ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
Graduate

In-Progress 2013-2014 Graduate Student Policy Manual - 5. Ph.D. and direct-Ph.D. Programs

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest academic degree awarded by the University and is conferred upon a student who demonstrates outstanding original scholarship during advanced study. It signifies that the student is able to conduct independent research and has both a broad basic knowledge of all areas of the field and a comprehensive knowledge of one area. A student who wishes to qualify for the degree is expected to meet the requirements of both the Graduate School and the Department.

Chapter 5, Ph.D. and direct-Ph.D. Programs, provides the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. The direct-Ph.D. program permits graduate students to earn an M.S., Thesis, or M.S., Non-Thesis, degree while in pursuit of the Ph.D. degree. This description augments the discussion of the general requirements as stated in the Graduate Catalog of the University.

5.1 The Ph.D. Program


The ability to perform significant independent research is the prime requisite for the Ph.D. Degree. This research must be done under the supervision of an appropriate faculty member. It is the student's responsibility to choose a research topic and find a faculty member who will act as the Graduate Advisor and Chair of the Ph.D. advisory committee. This is an important step and should be done early in the program to ensure the probability of successful completion. In fact, when possible, it is advisable for the student to select a dissertation topic and to find a Faculty Advisor before embarking upon a Ph.D. program.

5.2 Change of Degree Program from Ph.D. or direct-Ph.D. to Masters Within the Same Degree Program


Students accepted into an ECE Ph.D. degree program are expected to remain in the Ph.D. degree program, make annual progress toward obtaining the Ph.D., and ultimately obtain the Ph.D. degree. If, however, under extraordinary circumstances a student wishes to be considered for switching from the Ph.D. degree program to a Master's degree program, the following conditions must be met.
  • A letter of justification from the student's advisory committee must be submitted to the ECE Graduate Committee explaining, in detail, why an alternative degree to the Ph.D. is appropriate. The studentĀ¹s Ph.D. advisory committee must approve this letter of justification by signing the document.
  • If a student has a previous Master's degree, this letter must also address the differences in the educational focus among the proposed Masters degrees and any previous degrees. These degrees must be distinct, offering a different educational experience (e.g., different research areas).
  • A switch from the Ph.D. program to a Master's degree program is an exception that must be approved on a case-by-case basis by the ECE Graduate Committee.
  • A complete Plan of Study must accompany the Request for Degree Status Change form.

Switching from the Ph.D. to M.Eng.


In addition to the above requirements, a Ph.D. student can request to switch to the M.Eng. degree program subject to the following restrictions. Exceptions to these restrictions are not granted by the ECE department.
  • Students that have been funded, or are currently funded, on ECE Graduate Teaching Assistantships cannot switch to the M.Eng. degree program.
  • Students that have been funded, or are funded, on Graduate Research Assistantships (and have never been funded on an ECE Graduate Teaching Assistantship) must have written approval from their faculty advisor (and, if different, their Graduate Research Assistantship sponsor) to switch to the M.Eng. degree program.

5.3 The Ph.D. Advisory Committee


Every Ph.D. student must establish a Ph.D. Advisory Committee consisting of the Graduate Advisor and at least four additional faculty members. A non Virginia Tech person in higher education or industry may serve as a regular committee member and is permissible by completion and submittal of the Graduate School's Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members form (which replaces the form called "Registration of Committee Members Other Than Virginia Tech Program Faculty"). The form must be submitted simultaneously with the Plan of Study Form. Once approved by ECE, the form will be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School for university approval. Participation in an advisory committee implies that, (a) the faculty member is willing to meet periodically with the advisee for the purpose of offering guidance and assistance in the work leading to their dissertation, and (b) the faculty member will be available for the Final Examination within reasonable bounds of a proposed target date.

All members of the Ph.D. Advisory Committee must have the academic rank of Assistant Professor or above (or equivalent). The Graduate Advisor will chair this committee. A non-ECE, Virginia Tech, faculty may be appointed as a co-chair of the advisory committee with an ECE faculty also serving as Co-Chair.

Advisory committee members should be selected to represent a wide range of interests. At least two of the faculty members shall have different major technical specialty areas and one of the faculty members must be chosen from another academic department within Virginia Tech. Participation in an advisory committee implies that, (a) the faculty member is willing to meet periodically with the advisee for the purpose of offering guidance and assistance in the dissertation, and (b) the faculty member will be available for a Final Oral Ph.D. Examination within reasonable bounds of a proposed target date.

The Ph.D. Advisory Committee is recommended to the ECE Graduate Committee through the submission of the Ph.D. plan of study. The Graduate Committee shall either approve the committee or recommend changes. Once approved by the department, the committee is formally appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. Once a Ph.D. Advisory Committee has been established and approved by the Graduate School, a request for change in membership may occur by completion of the Graduate School's "Change of Committee/Advisor" form. This form requires full concurrence of all committee members and must be signed by each member, both new and old, and submitted to the ECE Graduate Counselor for the Blacksburg associate campus or the Northern Virginia Center for students enrolled in the National Capital Region.

The Ph.D. Advisory Committee has jurisdiction over the student's Ph.D. program (within the guidelines of the department), assesses the student's progress, and conducts the examinations (dissertation proposal and final oral) required by the Graduate School and the department, subject to approval by the Graduate Committee. The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is conducted by the area research pursued.

5.4 The Ph.D. Plan of Study


After the establishment of the Ph.D. advisory committee, and by the end of the third semester of enrollment, a Ph.D. student must file a Ph.D. plan of study.

Basic Requirements for Ph.D. Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering.


Each Ph.D. student must complete a minimum of 90 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate. Courses which are offered on an A-F grading basis may not be taken as Pass/Fail. There is no foreign language requirement for Ph.D. students. Additional requirements for coursework listed on the Ph.D. plan of study include the following.

  • Ph.D. course work consists of 30 credit hours; a minimum of 27 course credit hours at the 5000-level or above.
  • A maximum of 3 credit hours of 4000-level courses may be listed on the Ph.D. Plan of Study. 3000-level or lower courses are not permitted.
  • The Virginia Tech Residency Requirement requires course work at the Ph.D. academic levels 80, 90 from classes taken through the Blacksburg campus, Central (Dahlgren), and/or National Capital Region. Residency for the Ph.D. involves full-time enrollment during two consecutive semesters (the full summer is considered the equivalent of one academic semester) as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech.
  • Previously completed graduate coursework may be included on the Ph.D. plan of study subject to the following restrictions (and subject to approval of a student's graduate advisory committee).
    • A maximum of 50% of graduate (5000 and 6000-level) coursework may transfer from a non-Virginia Tech Master's degree. Transfer credit hours must have a letter grade of B or higher. Courses not taken at Virginia Tech do not contribute to the Virginia Tech overall GPA and are not included in the calculation of the plan of study GPA.
    • A maximum of 21 credit hours of coursework from a Virginia Tech Master's degree plan of study may be used on the Ph.D. plan of study.
    • Previously completed coursework from only one of the above two cases can be used on the Ph.D. plan of study.
  • 60 credit hours of ECE 7994, Dissertation.
  • 2 credit hours of ECE 5944, Seminar, P/F (not required if courses were taken at the Virginia Tech Master's level).
  • A maximum of 9 credit hours of 5984 (Special Studies) and 5974 (Independent Study) may be used on the Ph.D. plan of study. Of these hours, a maximum of 6 credit hours of 5974 can be used.
  • An oral final examination consisting of a thesis defense must be passed. The exam must be scheduled through the Virginia Tech Graduate School at least two (2) weeks in advance via ESS.
  • The thesis must be submitted electronically (ETD) to the Graduate School within two (2) weeks of the oral final exam date.

5.5 Summary Of Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Semester Credit Hours
Minimum Maximum
Research and Dissertation (ECE 7994) 60 60
5000 or higher course credit hours 27 30
4000 course credit hours -- 3
Seminar (ECE 5944) 2* --
Courses number 5974, and 5984 -- 9**

Qualifying Examination

The first attempt must be taken by the end of the second semester of enrollment. Must be passed by the end of third semester of enrollment.

Preliminary Examination

Must pass nine months prior to Final Oral Exam

Final Oral Exam

Dissertation Defense
*Seminar exempt if Master's degree was earned in EE or CPE at Virginia Tech

**Max 5974 (6), Max 5984 (9)

5.6 Obtaining an M.S. as Part of the direct-Ph.D. Program


Students planning to pursue the Ph.D under the direct-Ph.D program must maintain continuous enrollment in these two degree programs. Each Ph.D student must complete a minimum of 90 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate. Courses which are offered on an A-F grading basis may not be taken Pass/Fail.

M.S., Non-Thesis Degree: (32 credit hours)


Submit M.S. plan of study prior to completion of 21 course credit hours (requirements are listed on the Summary of Graduate Student Requirements for M.S). To be eligible for the M.S., non-thesis degree, a student must be in the direct-Ph.D. program. The courses on the M.S. plan of study must meet the following requirements.
  • 30 course credit hours taken at Virginia Tech, within one and one-half (1.5) years.
    • A minimum of 27 course credit hours at the 5000-level or above.
    • A maximum of 3 credit hours at the 4000-level (excluding 4974).
    • 2 credit hours of ECE 5944, Seminar, P/F
    • Successfully pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination within the first two semesters of completion of 21 course credit hours. Failure to pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination within the time period stated will result in automatic dismissal from the direct-Ph.D. program and academic level will convert to the M.S., Thesis Degree, 70 Regular Masters. ECE does not approve extensions to the time period stated.
    • To earn the Master of Science, Non-Thesis, degree, an ECE Oral Final Exam date must be set during the last semester of the M.S. program to receive the diploma. To request the diploma, students must schedule a factitious exam through the Virginia Tech Graduate School at least two (2) weeks in advance via ESS.
    • There is no official examination required for the M.S., non-thesis, degree to be conferred.

M.S., Thesis Degree: (32 credit hours)


Submit M.S plan of study prior to completion of 21 course credit hours (requirements are listed on the Summary of Graduate Student Requirements for M.S).
  • 21 course credit hours taken at Virginia Tech, within one and one-half (1.5) years.
    • A minimum of 18 course credit hours at the 5000-level or above.
    • A maximum of 3 credit hours at the 4000-level (excluding 4974).
    • 9 credit hours of ECE 5994, Thesis
    • 2 credit hours of ECE 5944, Seminar, P/F
    • Successfully pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination within the first two semesters of completion of 21 course credit hours. Failure to pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination within the time period stated will result in automatic dismissal from the direct-Ph.D. program and academic level will convert to the M.S., Thesis Degree, 70 Regular Masters. ECE does not approve extensions to the time period stated.
    • An oral final examination consisting of a thesis defense must be passed. The exam must be scheduled through the Virginia Tech Graduate School at least two (2) weeks in advance via ESS.
    • The thesis must be submitted electronically (ETD) to the Graduate School within two (2) weeks of the oral final exam date.

Ph.D Plan of Study for direct-Ph.D. Students:


The following are restrictions for direct-Ph.D. students in pursuit of Ph.D. These are in lieu of ones stated for a Ph.D.
  • Submit Ph.D. plan of study upon completion of the M.S. degree at Virginia Tech.
  • All courses listed on the plan of study must be Virginia Tech courses.
  • University Residency Requirement is automatically satisfied by courses taken at the Ph.D. and M.S. levels.

5.7 Coursework Justification


Academic work, including transfer credit, must meet the time limits specified below or be revalidated by the student's committee. The revalidation may require a review of the student's ability on course material by the committee or a determination of the currency of the material to the current degree being obtained. Course work may be revalidated by written and/or oral examination. To revalidate courses, students must complete and submit a Course Justification Form simultaneously with the Ph.D. Plan of Study. The Plan of Study should only consist of graduate coursework not older than five years at the time of approval by the Graduate School. A request for coursework taken prior to the five year limitation period can be justified with approval of the Graduate School's "Course Justification Request" form.Requests for revalidation of out-of-date courses must be submitted by the advisor and must include signatures of all members of the student's advisory committee. Course work that does not lie within the expertise of the committee members should be revalidated by a specialist in the area(s) involved. Revalidations are required in the following cases:
  1. Course work more than five years old at the time of submission of the plan of study must be revalidated to count toward the masters or Ph.D.
  2. Course work on the plan of study must be completed within five years after approval of the plan of study or revalidated if the preliminary exam for the doctoral degree has not been completed by then.

5.8 Ph.D. Examination Requirements


In addition to successfully completing the final oral defense of the Ph.D. dissertation see Section 5.10 for details), a Ph.D. student must also successfully meet two other examination requirements: (1) a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination; and (2) a Ph.D. Preliminary Examination. Students have Regular Post Masters status until completion of the Preliminary Exam, at which time they have doctoral (Ph.D.) candidate status.

The Ph. D. Qualifying Examination


All Ph.D. students are required to take a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination according to the following rules. Entering Ph.D. graduate students must pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination by the end of his or her third academic year semester i.e., not counting the summer terms. It is recommended that the student make the first attempt before the end of his or her second semester. Failure to pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination within the time period stated will result in automatic dismissal from the Graduate School at Virginia Tech. ECE does not approve extensions to the time period stated. The Exam shall consist of one or more of the following requirements:
    a) The study of one or more publications in fields of interest to the candidate, with the requirement that the candidate report on the contents and application of those publications to his or her proposed research work.
    b) The conduct of open-ended research into one or more areas related to the proposed research of the candidate, with the requirement that the applicant report on his/her results.
    c) In the case of a student from Virginia Tech or a U.S. peer institution with an M.S. degree in ECE, the competent presentation of results obtained in a previously completed M.S. thesis can suffice for the oral part of this Examination. The need for additional written work, as described in items (a) and (b) above shall be at the discretion of the Examination Committee.
The Exam Committee will be responsible for the format of the Exam, to be chosen from one or more of the items (a) - (c) above. The Exam shall have an oral part and a written part, so that the verbal communication and writing ability both can be judged. A well-written M.S. thesis may suffice for proof of writing ability, but will have to be augmented by some written work and an oral examination if the Exam Committee judges that to be desirable. All student preparation for the exam is subject to the usual Examination rules, and no help may be acquired from others, specifically from students and/or faculty members either at Virginia Tech or elsewhere.

The outcome of the Exam shall be Pass, Pass with Remedial Measures, or Fail. Remedial measures may consist of one or more prescribed courses to be taken, or of further prescribed research efforts.

The Qualifying Exam may only be taken twice. In the event of two failures, the candidate is dismissed from the ECE Ph.D. program. If the student chooses, he/she can appeal an adverse recommendation, but such an appeal must be made to the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Education before the end of the semester in which the last failure of the Exam occurred.

A student initiates the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination (possibly in conjunction with his/her Faculty Advisor or Interim Faculty Advisor) by requesting the appropriate Area Committee to appoint an Examination Committee. It is the student's responsibility to submit the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination Form to the Chair of the Area Committee by November 1 (for fall enrollment) or March 1 (for spring enrollment). It is advisable but not mandatory that the student already has an advisory committee. The appropriate Area Chair shall appoint an Examination Committee that may consist of members of the Advisory Committee. The Examination Committee must contain at least one Area Committee member who is not also a member of the Advisory Committee. The Exam Committee shall consist of at least three members.

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination


After the successful completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination, and within one and one-half years, the Ph.D. student must take a Ph.D. Preliminary Examination. The purpose of the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination is to determine the student's ability to formulate a plan to conduct research leading to a Ph.D. The examination shall consist of an oral presentation of a specific research proposal for work leading to a Ph.D. dissertation. The presentation shall provide the advisory committee with an appropriate literature review, identification of the research problem, preliminary results and/or a discussion of specific problems leading up to the dissertation work. In any event it should indicate that the student has sufficient knowledge of the subject area and that the topic can be expected to lead to a Ph.D. dissertation of suitable quality. Specific questions may be asked by members of the student's advisory committee (either in prior written form at least three weeks before the oral part of the exam, or at the oral exam) relating to the student's research proposal. Successful completion of the Ph.D. Preliminary Exam enters the student into Ph.D. Candidate status and the academic level will advance to 90, Doctoral.

The Preliminary Exam shall be passed no later than nine months before the final defense of the dissertation. The outcome of this examination shall be pass or fail. If the Preliminary Exam is failed a second time, the student will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech.

The Graduate School's "Request to Admit Candidate to Preliminary Examination" form. must be completed and submitted to the Graduate Counselor at least two and one-half (2.5) weeks prior to the Ph.D. Preliminary Exam. At most, one negative vote is allowed by the advisory committee. Only two opportunities to take the examination are permitted. See the Virginia Tech Graduate Catalog for additional details.

5.9 The Ph.D. Dissertation


Research carried out for the Ph.D. degree is credited to the student through registration in Dissertation, ECE 7994. The successful completion of the research at the Ph.D. level culminates in the Ph.D. Dissertation. This document is intended to summarize the execution and the results of the research effort in complete detail. The dissertation should be an expose of a problem that demonstrates the expertise of the writer, not simply a problem solution. Aspects which should be addressed include:
  1. Originality of work
  2. Significance of contribution
  3. Ability to explain essence (not necessarily detail emphasis) of work and fundamental relationships to related work.
The goal is to demonstrate the student's expertise, not that of the advisor or other authors. The dissertation is a vehicle to an end, not the end itself. The writing style, grammar and spelling in the Ph.D. Dissertation should reflect a high level of skill in written communication. The student and the Ph.D. advisory committee bear complete responsibility for the style of the Ph.D. dissertation as well as the technical accuracy of the reported results. The dissertation should be submitted to the advisory committee in hard copy, unless the committee requests another form. The final submission to the Graduate School must be done electronically.

5.10 The Final Oral Ph.D. Examination



It is the responsibility of the student to allow all members of his or her Ph.D. advisory committee ample time to have input into the dissertation research proposal and to closely examine the Ph.D. dissertation in order to judge the creativity and adequacy of the research work. Therefore, nine months must lapse after the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination before the final dissertation defense shall take place and not until after the student has had an opportunity to discuss the details of the research work with all members of the committee.

All students must schedule a final oral exam with the Graduate School to satisfy university requirements. An oral final examination consisting of a dissertation defense must be passed. The exam must be scheduled through the Virginia Tech Graduate School at least two (2) weeks in advance via ESS.

Hard copies of the final draft of the dissertation, with all results and major conclusions, must be made available to all members of the Ph.D. advisory committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date for the final dissertation defense. At the same time, the student must submit to his or her Faculty Advisor the final hard copy draft of a technical paper based on the dissertation research. This paper must be suitable for publication in an appropriate professional journal.

The Final Oral Ph.D. Examination is mainly a defense of the dissertation with respect to the following criteria:
  1. Originality of content
  2. Importance of the problem considered
  3. Method of solution and/or analysis
  4. Achievement of research objectives
  5. Clarity of presentation
The Ph.D. Candidate should limit the presentation to approximately 45 minutes unless informed otherwise by the chair of the advisory committee. The essence of the dissertation should be presented in a manner analogous to that for a technical paper in a professional conference. The use of an overhead or computer projector is recommended. All needed materials are the responsibility of the student; none are provided by the department. Any student who fails the Final Oral Ph.D. Examination will be required to eliminate the indicated deficiencies in the manner prescribed by the Ph.D. advisory committee. Any student failing the Final Oral Ph.D. exam twice will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program in ECE at Virginia Tech.

The dissertation must be submitted electronically (ETD) to the Graduate School within two (2) weeks of the oral final exam date.

5.11 Flowcharts to the Ph.D. Degree


Flowchart overview for the Ph.D program
Flowchart overview for the Direct Ph.D program
Flowchart overview for M.S, Non-Thesis Degree (degree program only available through the direct-Ph.D. Program).