Chapter 3. GENERAL INFORMATION
3.1 Degrees Available
The Department offers programs leading to Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees
in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. Several areas of research
concentration are possible under each degree type. The Master of Science degree
is discussed in Chapter 4; the Ph.D. degree in Chapter
5. There are two options available for the MS degree - the thesis option and
the non-thesis option (primarily for use by extended-campus students). The differences
between these two options are discussed in detail in the following chapter.
3.2 Graduate Seminar [ECE 5944]
The one-credit graduate seminar course (ECE 5944) of the ECE Department is primarily
for the benefit of new graduate students. Research and engineering activities
in many areas of current interest to electrical and computer engineers are discussed
by the invited lecturers. For first year graduate students (MS and PhD), attendance
at these seminars is mandatory, with at least 5 seminars per semester required.
Students failing to attend all 5 seminars shall receive a F on the
transcript, therefore affecting the overall GPA. If assigned duties interfere
regularly, students must submit an Excused Seminar Absence form to the Graduate
Seminar Coordinator for that semester. Any conflicts requiring an absence,
must be approved in advance of each seminar. This course is taken on a pass/fail
basis, and is listed on the plan of study, but does not count toward the degree.
In addition, graduate students are also expected to attend seminars in their
specialty area(s) within the ECE.
3.3 Probation Policy
A student will be dropped from the graduate program if his or her GPA is below
2.5 after completion of 12 course credit hours. If the GPA is between 2.5 and
3.0, he or she will be placed on academic probation. The probation period terminates
either when the GPA reaches 3.0 or when the student has completed 9 or more additional
credit hours, whichever is first. At the end of the probationary period, failure
to achieve a cumulative 3.0 GPA may result in the student being dropped from the
graduate program. This probation policy applies to all graduate students, regardless
of status or campus location.
3.4 Special Study and Independent Study
Special Study courses (4984 and 5984) involve a group of students and are used
to study a current topic or to experiment with a new course. ECE 4984 and 5984,
if being used to fulfill one of the required areas in EE or CpE, count as the
area they were approved in (for example, if the Computer Area Committee approves
the 5984, the course counts as a "5" or Computer Area course). Independent Study
courses (5974), which are offered on a Pass/Fail only option, involve only the
professor and an individual student. The subject of an Independent Study usually
is a continuation in greater depth of a topic covered in a regular course, allowing
students to study topics of particular individual interest. Sometimes the study
may be of a topic not covered in a regular class. An Independent Study course
will not be approved if it appears to be only an extension of a student's research
work for the degree. 5974 courses cannot be used to fulfill the area requirement
in ECE. A maximum of six credits of Special and Independent Study may be used
by MS students on their plans of study; a maximum of nine credits by Ph.D. students
(see Chapter 4 and Chapter 5
for more information).
Forms for Independent Study courses, which set the guidelines, must be submitted
to the ECE Graduate Advising Office no later than Tuesday of the first week
of class for semester/session enrolling. The ECE Graduate Advising Office will
obtain approval from the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Education and
then enter three credit hours onto the student's class ticket. Students do
not add ECE 5974, Independent Study, via the Hokie Spa add/drop system.
3.5 Auditing Courses
A student may enroll in a course with an audit option, provided the instructor
and student's graduate advisor approve; however, students wishing to audit an
ECE course must submit an audit form to the Assistant Department Head's assistant
by the last day to add classes. If there is space in the course after the last
day to add, students will be added to the class under the audit option. This is
to allow room for students who need the course for their degree. Students adding
audit option to a class on the computer terminal will be dropped from the class.
Note that laboratories cannot be taken under the audit option. Once a student
audits a course, the course may not be repeated for credit. Also, the audit option
cannot be changed to credit or vice versa after the last day to add. At the end
of the course period, the instructor will determine if an audit is "satisfactory"
or "unsatisfactory" based on participation and other expectations set forth at
the beginning of the course period. Unsatisfactory audits will not appear on transcripts.
3.6 Miscellaneous Information
Annual orientations for all new graduate students are held prior to the first
week of Fall Semester classes. All new graduate students are expected to attend
this meeting. Important information is disseminated at the meeting and any changes
in policy are discussed, as well as the discussion of duties and assignments of
various assistantship positions. New Graduate Teaching Assistants are also required
to attend the University GTA Workshop during the week prior to classes. This workshop
covers a wealth of material over a several day period.
All ECE graduate students are given a mailbox in 350 Whittemore Hall or 655 Whittemore
Hall for CPES to receive incoming campus and departmental mail. This mailbox is
not to be used as a permanent address for receiving personal mail. Financial aid
offers are made via these mailboxes, sometimes at the last minute, and an offer
may be missed if a student rarely checks his or her mailbox so it is advisable
to check regularly.
Computer Accounts and E-mail
All graduate students should obtain a university e-mail account (PID) through
Hokie Spa as soon as possible. Students must provide their PID to the ECE Graduate
Advising Office no later than the end of the first week of classes. Many Departmental
announcements are made via e-mail, such as seminar notices. E-mail should be checked
daily in order to receive these announcements for ECE graduate students in a timely
manner. E-mail may be read from computers in the university computer labs as well
as several sites within the department. Students are responsible for receiving
all departmental information distributed by e-mail.
Graduate students may also obtain a Computer Workstation account to which e-mail
may be forwarded. To obtain the Workstation account, students complete the Workstation
Form and submit it to personnel in 447 Whittemore Hall. The workstations offer
many computational tools for graduate students that may be used in their classes
The ECE Department provides desks, in Whittemore Hall, Durham Hall, Torgersen
Hall, and other locations, for as many students as resources permit. GTAs may
use, on a shared basis, desks in several rooms which are dedicated for that purpose.
Alternatively, those GTAs who have teaching responsibilities in our various laboratories
may use desks in those labs if desks are available. Except for the dedicated GTA
desks, all other student study desks are reserved for GRA use and are under the
control of laboratory, center, or research group directors. Any student seeking
use of a desk should see his or her advisor for further information. All Bradley
Fellows are provided use of a study desk based on availability -- each fellow
should check with their advisor on available space (their advisor may send a request
for a desk to the Dept. Business Manager - student requests will not be considered).
All desk assignments are considered to be temporary and are reviewed for continuation
at least annually. All graduate student offices are to remain locked at all times.
Food products (other than packaged snack-type items) are not to be left in any
graduate student office. No use of any tobacco product is permitted anywhere in
Virginia tech buildings.
Locks and Keys
The research professor responsible for lab and office use must approve all
keys and access codes for graduate students. Any lost or misplaced key must
be reported to the ECE Shop immediately. Based on the facts of the case, authorization
of replacement of the key may be granted, but such replacement is not automatic.
Access Codes for buildings must be obtained from the student's faculty advisor
or interim advisor. The lock combinations are changed periodically and students
can acquire new access from their faculty advisor or interim advisor. Keys for
access to the outside doors are not issued to students.
Students must return keys to the ECE Shop upon completion of degree, departure
from university, or office exchange. Failure to return keys to the ECE Shop
can result in a hold on the student's account, therefore denying access to official
transcript and or diploma.
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This page last modified on November 30, 2004