PhD Requirements

Important: Effective Fall 2016, all Whiting School of Engineering graduate students will register for courses with credits. For more information about this change, visit the Homewood Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs website.


The PhD requirements apply to all part‐time and full‐time students in the program. Time limits however, are stated in the context of full‐time graduate study. Time limits for part‐time programs must be individually arranged with the Director of Graduate Studies. The PhD degree certifies that the holder has demonstrated research capability. Accordingly, the PhD 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. The requirements stated below include university‐wide requirements for the PhD.

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: All full‐time students must satisfactorily complete at least three graduate courses per semester for credit until they have a Research Advisor. Additionally, students must enroll in the ECE Departmental Seminar (520.600) during this time. Until the Departmental Examination is passed, no more than one Independent Study course per faculty member can be counted toward these three courses.

    c. A course is satisfactorily completed if a grade from A+ to C‐ or a “P” is obtained. A grade of D or F or second C+, C, or C‐ grade results in probation. A second D or F, or a third C+, C, or C‐ grade results in termination from the program.

  • 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.


    Monday, December 18, 2017, 4pm: Student sign up deadline
    Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 4pm: Student names to Faculty
    Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 4pm: Qualifying Exam given to the office by Faculty
    Friday, January 19, 2018, noon to Friday, January 26, 2018, noon: Qualifying Exam
    Monday, January 29, 2018: First day of class
    Faculty Meeting (discuss Qualifying Exam results): Thursday, February 8, 2018


  • A student cannot have a Research Advisor before passing the Departmental Qualifying
    Examination. Passing a particular examiner’s Departmental Qualifying Examination implies that the examiner is willing to become the Research Advisor of the student for at least six months. 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.

    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 one month. Note that once the student chooses a research advisor, the student must obtain a research advisor form from the Academic Program Administrator, have his/her advisor sign the form, and then return it to the Academic Program Administrator.

  • a. Graduate Board Oral (GBO) Examination: 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 and three from outside the Department. The outside committee members must be from at least two different departments. One departmental alternate and one outside alternate are also required. The members of the GBO examination committee are selected by the Chair 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, selection of the committee is the Department Chair’s responsibility and is not the candidate’s responsibility or prerogative.

    b. The Academic Program Administrator is responsible for scheduling the exam, finding a room, and submitting the form entitled Oral Examination for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Graduate Board Office. This form must be completed, signed by the Director of Graduate Studies, and submitted to the Graduate Board at least three weeks before the proposed examination date.

    c. The Graduate Board chooses a GBO committee chair from among the three committee members that are not from the ECE Department, and sends an information letter and the GBO report form back to the department who forwards a copy to the chair of the examination committee. The Academic Program Administrator sends a confirmation email to all the committee members, committee alternates, and the candidate.

    d. 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 a 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 Academic Program Administrator. The Administrator sends the GBO report form to the Graduate Board, places a copy of the GBO report form in the student file, and updates the ECE graduate student list.

    e. At least one committee member from outside the department must be an Associate Professor or higher (to satisfy the requirement that the committee chair must be an Associate Professor or higher). Note that for GBO examination committee purposes, the research advisor is counted as a member of the ECE Department. 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 PhD program. The Director of Graduate Studies or Department Chair 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. Note that a committee member that has a joint appointment in a JHU PhD sponsoring department does not need to be approved by the Graduate Board. For more information, consult the following website.

  • The purpose of the preliminary research proposal is to ensure that the student is planning a research project that is both significant and realistic. A preliminary research proposal should contain the following:

    a. Cover Page: The cover page of the proposal should list a proposed Dissertation Committee consisting of between three and five members, including the Research Advisor. At least two must have tenure‐track appointments in the ECE Department.

    b. Project summary: The proposal must contain a summary of the proposed research, not more than one page in length. This should be a self‐contained description of the research to be undertaken.

    c. Project Description: The description should state the objective of the intended research, explain why the topic selected is of interest, provide a brief overview of what has already been done in the area, indicate how the student plans to conduct the research, and provide a rough time table.

    d. Page limits: The project description may not exceed fifteen (15) pages. These page limits include references, figures, and tables. Text should not be smaller than 12pt, with 1” margins throughout.

    e. The proposal must be submitted to the Academic Program Administrator during the first week of the student’s seventh semester. The Administrator will distribute it to the proposed committee members for evaluation. The faculty as a whole approves the proposal and Dissertation committee.

  • The Departmental Seminar is a public presentation of the student’s proposed research. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for the student to present the research to an audience unfamiliar with the student’s work, as opposed to a 20 minute conference talk to experts – similar to what might be experienced at a job interview. Also, it affords the student an opportunity to demonstrate how the proposed research is progressing. Finally, it provides an opportunity for others in the department to become familiar with the student’s work. The members of the Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal and Departmental Seminar Committee are requested to be present at the student’s Departmental Seminar. Other faculty members and all graduate students are encouraged to attend. At the conclusion of the seminar, all ECE faculty members present meet to vote on whether the student has passed the proposal and seminar requirements. The faculty may take into consideration the knowledge displayed by the student of the proposed research and whether the successful completion of the proposed research would satisfy the dissertation requirement. A student may be requested to prepare another research proposal and/or seminar if the faculty decides that the research proposal and seminar requirement were not satisfied, or if the student makes a major change in research topic.

    The seminars are held on Thursday afternoons at 3pm, and no ECE courses will be scheduled at that time. The Academic Program Administrator is responsible for booking the seminars. Students should give a title and abstract to the Administrator at least two weeks before it is to be presented.

  • a. Dissertation defense preparation steps are available at

    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

    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



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