PhD Electrical & Computer Engineering


The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department offers the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Electrical & Computer Engineering. In order for a student to become a candidate for the PhD degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering, the student must have obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in either Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering, or have otherwise demonstrated a high scholastic competency in all of the required undergraduate courses for either degree. The PhD program requirements include 42 credits or more of coursework beyond the BS EE or CE degree requirements, a qualifying examination and a comprehensive examination, and a doctoral research thesis. The general requirements of the University of Maine for doctoral study can be found in the graduate catalog. The specific coursework, examination and thesis requirements of the ECE Department are given below.

Program Requirements

  • Advisory Committee   All graduate students must form an advisory committee and submit their program of study within the first year of their graduate program. The PhD advisory committee must have five members, of which at least three must be members of the ECE graduate faculty. ECE graduate students must meet with their advisory committee at least once per year. A progress report (PDF) must be completed and submitted to the ECE department by the end of each academic year.
  • Coursework   A doctoral student must complete at least 42 credits of coursework beyond the BS degree requirements. (Thesis and dissertation credits do not count toward this requirement.) Nine credits out of the 42 are to be completed in an area outside of Electrical & Computer Engineering, to constitute a minor. At least 24 credits out of the 42 must be ECE courses. Normally, no more than 6 credits of ECE 400 level course work will be accepted for graduate credit. Additionally, PhD candidates must complete three of the five core course requirements for either the MSEE or MSCE degree. A minimum of nine credit hours of registration in Graduate Research (ECE699) is required. However, even after this minimum requirement has been met, all doctoral students using University facilities while engaging in dissertation research must register for at least one credit of ECE699 each semester.  Students must complete one credit of Responsible Conduct of Research training, preferably prior to commencing research.  The training must take place before the completion of 3 credits of ECE699.
  • Residency (UMaine Graduate School Requirement)   The minimum residence requirement for the PhD program is met by registering for a full-time program of study and/or research (6 credits per semester) for four semesters beyond the baccalaureate degree. Students entering doctoral programs with a master’s degree must register for at least two semesters of full-time course work and/or research at the University. For the purposes of satisfying residency, the summer session may count as a semester
  • Grade Point Average   PhD students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.33 (B+) in order to continue in the PhD program. The grade point average is calculated based on all courses satisfying the requirements of the PhD degree, including any credits transferred from a previous degree.
  • Qualifying Examination   The Qualifying Examination must be completed before starting the second year of the student’s PhD program. The Qualifying exam is offered twice a year, typically in January and May. The examination covers a broad range of ECE topics at the undergraduate level. Every PhD student will be tested in two fundamental areas: Digital Systems and Circuits & Linear Systems. With the approval of their advisory committee, each student will be tested in three additional topics chosen from the following:
    • Solid-State Electronics
    • Digital Signal Processing
    • Electromagnetics
    • Computer Architecture
    • Computer Operating Systems
    • Communications

    All students are required to make choices of the exam topics immediately after enrolling into our program.

    The qualifying exam is prepared and evaluated by faculty selected by the ECE Graduate Coordinator. The result of the exam is either pass or fail, as determined by the overall performance of the student. Each exam has a written part and may also have an oral part.

    The primary purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to identify weaknesses in the student’s background which may require remedial coursework. If the student performs unsatisfactorily, the student may be asked to repeat all or part of the exam, perform remedial course work, or take other remedial action as recommended by the Graduate Program Committee.

    If the doctoral student does not perform satisfactorily on the second attempt at the exam, or does not meet the minimum grade requirements specified for the remedial course work, the student will be ineligible to continue in the PhD program.

  • Comprehensive Examination   The comprehensive exam covers graduate-level material relevant to the student’s concentration. Students must complete the Comprehensive Examination after successful completion of the Qualifying Examination, and after the majority of the PhD course credits have been completed. Graduate School requirements state that this examination may not be taken until the student has completed at least one and one-half years, or the equivalent, of graduate study.The format of the comprehensive examination is left largely to the discretion of the student’s advisory committee, but will always include an oral examination open to all ECE faculty and any other participants approved by the student’s committee. The comprehensive exam will typically also include a written portion, comprised of a research proposal outlining the PhD research to be undertaken by the student. The proposal is reviewed by the student’s Advisory Committee prior to the oral exam. The advisory committee may also request that the student formally present the proposed research at the beginning of the oral comprehensive exam.The comprehensive exam date, time and location must be announced to the entire ECE faculty at least five days in advance.Following the successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, the student is admitted to candidacy. To remain in the program a student must attain candidacy status within four years of registration. All work for the doctoral degree must be completed within four years after admission to candidacy.
  • Dissertation   The doctoral dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s mastery of their area of research, must embody the results of an original investigation in the principal field of study, and must advance the state of the art in the chosen field. The work must be a sufficiently new contribution to the field that it warrants publication in refereed journals and/or presentation at an international conference.
  • The Final Examination   The final examination, which is oral, is concerned with the subject of the thesis and with the candidate’s understanding of related matters that are important for a proficiency in the principal field of study. The examination must demonstrate the candidate’s mastery of the techniques of research and skill in organizing and presenting the material.The final exam may take place no sooner than the second semester following completion of the Comprehensive Examination.After the doctoral thesis has been accepted by the candidate’s advisory committee, the original copy shall be presented to the Graduate School. The candidate must then appear for final examination by an examining committee of no fewer than five members (usually the student’s advisory committee) appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the major advisor. Other members of the faculty may attend and participate in the questioning, but only members of the committee may vote in determining the outcome.