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Ph.D. Requirements

Approved by Graduate Council: July 6, 2016

1) Admissions Requirements:

Consideration for admission requires completion of Graduate Studies’ online application, with fee payment, by the stated deadline. Application deadlines are updated yearly, and are available on the Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate application webpage. Applications are submitted online through the Office of Graduate Studies. Additional materials required for admission consideration include:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. International applicants must meet an equivalent minimal level of study;
  • Transcripts from each college-level institution attended;
  • Three letters of recommendation;
  • A Statement of Purpose, and a Personal History and Diversity Statement;
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) – General Test;
  • TOEFL or IELTS score (if applicable); International applicants must meet the Office of Graduate Studies minimum score requirement. Applicants who believe they may be eligible for a TOEFL or IELTS waiver should consult the Office of Graduate Studies page for international applicants for eligibility requirements.

Meeting some or all of the minimum criteria does not guarantee admission, but merely eligibility. Admission decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, with emphasis placed on the promise of success in graduate studies and research, as judged by the students’ previous research experience, college record, statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. The decision to recommend admission to the Dean of Graduate Studies will be made by the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Program Admissions Committee on the basis of available space and the competitiveness of the eligible applicant pool.

Applicants to the Ph.D. program are strongly encouraged to communicate with potential research advisers (major professors) prior to admission to the program. It is important that the prospective students contact faculty in the ECE Graduate Program (ECEGP) whose laboratories are conducting research in areas the student wishes to pursue, in order to introduce themselves and inquire about faculty willingness to accept a new student in this degree program. This process of communicating with potential major professors should begin in the fall, prior to the relevant application deadline. Applicants should take the initiative to inquire about future research directions of laboratories, exchange research ideas with potential major professors, and make every effort to identify viable research opportunities. While formal acceptance to a research group cannot occur prior to admission, it is strongly recommended that contacts should be far-enough developed such that a tentative identification of a research adviser is made concurrently with an offer of admission.

a) Prerequisites: None

b) Deficiencies: Admitted students not holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering must complete a remedial course plan.

Students with a background other than electrical or computer engineering will meet with the ECE Graduate Adviser during their first quarter of residence to determine the required sequence of remedial courses. Students must demonstrate competency by completing the remedial course requirements, obtaining a grade of B or better, in six of the courses listed below or their equivalents. The six courses must be selected from at least three of the six areas listed.

  1. Active and Passive Circuits:
    EEC110A Electronic Circuits I
    EEC110B Electronic Circuits II
  2. Electromagnetics:
    EEC130A Introductory Electromagnetics I
    EEC130B Introductory Electromagnetics II
  3. Physical Electronics:
    EEC140A Principles of Device Physics I
    EEC140B Principles of Device Physics II
  4. Signals and Systems:
    EEC150A Introduction to Signals and Systems I
    EEC150B Introduction to Signals and Systems II
  5. Computer Engineering:
    ECS30 Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving
    ECS40 Introduction to Software Development
  6. Digital Systems:
    EEC170 Introduction to Computer Architecture
    EEC180A Digital Systems I
    EEC180B Digital Systems II

None of these courses can be counted toward an ECE graduate degree and cannot be taken on an “S/U” basis. Remedial courses may be taken concurrently with courses used to satisfy graduate degree requirements and must be completed prior to advancing to candidacy.

3) Course Requirements – (45 units minimum)

a) Core Courses: None
b) Elective Courses: None
c) Summary:

Doctoral students must acquire both a broad knowledge of the theoretical and practical aspects of their field of study, and in-depth knowledge in a specialty area within their field. A doctoral program of study must contain (exclusive of EEC 29X seminar series and EEC 299 courses) at least 45 units of graduate and upper-division undergraduate courses.

In-depth knowledge is demonstrated by the completion of at least 30 units, of which 21 must be from graduate level courses (200-289), in one specialty area, the major.

The requirement of breadth is demonstrated by the completion of at least 15 units, of which 9 must be from graduate courses, in another area, the minor. The courses in the minor should be from a coherent set that complements the major. Examples of appropriate minors are: a subfield within the ECE program, computer science, mathematics, statistics, and physics.

At least 24 units must be from the ECE discipline and at least 9 units must be from outside the ECE discipline. Among the total number of units listed in the program of study, at least 24 units must be taken at the Davis campus. The doctoral program of study does not include research and seminar units but may include courses taken in a master’s program. Coursework used to fulfill degree requirements may not be taken S/U unless the course is normally graded S/U. For courses listed on the program of study, a grade point average of at least 3.5 is required. Only courses in the 100 and 200 series in which the student receives grades of “A”, “B” or “S” (290X series) may be counted in satisfaction of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. A course in which a student receives a “C+” or lower cannot be sued to satisfy the unit requirement for the Ph.D. degree but will count in determining the grade point average.

Courses required for the ECE undergraduate degree or any of the following courses: EEC100, EEC 110A/B, EEC130A/B, EEC140A/B, EEC150A/B, EEC161, EEC170, EEC172, and EEC180A/B, may not be used to satisfy the requirements of an ECE graduate degree.

A Doctoral Program of Study must be approved by the Major Professor, the Ph.D. Guidance Committee, the ECE graduate adviser, and the ECE Graduate Study Committee. The Doctoral Program of Study form must be completed and submitted within the first 7 days of the fall quarter immediately following the passing of the Doctoral Preliminary Examination. A revised Program of Study must be submitted, and approved, each time changes are made to the coursework plan.

Students must enroll in a minimum of 12 units per quarter including research, academic and seminar units. Once course requirements are completed, students can take additional classes as needed, although the 12 units per quarter are generally fulfilled with research units (290C and 299). Per UC regulations students cannot enroll in more than 12 units of graduate level courses (200) or more than 16 units of combined undergraduate and graduate level (100, 200, 300) courses per quarter.

4) Special Requirements:

All graduate students are required to take EEC290, Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering, each Fall quarter. An S grade in EEC390, the Teaching of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is required to be eligible to hold a Teaching Assistantship in ECE but may not be used to satisfy graduate coursework requirements. International students may need to take LIN25, LIN26 LIN391, or a combination thereof, to meet university language proficiency requirements.

ECE requires an exit seminar. This seminar is administered by at least three faculty, who are members of the Dissertation Reading Committee or were members of the Qualifying Examination Committee for the student, and must be completed before the dissertation can be filed.

5) Committees:

a) Admissions Committee:
Once the completed application, all supporting materials, and the application fee have been received, the application will be submitted to the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee consists of the faculty members of ECE’s Graduate Study Committee (GSC) and the GSC Admissions Chair. Applicants who apply by the Space Available Deadline (but after the General Deadline) are not guaranteed to have their application reviewed by the graduate program. Their application will be reviewed only if the graduate program determines that they have additional space available. Based on a review of the entire application, a recommendation is made to accept or decline an applicant’s request for admission. The recommendation to accept or decline an applicant’s request for admission is forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval of admission. Notification of admissions decisions will be sent by Graduate Studies. Applications are accepted from the date the admission system opens (typically in September) through the Space Available Deadline for the next fall-entering class.

b) Major Professor Selection
The student must select a major professor from the members of the ECE Graduate Program (ECEGP) by the end of the first quarter of enrollment. In the case of a change in Major Professor, signatures of the previous and new Major Professor are required acknowledging the change. ECE’s Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, also referred to as the Graduate Program Chair, will serve as the interim advisor to the new students during the process of selecting a major professor.

c) Preliminary Examination Committee
Examination panels will be composed of two faculty members in each of the following six areas: (1) physical electronics, (2) signals and systems, (3) electromagnetics, (4) active and passive circuits, (5) systems and software, and (6) digital system design.

d) Course Guidance Committee
The student must declare a Ph.D. Guidance Committee after passing the Preliminary Examination. This committee is chaired by the Major Professor and is made up of at least two other members. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECEGP. The responsibility of this committee is to guide the student through his/her program of study until the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam is taken.

e) Qualifying Examination Committee:
The Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee consists of five faculty members including the major professor and at least one member from the student’s minor area. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECE Graduate Program. At least one member must be from outside of the ECE Graduate Program. The chair must be someone other than the student’s major professor. In consultation with his/her major professor and Graduate Adviser, the student nominates five faculty members to serve on the Qualifying Examination Committee. These nominations are submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for formal appointment in accordance with Graduate Council policy. The QE Committee conducts the exam and submits results to the Office of Graduate Studies.

Dissertation Reading Committee:
The Dissertation Reading Committee is a three-member committee identified by the student, in consultation with the Major Professor. The committee is chaired by the Major Professor and is made up of at least two other members. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECE Graduate Program. The third member can be either a member of the ECE Graduate Program or the Academic Senate. If the third member of the committee is neither a member of the ECE Graduate Program nor the Academic Senate, a request for an external committee membership must be completed and approved by the Graduate Adviser. If the student wishes to include two members outside the ECE Graduate Program on their committee, a four-person committee may be established. The composition of the dissertation committee is entered on the Advancement to Candidacy form and submitted to Graduate Studies for formal appointment in accordance with Graduate Council policy.

The role of the Dissertation Reading Committee is to advise the doctoral student of the research topic and methods, then to review the final completed dissertation for acceptance. The Dissertation Reading Committee Chairperson should ascertain the level of interest from other committee members regarding their direct participation in the research and dissertation review at the time the committee is constituted. Students are expected to meet with the Chair of their dissertation committee regularly. The dissertation must be reviewed and approved (via signature) by all members of this committee. Dissertation committee members are expected to read and comment on a dissertation within four weeks from its submission. This time limit policy does not apply to summer periods for faculty holding nine-month appointments. The student and faculty will coordinate a timeline for the student to present the thesis to the dissertation committee. This timeline must allow all dissertation committee members enough time to fulfill their responsibilities within the four-week deadline.

6) Advising Structure and Mentoring:

The Major Professor is the faculty member who assists the student in preparing a detailed program of study and who supervises the student’s research and dissertation. The Major Professor serves as the Chair of the Ph.D. Guidance Committee and Dissertation Committee. The Major Professor also serves as a member of the Qualifying Exam Committee.

The Graduate Adviser, who is nominated by the Department Chair and appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies, is a resource for information on academic requirements, policies and procedures, and registration information until the Ph.D. Guidance Committee is formed.

The Graduate Program Coordinator should be the first person consulted on all actions regarding graduate affairs. The Graduate Program Coordinator may advise the student to contact the ECE Graduate Adviser or the Office of Graduate Studies to address particular issues.

ECE Mentoring Guidelines can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook, which is located on ECE’s Graduate Program webpage.

7) Advancement to Candidacy:

Before advancing to candidacy for a doctoral degree, a student must have satisfied all requirements set by the graduate program, must have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all coursework listed on the program of study, and must have passed both the Preliminary and Qualifying Examinations. Normally, students advance to candidacy by the end of their 9th quarter. The student must file the appropriate paperwork with the Office of Graduate Studies and pay the Candidacy Fee in order to be officially promoted to Ph.D. Candidacy. Refer to the Graduate Council website for additional details regarding the Doctoral Qualifying Examination at http://gradstudies.ucdavis.edu/gradcouncil/policiesall.html.

8) Preliminary Examination, Qualifying Examination and Dissertation Requirements:

a) Preliminary Examination

1. General Information
The purpose of the Ph.D. preliminary examination process is to determine a student’s potential for independent research. All students are encouraged to take the preliminary examination as soon as possible after entry into the graduate program. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program who already have an M.S. degree in ECE must pass the preliminary examination within two years of admission. Students not in possession of an M.S. degree in ECE when admitted must pass the examination within their first three years. To participate in the Ph.D. preliminary examination process, a student must be in good academic standing, have full-time status, and have a major professor who signs a statement indicating his/her willingness to supervise the student provided that the student secures a “clear pass” in the examination process. A student may not participate in the examination more than twice.

The Ph.D. preliminary examination process is based on an oral examination and a letter of support from a major professor if the result of the oral examination is intermediate. Each preliminary examination period takes place during the winter quarter

2. Oral Examination
The examination will be given by two faculty members in each of the following six areas: (1) physical electronics, (2) signals and systems, (3) electromagnetics, (4) active and passive circuits, (5) systems and software, and (6) digital system design. Students are required to take the examination in at least two and no more than three areas. Scores of two areas leading to the best outcome will be used. One of these two areas should be a research area of their major professor. The faculty examiners will restrict themselves to questions on the topics described in the document “Preliminary Examination Topics” which will be available each year during the fall quarter. Nevertheless, since the purpose of the examination is to assess research potential, the questions may be significantly less structured than questions on written examinations, and the follow-up questions may range over a broad spectrum of related material. Each examining panel can decide the length of its exam but it must be between 15 and 30 minutes long. The oral exams will be finished by the end of the third week of the winter quarter.

3. Scoring
Each of the two examiners present will assign a score from 1 to 4, with fractional scores allowed. Generally, `1′ means a clear fail, `2′ means a marginal fail, `3′ means a marginal pass, and `4′ means a clear pass. A total score of 16 is possible and the maximum exam score of each area, which is the sum of two individual scores, is 8. The following determinations are made from scores of four examiners in two areas:

  1. Clear Pass if all of the following holds: the sum of all four scores is at least 12, the exam score of each area is at least 5, and no individual score (from any of the four examiners) is less than two.
  2. Intermediate result if the student does not get a clear pass but the exam score of each area is at least 4.
  3. Clear Fail if the student does not achieve either a clear pass or an intermediate result.

4. Letter from Major Professor for Intermediate Result Cases
A student who secures a ”clear pass” has no other requirements and is allowed to proceed with his/her Ph.D. program. However, for a student in the intermediate range, a letter of support from the Major Professor is needed. It is understood that in order for a student to pass, the letter will have to be stronger if the student did poorly on the oral examination. The student should discuss what information his/her major professor will require him/her to provide in order to write the letter. The letter should not be more than two pages long and should be received by the Graduate Program Coordinator by the end of the sixth week of the winter quarter.

5. Outcome of the Exam for Intermediate Result Cases
The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Committee will make a recommendation on each intermediate result case by the end of the eighth week of the winter quarter. The ECE Graduate Program faculty vote will determine the final outcome, either pass or fail, by the end of the winter quarter.

b) Qualifying Examination

1. General Information
The purpose of the Doctoral Qualifying Examination (QE) is to determine the student’s preparation to pursue his or her proposed research. It should be scheduled at the time when the student has completed all of the necessary course work and the preparation for doctoral research.

To be eligible for examination, the student must have completed all courses in their approved Doctoral Program of Study and remedial requirements (if applicable), and passed the Preliminary Examination. A grade point average of at least 3.5 in courses on the Ph.D. Program of Study is required. At least one month before the qualifying examination is taken, a student must contact the ECE Graduate Adviser who will confirm that all the Ph.D. courses requirements have been met and the selection of a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination Committee will be initiated.

Students must have full-time status during the quarter in which they take their QE. The QE must be taken as soon as coursework has been completed, typically by the 9th quarter. In no instance can the exam be taken later than two quarters before the completion of the doctoral program.

The Doctoral Qualifying Examination may be used to fulfill certain requirements for the M.S. Plan II degree, see Master of Science Degree Requirements.

2. Written Portion of the Exam – Research Proposal
The student must submit a research proposal to each committee member at least 10 days before the oral portion of the exam. The format of the research proposal is flexible, but the proposal should clearly indicate the problem under study, the progress made toward a solution, the work remaining to be done, and the methods to be used in the remainder of the work.

3. Oral Portion of the Exam
The oral examination will focus on the major and minor areas of the student’s doctoral program of study. The examination is not strictly limited to these areas, as the examination is intended to test the student’s mastery of a large field of knowledge and potential for scholarly research, which is generally broader than the dissertation field.

4. Outcome of the Exam
The committee will reach a decision on the student’s performance immediately after the oral exam. The committee, having reached a unanimous decision, shall inform the student of its decision to:

  • “Pass” (no conditions may be appended to this decision),
  • “Not Pass” (the Chair’s report should specify whether the student is required to retake all or part of the examination, list any additional requirements, and state the exact timeline for completion of requirements to achieve a “Pass”), or
  • “Fail.”

If a unanimous decision takes the form of “Not Pass” or “Fail”, the Chair of the QE committee must include in its report a specific statement, agreed to by all members of the committee, explaining its decision and must inform the student of its decision. Having received a “Not Pass” the student may attempt the QE one additional time; the QE report must list the specific conditions and timing for the second exam. After a second examination, a vote of “Not Pass” is unacceptable; only “Pass” or “Fail” is recognized. Only one retake of the qualifying examination is allowed. Should the student receive a “Fail” on the first or second attempt at the exam, the student will be recommended for disqualification from the program to the Dean of Graduate Studies. In the event that the committee is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the outcome will be resolved through the Dean of Graduate Studies as well as the Graduate Council, in accordance with the procedures detailed in the Graduate Advisers Handbook GS-202.

c) The Dissertation

1. Exit Seminar
The dissertation follows Plan B with a required exit seminar. The exit seminar is open to the public. At least three faculty, who are members of the Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee or were members of the Qualifying Examination Committee for the student, must be in attendance. Upon completion of the exit seminar, students must submit an Exit Seminar Verification form. This form (and the seminar) must be completed before the dissertation can be filed.

An exit seminar notice will go out to graduate program members and graduate students in the department. The student will provide the Graduate Program Coordinator with the d

 2. Dissertation: General Requirements
Filing of a Ph.D. dissertation with the Office of Graduate Studies is normally the last requirement satisfied by the candidate. The deadlines for completing this requirement are listed each quarter in the campus General Catalog (available online at the website of the Office of the Registrar or from the Bookstore). A candidate must be a registered student or in Filing Fee status at the time of filing a dissertation, with the exception of the summer period between the end of the Spring Quarter and the beginning of Fall Quarter. The Ph.D. Dissertation will be prepared, submitted and filed according to regulations instituted by the Office of Graduate Studies (http://gradstudies.ucdavis.edu/students/filing.html). Satisfaction of this requirement must be verified by the Dissertation Reading Committee Chair.

3. Dissertation:
The doctoral dissertation should be an original substantial contribution to knowledge in the student’s major field. It must demonstrate the ability to carry out a program of original research and to report the results in accordance with standards observed in recognized scientific journals.

9) Normative Time to Degree

For students not in possession of an M.S. degree upon admission to the Ph.D. program, the Normative Time to Advancement to Candidacy is 9 quarters. For students in possession of an M.S. degree, the Normative Time to Advancement to Candidacy is 6 quarters. Normative Time in Candidacy is 9 quarters.

10) Typical Time Line and Sequence of Events

The timeline below is typical for students not in possession of an M.S. Degree upon admission. For students in possession of an M.S. Degree upon admission the sequence of events listed in Year Two is typically not applicable, and may be skipped.

Year One Fall Winter Spring
Declare Major Professor Preliminary Examination
EEC 290 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering Advanced Language Training (if applicable) Advanced Language Training (if applicable)
EEC 390 The Teaching of Electrical and Computer Engineering Courses for Program of Study Courses for Program of Study
Courses for Program of Study
Year Two Fall Winter Spring
EEC 290 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering Courses for Program of Study Courses for Program of Study
Courses for Program of Study EEC 299 Research EEC 299 Research
EEC 299 Research
Year Three Fall Winter Spring
Qualifying Exam Preparation Qualifying Exam Preparation Qualifying Examination
EEC 290 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering Courses for Program of Study (if necessary) Advancement to PhD candidacy
EEC 299 Research EEC 299 Research EEC 299 Resesarch
Courses for Program of Study (if necessary)

Years  Four-Six

Dissertation Research and Completion

11) Sources of Funding

Sources of funding in the ECE Graduate Program include: ECE Graduate Program fellowships, Graduate Student Researcher appointments and Teaching Assistantships. Funding decisions related to fellowships are generally made by the graduate program executive committee or Graduate Studies, depending on the source of funding for the fellowship. Not all fellowship funding decisions are made by either the graduate program executive committee or Graduate Studies; as examples, graduate students often seek fellowship funding directly from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, foundations, and a range of other agencies and organizations. Funding decisions related to Graduate Student Researchers are made by the Principal Investigator of the source of funding. Teaching Assistant appointment decisions are made by the Undergraduate Program Chair approximately four weeks prior to the start of each quarter and are based, in part, on a graduate student’s educational background, grade point average, academic standing, degree objective, feedback from instructors, and recruitment status at the time of entering the graduate program.

12) PELP, In Absentia and Filing Fee status.

Information about PELP (Planned Educational Leave), In Absentia (reduced fees when researching out of state), and Filing Fee status can be found in the Graduate Student Guide: https://gradstudies.ucdavis.edu/postdoctoral/forms-information/guides-handbooks.

In order to be approved for filing fee status, a student must submit the filing fee request along with signatures of all three members of the Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee stating they have received an acceptable working draft of the dissertation. This application must be routed through the ECE Graduate Program Coordinator for the ECE Graduate Adviser’s approval and then must be filed with Graduate Studies. Filing Fee is available for one quarter only, but extensions may be approved on a case-by-case basis. In the event that filing fee status expires, the student must file a readmission application.

13) Leaving the Program Prior to Completion of the Ph.D. Requirements.

Should a student leave the program prior to completing the requirements for the Ph.D., they may still be eligible to receive the Master’s if they have fulfilled all the requirements (see Master’s section). Students can use the Change of Degree Objective form available from the Registrar’s Office: http://registrar.ucdavis.edu/local_resources/forms/D065-graduate-major-degree-change.pdf.

NOTE: Please refer to the Forms page to download the forms you need.