The Ph.D. requirements apply to all full-time and part-time students in the program. The Ph.D. degree certifies that the holder has demonstrated research capability. Accordingly, the Ph.D. requirements are used as checkpoints leading the student through this research experience. Because students tend to spend more than ample time on the path to research, several requirements prescribe time limitations. Part-time students and their advisor, may petition the Director of Graduate Studies, in writing, to adjust the time requirements of the PhD program.

The requirements stated below include university-wide requirements for the Ph.D. Note that all students who wish to be admitted to our Ph.D. program, must have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent upon entry.

For more information on WSE’s Time to Degree Limit for Part-time students, visit


To fulfill the requirements for the PhD degree in ECE, the student must:

a. Residency: Once students begin their graduate course of study toward a degree, they must complete a minimum of two consecutive semesters of registration as a full‐time, resident graduate student. To qualify as a resident student, the student must be present on campus and working toward fulfilling the requirements for the degree. Complete information is available on the JHU Graduate Board’s website.

b. Coursework: To maintain full-time status, WSE PhD students must be enrolled in 20 credits in each semester. The exception to this rule is new PhD students on a fellowship and not doing research, may be enrolled in just 10 credits (three courses with 3-4 credits, and the ECE Departmental Seminar EN.520.895 course for 1 credit). Note that students enrolled in fewer than 9 credits per semester will not meet the enrollment requirement, which may affect residency requirements for all and visa concerns for international students. Please see the Advising Manual for more details.

a. The student must select and complete the examinations posed by three examiners eligible to supervise doctoral dissertations in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, of which at least two must be tenure‐track ECE faculty. The respective examiners grade completed examinations, but it is the ECE Department faculty that makes a collective decision on whether the student has adequately fulfilled the Departmental Qualifying Examination requirement. This decision involves the student’s cumulative academic performance in the graduate program, as well as performance on the examination. The Departmental Qualifying Examination cannot be taken more than twice. The fall and spring qualifying examinations are given over a period of seven days immediately preceding the start of classes.

b. A student can take the Departmental Qualifying Examination only if enrolled in the PhD program and not on probation.

Students must select a Research Advisor immediately upon passing the Departmental Qualifying Examination requirement.

A student cannot have a Research Advisor before passing the Departmental Qualifying Examination. Prior to the Qualifying Exam the student has an Academic Advisor. Upon passing the Qualifying Examination the student must immediately identify a Research Advisor that is willing and able to supervise and support their doctoral research. The Research Advisor sets requirements for the remainder of the program. These may include a teaching requirement, particular coursework, a reading program, or a preliminary research project. As the Research Advisor must be identified immediately upon passing the Qualifying Exam, students should identify and consult with a Research Advisor in advance of taking the exam and confirm their support. Once the student selects a research advisor, the student must obtain a Research Advisor form from the Academic Program Administrator, have their advisor sign the form and then return it to the Administrator.

Either the student or the Research Advisor can discontinue the relationship for any reason. When a Student-Research Advisor relationship is discontinued, a new Research Advisor must be selected within two months. If a student is without a Research Advisor the student is typically placed on probation.

Students must develop a written research proposal prior to taking the Graduate Board Oral Examination.
Prior to taking the Graduate Board Oral (GBO) examination, students should work with their Research Advisor and write a research proposal. The written proposal should be sent to the Graduate Board Oral committee and the ECE Academic Program Administrator at least two weeks prior to the scheduled exam date. While all committee members are encouraged to provide feedback, following the GBO the proposal must be approved by only the ECE members of the exam committee.

The written proposal should be no more than 6 pages with 1-inch margins and 10-point font, excluding references. The proposal should be organized into 3 sections as follows.

  1. Description of the significance of the proposed work
    a. Describe the problem that will be addressed
    b. Summarize the current state of the art and the limitations of current approaches
  2. Description of the innovation of the proposed work
    a. Describe what is new in the proposed research and how it will address the limitations of current approaches
    b. Describe the anticipated impact of the proposed research in terms of what difference it will make if it is successful.
    c. Describe any preliminary results that have already been achieved for the proposed work.
  3. Description of the anticipated approach to completing the research
    a. Organize the work into the major tasks and describe them
    b. Provide an anticipated timeline for the completion of the tasks
    c. Summarize the anticipated risks to success and provide some alternative strategies\

Students must pass the Graduate Board Oral (GBO) Examination. The exam should be scheduled prior to the start of the sixth semester although the exam can take place after this date.

The purpose of the examination is to test the depth and breadth of the student’s knowledge and reasoning abilities. The examination typically is based on the student’s course background but may include the proposed dissertation topic. The examination is conducted by five faculty members: two ECE professors, two professors from JHU PhD granting departments outside ECE, and one additional professor that can be either from inside or outside of ECE. At least two of the outside members must be Professor or Associate Professor ranking such that they can chair the exam. Additionally, one departmental alternate and one outside alternate are also required. Note that for GBO examination committee purposes, the Research Advisor is counted as a member of the ECE Department regardless of affiliation.

The Graduate Board must approve any committee member who is either from outside the university or who is from a department, laboratory or institute within Johns Hopkins that does not sponsor a Ph.D. program. The Director of Graduate Studies or Department Head must provide a letter describing the need for a non-Hopkins committee member, a CV, and the examination form must be submitted to the Graduate Board four weeks before the proposed examination. There can be at most one committee member that requires approval by the Graduate Board. Note that a committee member that has a joint appointment in a JHU Ph.D. sponsoring department does not need to be approved by the Graduate Board.

The members of the GBO examination committee are selected by the Department Head or Director of Graduate Studies and approved by the Chair of the Graduate Board. Although consultation with candidates and their faculty advisors regarding possible exam committee members is appropriate, election of the committee is the Department Head’s or Director of Graduate Studies’ responsibility and is not the candidate’s responsibility or prerogative.

Students preparing to take the GBO must contact the Academic Program Administrator to make arrangements at least five weeks prior to the intended exam date. Five weeks’ notice will allow time to confirm availability of the proposed examiners and notify the Graduate Board by their notification deadlines. The Administrator is responsible for finding a room and submitting the form entitled Oral Examination for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Graduate Board Office.

The Graduate Board chooses a GBO committee chair from among the committee members that are not from the ECE Department and sends an information letter and the GBO report form back to the Administrator who forwards a copy to the chair of the examination committee. The Administrator sends a confirmation email to all the committee members, committee alternates, and the candidate.
The GBO exam should be scheduled for 2 hours. Per the GBO rules, the exact format is at the discretion of the GBO chair, however we anticipate it will consist of a short (approximately 10 minute) presentation by the candidate on their research followed by the GBO exam. Per GBO rules this is a closed exam and the scope of the GBO questions is not limited to the candidate’s research and can cover things such as coursework etc.

The possible outcomes of the GBO examination include: an unconditional pass, a conditional pass (with the requirements to be met written down on the report form), or failure. In the latter case, if the chair of the GBO committee recommends reexamination, he/she must indicate with whom and when. At least one person from the original committee must be on the next committee. The Graduate Board does not allow more than two examinations. After the GBO examination, the chair of the GBO committee submits the original signed GBO report form to the Administrator, where a copy will be placed in the student’s file and updates the ECE graduate student list.

For more information on the GBO, consult the following website:

a. Dissertation defense preparation steps are available here.

b. All international students must visit the International Office at least two months in advance of the defense date to ensure that their visa status and application for their EAD card and Optional Practical Training is in place.

c. The guidelines for the preparation of dissertations can be obtained from here.

d. The dissertation must have two Dissertation Readers with the first reader being the Research Advisor. The Director of Graduate Studies approves the choice of readers nominated by the Research Advisor. The Graduate Board Office must approve readers from outside the University, or from any non‐PhD sponsoring department, laboratory or institute within the University. Such approval will be forthcoming only when such an appointment is justified in writing by the Chair of the Department or Director of Graduate Studies making the request.

The Graduate board specifies that:

The two principal readers are responsible for submitting a written report recommending acceptance of the dissertation. The report should testify that the work is a significant contribution to knowledge worthy of publication in its present form or with appropriate modifications and that it is worthy of acceptance in partial fulfillment of the University requirements for the Ph.D. It must contain the student’s full name and the complete final title of the dissertation. The letter must be on letterhead, signed by both readers, and include the readers’ ranks, titles, departments, and schools.

e. The student submits a copy of his PhD dissertation, the readers’ letter, the names of the Dissertation Committee proposed by his research advisor (see requirement 6f below), and an abstract of the dissertation (used for the defense announcement) to the Academic Program Administrator. The Administrator informs the faculty by email that the dissertation and readers’ letter are available in the department office (Barton 105), schedules the Dissertation Defense, and is responsible for producing and posting the announcement of the defense. Note that there will be a minimum of three weeks needed between this submission and the dissertation defense described next.

f. The Dissertation Committee consists of at most five members, must include the two Dissertation Readers, and must include at least two tenure‐track ECE faculty members. As the members of the Dissertation Committee must be approved by a vote of the faculty, the Director of Graduate Studies polls the faculty by email no sooner than two weeks after submission of the dissertation to the GPC. Any faculty member may request that the email vote not be used and that the proposed Dissertation Committee be placed as an agenda item at a meeting of the faculty.

g. The Dissertation Committee administers a Public Dissertation Defense no sooner than three weeks after submission of the dissertation, following which the Dissertation Committee votes on the acceptance of the dissertation.

h. Dissertations will be submitted only by electronic media. Hardbound books will not be printed on campus, but information will be provided on where dissertations can be printed and bound. The library will do some brief format checking. They will then approve the submission or email you about necessary changes. For information, contact David Reynolds, the Library ETC Coordinator at 410‐516‐7720 or [email protected].