Credit Requirements

Ninety-six hours of credit and a Ph.D. thesis are required. At least 64 hours must be earned in residence. In addition, the student must take the Departmental Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, and must pass the Preliminary and Final Examinations for the Ph.D. degree.

The 96 hours of credit is divided into three stages, consisting of 32 hours generally represented by an M.S. degree or equivalent, 24 hours of coursework beyond the M.S. degree, and 40 hours of thesis work for the doctoral thesis. Up to 8 hours of the doctoral thesis work may be substituted by coursework.

The First Stage of the Ph.D. Program

The first stage of the Ph.D. degree program requires the completion of 32 hours of credit. The 32 hours are represented by an M.S. degree or equivalent.

All students who are admitted to the ECE Graduate Program with Bachelor's degrees first complete an M.S. thesis and obtain an M.S. degree by fulfilling the requirements listed in the previous section. Students admitted to the ECE Graduate Program with M.S. degrees from elsewhere are considered to have completed the first stage of the Ph.D. degree program.

Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy

Students who seek admission to Ph.D. candidacy must take the Departmental Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. Details of the requirements for admission to Ph.D. candidacy and descriptions of the Qualifying Examination and the admission process may be found in the section titled The Oral Qualifying Examination and Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy.

The Second Stage of the Ph.D. Program

The second stage of the Ph.D. program begins when the student is admitted to Ph.D. candidacy and requires the completion of 24 hours of coursework. No thesis credit hours (ECE 599), Master's Project hours (ECE 596), seminar hours (ECE 590 or other seminar courses), or individual study hours (ECE 597 or other reading or individual study courses) may be included in these 24 hours of coursework. The 24 hours of credit required in the second stage may include credit in courses taken before admission to Ph.D. candidacy or in courses taken before completion of the M.S. thesis, provided that the credit in such courses has not been included in the 32 hours required in the first stage. All of the coursework hours required must be completed in residence.

Aside from the restrictions noted above, any course that offers graduate credit can be used to fulfill the requirements for the second stage of the Ph.D. program. The only specific requirement is that the coursework must include three permanent 500 level courses in three different areas. See the section titled Ph.D. Breadth Requirement Courses for a list of the areas and admissible courses within each area. All Ph.D. breadth requirement courses must be taken at Illinois. Courses taken at Illinois during the first stage of the Ph.D. program may be used to fulfill this breadth requirement. Students are required to achieve a 3.5 GPA in these three courses before being allowed to take their Ph.D. Preliminary exam. Note that this requirement is independent of the 3.25 GPA rule which students must meet to be allowed to take the qualifying examination as part of the Admission to Ph.D. candidacy process.

The 24 hours of coursework are chosen in consultation with the Ph.D. thesis adviser to provide additional background knowledge required for successful completion of the doctoral thesis. During this time, the candidate also pursues a program of background reading, literature search, and research on the Ph.D. thesis topic. The candidate also prepares for the Preliminary Examination for the Ph.D. degree by writing a thesis proposal.

Ph.D. Program Breadth Requirement Courses

Biomedical Imaging, Bioengineering, and Acoustics
ECE 537 Speech Processing Fundamentals
ECE 538 Speech and Hearing Acoustics
ECE 545 Advanced Physical Acoustics
ECE 564 Modern Light Microscopy
ECE 594 Mathematical Models of Language
Communications
ECE 556 Coding Theory
ECE 559 Topics in Communications
ECE 561 Detection and Estimation Theory
ECE 562 Advanced Digital Communications
ECE 563 Information Theory
Control Systems
ECE 515 Control System Theory & Design
ECE 517 Nonlinear & Adaptive Control
ECE 528 Analysis of Nonlinear Systems
ECE 553 Optimum Control Systems
ECE 554 Dynamic System Reliability
ECE 555 Control of Stochastic Systems
ECE 586 Topics in Decision and Control
Electromagnetics, Optics and Remote Sensing
ECE 520 Electromagnetic Waves and Radiating Systems
ECE 521 Analytical Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory
ECE 531 Theory of Guided Waves
ECE 540 Computational Electromagnetics
ECE 569 Inverse Problems in Optics
ECE 570 Nonlinear Optics
ECE 571 Electromagnetic Waves in Inhomogeneous Media
ECE 577 Advanced Antenna Theory
ECE 578 Adv EM Diffraction & Radiation
General Sciences
ECE 534 Random Processes
ECE 543 Statistical Learning Theory
ECE 579 Computational Complexity
ECE 580 Optimization by Vector Space Methods
All 500-level courses in Math/Physics/Chemistry/CS/MatSE, excluding 598, individual study, seminar courses and cross-listed courses that appear in other areas of this table.
Hardware Systems
ECE 511 Computer Architecture
ECE 512 Computer Microarchitecture
Integrated Circuits and Systems
ECE 527 System-On-Chip Design
ECE 546 Advanced Signal Integrity
ECE 552 Numerical Circuit Analysis
ECE 560 VLSI in Signal Processing and Communications
ECE 581 Advanced Analog IC Design
ECE 582 Physical VLSI Design
ECE 585 MOS Device Modeling & Design
Microelectronics and Photonics
ECE 510 Micro and Nanolithography
ECE 518 Adv Semiconductor Nanotech
ECE 523 Gaseous Electronics and Plasmas
ECE 532 Compound Semiconductors and Diode Lasers
ECE 535 Theory of Semiconductors and Semiconductor Devices
ECE 536 Integrated Optics and Optoelectronics
ECE 539 Advanced Theory of Semiconductors & Devices
ECE 565 Energy Dissipation Electronics
ECE 572 Quantum Optoelectronics
ECE 574 Nanophotonics
ECE 583 Semiconductor Nanotech Lab
Networking and Distributed Computing
CS 525 Advanced Distributed Systems
ECE 526 Distributed Algorithms
ECE 567 Communication Network Analysis
Power and Energy Systems
ECE 530 Analysis Techniques for Large-Scale Electrical Systems
ECE 568 Modeling and Control of Electromechanical Systems
ECE 573 Power Systems Operations and Control
ECE 576 Power System Dynamics and Stability
ECE 588 Electricity Resource Planning
Reliable and Secure Computing Systems
ECE 524 Advanced Computer Security
ECE 541 Computer Systems Analysis
ECE 542 Design of Fault-Tolerant Digital Systems
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
CS 546 Machine Learning in NLP
ECE 548 Computer Models of Cognitive Processes
ECE 549 Computer Vision
ECE 550 Advanced Robotic Planning
CS 576 Topics in Automated Deduction
ECE 589 Robot Control Theory
Signal Processing
ECE 513 Vector Space Signal Processing
ECE 544 Topics in Signal Processing
ECE 547 Topics in Image Processing
ECE 551 Digital Signal Processing, II
ECE 558 Digital Imaging
Software Systems
CS 511 Advanced Data Management
CS 512 Data Mining Principles
CS 522 Programming Language Semantics
CS 523 Advanced Operating Systems
CS 524 Concurrent Programming Languages
CS 526 Advanced Compiler Construction
ECE 508 Manycore Parallel Algorithms
ECE 584 Embedded System Verification

The Doctoral Committee

During the final stages of the development of the thesis proposal, the candidate consults with the Ph.D. thesis adviser regarding the proposed membership of the candidate's doctoral committee. The doctoral committee must satisfy the following conditions:

  • The committee must include at least four members. At least three committee members must have an appointment or affiliate status in ECE (this includes Research faculty with 0% appointments in ECE). The sum of tenured or tenure-track faculty appointment percentages in ECE must be at least 200% (for example, two 100% time appointments, or one 100% time plus two 50% time appointments). At least three committee members must be members of the Graduate faculty. At least two of the committee members must be tenured.
  • The committee chair must be an active Member of the ECE Graduate Faculty, or a member of the Graduate Faculty with Affiliate status in ECE.
  • At least one member must have primary research interests in an area different from that of the candidate.

The Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination for the Ph.D. degree is an oral examination administered by the candidate's doctoral committee. The examination may be taken no earlier than the semester in which the candidate completes the 24 hours of coursework required in the second stage of the Ph.D. program.

The candidate contacts each potential committee member to request that they serve on the proposed doctoral committee and makes arrangements for a suitable time and place for the Preliminary Examination. The candidate must submit the proposed committee list and information regarding the time and place for the examination using the Prelim Exam Signup link on the My.ECE web portal at least three weeks prior to the date chosen for the examination. The Graduate College appoints the doctoral committee upon the recommendation of the Department Head.

The candidate must submit the thesis proposal to the doctoral committee at least one week prior to the Preliminary Examination. The proposal must outline the problem to be studied for the Ph.D. degree, the procedures and methods to be used in attacking the problem, work already completed on the chosen problem, and the additional work proposed to be completed. The proposal also must include a tentative title for the thesis.

The Preliminary Examination is intended to test the validity of the thesis proposal and the candidate's fitness to carry out the research work proposed. It begins with a short presentation by the candidate, outlining the problem chosen, the procedures and methods to be used, the work already completed, and a proposal for the additional work to be completed for the Ph.D. degree. The committee then questions the candidate regarding the problem, the preliminary results, and the proposed work. The candidate may be asked to clarify matters in the thesis proposal and to defend various aspects of the work already completed or the work being proposed. The committee may suggest alternative methods of attacking the problem or suggest different aspects of the problem as suitable areas for exploration. The committee also may ask questions of a more general nature in order to test the adequacy of the candidate's preparation for the proposed research.

At the conclusion of the examination, the chairman of the committee announces one of four decisions:

  • The candidate passed the Preliminary Examination and may proceed to independent study and research for the doctoral degree.
  • The Examination is temporarily adjourned. The candidate must revise the thesis proposal and be examined again within the next six months.
  • The candidate failed, but may submit a new thesis proposal and take another Preliminary Examination after completing additional coursework, independent study, or research.
  • The candidate failed and will not be admitted to another examination

The candidate may submit the thesis proposal to the ECE Editorial Services for a nonmandatory, informal editorial review. Because the purpose of the informal editorial review is to prepare for a smoother dissertation writing process, not to polish the proposal for the Preliminary Examination, the proposal may be submitted to the Publications Office any time, before or after the examination.

The Third Stage of the Ph.D. Program

Successful completion of all second stage coursework (including the Ph.D. Breadth Requirement Courses) and passing the Preliminary Examination mark the end of the second stage and the beginning of the third stage of the Ph.D. program. During the third stage, the candidate carries out the research program proposed in the thesis proposal and writes a doctoral thesis requiring a minimum of 40 hours of credit in ECE 599. General requirements for the thesis may be found in the section titled The Thesis. Continuous registration in ECE 599 (except possibly in summer sessions) is required until all the credit requirements for the Ph.D. degree have been met. Credit in ECE 599 earned before passing the Preliminary Examination may be included in the 40 hours required provided that the credit has not been included in the 32 hours required in the first stage. In addition, up to 8 hours of graduate-level coursework may be substituted for a corresponding amount of thesis credit provided that the coursework has not been used to fulfill any requirements in the first or second stage.

During the final stages of the thesis research when the thesis is nearing completion, the candidate makes arrangements for a suitable time and place for the Final Examination that is also administered by the candidate's doctoral committee. If the membership of the doctoral committee is modified for any reason, the modified committee membership must also satisfy the requirements stated above. The candidate must submit the proposed committee list and information about the time and place for the examination using the Final Exam Signup link on the My.ECE web portal at least three weeks prior to the date chosen for the Final Examination. At least one week prior to the Final Examination, the candidate submits the thesis to the members of the doctoral committee and deposits a copy in the Advising Office for review by all the faculty members.

The Final Examination

The Final Examination for the Ph.D. degree is a public oral examination administered by the candidate's doctoral committee. It must take place at least six months (but no later than five years) after the Preliminary Examination.

The examination begins with a presentation by the candidate outlining the problem chosen, the procedures and methods used, and the results obtained. The committee then questions the candidate regarding the thesis work. The candidate may be asked to clarify matters in the thesis and to defend various aspects of the work. Errors and ambiguities in the thesis may be brought to the candidate's attention. At the conclusion of the examination, the chairman of the committee announces one of five decisions:

  • The candidate passed the Final Examination and the thesis is accepted as submitted. The Thesis/Dissertation Approval form is signed by the director of research (adviser), all voting committee members who voted to pass the student at the final exam, and the department head.
  • The candidate passed the Final Examination but the thesis will be accepted and signed by the committee after various specified corrections and revisions have been made. The candidate must make the necessary changes and submit the thesis to the committee members for their signatures.
  • The Examination is temporarily adjourned. The candidate must revise the thesis and be examined again within the next six months.
  • The candidate failed, but may rewrite the thesis and take another Final Examination after completing additional independent study and research.
  • The candidate failed and will not be admitted to another examination.

Deposit of the Thesis in the Graduate College

When the dissertation is ready, the candidate submits it to ECE Editorial Services for format checking and copyediting. Ideally, this submission happens after the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form has been signed by the committee members. Following format approval, Editorial Services submits the Thesis/Dissertation Approval (RDA) form with adviser/committee member signatures to the Department Head for signature approval and then delivers the completed TDA form to the Graduate College. Allow up to 48 hours for obtaining Department Head approval. Details of various requirements to be satisfied are given in the section titled The Thesis. The Ph.D. dissertation must be deposited in the Graduate College no later than one year after passing the Final Examination.

Time Limitations

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree must complete all requirements for that degree within seven calendar years after first registration in the Graduate College. However, students who received the M.S. degree from elsewhere must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree within six calendar years after first registration in the Graduate College. Students who receive the M.S. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and whose studies are interrupted immediately thereafter for a substantial period of time also must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree within six calendar years after they resume their studies.