Ph.D. Program FAQS

Can I submit a preliminary plan of study electronically?
No, all Ph.D preliminary plans of study must be submitted in a paper copy. Use the purple form available in the racks outside of the Graduate Office.

Why do I need to put my master's course work on my Plan of Study?
The ECE Graduate Coordinator will initially approve your plan of study. As part of this approval process, the Graduate Coordinator 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 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 the ECE Graduate Coordinator 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 Graduate Office will determine this for you.

Where can I find information about the QE?
The following documents are available in the Graduate Office as well as on the web site under PHD:

  • Doctoral Program Handbook
  • Rules and Procedures for the PhD Qualifying Examination
  • Preliminary QE Topics and References (for current QE cycle)
  • Final QE Topics and References (for current QE cycle)

    Where do I find information about Ph.D. program deadlines?
    Consult "Ph.D. Degree Milestones" available on the ECE web site under PHD.

    How do I request a preliminary examination?
    At least three weeks before the proposed date of your preliminary examination, you should 1) reserve a room, and 2) schedule your exam with the ECE Graduate Office. Both are done electronically.

    To reserve the room:

    • Go to
    • Select the room you wish to schedule and check the availability of that room.
    • After confirming the availability of the room, select "Manager's List."
    • Click on Angela Rainwater. You will then be able to submit the request online.

    To schedule your exam, send the following information to Matt Golden at

    • Student's name
    • Title of the Research
    • Student's Primary Area
    • Names of Doctoral Advisory Committee, with the Major Professor designated
    • Faculty identifiers (Appendix B) and areas—in case of faculty outside of the ECE Department, please supply the person's department and campus address
    • Date, time and place of the Preliminary Examination
    • Abstract (no more than 250 words) of the thesis proposal clearly defining the problem and its significance

    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.

    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 Ph.D. students). Any student not meeting this requirement must request an extension of the deadline. A form for this request is available in the ECE Graduate Office. On this form, you must describe the reason(s) for the violation 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 Graduate Coordinator each semester past the deadline to allow your course registration to be processed.

    How soon after the preliminary exam can I schedule my final exam?
    You must complete your Preliminary Examination at least two academic sessions (summer or academic year) for which you are registered before taking the Final Examination.

    I'm ready to begin writing my thesis; what do I do?
    Before proceeding to write your thesis, you are strongly encouraged to meet the ECE Thesis Format Advisor, Andy Hughes, to review your plans to prepare your thesis and get answers to any questions about the document formatting requirements.

    I'm getting ready to graduate; what are the deadlines for submitting my thesis?
    These deadlines are determined by the Graduate School, Calendars and Deadlines.

    I've passed my final exam and am ready to submit my thesis; what do I do?

    • Before you can submit your thesis, it must go through format approval. ECE format approval can only be done by the Thesis Format Advisor, Andy Hughes. The Graduate School will not accept the "Thesis Acceptance" Form (Graduate School Form 9) unless it is signed by the Thesis Format Advisor. Your Major Professor is not responsible for format approval; and he/she should not sign Form 9 at the bottom under "Format Approved by."
    • You should schedule an appointment with the Thesis Format Advisor as early as possible to allow time to make any changes necessary to bring your thesis in compliance with format requirements.
    • Once you have made all revisions that were requested by your committee, obtain signatures of all committee members on the "Thesis Acceptance" form (Form 9).
    • After the Thesis Format Advisor has approved your thesis and added his signature to Thesis Acceptance Form, you must bind the "Thesis Acceptance" form (Form 9) into the front of the copy to be deposited with the Thesis Approval Office and take it to Department Head for his signature. Please Note: the Department Head will sign only if you follow these steps in this order. You will need to schedule an appointment with the Department Head (via his secretary in the Main Office).
    • For more information, consult Andy Hughes' web site at: