PhD Program



  • A DoGEE PhD student will explore the current state of knowledge in his or her field. Information and ideas developed by others are critically examined and placed in proper context. Through this activity, subject areas are identified that are important to achieving the goals of the discipline, but which have not been explored or developed. The student will propose new research to improve understanding in this key area. A research proposal should then outline, in an orderly and logical manner, how key questions are addressed. While pursuing these research hypotheses, the student must take time to consider alternative explanations for experimental observations, and devise new experiments that critically test assumptions and theories. The student will learn to state problems clearly and solve them in a reliable and efficient manner. Whatever lines of reasoning one uses, one must be sure as possible that the conclusions are correct, particularly since there is always some uncertainty in science and engineering. The student must think through his/her research plans to avoid unproductive activities. Because research involves managing time and resources, the Ph.D. student is receiving excellent preparation for future professional work.
  • Each graduate student, when first reporting to the Department, is initially assigned a Program Advisor, based on the stated interests of the student. The advisor should be consulted in matters of programs of study, financial aid, thesis topics, or other problems. Ph.D. students should eventually select a Research Advisor who may or may not be the same individual as the Program Advisor. This occurs as soon as the student has defined his/her area of interest and is sufficiently familiar with the faculty of the Department. Administrative responsibility for the candidate’s progress rests initially with the Program Advisor; this responsibility is then assumed by the Research Advisor. This does not imply that the student should seek guidance in his or research only from the advisor. The entire staff of the Department, and in fact of the University, is available to each student to supply whatever advice and assistance may be needed in pursuing research and other work for the advanced degree.
  • By the beginning of the second year, Ph.D. students, in consultation with the Research Advisor, should begin developing a research topic and preparing a dissertation proposal. The Ph.D. is a research degree, in which the student learns how to initiate and carry out original research. The current state of knowledge in the chosen field will be explored first. Information and ideas developed by others are critically examined and placed in proper context. The student then proposes new research to improve understanding in this key area. A research proposal is written that outlines how key questions will be addressed in an orderly and logical manner.  The writing of a thesis proposal helps to:

    • set research objectives that are well defined and attainable
    • plan and organize the research
    • connect ideas and discover inconsistencies in thinking

    Relatively short proposals (15-20 pages) are encouraged. All proposals should contain a clear and succinct statement of the proposed work, including the following:

    • Title of the proposed thesis,
    • Specific aims or objectives,
    • Supporting information (work by others, literature review),
    • Research methods,
    • A proposed time or progress schedule.

    Discussion of thesis topics may begin as soon as the candidate wishes. It is recommended that this proposal be submitted at the earliest possible date, not later than one year prior to the intended completion date of candidates for the Ph.D.  Submission of a thesis proposal prior to their Departmental oral examination is required.

  • In order to complete the Ph.D. degree, a DoGEE Ph.D. candidate must pass the following two major hurdles in our program:

    • Departmental Oral Examination (DQE)
    • Graduate Board Examination (GBO)

    The DQE and GBO are normally taken in either the 4th or 5th semester of Ph.D. study. The 4th semester is encouraged for Ph.D. students entering our program with a Master’s degree. Students entering our Ph.D. program directly from the B.S. degree have until the 5th semester to take the exams. The Research Advisor should work with the student and the department in scheduling these examinations.

    The examination is administered by three or more members of the faculty within DoGEE. Occasionally faculty members from other departments may be invited to attend.  This examination should be held after he or she has focused upon an area of primary interest and research and prepared a dissertation proposal (generally 4th/5th semester.)  This examination serves four purposes:

    • to review and evaluate the student’s dissertation proposal, prepared prior to the examination (see “Thesis Proposal,” above),
    • to determine whether the student is qualified to take the Graduate Board examination,
    • to assist the Department in determining the areas of weaknesses and strengths in the student’s reasoning skills and educational backgrounds,and
    • to provide the student with experience in being examined orally.The Research Advisor is responsible for preparing a written statement summarizing the outcome of this examination for placement in the student’s file.

    The Graduate Board Examination is scheduled after successful completion of the Department oral exam, usually during the 4th or 5th semesters. This is the official University examination. Three faculty members from other departments and two members of the faculty from our Department participate in the oral examination. The chair of the exam is a senior faculty member from another department.The Graduate Board Examination covers the student’s major field and includes, but is not limited to, a defense of a dissertation proposal. The goal of the examination is to:

    • determine whether a satisfactory dissertation topic and research plan have been selected
    • whether the student is capable of carrying out the work.
    • The examination is of sufficient duration to permit the Committee to determine what it needs to know about the candidate in order to make a judgment; ordinarily examinations are not longer than two hours, but the Committee is not restricted to this time limit.

    The examination may result in one of the following: Unconditional pass (majority vote of the Committee),Pass with conditions to be met by the student,Failure, with re-examination to be administered by the same Committee at a later date,or Failure, with no further examination.The Research Advisor is responsible for obtaining a copy of the signed outcome of this Graduate Board Examination for placement in the student’s file.

  • A Research Committee will be formed following the successful completion of the Graduate Board Oral Examination. The role of the committee is to provide general oversight of the candidate’s progress, and to provide critical feedback and suggestions during the period of the student’s dissertation research and writing. The research committee will be composed of:

    • The student’s advisor as the committee chair.
    • Two or more other faculty members, as appropriate.

    The faculty may be drawn from within or outside the department, as appropriate. The members of the committee also generally form the core of the Dissertation Defense Committee, described below.

    The research committee should be formed no later than a month following the Graduate Board Oral examination. The advisor should confirm members of the committee to the Department Chair in writing (email is appropriate). The composition of the committee may be changed subsequently as dictated by the needs of the student, the direction of the research, or the availability of faculty. The advisor must report changes in writing (email is appropriate) to the Department Chair.

    The Research Committee should meet with the student preferably once a year to assess the student’s progress, share ideas, and address any perceived problems. In preparation for this meeting, the student should provide a brief written report of the work in progress to the committee members at least one week prior to the meeting. The format of the meeting is flexible, but should involve:

    • A prepared presentation by the student of the results of the research to date .
    • A written proposal by the student of likely future steps.
    • Discussion and feedback about the student’s main thesis and the supporting factors.
    • Questions, concerns, and suggestions presented by the committee members about the work in progress.

    The advisor is responsible for clarifying (verbally or in writing) any significant recommendations
    and offering a general assessment of the student’s progress.

    A final dissertation defense is required of all DoGEE doctoral
    students. The student must complete the defense before the dissertation can be submitted to the binding office. The purpose of the defense is to demonstrate that the student has successfully carried out a rigorous program of original research and is able to respond adequately to questions and challenges to the research. The Senior Academic Program Coordinator must be notified as soon as the student sets a dissertation defense date.

    The dissertation defense must take place at least two weeks before the dissertation filing deadline published by the Graduate Board. Draft copies of the dissertation must be provided to the defense committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the defense.

    A Dissertation Defense Committee will be established, composed of the research advisor and at least two other faculty members. At least one member of the defense committee must be from outside the department. The chair of the defense committee will be appointed by the department chair.

    The advisor will submit prospective members of the defense committee to the Department Chair in writing (email is appropriate). The department chair must then approve the composition of the committee in writing (email is appropriate). A copy of this confirmation should be included in the student’s active file.

    The DoGEE dissertation defense is made up of two important parts:

    • An open seminar, and
    • A closed oral examination.

    The seminar is open to the public and consists of a summary (~45 min.) presentation by the student of the principal results and conclusions of the dissertation, followed by questions from the general audience. Immediately following the open seminar is a closed session of questions and discussion of the dissertation with the Dissertation Defense Committee. The entire defense should last from two to three hours, although the committee is not restricted to this time limit. The outcome of the defense is decided by majority vote of the defense committee. The possible outcomes include:

    • Pass– signifies that the student will be awarded the PhD degree after making suggested revisions to the dissertation and filing the final dissertation with JHU in accordance with the rules of the Graduate Board.
    • Conditional pass– a conditional pass signifies that further work is required to produce an acceptable dissertation.

    The defense committee may decide whether a new defense will be required upon completion of this work. At least two members of the defense committee must review the new draft and certify that the required work has been successfully accomplished before the dissertation can be accepted and the degree conferred.

    Important Note: The letter to the Graduate Board (completed by the student’s research advisor) certifying the successful completion of all requirements for the PhD must be signed by the research advisor and at least two other members of the dissertation defense committee.

    Dissertations must be completed and submitted to the Eisenhower library by 4:00 pm on the date specified on the Graduate Board Calendar ( in order to graduate in the intended semester or summer period. The student will be issued a receipt for the submission of the dissertation. The original copy of this receipt should immediately be taken to the Senior Academic Program Coordinator for submission to the Graduate Board. Note: The student will not be approved for conferral without a copy of this receipt.

    Student should submit dissertation copies to the following:

    • One copy to the library (electronic)
    • One copy to the department (hard bound copy)
    • One copy to his or her advisor and readers (hard bound copy is customary but not mandatory)
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