Ph.D. Graduate Student Requirements (ECSE)


These regulations are in addition to the Academics Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies and the Specific Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree of the Graduate Program in the Case School of Engineering as found in the General Catalog of Case Western Reserve University.


Graduate students shall be admitted upon recommendation of the faculty of the Department. The normal requirements are a strong record of scholarship in a completed bachelor's degree program in any of the engineering, mathematical or physical sciences, and fluency in written and spoken English. All applicants are required to take and submit GRE score excluding CWRU students applying to the combined B.S./M.S. program. The University requires all foreign applicants to show English proficiency such as achieving a TOEFL score of at least 550 (or 213 in computer-based tests). Applicants from students with a bachelor's degree in other fields may also be considered for admission generally on a provisional basis. Such provisional students may be advanced to full standing upon completion of prerequisite conditions stipulated in the letter of admission.


Every semester before registration, please be sure to update any personal information that may have changed by logging onto the SIS and editing the appropriate information.   Registration is also done on-line by logging onto the SIS.  Students must have holds lifted before completing the registration process.  This is done by contacting you adviser listed on your SIS homepage. 

Faculty Advisor and Thesis Committee

Upon arrival, each graduate student is assigned a faculty academic advisor to assist in planning his/her program of study. This is a temporary assignment made by the Department Chairperson based on the student's academic and research interests as identified at the time of application. It is suggested that each student meet with faculty in the Department to discuss academic and research objectives and goals. The student must then identify a faculty member who is willing to serve as the student's permanent academic advisor.

The student shall be responsible for forming a thesis or dissertation guidance committee which shall consist of the student's academic advisor and additional faculty members recommended by the advisor. For an M.S. program, the minimum number of additional faculty members on the thesis guidance committee is two, and at least two members of the committee must be within the EECS department. For a Ph.D. program, the minimum number of additional faculty members on the dissertation guidance committee is three, and at least two of the committee must be within the ECSE program areas (Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Systems and Control Engineering). The chairperson of the guidance committee is normally the candidate's research advisor. Each student is required to file a Program of Study, which must be approved by the student's advisor and the Department Chairperson, and submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies. Full-time Ph.D. students should choose a research advisor and file a Program of Study before taking the qualifier but no later than the beginning of the third semester. Upon passing the qualifier, full time Ph.D. students will be required to assemble the dissertation guidance committee, prepare a dissertation proposal, and present this proposal to the committee for their approval. This process should be completed within one semester of passing the Ph.D. qualifier.

The Ph.D. Degree Program

In order to successfully complete the Ph.D. Degree Program, a student must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Select a major dissertation subject area in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, or Systems and Control Engineering
  • Fulfill all Ph.D. course requirements in the chosen major area
  • Have an approved Program of Study and complete the CWRU courses in the approved Program of Study with a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or greater
  • Successfully complete the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination
  • Successfully complete the Ph.D. Proposal Defense
  • Successfully complete and defend the Ph.D. Dissertation
  • Fulfill the Ph.D. residency requirement


Ph.D. Course Requirements and Program of Study

Each Ph.D. student is required to have a minimum of 36 hours of coursework taken for credit beyond the B.S. level. At least 18 hours must be taken at CWRU. In addition, the student is also required to have a minimum of 18 hours of EECS 701 to fulfill the requirement for research. Acceptable courses include suitable CWRU courses at the 400 level or higher and approved graduate-level courses taken at other institutions. 

Each Ph.D. student is required to have a Program of Study filed, approved and submitted to the School of Graduate Studies before taking the Ph.D. Qualifying examination and before registering for the last 18 credit hours of the program. The Program of Study shall be prepared and approved by the student's research advisor or the student's academic advisor in case where the student's research advisor is not in the Department.

Program of Study must meet the following requirements:

  1. A minimum of two courses in mathematics, statistics, or basic science. Equivalent courses that focus strongly on fundamental concepts and principles of mathematics, statistics and natural sciences may be approved by the ECSE Graduate Studies and Admissions committee for use in this category.
  2. At least six approved courses from the student's major area of study. At least 4 of these courses must be EECS.
  3. Four additional courses that are not listed under the student's major program area. These courses should satisfy the requirement for breadth in the student's program of study.
  4. A minimum of 18 hours of Ph.D. Dissertation research EECS 701
  5. Departmental 400T, 500T and 600T courses must be included.

The above represents the minimum course requirements beyond the B.S. degree. The total number of 3-hr courses in the Program of Study is at least 12 (twelve) beyond the B.S. level. The selection of these courses should be done with the guidance from the student's faculty academic advisor. Any additional courses may be in any one of the above categories as approved by the student's advisor.

In addition, Ph.D. students must register and pass at least five semesters of EECS500 (EECS Colloquium).  [Effective Fall 2012]  All Ph.D. students are required to register for and pass three semesters of EECS 500 Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Colloquium (a 0 credit hour course) and complete a public presentation of their work.  Click here for details and forms.

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

A student shall be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy only after he or she has passed the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Exam is intended to test the students' knowledge in the student's chosen major program area: Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, or Systems and Control Engineering. The objectives of the exam are:

To assess the Ph.D. student's understanding of the fundamental concepts in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, or Systems and Control Engineering, as embodied in the respective graduate curriculum

To ensure that the student have the ability to pursue Ph.D. level research, and have mastered the graduate level coursework necessary to succeed as researchers

Full-time Ph.D. students are recommended to take the Ph.D. qualifier before the beginning of their third semester of full-time (equivalent) enrollment, and must pass the exam within two years of being admitted to the program. For part-time students, the Qualifying Exam must be passed before more than 27 credit-hours of coursework have been completed. For students who must take remedial courses to make up for shortcomings in their engineering and mathematics knowledge base, the deadline can be extended to the fifth semester of full-time (equivalent) enrollment, but this requires a petition to the ECSE Graduate Committee. Students have two opportunities to pass the Ph.D. Qualifier. A student who fails to pass the Qualifier after two attempts will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

To pass the Ph.D. Qualifier, the student must demonstrate proficiency in two parts:

Part 1

The first part of the Ph.D. Qualifier assesses the student's fundamental knowledge and proficiency in the student's major program area:

Computer Engineering

There will be a written examination with questions drawn from:

Computer Architecture (EECS419)

Depth areas chosen by the student and his/her advisor (such as Networks (EECS 425), Embedded Systems (EECS488), VLSI Systems Design (EECS485), Circuits (EECS344) and Digital Signal Processing (EECS401))

If a student fails all areas of the written examination, the entire exam must be taken again. If a student fails some areas, the faculty may elect to give another exam to the student in just the areas failed.

The written part of the Qualifying Exam for Computer Engineering will be offered at least once a year at the end of the spring semester.

Electrical Engineering

   For students matriculating after 8/1/2014:

Students must demonstrate competency in one of the following areas within electrical engineering in which the faculty have established research thrust areas:

1. Circuits and Instrumentation

2. Robotics

3. Micro- and Nano-systems

To demonstrate competency in the intended area of research, the student must do one of the following: (1) take the course for that area and pass that course with a grade of A, or (2) pass a written exam for that specific area. The designated courses for each of the areas are:

1. Circuits and Instrumentation          EECS 426 - MOS Integrated Circuit Design

2. Robotics                                      EECS 489 - Robotics I

3. Micro- and Nano-systems             EECS 422 - Solid-state Electronics II

In the event that a designated course is not offered within a reasonable period of time, the student may petition the faculty in electrical engineering to designate a suitable substitute.

A student failing to meet the requirements proscribed above may, with the support of his/her dissertation research advisor, petition the faculty for an oral exam. The oral exam will consist of a 30 minute presentation by the student to a 3-member examination committee made up of electrical engineering faculty. The topic will be drawn from the student's area of interest as selected by his/her advisor and approved by the committee. The topic may not come directly from the student's MS thesis conducted at CWRU or elsewhere.

A student has completed the Ph.D. Qualifier in electrical engineering when: (1) he/she has successfully completed the aforementioned competency requirement, (2) a group of faculty within his/her selected research area ha conducted a review of the student's academic record and determined that adequate progress has been made, and (3) the student has formally identified a dissertation advisor.

   For students matriculating prior to 8/1/2014:

The written portion of the PhD Qualifier in Electrical Engineering is designed to assess a student's knowledge and understanding of topics fundamental to all electrical engineering students pursuing a doctorate in the field. The written exam will consist of questions at the advanced undergraduate level covering material from the three topic areas listed below. Courses currently in the EE undergraduate curriculum corresponding to a particular topic area are listed in parentheses.

Electromagnetic Fields (EECS 309)

Circuits (EECS 245, EECS 281)

Signals and Systems (EECS 246)

Exam problems will be limited to materials contained in the selected references as well as the aforementioned courses. Sample problems from previous exams as well as a list of relevant references are available upon request.

Students must show competency in all three tested areas. Upon recommendation of the faculty, a student showing marginal proficiency in one area may be required to correct this deficiency, for example, by taking an appropriate course (as determined by the faculty) and pass this course with at least a B grade or by serving as a teaching assistant of an appropriate course.

The written part of the Qualifying Exam for Electrical Engineering will be offered at least once a year during the month of January, prior to the beginning of the spring semester.

Systems and Control Engineering

Students must show competency in control systems engineering, signals and systems, and systems analysis (optimization, simulation, stochastic modeling, and decision and economic analysis). Students must demonstrate proficiency in at least three of the following areas:

Control Systems (EECS408, EECS 483, EECS304)

Optimization (EECS416, EECS346)

Signal Processing (EECS401, EECS313)

Simulation and Discrete Event Systems (EECS324, EECS409)

Stochastic Models and Decisions (EECS352, EECS452)

To demonstrate proficiency in an area, the student can either take one of the courses listed for that area and obtain an A-grade or take and pass an exam for that specific area. Upon recommendation by the faculty, the student showing marginal proficiency in any area may be required to improve proficiency by serving as a teaching assistant of an appropriate course.

Part 2

The second part of the Ph.D. Qualifier shall be prepared and administered by the designated Ph.D. Qualifying committee for students in the Electrical Engineering program and in the Computer Engineering program or by the student's Ph.D. dissertation guidance committee for each Ph.D. student in the Systems and Control program. This exam will test the student on advanced topics in the student's major area of study as well as specialized topics relevant to the student's research area.

Computer Engineering

This will be an oral exam based on the areas of the written examination.

Electrical Engineering

   For students matriculating after 8/1/2014:

Does not apply

   For students matriculating prior to 8/1/2014:

Only those students performing adequately on the written exam will advance to the oral portion of the qualifier. The exam will be administered by a three-member examination committee assembled from the ECSE faculty. The oral portion of the PhD Qualifier will consist of a two-part examination. The first part of the oral exam will consist of a 20 minute presentation by the student on a topic selected by the examination committee. The topic will be one that is well documented in the scientific/engineering literature. In selecting the topic, the examination committee will take into account the student's research interests, academic background and experience in the field. The student will be given the topic 15 working days prior to the examination. The topic will be presented to the student in the form of a published paper or collection of papers. The student will be required to demonstrate competency in the following areas: (1) the material directly covered by the paper(s), (2) the material covered in the important references in the paper(s), and (3) any relevant background material that is necessary for the fundamental understanding of the paper.

The second part of the oral exam will consist of a series of questions drawn from the topic areas covered by the written exam.

As with the written exam, a student showing marginal proficiency during the oral exam may be asked to perform some sort of remediation at the discretion of the oral examination committee.

Systems and Control Engineering

A typical exam begins with a selection by the student's dissertation guidance committee of 5-6 research articles relevant to the student's research area. The students will be given 4 weeks to write a report answering questions formulated from those papers by the dissertation guidance committee. This will be followed within one week by an oral exam during which the student will give an oral presentation based on the report and answer questions from the dissertation guidance committee and other attending EECS faculty. Questions will be based on the report as well as miscellaneous questions on advanced topics in Systems and Control as deemed appropriate by committee members and/or other attending faculty. 

Ph.D. Candidacy

The final consideration of whether to admit the student to Ph.D. candidacy will be taken by the Ph.D. Qualifying committee (for Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering students) or the student's dissertation guidance committee (for Systems and Control students) after the student has passed the Ph.D. Qualifier. A written report on the results of the qualifier and Ph.D. candidacy will be prepared by the committee and submitted to the Department Chairperson, who, in turn, will notify the School of Graduate Studies of the results.

Ph.D. Proposal

After passing the Qualifier and being admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, the Ph.D. candidate is required to pass a Dissertation Proposal Exam on a timely basis, generally within one semester after being admitted to candidacy. This exam shall be administered by the student's dissertation guidance committee and consists of a written dissertation proposal, and an oral presentation of the proposed dissertation research. As part of the oral presentation, the student will be expected to answer questions covering the proposed research as well as questions on related topics as deemed appropriate by the student's dissertation guidance committee. The written dissertation proposal must be received by the committee members at least ten days before the date scheduled for the oral exam and presentation. The Dissertation Proposal Exam, the Ph.D. research, the final oral dissertation defense, and all other requirements in the student's Ph.D. program of study must be completed within five years after the student is admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

The Ph.D. Oral Defense

To defend his/her dissertation, the candidate shall provide an abstract and an announcement to the EECS Office of Student Affairs for general announcement at least two weeks in advance.

The Ph.D. Residency Requirements

All Ph.D. students shall fulfill the Ph.D. residency requirements set forth by the Case School of Engineering and the School of Graduate Studies. Specifically, the Ph.D. student is required either to register for at least 9 credit hours during each of two consecutive semesters or to engage in academic work (taking courses, assisting in course development and/or teaching, fully engaging in research, or some other scholarly activities) in at least six consecutive terms (fall, spring, or summer) between matriculation and a period not exceeding 5 years after the first credited hour of EECS 701. The period during a leave of absence cannot be counted to fulfill the residency requirement.

Library Copies

A copy of each M.S. thesis or Ph.D. dissertation shall be submitted to the Department in electronic form according to the format specified by the Graduate Committee. This copy is in addition to any required by University regulations.


Any decision by an academic advisor, thesis or dissertation guidance committee, or Department Associate Chairperson may be appealed, in writing, to the Department Associate Chairperson who shall present the appeal, with his recommendations, to the faculty at its next regular faculty meeting. The faculty's decision shall be final.

Other Regulations

All students pursuing graduate studies in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department must abide by the academic regulations of the School of Graduate Studies and the Case School of Engineering contained in the most recent issue of the General Catalog of Case Western Reserve University, and supplemented by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science regulations.

NOTE: The above regulations apply to graduate students who entered the degree programs in computer engineering, electrical engineering, and systems & control engineering after January 1, 2005.