Starting with the Spring 2010 semester, the PhD qualifying exam will have a new format. The ECE PhD qualifying exam will consist of three parts:
- A formal written pre-qualifying examination testing core undergraduate concepts;
- Pre-Qualifying course requirement and core-courses;
- An oral exam.
These are detailed as follows:
1. The written pre-qualifying examTime Frame:
- Must be passed within 3 semesters of initial enrollment into the PhD program
- Exceptions to this can only be obtained via a written petition to the DGS prior to the end of the third semester
- The student will be allowed two attempts to pass the pre-qualifying exam
- The exam will be offered two times per year (once in the Fall and once in the Spring semester)
- Evaluate the student’s ability to conduct research;
- Test the depth of knowledge in the student’s field of research.
All PhD students must take and pass the written qualifying exam. The exam problems are organized into two parts.
Part I problems apply to all students and are selected from topics typically covered in the following courses:
EE 211 Circuits I
EE 221 Circuits II
EE 280 Design of Logic Circuits
Part II problems are selected from topics typically covered in two of the following six courses:
EE 380 Microcomputer Organization
EE 415 Electromechanics
EE 421G Signals and Systems
EE 461G Introduction to Electronics
EE 468G Introduction to Engineering Electromagnetics
EE 480 Advanced Computer Architecture
The two courses are selected by the PhD student. The exam shall be taken at the beginning of the second semester of enrollment. If a student fails the exam, a second exam must be taken at the beginning of the next semester. No third exam is allowed. A student may request (with documented evidence) to waive the exam of one or more subject courses. The request must be reviewed and approved by a committee of at least three graduate faculty members designated by the Director of Graduate Studies. The request must be made eight weeks in advance of the exam.
A score of 70% will guarantee a pass on a subject course. If a second exam is needed, the student will take the exam for the failed subject course(s) only.
2. Pre-Qualifying Course Requirement
- Students require 42 hours of pre-qualifying credit hours (as detailed above). This must include 9 hours of core graduate courses, and can include up to 6 hours of independent study (EE 783) approved by the DGS
- Core courses: Students must take 3 of the 5 graduate core courses in EE:
- EE 611 – Deterministic Systems
- EE 621 – Electromagnetic Fields
- EE 640 – Stochastic Systems
- EE 661 – Solid State Electronics
- EE 685 – Digital Computer Structure
- Students must receive a B or higher in core courses
3. Oral Qualifying Exam
The oral exam has a two-fold purpose:
Prior to scheduling the oral qualifying exam, the PhD student must form their PhD advisory committee and complete the “Doctoral Advisory Committee Request” form through the Graduate School. The student must also have passed their written pre-qualifying exam and completed their pre-qualifying course requirement prior to scheduling their oral qualifying exam. The request to schedule the qualifying examination must be submitted to the Graduate School a minimum of two weeks in advance of the planned date. More time is preferable.
The student should notify their advisory committee their intent to take their oral qualifying exam a minimum of two months prior to the anticipated date of the exam. The committee will then provide the phd candidate with a research topic for which the student is expected to write a research proposal. For example: The committee provides the student with three or four references for published papers on a related topic. The committee then asks the student to propose a new research topic using these papers as a foundation. The student should then prepare a research proposal on this topic for their committee. The proposal should clearly state its objectives, provide motivation and background for the topic, clearly propose the new technology or ideas, provide an expected timeline based on clearly stated milestones, provide metrics for validating the proposed research, and the impact of the research. The written proposal should be submitted to the committee prior to the oral qualifying exam. A copy of the proposal signed by the student and the student’s PhD advisor must also be submitted to the DGS prior to scheduling the oral qualifying exam through the graduate school.
Once scheduled, the oral qualifying exam will consist of three components:
- Proposal presentation
- The student will present their proposal to their committee highlighting the objectives of the proposed research, providing background and motivation for the topic, detailing the proposed research, justifying the proposed approach or techniques, providing an expected time line with milestones, summarizing the expected impact, identifying risks of failure and potential for success
- The oral presentation should be less than 1 hour
- Proposal Critique
- After the proposal presentation, the committee will take time to ask questions about the research proposal, raise concerns, or provide comments. The candidate should have sufficient knowledge to field questions and concerns.
- General Questions
- After all questions regarding the proposal are completed, the committee will then ask an array of questions on topics directly related to the candidates field of research. The intent is to test the candidates depth of knowledge in their field of research, and the ability to think and respond impromptu to technical questions.