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Program overview

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Electrical Engineering provides students with the education to be researchers and leaders in their fields of specialization. The program provides both breadth and depth through a flexible structure of formal course work, independent study, and research. The focus of the PhD program is an individualized program of study that prepares the student for PhD dissertation research. The dissertation is an original scholarly contribution to the research literature of the field and is the culmination of the student’s academic career.

The PhD program has two options, depending on the student’s previous educational background. The Electrical Engineering Option is designed for students with backgrounds in Electrical Engineering while the Computer Engineering Option assumes the student has a Computer Engineering background.

Research in the ECE department falls in the general areas of Acoustics and Signal Processing; Wireless Communications and Sensor Networks; and Devices and Applied Electromagnetics.

The PhD program offers opportunities for graduate studies in the areas of antennas and electromagnetics; artificial intelligence; communications; computer networks; computing infrastructure security; control and tracking; database systems; distributed computing; fault tolerant computing; microwave and solid state electronics; remote sensing; wireless communications; signal processing; systems and estimation theory. A listing of the ECE faculty, and their specific research interests, are listed here.

Degree requirements

Students are required to successfully complete an approved program of study, satisfy the PhD Qualifying Requirements, pass the PhD Comprehensive Exam, and meet the PhD Dissertation and Oral Defense requirements.

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-. A minimum of 18 credits beyond the MS requirement or 48 credits beyond the BS is expected (exclusive of dissertation research). Although it is not necessary to obtain the MS degree before proceeding in the PhD program, the Graduate Academic and Research Skills components of the Ph.D. Qualifier can be met in the course of completing an MS at UMass Dartmouth. If a student enters with a BS or an MS from another institution he or she must explicitly meet the Ph.D. Qualifying requirements in one of the ways described below. 

Qualifying Requirements

PhD students should complete and pass the PhD qualifying requirements appropriate to their option (Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering) by the end of their first year of study if they enter the program with an MS or at the completion of 30 credits if they enter the program with a BS. The qualifying requirement has 3 components:

Undergraduate Academic Fundamentals: This component can be satisfied by presenting evidence of a BS in the option major (e.g., BS in EE for the electrical engineering option). If the student does not have a BS in the major, they can petition the department to accept equivalent professional experience in electrical or computer engineering as sufficient qualifying background or their program of study must document which undergraduate courses will be taken to address deficiencies.

Graduate Academic Fundamentals: All PhD students may satisfy this component by taking the required graduate courses in the MS major (Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering) and obtaining a GPA ≥3.5; or passing a written exam based on the required courses. PhD students who completed an MS degree at another institution in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering or a closely related field may satisfy this component by passing a written exam based on three courses in the student’s area of specialization prepared by a committee of three ECE department faculty.

Research: This component can be satisfied by completing an MS thesis at UMass Dartmouth with the recommendation of both the MS and PhD advisors; passing an oral exam based on research completed at another institution; or passing a ECE 602 Research Skills course for which successful completion requires an oral defense of a research project in front of at least 3 ECE faculty. 

Comprehensive Exam

PhD candidates must also pass the PhD comprehensive examination. This examination verifies that the student is sufficiently prepared to conduct scholarly research in the selected area of the PhD dissertation. Consequently, the PhD comprehensive examination focuses on advanced graduate studies and a formal PhD research proposal. The comprehensive examination is scheduled by the student’s major advisor at the convenience of the committee members, administered by the major advisor, and is conducted by the committee members. The comprehensive examination consists of two parts: a written examination followed by an oral examination. The oral examination is scheduled within four weeks of successful completion of the written examination, with two weeks notice to the UMass Dartmouth community. The form and content of both parts of the examination are set by the student’s committee. Doctoral students receive a P in Pre-Dissertation Research (ECE 603) upon successful completion of both the written and oral examination, as determined by the unanimous consent of the committee. Students failing to give satisfactory performance on either part of the examination are allowed a single re-examination of either all or a portion of either examination as determined by the committee. 

For PhD students who have finished their coursework but need more time to prepare for their Comprehensive Exam, they may register in Doctoral Continuous Enrollment (ECE 604) to keep their status while getting ready to take the PhD Comprehensive Exam within the next three months. Up to six credits may be applied to their doctoral dissertation.

Dissertation and Oral Defense

PhD candidates must successfully complete a PhD dissertation. Successful completion of the PhD 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 and approval of the written document by all committee members. The dissertation requires 18 credits of Doctoral Dissertation Research (ECE 701).


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