PhD

Graduate students Alec Rose and Da Huang

Degree Requirements

The information below is a summary of the formal degree requirements for the PhD in ECE.

Coursework Requirements 

For students matriculating with a bachelor's degree, a minimum of 12 courses are required, as follows: 

  • Five courses in ECE (excluding courses numbered below 500 and ECE 899: Independent Study)
  • Three courses in ECE chosen from the list of ECE "qualifying" courses. To ensure breadth of study, these qualifying courses must be selected from at least two areas outside of the student's major curricular area. A grade of B or better must be earned in the qualifying courses.
  • Four courses approved electives chosen to provide a coherent program of study

Note

  • No more than two ECE 899: Independent Study and/or 300 to 400-level (upper-level undergraduate) courses may be used to satisfy PhD coursework requirements
  • In order to count for the PhD degree, a grade of B- or better must be earned in 100-level courses.
  • Courses numbered between 0 and 299 may not be used for credit toward the PhD degree.
  • English for International Students (EIS) courses do not count toward the required coursework.
  • Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA to remain in good standing and to graduate.
  • Course selection is formally approved by a student's adviser and the DGS through the submission and approval of a program of study. form.

For students matriculating with a master's degree from another institution, a minimum of six courses are required, as follows: 

  • One course in ECE  (excluding courses numbered below 500 and ECE 899: Independent Study)
  • Three courses in ECE chosen from the list of ECE "qualifying" courses. To ensure breadth of study, these qualifying courses must be selected from at least two areas outside of the student's major curricular area. A grade of B or better must be earned in the qualifying courses.
  • Two courses approved electives chosen to provide a coherent program of study

Note

  • No more than two ECE 899: Independent Study and/or 300 to 400-level (upper-level undergraduate) courses may be used to satisfy PhD coursework requirements
  • In order to count for the PhD degree, a grade of B- or better must be earned in 100-level courses.
  • Courses numbered between 0 and 299 may not be used for credit toward the PhD degree.
  • English for International Students (EIS) courses do not count toward the required coursework.
  • Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA to remain in good standing and to graduate.
  • Course selection is formally approved by a student's adviser and the DGS through the submission and approval of a program of study form.

Qualifying Examination

The PhD qualifying process consists of completion of a first-year research project and oral examination. Both the report and the oral presentation are expected to be predominantly the student’s own work (without extensive editing assistance, for example), although students are encouraged to practice their presentation before technical audience of their peers.

The project is intended to demonstrate the student's ability to assemble and analyze the relevant literature for a given research problem and to make preliminary steps towards his/her own contribution. Selection of an appropriate first-year research topic should be made with the approval of the student's adviser. The project may be started at any time after matriculation. Completion of the project must be accompanied by a written report of approximately 20 pages in length, roughly half of which reviews the field (with appropriate references) and half of which describes the student's own progress to date. The written project report must be completed and submitted to the examination committee at least fourteen calendar days prior to the date of the oral examination.

The oral examination will normally be held before the end of the 14th month from matriculation. The examination committee will consist of four ECE faculty members, including the student's adviser. The three other members of the exam committee will be nominated by the student and approved by the student's adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. All committee members must be on the faculty of the Graduate School. Normally, two faculty members will be from the student's curricular group and one will be from a different curricular group. For the purposes of these assignments, any of the faculty member's group affiliations will apply.

The proposed exam committee and time should be submitted to the DGS for approval at least 4 weeks prior to the exam date. The oral exam will consist of a 30 minute presentation by the student of his/her research project followed by up to 30 minutes of questions about the work, its context, and relevant literature. In addition, as part of the oral exam, the committee will also question students to assess their general preparation to undertake work in their chosen sub-discipline for a minimum of 30 minutes. The examiners will be mindful of graduate courses already taken, research directions pursued to date, and any specific tentative plans the student may have for future research. The entire oral exam will be limited to 90 minutes. The intent is to assess the student's preparation and potential for graduate level research work in their chosen field.

The possible outcomes of the first year exam are "Pass" – the student is qualified to begin work towards the preliminary exam; "Pass with Recommended coursework" – the student is qualified to begin work towards a preliminary exam but certain courses must be taken; and "Fail". A "Pass" or "Pass with Recommended Coursework" outcome requires at least three affirmative votes. Any student failing the qualifying exam on the initial attempt will have one additional attempt at the end of the immediately following semester. Failure of the exam on the second attempt will disqualify the student from further doctoral studies in the Duke ECE program.

Supervising Committee

The committee must consist of at least five members (including the student's adviser), at least three of which must be graduate ECE faculty members. In addition, as required by the Graduate School, at least one member of the committee must be from another department. Committees are proposed using the Committee Approval Form.

Teaching Assistantship Requirement

All PhD students must complete two semesters of a Teaching Assistantship (TA) prior to graduation. It is expected that the student will complete this requirement some time during his/her third through eighth semester. Teaching Assistantships will be assigned by the DGS based on the background and interests of the student and the current department needs. Teaching Assistantships are expected to require 10 hours per week on average and may involve such activities as organizing and leading discussion sections, grading homework and quizzes, assisting in the development of course materials, supervising laboratory sessions and so forth. Training for engineering TAs is available online and offered in a course one a year.

Preliminary Exam

This is an oral examination normally scheduled by a student after he/she has completed most of his/her course work, but prior to the main research of the dissertation. The examination consists of (1) a thesis research proposal presentation and defense and (2) an oral examination of fundamentals in the major field and related work.

The length of the examination is at least 90 minutes but no more than two hours. The committee that administers this exam is nominated by the student's adviser and is approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Dean of the Graduate School at least two months before the exam takes place. In order to successfully complete the preliminary exam, at least four of the five committee members (including the adviser) must vote in favor of a pass.

Final Exam

The final examination is normally administered by the same committee as the preliminary exam, and successful defense of the dissertation requires at least four affirmative votes, including the affirmative vote of the dissertation adviser. A negative vote by the dissertation adviser means that the student fails. Note: Details concerning important dates and deadlines, filing of intention to graduate, committee approval, and additional details may be found in the Graduate Bulletin or at the Graduate School website.