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Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering with an option in Computer Engineering

The requirements for the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering are summarized below. A more detailed explanation of these requirements, definitions, and policies are given in subsequent sections.

  1. Students are required to successfully complete an approved program of study. Successful completion of the doctoral program of study is indicated by a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 grading scale with no more than two grades below B- (B minus). Typically, a minimum of 24 credits beyond the MS requirement or 54 credits beyond the BS is expected (exclusive of dissertation research). Although it is not necessary to obtain the MS degree before proceeding to the Ph.D. program, the MS core courses and specialization or thesis requirements must be fulfilled either through the program of study at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth or through prior graduate studies at another institution.

  2. Ph.D. students must pass either the Electrical Engineering or the Computer Engineering Ph.D. qualifying examination. The examination, which is based on both the broad background of the respective undergraduate engineering program and the more in-depth and specialized introductory graduate level course work, verifies that the student is sufficiently prepared to continue advanced graduate studies in support of a general Ph.D. research area. Typically, students entering the program with the BS take the qualifying examination after completing at least 24 course credits. Students entering the program with an MS degree normally take the examination in the first year of admission.

  3. Ph.D. candidates must also pass the Ph.D. comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination verifies that the student is sufficiently prepared to conduct scholarly research in the selected area of the Ph.D. dissertation. Consequently, the Ph.D. comprehensive examination focuses on advanced graduate studies and a formal Ph.D. research proposal.

  4. Ph.D. candidates must successfully complete a Ph.D. dissertation. Successful completion of the Ph.D. dissertation is indicated by the satisfactory oral defense of a written dissertation that represents an original contribution to the scholarly research literature of the field. The dissertation normally involves 18 credits of Ph.D. dissertation research (ECE 701).

  5. Fulfillment of the research tool and full-time residency requirements.

  6. Payment of all fees, fines, and completion of all other obligations to the University unless specifically waived by the appropriate authority.

Timeline for Completing the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering

Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, a student is assigned an initial major advisor who is familiar with the student's general research area. After consultation with the initial advisor, another advisor who is more familiar with the candidate's research area and is willing to serve as the major advisor, may be appointed. Before the end of the first semester or the completion of six credits, and in consultation with the major advisor, the student will have submitted a program of study to the ECE Graduate Program Director. The program of study should conform to the guidelines set forth below (a form has been provided in Appendix D).

A condition for remaining a Ph.D. student is the passing of the Ph.D. qualifying examination. Normally, students in either the MSEE/Ph.D. or direct Ph.D. tracks takethe qualifying examination after completing at least 24 course credits, but before the completion of 36 credits. For students entering the program with a Master's Degree in Electrical or Computer Engineering from another university, the examination would normally be taken during the first year of admission. Exceptions to this procedure are made for those students who must address deficiencies in their backgrounds. For these students, the examination would be taken at an appropriate time in their program. In all cases, students take the qualifying examination at the recommendation of their major advisor.

Before the completion of all courses, and as a prerequisite for scheduling the Ph.D. comprehensive examination, the student must submit the names of the dissertation committee members and a formal research topic proposal to the ECE Graduate Program Director for approval. The proposal is prepared by the student in consultation with the committee, and in accordance with the format detailed below.

Prior to registration for dissertation research, the student will schedule the Ph.D. comprehensive examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examination, the Ph.D. student status is changed to Ph.D. candidate.

In consultation with the major advisor and committee, the Ph.D. candidate conducts research, prepares the dissertation, and schedules the oral defense of the dissertation. Completion of the research topic requirement is indicated by the satisfactory defense of the dissertation and library acceptance of the final document.

Policies and Definitions for the Ph.D. Program

The following paragraphs set forth both the policies and definitions of the various requirements and related issues of the Ph.D. program.

Major Advisor: The major advisor is a full-time member of the UMass Dartmouth ECE faculty who counsels the student in the preparation of the program of study, directs the selection of the committee, participates in the qualifying examination, mentors the student in research and professional development, and chairs both the comprehensive examination and the oral defense of the dissertation. The selection of an advisor is by the mutual consent of both the student and the faculty member and the relationship may be terminated without prejudice at any time by either party. In unusual cases a well-qualified professional who is not a full time UMass Dartmouth ECE faculty member may serve as a co-advisor for dissertation research only, with the approval of the ECE Graduate Committee.

Program of Study: Each student must submit a program of study approved by the major advisor prior to the end of the first semester, or the completion of six credits. The program of study is filed with the ECE Graduate Program Director. The programserves as a guide for the course work required to support the student's research topic and is the basis on which the student's GPA is computed. The student's program of study defines his/her Ph.D. degree and should therefore reflect a mature and carefully designed plan for completing the degree requirements. Failure to submit a program of study at the appropriate time is considered an indication of unsatisfactory progress toward the degree. The program of study may be altered with the approval of the major advisor.

Students are required to successfully complete an approved program of study. Successful completion of the doctoral program of study is indicated by a grade point average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 grading scale with no more than two grades below B- (B minus). Typically, a minimum of 24 credits beyond the MSEE requirement or 54 credits beyond the BSEE is expected (exclusive of dissertation research). These requirements represent the equivalent of two years of advanced study beyond the MSEE degree, or three years beyond the BSEE. The expected dissertation researchis at least one year of full time work as represented by a minimum of 18 credits of dissertation research to a maximum of 24 credits. Although it is not necessary to obtain the Master's degree before proceeding to the doctoral program, the Master's core courses and specialization must be fulfilled either through the program of study at UMass Dartmouth or through prior graduate studies at another institution. Students in the direct Ph.D. track do not, however, have to satisfy the thesis or graduate research requirement at the Master's degree level. For students who have completed the Master's portion of the MSEE/Ph.D. track, there are no specific required courses. However, there may be courses that will be required by the student's major advisor. As noted above, the doctoral degree represents a minimum of 72 credits, inclusive of dissertation research, beyond the bachelor's degree. Thus, some students' program of study may reflect additional work.

The program of study identifies the general area of research for which the student is preparing and specifically lists all the courses that are to be taken. Both the courses to be taken for credit and those to be taken to address deficiencies (but cannot be counted for credit) are included in the program of study. No credit is allowed for courses below the 400 level, but up to six credits of ECE 400 level courses may be applied to the program. A major advisor may encourage or require a student to take some graduate courses outside of the ECE department in areas that are related to the research topic, such as mathematics or physics. An additional six credits of courses from outside the department may be at the 400 level. Students in the MSEE/Ph.D. track are allowed up to nine credits of independent or directed study forthe Ph.D. portion of their program. For the direct Ph.D. track eighteen credits are allowed. Independent study or directed study courses to be included in the program are to be accompanied by a syllabus, the grading procedure, and the name of the faculty supervisor.

Prior graduate-level courses taken through the UMass Dartmouth ECE graduate program by a matriculated or special student are included as part of the program for the purpose of computing GPA and other requirements. Thus, the Ph.D. program of study is a continuation of a UMass Dartmouth MSEE program of study. Although graduate courses and degrees from other universities are not included in the program in the same way, they are taken into account in establishing the program of study, including the total credit requirement. In all cases, credit longevity may have to be taken into consideration.

As specified by their advisors, all Ph.D. students are required to have proficiency in a research tool such as computer programming, foreign language(s), statistics, scientific instruments, etc. The appropriate research tool is included in the program of study. All Ph.D. students are expected to participate in the graduate seminar as part of their program.

Courses taken to make up deficiencies are included in the program of study but are not used computing the GPA. Deficiencies may be addressed by formal course work, auditing selected classes, self or directed study, or other method approved by the major advisor and the ECE Graduate Program Director. Since the qualifying examination covers both advanced undergraduate and graduate electrical or computer engineering subjects, it is important that the student's program of study address any serious deficiencies.

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination: The purpose of the Ph.D. qualifying examination is to verify the student's academic credentials and establish a competency threshold for the continuation of graduate study at an advanced level. Students pursing either track normally take the examination after the completion of at least 24 credits but before the completion of 36 credits. For students entering the program with a master's degree in ECE from another university, the examination would normally be taken in the first semester of admission. Exceptions to this procedure are made for those students who must address deficiencies in their backgrounds. For these students the examination would be taken at an appropriate time in their program. Because the qualifying examination covers electrical/computer engineering principles at both the advanced undergraduate and graduate level, it is important that students entering the program with deficiencies address their specific background needs before attempting the examination. In all cases, the student takesthe examination at the recommendation the major advisor.

All students entering into the Doctoral program are expected to have mastered the basic principles and associated skills that are essential to the Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering profession (depending on the Option chosen)and are necessary to make satisfactory progress in a graduate program of study.

The appropriate undergraduate background preparation for the Electrical Engineering Option covers the principles underlying the following areas:

  1. Fields and Waves
  2. Electronic Devices and Circuits
  3. Signals and Linear Systems Theory
  4. Digital Logic and Computers

The appropriate undergraduate background preparation for the Computer Engineering Option covers the principles underlying the following areas:

  1. Computer Systems Software
  2. Electronic Devices and Circuits
  3. Fundamentals of Computing
  4. Digital Logic and Computer Architecture

Students are required to address any deficiencies in these background areas. Acceptable approaches are official audits or enrollment in relevant courses, or independent study. No graduate credit will be given for a course below the senior level (400 level) and only a limited number of 400 level credits may be applied to a graduate degree. No graduate credit will be given for any required UMass Dartmouth undergraduate course. Courses taken to address deficiencies, and for which a grade is received, will not be used in the computation of the students GPA for the program.

The qualifying examination is composed, administered, and graded by an examination board consisting of UMass Dartmouth ECE faculty members. The examination is structured in two parts. The first part covers general background material expected of all BSEE (ELE Option) or BSCPE (CPE Option) graduates; this portion of the examination is at the advanced undergraduate level. Students are required to successfully complete 6 out of 8 problems, with 2 problems per area listed above.

The second part of the examination is at the MS level and requires that the student attempt 6 out of 8 problems, with 2 problems per topic, from the 4 core requirements of all MS students.

The MSEE core requirements are:

  1. ECE 521 Random Signals and Systems I
  2. ECE 581 Mathematics of Systems Analysis
    or other appropriate math course (selected by the student at the time that seating for the examination is requested)
  3. Two of the following six courses:
    1. ECE 574 Discrete-Time Signal Processing
    2. ECE 557 Fundamentals of Acoustics
    3. PHY 611 Electromagnetics I
    4. ECE 515 Modern Optics
    5. ECE 571 Digital Communications
    6. ECE 561 Computer Systems

The student specifies the two courses to be tested in c) above at the time that seating for the examination is requested.

The MSCpE core requirements are:

  1. ECE 560 Computer Systems Performance Analysis
  2. ECE 562 Computer Architecture
  3. ECE 581 Mathematics of Systems Analysis
    or other appropriate math course (selected by the student at the time that seating for the examination is requested)
  4. One of the following categories:
    1. Advanced Computer Architectures (e.g. CIS 574, ECE 609, ECE 610)
    2. Systems Software (e.g. ECE 541, ECE 565, ECE 631, CIS 577)
    3. Digital Signal Processing (ECE 574)
    4. Applied Science with Computer Applications

The student specifies the category to be tested in d) above at the time that seating for the examination is requested.

The examination is graded on a pass/fail basis by the Examination Board. Students who do not pass the examination are allowed a single reexamination at the next seating. The reexamination may include all or a portion of the examination as determined by the Board. Students who do not pass the examination a second time are dismissed from the program. Failure to take the examination at the normal point in the program is recorded as a failed attempt unless prior approval has been obtained from the ECE Graduate Program Director. Students who request seating for the examination but fail to sit for the examination, or otherwise fail to submit an examination for grading, are marked as absent and fail the examination. Exceptions to this policy may be granted only by the ECE Graduate Program Director or the Graduate Committee and only for those cases that can be documented as having a just cause.

Ph.D. Dissertation Committee: The Ph.D. dissertation committee includes the major advisor and no less than two additional committee members. Although not required, an additional member from another department with a field of interest related to the student's area of research should be included when appropriate. The major advisor determines the size of the committee. The majority of committee members will be full-time UMass Dartmouth ECE faculty. In unusual cases, the dissertation committee may include well-qualified professionals from industry with the approval of the ECE Graduate Committee.

The student consults with the committee and apprises them of the research progress at regular intervals. By consenting to serve on the committee, the members agree to administer the comprehensive examination and the oral defense of the dissertation. Committee members may withdraw from the committee at any time. A student may elect to change committee members with the major advisor's approval. Although the committee does not have to be selected until the end of the course work, students are encouraged to do so as early as possible in the program.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination: The comprehensive examination verifies that the student is sufficiently prepared to conduct scholarly research in the selected area of the Ph.D. dissertation. Consequently, the Ph.D. comprehensive examination focuses on advanced graduate studies and a formal Ph.D. research proposal. The minimum prerequisites for scheduling the examination are that the student has a dissertation advisor, a committee has been selected, the courses indicated in the program of study have been (or are about to be) successfully completed, and a research proposal has been approved by the committee. The examination is conducted in two parts: a written examination followed by an oral examination. The oral examination will be scheduled within four weeks of successful completion of the written examination. The form and content of both parts of the examination are set by the student's committee. The oral examination is nominally one hour. The comprehensive examination is scheduled by the student at the convenience of the committee members, administered by the major advisor, and is composed by the committee members. Successful completion of both the written and oral examination is determined by the unanimous consent of the committee. Students failing to give a satisfactory performance on either part of the examination are allowed a single reexamination of either all, or a portion of either examination as determined by the committee. The reexamination will not take place sooner than six weeks after the student has received the test results. Exceptions to the six-week waiting period are allowed, and an earlier reexamination may be scheduled, but only at the request of the student and with the concurrence of the student's committee.

Dissertation: Ph.D. candidates must successfully complete a Ph.D. dissertation. Successful completion of the Ph.D. dissertation is indicated by the satisfactory oral defense of a written dissertation that represents an original contribution to the scholarly research literature of the field. As such, Ph.D. dissertations are often published in refereed journals or presented at major conferences. In contrast, master's theses are seldom published. The dissertation normally involves 18 credits of Ph.D. dissertation research (ECE 701). The oral defense of the dissertation is scheduled at the request of the student, with the recommendation of the major advisor and at the convenience of the student's committee. The defense is chaired by the major advisor and is open to the university community. The university community will receive notification of the defense at least fourteen calendar days in advance. Successful defense of the dissertation is determined by the unanimous approval of the dissertation committee. Students who do not successfully defend a dissertation are allowed one additional defense. The second defense is scheduled at the request of the student and at the convenience of the committee.

Successful completion of the research topic requirement is indicated by the successful defense of the dissertation and library acceptance of two bound copies of the dissertation. The preparation of the final copy of the dissertation will be in conformance with the specifications set forth by the university graduate school standards. A third copy of the dissertation is filed by the ECE Department and a fourth is filed by the student's advisor.

Research Tool: Ph.D. students may be required to have a research tool such as computer programming language, foreign language, statistics, or scientific instrumentation. The research tool is included in the program of study along with the method for evaluating competency. In all cases, the requirement of the research tool is at the discretion of the major advisor.

Residency Requirement: All Ph.D. students must complete two consecutive semesters as full-time students. Full-time student status is usually defined as taking a minimum of 9 credits of course work or dissertation per semester. The residency requirement does not require that students be domiciled at the UMass Dartmouth campus. Students with research or teaching assignments automatically qualify, independent of course load. However, in all cases, fulfillment of the residence requirement is determined by the major advisor.

Student Classification: Ph.D. students and candidates with financial support are classified according to their appointments. The classifications of university positions are: Instructor, Teaching Assistant (TA), Research Assistant (RA), and University Fellows. The normal course load for each classification depends on how obligated the student is to the university. The course loads are as stated below.

Appointment Credits
University Fellow 12-15
TA or RA 6-9
Instructor 3-6

Students who have full-time employment in the engineering profession or related fields outside of the university and are participating in the program on a part time basis are considered to have a full load with three credits.

Intellectual Opportunity Plan: The purpose of the intellectual opportunity plan is to encourage students to venture into new and nontraditional subject areas without putting their scholastic average at risk. Under this plan, a Ph.D. student may include up to six credits (including any for the Master's Degree) of pass/fail course work as part of their program of study. Approval to exercise this track must be obtained from the student's entire committee, the ECE Graduate Program Director and the ECE Department Chair. A letter grade of "C" or better is recorded as satisfactory (S) and results in credit being applied to the program of study. A letter grade below "C" will result in an unsatisfactory (U) and no credit will be applied to the program of study. In either case the grade of "S" or "U" does not effect the computation of the GPA but does appear on the student's transcript. Use of this track is limited to new areas of knowledge.

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