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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
    
 
  Jun 19, 2024
 
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Electrical & Computer Engineering, PhD ECE


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The objective of the PhD program is to achieve a high degree of competence in one major field in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Application Procedure and Admission Requirements

Applicants should consider the GRE an optional submission. If an applicant has already taken the GRE and believes their score demonstrates outstanding academic ability, beneficial to portraying you as a wholistic student and applicant, you may submit — but it is optional. The GRE scores will not be considered as part of our admissions criteria for these application cycles. For students applying to terms after those listed above, please check back in the future for updates, as the Swanson School is still evaluating whether waiving the GRE will be permanent.

Students who obtained the MS degree from Pitt ECE:

Students must have a QPA of 3.30 or better and the recommendation from the MS advisor. Students must submit an application to continue into the PhD program. Application forms can be obtained from the Graduate Program Administrator.

Students who obtained the MS degree from outside Pitt ECE:

Students must follow the regular application procedure for admission to the ECE Graduate Program and submit the following materials: transcripts (both BS and MS); minimum two letters of recommendation; GRE general exam and TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo (if required) score reports; statement of purpose; resume.

Exceptionally well-qualified students may be permitted to enter the PhD program without an MS degree.

Students who are currently enrolled in the MS program at Pitt ECE:

The request to transfer an MS student to the PhD program without an MS degree should be initiated by the students’ thesis advisor in a letter submitted to the Graduate Program Director. The decision to approve the request is the responsibility of the Graduate Program Director. To be eligible for transfer, the student should have completed a minimum of 15 credits of graduate course work at Pitt and have maintained a minimum QPA of 3.5.

Students who obtained the BS degree only and would like to apply to the PhD program:

To be eligible for direct admission, students must have a minimum QPA of 3.5 and strong recommendations. Students must take the regular application procedure for admission to the ECE Graduate Program, submitting the following materials:  transcripts (BS); minimum two letters of recommendation; GRE general exam and TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo (if required) score reports; statement of purpose; resume.

Degree Requirements

Students who obtained the MS degree:

Up to 30 credits of approved coursework can be transferred in. The student is responsible to complete the balance of 30 credits if transferring in less than 30 credits. Beyond the 30-credit MS requirement, a minimum of 42 credits and a dissertation are required for the PhD degree. The dissertation should embody an extended original and independent investigation of a problem of significance in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Of those 42 credits, at least 18 must be in dissertation research (6 or more in ECE 3997  and 12 or more in ECE 3999 ), and at least 24 course credits must be attained beyond the MS degree. The 24 credits must include:

  1. Four ECE book courses (12 credits) at the 2000 or 3000 level.*
  2. A maximum 12-credit combination of ECE 3998  and ECE 3995  research/project courses.

ECE 3995  should be directed toward research. This research course requires the approval of the student’s Program Conference Committee (i.e. the Preliminary Exam should be completed before taking this course).  In addition, the student is required to write a 1-2 page proposal for each such course citing the topic, the teacher, the rationale for the course, and a deliverable from the course experience.  The deliverable can be a submitted journal/conference paper, a research proposal for funding, or a complete patent application.

* A student with a Pitt ECE MS is waived from this four-book-course requirement. Instead, students substitute a 12-credit combination of research courses (ECE 3998  and/or ECE 3995 ).

Students who obtained the BS degree only:

Students must complete a minimum of 72 credits beyond the BS degree. Of those credits, at least 18 must be in dissertation research (6 or more in ECE 3997  and 12 or more in ECE 3999 ), and at least 54 course credits must be attained beyond the BS degree.  The 54 credits must include:

  1. At least eight ECE book courses (24 credits) that are in the catalog; of those 24 credits, at least 4 courses (12 credits) must be ECE courses at the 2000 or 3000 level.
  2. A maximum 30 credit combination of ECE 3998  and ECE 3995  research/project courses.

Entrance Requirements

To be accepted into the PhD program a student who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with an MS degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering must have a QPA of 3.30 or better and the recommendation from the MS thesis committee.  The student must submit an application to continue into the PhD program.  Applications can be obtained from the Graduate Program Administrator.  For students who obtained the MS degree from other institutions, the QPA and letters of recommendation, GRE general exam and TOEFL (if required) results will be used for admission.  Exceptionally well-qualified students may be permitted to enter the PhD program without an MS degree.

Exams

There are four separate exams that must be passed in order to obtain the PhD degree.  The student must also have a Program Conference with a faculty committee to approve his/her plan of study.  Descriptions of each follow.

Program Conference

During the first year, a PhD student must schedule a meeting with a faculty committee to present a tentative program of study for approval.  The committee consists of the student’s advisor, who chairs the committee, and a minimum of two other faculty members from the department. 

On the Program Conference form, the student must list all of the courses he/she has taken as a graduate student in the department as well as those for which he/she has obtained advanced standing.  Courses that he/she is planning to take in the future in Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as in related areas should also be included.  Finally, the form should list the four courses that are required for the PhD Comprehensive Exam and a tentative schedule for the different exams and the residency requirements.  The committee can approve, reject or make modifications to the proposed program.  The advisor is responsible for supervising the student’s progress in the approved program.

Preliminary Exam

The purpose of the preliminary exam is to ascertain the capabilities of a student to do independent research.  The exam generally consists of an oral presentation of a written document, prepared by the student, to a committee of ECE faculty members.  The student and his/her advisor will determine the subject of the document.

Students completing the MS research option who are interested in pursuing doctoral studies have already demonstrated their ability to do independent research.  Therefore, their MS thesis oral and the preliminary exam may be administered simultaneously.

Continuing MS students who elected the professional option or who obtained their degrees from other institutions must schedule a preliminary exam.  The student must prepare a written document of the same caliber as an MS thesis.  This may be done by either taking a graduate project course (ECE 3998 ) or by using a thesis presented at another institution.  The student’s advisor will then assist the student in forming a committee with a composition similar to that of an MS thesis exam committee.  Two weeks before the exam, the written report should be given to the committee members and the Graduate Program Administrator should be informed of the composition of the committee, time, title and abstract of the thesis in order to publish an announcement.

PhD Comprehensive Exam

To complete the Comprehensive PhD exam, a student must obtain a minimum QPA of 3.3 in the four courses assigned by the PhD program conference committee no later than the first two years of enrollment in the PhD program. 

If the student fails to achieve this requirement, he/she must pass an oral exam that takes place at the same time as the PhD Proposal exam and answer general questions related to his/her research area. If he/she fails this oral exam, the student may take it once more three months later.

To complete the PhD Comprehensive exam, a student must select four courses in his/her area of specialization and have earned a grade of B or higher in each.

Dissertation Proposal Exam

For the dissertation proposal examination, the student prepares a written proposal of his/her dissertation and presents it orally to an exam committee.  Students must have a cumulative graduate QPA of 3.30 to be considered for doctoral candidacy.  The committee consists of at least five members, four of whom must be from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and at least one who must be from outside the department (external member).  Three of the departmental members must be graduate faculty members and at least one of the external members must be a graduate faculty member from another department in the university.  Other appropriate member(s) may also serve on the committee.  A faculty member from another accredited university may serve as an external graduate faculty member of the committee if that individual’s academic background is comparable to the qualifications for graduate faculty status at the University of Pittsburgh.

The dissertation proposal should be given to the committee members at least two weeks before the exam, and the student must inform the Graduate Program Administrator of the composition of the committee and provide a proposal with a completion time line as well as a title and an abstract at least two weeks prior to the exam date.

If the doctoral committee approves the dissertation proposal, the student is then formally admitted to Candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.  The proposal exam must be completed at least two semesters before the student plans to graduate.  Students can register for ECE 3997  for preliminary work for the PhD proposal exam.

Final Oral Exam

The final oral exam is administered by the doctoral committee and determines the acceptability of the student’s dissertation and his/her ability to comprehend, organize and make original contributions to his/her area of research.

Only students who have passed the dissertation proposal exam may register for dissertation research (ECE 3999 ).  A minimum of 18 research credits is required for graduation, of which at least 12 must be in ECE 3999 .  Once a student registers for research, he/she must continue to register for Fall and Spring terms until the final oral examination has been passed.

At least two weeks before the date set for the exam, the student must submit a copy of the dissertation to each member of the exam committee and register with the Graduate Program Administrator.  The final oral exam is open to the public.

Students scheduling their final oral exam must submit at least one paper from their thesis work to a refereed journal.  The publication form must be signed by the major advisor and submitted to the Graduate Program Administrator at least two weeks before the final oral exam.  Submitting a paper to a refereed journal is a requirement for the PhD degree. 

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