PhD Program FAQs

How do I decide on a major professor?
Your research interests, either in a general topic or a specific project, will guide your choice of major professor. As you begin work on a research project, your professor will often be able to support you as a research assistant. If not, your professor is often able to offer a research assistantship at some later date. If you are supported on a teaching assistantship or a fellowship, you will find you have a bit more flexibility in choosing a project that interests you the most.

Can I change my major professor?
Yes. In the event that you want to replace your major professor, please make an appointment with Matt Golden, the ECE Graduate Programs Director ( to discuss this.

How many hours of research can I sign up for?
This depends on various factors: if you are funded (RA or TA), if you are signed up for classes, and what academic session you are registering for. The ECE Graduate Office can assist with determining the correct number of research hours.

Can I submit a preliminary plan of study electronically through myPurdue?
No, all PhD preliminary plans of study must be submitted directly to the ECE Graduate Office. Use the purple form available in the racks outside of the Graduate Office or this electronic preliminary plan of study form.

Why do I need to put my master's course work on my plan of study?
The ECE Graduate Programs Director will initially approve your plan of study. As part of this approval process, we will assess your plan based on all of your graduate-level coursework.

Can I take courses that are not on my plan of study?
Yes, you are allowed to take courses that are not on your plan of study, however, it is important that you make progress toward your degree objectives.



How do I request a preliminary examination?

See information here: Preliminary Examination for PhD.

It's time for me to schedule my preliminary exam, and I'm not ready. What do I do?
No more than six semesters can elapse after entering the doctoral program before you take the preliminary examination (eight semesters for direct PhD students).

Any student not meeting this requirement must request an extension of the deadline. A form for this request is available from the ECE Graduate Office. On this form, you must describe the reason(s) for the delay and list specific actions to be taken to remedy the situation. This form must be signed by every member of your doctoral advisory committee and the ECE Associate Head of Graduate and Professional Programs each year past the deadline to allow your course registration to be processed.

What happens if I don't pass my preliminary examination?
This rarely happens, as the student schedules a preliminary exam in conjunction with his/her major professor, and this does not occur until the major professor determines the student is ready. If you fail the preliminary exam, however, you may re-schedule in the next academic session.

How soon after the preliminary exam can I schedule my final exam?
You must register for research in two semesters (summer or academic year) in between the semester of the preliminary exam and final exam. Exceptions may be possible.

Where do I find information about PhD program deadlines?
See information here: Key Program Activities and Time Limits.

I'm getting ready to graduate; how do I submit my thesis and what are the deadlines?
Also see additional information on this webpage: PhD Thesis and Final Examination.

These deadlines are determined by the Graduate School and can be found here: Calendars and Deadlines.