This document is a guide for Whiting School of Engineering faculty serving as primary advisor to a Doctor of Engineering student. We lay out the responsibilities and rewards for serving as advisor.

This is a supplement to information that can be found on the DEng website. Here we provide specific information specific to WSE faculty in their role as mentor/advisor.

Being a DEng advisor requires active commitment. As described below, these students are non-residential. Nevertheless, the expectation is that advisors and DEng students will be in close, frequent contact throughout their studies. Practically, that implies weekly video meetings.

We recommend reading the entire guide, but you may jump to a relevant section by clicking one of the following links.

  1. Program Philosophy
  2. The Doctor of Engineering Oversight Committee
  3. Who May Advise?
  4. Admissions
  5. Educational Objectives
  6. The First Year
  7. The Project and Defense
  8. Retakes and Probation
  9. Annual Student Review
  10. Semiannual Doctor of Engineering Conference
  11. Financials
  12. Questions?

Program Philosophy

The Doctor of Engineering stands in parallel to our Doctor of Philosophy. Both the PhD and the DEng degree programs culminate in high-end, original, creative work done under the close mentorship of a faculty advisor. This work is ultimately presented and defended in a public forum.

However, there are some practical and philosophical differences between these degree programs.

The PhD program is designed for developing the next generation of scholars. While many of our PhD students will go on to non-academic careers, the PhD training and requirements are aimed at training future professors. By contrast, the goal of the DEng is to advance working engineers to be creative technical leaders.

PhD students are typically young; many come to us directly from their undergraduate studies. We expect them to spend around 5 years on campus, and the first year or two is spent getting up to speed for research. On the other hand, DEng students are mid-career professionals for whom spending years on campus is utterly impractical.

For PhD students, financial support and project selection are the responsibility of their faculty mentors. However, we expect DEng students to propose projects that are financially supported by their employers.

Summarizing: Doctor of Engineering students are full-time, non-residential students that are supported by their employers. Their doctoral projects are of importance and interest to their company/agency.

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The Doctor of Engineering Oversight Committee

Because the DEng program is school-wide (not housed in a department), responsibility for the program falls to a faculty committee known as the Doctor of Engineering Oversight Committee. The responsibilities of this committee are:

  • Admission to the program
  • Monitoring of student progress
  • Revisions to the program

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Who May Advise?

DEng students are supported by a three-person supervisory committee consisting of a primary advisor who is a JHU Engineering faculty member, a co-advisor from their home company/agency, and a third JHU faculty member who serves as an examiner on milestone exams and provides light additional advising.

Engineering faculty members (including BME faculty appointed in the School of Medicine and EHE faculty appointed in the School of Public Health) who are permitted to supervise PhD students may serve as primary DEng advisors. This is in consonance with Homewood Academic Council Titles Document on graduate student supervision and includes the following categories of faculty:

  • Tenure-line faculty (assistant, associate, full, and emeritus professors)
  • Research-line faculty (assistant, associate, and full research professors)

The co-advisor is from the student’s home company/agency. The co-advisor serves on the student’s examination panels and provides additional on-site mentoring of the student’s program. The co-advisor is identified at the time of application and is subject to the approval of the Doctor of Engineering Oversight Committee. Typically, this individual has demonstrated experience in research (as evidenced by publications and/or patents) and has a doctoral degree.

The third committee member may be any member of the JHU faculty (any academic division) who is permitted to be a co-advisor (including tenure-line faculty, research-line faculty, and research scholar/scientists/engineers); see the Homewood Academic Council Titles Document.

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An application to the Doctor of Engineering program includes the following components:

  • Basic demographic, employment information
  • Information on prior degrees (note: master’s degree is required) including transcripts
  • Statement of Purpose (why the applicant wishes to pursue a DEng)
  • Research Proposal (a general description of what the student wishes to work on)
  • Identification of possible WSE advisor(s)
  • Home institution support letter
  • Credentials of the co-advisor
  • Additional letters of recommendation

To be admitted to the Doctor of Engineering program, the application must be approved both by the Doctor of Engineering Oversight Committee as well as the WSE faculty member who will be serving as advisor.

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Educational Objectives

There are three overarching educational objectives for DEng students:

  • Ability to acquire new, advanced knowledge
  • Ability to formulate a research problem/program
  • Execution of the proposed research

These objectives are assessed by three milestone examinations, respectively:

  • Preliminary Examination
  • Proposal Presentation and Examination
  • Project Defense

These are described in further detail in the next two sections.

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The First Year

(Diagnostic Interview and milestone exams #1 and #2)

Doctor of Engineering students are expected to come to Baltimore twice each year in January and June (see Semiannual Doctor of Engineering Conference below). DEng students may begin their program at either time, but for the sake of this description, we imagine a June start.

DEng students begin their program in June with an extended, in-person meeting with their advisor. This meeting is called the Diagnostic Interview. The student and advisor discuss the proposed project and identify new material for the student to learn (roughly equivalent to two graduate-level courses). This new material should be relevant to the proposed research, especially to guide the student to fill in background material that the advisor anticipates will be needed. Together, the advisor and student lay out a syllabus of study for the coming months. (The syllabus is then approved by the student’s three-person supervisory committee.)

During the coming months, the student works to learn the material on the syllabus. This may be done through online courses (such as those offered by our Engineering for Professionals program) or guided independent reading. The advisor and co-advisor are available to the student to answer questions and, if need be, revise the syllabus.

At the next Doctor of Engineering Conference (in January) the student is examined on the syllabus developed in the Diagnostic Interview. This Preliminary Examination (conducted during a DEng Conference) is administered by the student’s supervisory committee. The format of the exam may be either written or oral at the discretion of the supervisory committee.

After successfully completing the Preliminary Exam, the student spends the next six months refining the basic proposal in the application into a robust, more specific written research proposal. At the end of the first year (second June DEng conference), the student stands for the Proposal Presentation and Examination. This is an oral exam is conducted by the supervisory committee plus two additional JHU faculty members. This exam is analogous to the Graduate Board Oral examination for PhD students. As with GBO exams, non-JHU examiners may be used on the exam subject to the approval of the WSE Vice Dean for Graduate Education. The first portion of the examination is a presentation of the research proposal. This portion of the exam is a public presentation of the research proposal (and other DEng students are encouraged to attend). This is followed by an examination by the five-member panel to assess the student’s readiness to engage in the proposed research.

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The Project and Defense

(Final milestone exam)

Upon successful completion of the Proposal Presentation and Examination, the student works in earnest to execute the research. Of course, the scope and direction of the research may deviate from the plan originally presented.

Once the advisor and co-advisor deem the student’s research to be sufficient for the degree, the student presents their research at a public defense conducted by the student’s three-person supervisory committee.

PhD students typically report and archive the fruits of their research by writing a dissertation. DEng students may do likewise, but we allow greater latitude in this case. The DEng project must include a written description of the key results, but then may be evidenced by a portfolio including such items as:

  • Prototypes
  • Animations or simulations
  • Computer code
  • Journal paper submissions
  • Invention disclosures/patent applications

Taken together, the portfolio is used to evaluate the depth and quality of the student’s work. The design of the portfolio (what is included) is subject to the approval of the student’s advisor and co-advisor.

Note that the portfolio, as well as its defense, must be public. That is, neither classified nor otherwise restricted material may be used. However, it is reasonable that the student’s project may support a proprietary or classified application at the student’s home company/agency. Nevertheless, it must be possible for the student to demonstrate their accomplishments in a fully open setting.

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Retakes and Probation

Ideally, students in the Doctor of Engineering program will pass their milestone exams on the first attempt. However, students will have a second chance to pass any of their exams should they fail on their first attempt. Failing any exam twice is grounds for dismissal from the Doctor of Engineering program.

DEng students are expected to be fully engaged and make progress toward their degree. Should a student become disengaged or have a significant period with no progress, the student may be placed on probation. Please see Assistant Dean Christine Kavanagh for guidance.

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Annual Student Review

Doctoral students need to have a clear understanding of their progress and what is expected next in their programs. To this end, DEng students will undergo a formal annual review. This consists of three steps:

  • First, the student completes a self-evaluation in which they report their accomplishments from the previous year and lay out their expectations for the coming year.
  • Second, the Doctor of Engineering Oversight Committee reviews the progress of all students in the program. This requires input from the advisor and co-advisor. This culminates in a letter to the student.
  • Third, the student’s advisor presents the Committee’s letter to the student (via email) and then follows up with a discussion (via video chat).

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Semiannual Doctor of Engineering Conference

DEng students are nonresidential and therefore have little opportunity to interact with each other. However, they are expected to come to Baltimore for semi-annual Doctor of Engineering Conferences in June and January. As described earlier, the various milestone examinations take place during these conferences. DEng students are encouraged to attend public portions of each other’s oral examinations (proposal and project defenses).

In addition, the conferences provide opportunities for social networking among the students as well as professional development programming.

Typically, communication between DEng students and JHU faculty will be through various electronic means. While these can be highly effective, they are not a true substitute for personal, face-to-face meetings. Thus, attendance by advisors and students at the Doctor of Engineering Conference is extremely important. Dates for the Conference will be made available far in advance so participation can be ensured. Please see the website That said, we note that competing obligations on faculty or students may occasionally make attendance impossible; in such a case, exams can be conducted electronically or rescheduled for a mutually agreeable time.

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The training of a Doctor of Engineering student takes the form of a research contract between the student’s employer and the Whiting School of Engineering. The cost of the program (to the student’s employer) is a set fee. However, if specialized facilities here at JHU are needed (such as extensive time on MARCC) then an additional charge will be made.

Faculty are expected to be actively and regularly engaged with their Doctor of Engineering advisees. For this, we provide $22,500 per year into the faculty member’s discretionary account.

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Feel free to contact Ashutosh Dutta (DEng Program Director) or Mia Brooms (graduate academic & DEng program administrator).

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