualifying Exam


Year 2

Term 3/4
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

1st submitted journal article


Year 3

Term 5/6
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

Term 5
2nd submitted journal article
Proposal
Term 6
Submit thesis draft for preliminary review
     -Preliminary Pages through Chapter 4


Year 4

Term 7
Credits
Research 3.0
TOTAL 3.0

Milestones:

3rd submitted journal article
Defense
Apply for PhD Graduation
Apply for CPT – International students (optional)