Oct 27, 2020  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
    
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog

Electrical Engineering, PhD


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Colleges  > Cullen College of Engineering  > Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering  > Electrical Engineering, PhD

The PhD is a research-intensive degree that prepares students for a research and development career in industry or academia. Given the research focus of the PhD, applicants must have a deep affinity for their research topic and be fully committed to completing their degree and contributing to their discipline.

There are two paths to the PhD:

  1. Directly from BS to PhD, bypassing the MS degree, which is recommended for motivated, top-performing candidates with a clear idea of what they want to accomplish in their field of study.
  2. Obtaining a MS degree (at UH or elsewhere) prior to PhD studies. This is recommended for students who are still forming a clear vision of their future career objectives.

For more information, please visit the Electrical and Computer Engineering program website.

Admission Requirements


While there are no minimum test scores or GPA required for admission, most successful candidates meet the following criteria. We recommend that a lower score in one area be balanced by higher scores in another area.

  • A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degree in electrical or computer engineering or closely related field.
  • GPA ≥ 3.3/4.0.
  • Recommended GRE scores: Verbal of 151, Quantitative of 159, and Analytical Writing of 4.0.
  • TOEFL of 92 or IELTS of 7 (Required if applicant does not have a degree from a US institution).
  • Three letters of recommendation on official letterhead that includes the mailing address, phone number, and email address of the recommender.

Degree Requirements


Credit hours required for this degree: 72.0 (BS to PhD) or 54.0 (MS to PhD)

Students entering the program with a B.S. will follow the coursework requirements for the B.S. to Ph.D. Degree Plan while those entering with an M.S. will follow the M.S. to Ph.D. Degree Plan. The remaining requirements are identical for both programs.

  1. Coursework for the B.S. to Ph.D. Degree Plan
    • All structured coursework must follow the Appropriate Coursework Standards
    • At least 72 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the BS, with at least 33 hours in structured course work, and at least 27 hours of research (ECE8x98) and 12 hours of dissertation (ECE 8399 ). Additionally,
      • All of the structured coursework must be at the 6000 level or higher. 
      • At least 21 of the 33 hours of structured course work must be in ECE courses.
      • Non-ECE courses used to satisfy the structured course requirement must be related to the field of study and be approved by the student’s advisor.
      • Non-ECE courses must be at the graduate level (6000 level or higher) unless approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.
      • Enrollment in a dissertation course (ECE 8399 ) is required during the semester the dissertation proposal is defended.
  2. Coursework for the M.S. to Ph.D. Degree Plan
    • All structured coursework must follow the Appropriate Coursework Standards
    • At least 54 semester hours of graduate credit, of which at least 15 hours should be in structured course work and at least 27 hours in research (ECE8x98) and 12 hours of dissertation (ECE 8399 ). Additionally,
      • All of the 15 hours in structured coursework must be at the 6000 level or higher.
      • At least 9 of the 15 hours in structured coursework must be in ECE courses. 
      • Non-ECE courses used to satisfy the structured course requirement must be related to the field of study and be approved by the student’s advisor.
      • Non-ECE courses must be at the graduate level (6000 level or higher) unless approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.
      • No credit will be given for any course that is equivalent to a course taken in the student’s undergraduate degree program.
      • Enrollment in a dissertation course (ECE 8399 ) is required during the semester the dissertation proposal is defended.
  3. Fulfillment of the Breadth Coursework requirement.
  4. Completion of the Qualifying Exam.
  5. Preparation of a written dissertation and an oral defense thereof.
  6. Completion of all work above in accordance with the procedures described in the Procedures, Requirements, and Standards Section

Appropriate Coursework


  • Courses used to satisfy structured course requirements must receive a letter grade (i.e., not S, U, or W).
  • Some departments other than ECE offer graduate level courses (6000 or above) with similar content to ECE graduate courses. In those situations, ECE graduate students must take the ECE version of the course. If the ECE course in question is not offered around the time of the graduating semester, then the student may be allowed to take the non-ECE version by general petition. Please see related deadlines on the department calendar.

  • Graduate credit will not be awarded for both the ECE and non-ECE versions of a course.

  • Courses offered by other institutions, such as Rice University/UT Health, etc., may be taken with prior approval from both the student’s advisor and the director of the graduate program if a similar class is not offered at UH. For permission to take a non-UH course, complete a general petition and an inter-institutional form, which are linked in our forms page.

  • Courses taken for personal enrichment will not count towards the degree and must be approved by the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies prior to enrollment. Enrichment hours cannot be used to satisfy minimum enrollment requirements when an assistantship is being received.

Breadth Coursework - Ph.D. only


Student must complete, with a B or better, at least two graduate level courses in Electrical and Computer Engineering outside their area of research. These courses should be selected from the following approved list. Courses completed by the student as an M.S. candidate, while at UH or elsewhere, will be considered.

Qualifying Examination - Ph.D. only


Ph.D. students must pass a qualifying exam (QE), consisting of an oral and/or written component. The exact format of the exam is defined by the research groups and the advisor will inform the student what format is to be used. The qualifying exam is to be administered prior to the fourth long semester for a B.S.-Ph.D. student and prior to the third long semester for a M.S.-Ph.D. student. The qualifying exam committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies before the QE can take place. Once the QE has taken place, the Chair of the QE committee will inform the student and the Director of Graduate Studies on the outcome of the exam. If a student chooses to change advisors and has completed the qualifying exam, it is up to the new advisor to choose to accept the status or request that the student repeat the exam.

There are currently two exam formats, the General and the Electromagnetics formats. Please ask your advisor which you are to follow.

General Qualifying Exam Instructions


General Qualifying Exam Instructions

The exam committee will consist of the advisor and two additional members of the research group. The chair of the committee will be one of the members other than the advisor. The advisor, in consultation with the other committee members, will assign a small research project to the candidate, who may also receive an initial selection of relevant literature. The project should be assigned no later than the beginning of the semester in which the exam is to take place and should be designed to test the candidate’s ability to independently conduct research at a level commensurate with his/her education.

The candidate will prepare a written report and an oral presentation of the project results. The advisor may provide feedback during the preparation of the written report, but the report should be substantially the student’s own work. The report should include a critical review of the relevant literature, a statement of the problem, methods, results, and discussion. The length of the report should be similar to a standard journal paper. The report, copies of the most relevant literature, and a list of courses completed by the candidate should be given to the committee two weeks prior to the oral exam. The oral exam consists of a public presentation of the project, followed by a closed-door oral examination.

The candidate will either pass or fail the exam, and this decision, based on a majority vote of the committee, will be communicated to the candidate immediately after the conclusion of the exam. Failing students may request a second attempt. In that case, the committee will assign additional work, which should be completed (and presented) at the end of the next long semester. Should the student fail the second attempt as well, he/she will be dropped from the ECE department’s Ph.D. program. Once the student passes, he/she may proceed with the preparation of the dissertation proposal. Please note that the student’s dissertation advisor is not required to continue serving in that role after the student passes the qualifying exam.

Qualifying Exam Instructions for Students Studying Electromagnetics


The Applied Electromagnetics (EM) Group requires students do an oral examination as part of the department qualifying examination. As per department regulations, the exam should be taken before the end of the third semester of graduate work. The following guidelines should be followed in the administration of the exam.

  1. The examination committee should consist of three or four faculty members, including the student’s advisor and the Chair of the Committee (the chair should be different from the advisor).
  2. The exam should test over material covered in the following courses:
  • General electro- and magneto-statics, electromagnetic waves, and applied mathematics
  • ECE 6340 (Intermediate Electromagnetic Waves)
  • ECE 6351 (Microwaves) or ECE 6352 (Antennas)

If the student has had both ECE 6351 and ECE 6352, then the student may choose which course the test will cover.

No materials are brought to the oral exam.

  1. The oral exam normally lasts two hours, and is interactive between the committee members and the students.

The outcome of the examination is either pass or fail, and this decision will be communicated to the candidate immediately after the conclusion of the oral exam. A majority vote is needed to pass the student (two out of three or three out of four). Students who fail the oral exam may request a second and final attempt, which must be taken before the end of the next long semester.

Grade Point Average and Minimum Performance


The grade point average (GPA) is computed as an average of all courses attempted at the university while enrolled in the graduate program. Graduate students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or better in order to remain in good academic standing.

Should a student’s GPA fall below the minimum, an academic stop will be placed on the student’s record. Students must then seek assistance from their advisor to register and to have this stop removed when he GPA is greater than 3.0.

  • Minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) for supported students Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better in order to remain eligible for GATF or in-state tuition waivers, when applicable.

  • Minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) for scholarship students Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better in order to remain eligible for tuition waivers and scholarships.

  • Major Grade Point Average This average is computed for courses that apply to the degree and must be 3.0 or higher prior to applying for graduation.

  • Four C-rule The university has a specific rule regarding the maximum number of C+ or lower grades that a student may earn. The rule states,

A student who receives a grade of C+ or lower in 12 semester hours of credit attempt at this institution for graduate credit or for application toward the graduate degree, whether or not in repeated courses, is ineligible for any advanced degree at this institution and will not be permitted to re-enroll for graduate study.

Dissertation and Thesis Guidelines


The Dissertation document is written as part of the Ph.D. degree program and the Thesis is written as part of the M.S. degree. The dissertation should be at such a level as to be a significant contribution to the field of knowledge in electrical and computer engineering, and worthy of publication in one of the recognized professional journals. This section describes the common elements in these documents and specifies any differences.

Here is a summary of the steps a student takes to complete this requirement.

  1. Form a Thesis/Dissertation Committee

  2. Write a Proposal and submit it to the Committee for approval. Ph.D. students must also defend their proposal orally

  3. Prepare the Thesis/Dissertation document

  4. Defend the Thesis/Dissertation in a public setting with an announcement filed at least two weeks prior to the defense

More details for each step are provided in the next sections.

Committee


The student should form a Thesis/Dissertation Committee with the Advisor as chair as soon as the research topic is selected.

Thesis Committee must consist of at least three members, with

  • the advisor as chair,

  • at least one additional faculty members from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and

  • at least one University of Houston tenure-track faculty member outside this Department.

Dissertation Committee must consist of at least five members, with

  • the advisor as chair,

  • at least two additional faculty members from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and

  • at least two University of Houston tenure-track faculty member outside this department.

In either case, the advisor can assist the student in forming an appropriate committee. A committee form must be submitted well before the proposal defense is scheduled since the committee must be approved by the Department and Dean’s Office prior to the defense. A student need not be enrolled while requesting to form a committee but must be enrolled when the defense takes place.

Should changes to the committee membership be necessary, the student simply submits an updated committee form listing all committee members. Only the new member(s) have to sign the form, but please complete this at least two weeks prior to defending the proposal or the Thesis/Dissertation.

Proposal


Once the Thesis/Dissertation Committee has been formed and approved, the student should prepare and, for Ph.D. students, defend a Thesis/Dissertation Proposal. During the semester where the proposal submission takes place, the student must be enrolled in ECE 6399  (MSEE) or ECE 8399  (Ph.D.). The Thesis/Dissertation Committee will approve the proposal by signing the Proposal Form. This form, together with a copy of the proposal document, has to be submitted to the ECE Department by the deadline specified on the semester calendar. The forms for the Thesis/Dissertation Committee formation and the Thesis/Dissertation Proposal defense can be obtained from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The proposal document should outline the scope of the research, and it should contain, at least, a statement of the objectives, a review of the relevant literature, and a description of the principal methods to be used. Copies of this proposal should be provided to the members of the Committee.

Since the Committee may request substantial changes in the research objectives, the proposal should be prepared during the early stages of the dissertation research. In no case should a proposal and dissertation defense occur in the same semester.

After the successful defense of the Thesis/Dissertation Proposal, students should register for ECE 7399  (MSEE) or continue to enroll in ECE 8399  (Ph.D.). MSEE students should ideally enroll in ECE 7399  during the semester in which the thesis is defended and in which the student plans to graduate. The student should adhere to the thesis submission deadlines posted on the department calendar. In case the student does not complete the thesis while enrolled in ECE 7399  , he/she should enroll in research courses (ECE 6x98) in future semesters until the thesis is completed to the satisfaction of the committee.

Thesis/Dissertation Document


When most of the research has been completed, the student should describe the main results to the committee and describe plans for the contents and structure of the thesis/dissertation. A student may request that the members of the committee review and comment on a preliminary version of the dissertation. This procedure is encouraged since it should provide the student with ideas of how to enhance the quality of the dissertation and should facilitate its acceptance.

When preparing the Thesis/Dissertation, it is critical to follow the guidelines defined by the College of Engineering.

A student should provide the members of the committee with the final version of the dissertation no later than two weeks prior to the dissertation presentation and defense. The student should be aware that he/she may be required to make substantial changes in the dissertation in order to satisfy the requirements of the committee.

Thesis/Dissertation Defense


Each candidate is required to present and defend his/her thesis/dissertation at a public meeting and post an announcement with an abstract with the ECE office at least two weeks before defense date. Please check with the ECE Department for further details. The Thesis/Dissertation Committee will make the final judgment of the acceptance of the defense of the document.

The thesis/dissertation announcement is to let the public know that the student has completed successfully his/her research and that he/she is ready for graduation. The announcement must be distributed to all faculty and students. One additional copy must be submitted to the ECE Department for filing. Refer to the web site given for more information.

Note: The student may request that the members of the Thesis/Dissertation Committee review and comment on a preliminary version of the thesis. This practice is encouraged since it should provide the student with ideas on how to improve the quality of the thesis and should also facilitate its acceptance. The student is required to present the final draft of the thesis to the members of the committee no later than two weeks prior to the date of the thesis defense. The student should be aware that he/she may be required to make substantial changes, before and after the defense, in the thesis in order to satisfy the requirements of the committee.

Submission Form


Upon successful defense of the thesis, and once all signatures of the committee members have been obtained, the student must submit one copy of the thesis to the Director of Graduate Studies for review. A thesis submission form and this copy, together with the correct number of signature pages, must be submitted to the ECE front desk before the deadline stated in the Department calendar.

Obtaining ECE Department’s Chair signature


Once the thesis has been approved by the director of graduate studies, thesis and official signature pages will be submitted to the chairman for his signature. The student will be notified by staff for pick up. Department process for thesis submission is now complete. Students must now submit the Department approved thesis submission form with appropriate documents to the Dean’s office for review.

Official thesis submission for binding


The college web site provides instructions on how to submit the thesis once the dean’s office has given approval for binding. Once the student is at this stage, he/she must submit a copy of the thesis binding agreement received from the Dean’s office to the ECE Department so that appropriate letter grade(s) can be awarded.

Leveling Courses


Master’s students who do not have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical or Computer Engineering must show competency in four areas:

  • Electronic devices

  • Circuit theory

  • Electromagnetics

  • Computers

Students may accomplish this through leveling coursework or by passing a core competency exam. The Graduate Admissions Committee will identify leveling requirements with the assistance of the thesis advisor.

Competence in each area can be demonstrated by passing the following course(s) with a grade of B or better, respectively:

- Circuit Analysis (ECE 2201 and ECE 2202) and its Laboratory (ECE 2100)
- Applied EM Waves (ECE 3317)
- Signal & System Analysis (ECE 3337)
- Electronics (ECE 3355)
- Microprocessor Systems (ECE 4436)

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