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Graduate Student Handbook: The Ph.D. Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires concentration in a particular area of electrical or computer engineering as well as demonstrated mastery over the fundamentals of electrical and computer engineering. It is awarded in recognition of demonstrated proficiency and high achievement in the student’s major field within electrical or computer engineering. A significant contribution to the knowledge in the area of electrical and computer engineering is made through successful dissertation research.

The Ph.D. degree requirements include:

  • 43 credit hours of coursework
  • Responsible Conduct of Research training
  • Ph.D. Residency requirement
  • Passing the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam, including the Proposal Exam
  • Conducting research, writing and successfully defending a Ph.D. dissertation
Ph.D. Timeline

 complete by end of 7th term>PhD thesis preparation>PHD defense


The following table summarizes the coursework requirements for the Ph.D. degree in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Requirement Hours Description
Group I: ECE 6000 level classes in one or two TIAs: 9 Nine hours of classes from one or two technical interest areas (TIAs) of the student's choice. All for letter grade credit.
Group II: ECE 6000-level classes 9 Nine hours of classes, all of which must be from one or more TIAs that are outside of and not cross-listed with the TIA(s) in Group I. All for letter grade credit.
Group III: Minor in an area outside ECE 9 Nine hours of classes in a single discipline outside of ECE. All for letter grade credit.
Group IV: Electives 14 (Up to 12 M.S. thesis hours, recorded as such on an official transcript, may be used in this area.)
ECE 8022 (Professional Communications
1 Pass/fail. Permit required. Students have to pass the Coursework Qualifier to receive a permit.
Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) requirement (PHIL 6000) 1

NEW: All Ph.D. students with a catalog year of 2011 - 2012 or after have to complete the RCR requirement. The requirement is reflected in DegreeWorks for all students who need to complete the RCR training under the new policy.

Total hours required 43  

Groups I and II – Selection of ECE 6000 Level or Higher Classes
6000-level or higher ECE courses offered by specific TIAs can be used to satisfy these requirements, including Special Topics courses.

  • Technical Interest Areas (TIAs) are groups of related courses within electrical and computer engineering and include: Bioengineering, Computer Systems & Software, VLSI Systems & Digital Design, Digital Signal Processing, Electrical Energy, Electromagnetics, Electronic Design & Applications, Nanotechnology, Optics & Photonics, Systems & Controls, and Telecommunications. 
  • In Group II, all nine hours of coursework must be completed outside the TIA(s) of Group I. These courses must not be cross-listed with the TIA(s) chosen for Group I. Group II classes may be selected from one, two or three TIAs, provided degree requirements are met. Courses that do not belong to any TIA cannot be used to satisfy Group I or Group II requirements.
  • Pass/Fail, audit, and Special Problems courses cannot be used to satisfy Group I and Group II requirements.
  • To determine the TIA of a course, students may examine the Projected Course Schedule available on the Graduate Website.

Group III (Minor): 9 Hours outside ECE as a Minor Field of Study
A minor consists of nine credit hours of courses in a single discipline (e.g. Math, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, etc.). 4000 level or higher classes may be taken subject to the following guidelines:

  • Minors are expected to be in subject areas that enhance and relate to Ph.D. students’ research. Students may choose Math, CS, any non-ECE engineering or science discipline. Other fields would need to be approved by the ECE Graduate Committee. Minor courses in non-technical areas (for example, Management) need special approval. Classes that are part of the TI:GER program in the Scheller College of Business can be used towards the Ph.D. minor.
  • Minor courses cannot be cross-listed with ECE classes.
  • All minor courses must be taken for letter grade.
  • 6000 level minor courses are preferred, 4000 level or a combination of 4000 and 6000 level courses will be considered for approval, provided the overall degree requirements are met.
  • Math and CS are the most popular Ph.D. minors for ECE students. A list of recommended CS and undergraduate Math courses are listed on the ECE website.

  • Approval of the minor courses is secured from the ECE Graduate Affairs Office via the web-based Ph.D. coursework completion plan on the ECE website. When all the coursework is completed, Ph.D. minors are submitted by the ECE Academic Affairs Office to the Georgia Tech Graduate Studies – VPR office for approval.
  • The Ph.D. minor courses must have a minimum grade average of 3.0/4.0.


Group IV General Elective Courses

  • General electives are meant to enhance the technical background of students.  Non-technical classes should be pre-approved by the ECE Graduate Office.
  • Up to 6 credit hours of Special Problems (ECE 8901, 8902, 8903 and CS 8903) may be used as general elective courses, subject to approval by the ECE Graduate Office. Faculty supervisors must certify that the work done for these courses is at Ph.D. level and is not simultaneously being done for pay (as in a GRA) or for other credit (as for ECE 9000, ECE 8900, or ECE 7000). To receive approval for these courses to be counted towards the Ph.D. degree, students need to complete the Special Problems Course Approval Form. It is expected that these courses are rigorous and the level of work is commensurate with the equivalent credit of a graduate level course.
  • Non-ECE Special Topics courses can be used for general electives.
  • Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) courses do not satisfy the Ph.D. degree coursework requirements.
  • Pass/fail courses cannot be used in any other Group except for Group IV General Electives. The only pass/fail hours that can be used are ECE seminars (ECE 8001, 8002, 8022 or 6792), CS/CSE seminars (CS/CSE 800x), and the RCR requirement (PHIL 6000). No more than four pass/fail hours can be used towards the Group IV General Electives.
  • Only 4000 level or higher courses can be used for degree requirements, but note that there is a total limit of 9 hours of 4000 level courses that can be used for the Ph.D. degree
  • Students are welcome and encouraged to take additional elective courses to enhance their background. These courses would be for the student’s benefit and would not count towards degree requirements.

The Professional Communications Requirement

  • All ECE Ph.D. students are required to complete ECE 8022, a one-hour professional communications seminar, in order to fulfill the Ph.D. coursework requirement.  
  • Permits are required for ECE 8022. Only students classified as “Ph.D.” and who have passed the Coursework Qualifier will be allowed to take ECE 8022.
  • All the Ph.D. students are expected to take ECE 8022 the first fall or spring semester after they passed the Ph.D. Coursework Qualifier and no later than the end of the 3rd year.
  • The ECE department offers a technical writing class for international Ph.D. students who need to improve their writing skills. The Scientific Writing for International Students class is offered during the spring and fall terms. It is a non-credit course and cannot be found on OSCAR. The Graduate Office advertises the class every semester and participants are selected on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please contact Dr. Daniela Staiculescu in the Graduate Office.

  • In addition to the Scientific Writing Class, students are encouraged and may be required by their research advisor or their proposal review committee to take additional communications courses offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Requirement
Georgia Tech requires all Ph.D. students to complete an RCR requirement that consists of on-line training and in-person training. M.S. students who transition to Ph.D. students must also meet this requirement.

Additional graduate students may need to complete this requirement, depending on their source of funding.  Students may refer to the applicability criteria listed in the Georgia Tech RCR Compliance Policy to determine if their source of funding requires RCR training.

The On-line CITI Requirement: The online portion of the requirement, a CITI RCR course, must be successfully completed within 90 days of when applicable students begin the first full semester in their doctoral program. Access the CITI RCR course.

If a student goes past the 90 day time frame, a hold may be placed on course registration until the student completes the online training.

The In-Person Requirement: Students covered by this policy are required to successfully complete PHIL 6000 OR an academic program’s in-house RCR training approach. Students are strongly encouraged to complete in-person training within the first 12 months of their doctoral program. In general, applicable students will be expected to take PHIL 6000 during the first summer session after they begin their doctoral program at Georgia Tech. Additional sections will be available during the fall and spring semesters for those students who would not otherwise be enrolled during the summer session.
The following academic programs have an approved in-house RCR training approach for their doctoral students.  ECE does not have its own in-house RCR course but would accept any of the following courses approved for other schools:

  • Applied Physiology – PHIL 6710 / APPH 6710 / ECE 8813-B: Ethics of Biotechnology and Bioengineering Research

  • Biological Sciences – BIOL 8106: Tools of Science

  • Biomedical Engineering – BMED 7004: Teaching & Research Practicum I (effective Fall 2015)

  • Building Construction – BC 8100: Research Methodology

  • Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering – ChBE 6001: Introduction to Research and ChBE 6003: Chemical Process Safety (both courses are required)

  • Chemistry – CHEM 8002: Information Resources for Chemists and Biochemists

  • Civil and Environmental Engineering – CEE 8097: Introduction to Transportation Research

  • Computational Science and Engineering – CSE 6001: Introduction to the PhD

  • Computing – CS 7001: Introduction to Graduate Studies  (effective Fall 2013)

  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences – EAS 6000: Introduction to Research and Responsible Conduct

  • Mathematics – MATH 6001: Introduction to Graduate Math

  • Physics – PHYS 8002: Seminar and Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Psychology – PSYC 6000: Responsible Conduct of Research

  • Public Policy – PUBP 8101 and PUBP 8102: Workshop on Public Policy Research (both courses are required)

These courses or PHIL 6000 can be counted in the Group IV General Elective category. Access RCR policies and FAQs.

Ph.D. Residency Requirement

All Ph.D. students, with no exception, are required to be enrolled full time for at least two semesters while classified as Ph.D. students. The residency requirement is verified before the Ph.D. coursework is approved and certified.

Additional Restrictions and Conditions on Coursework

  • Students with prior graduate work, including an M.S. degree from another institution may have up to 30 hours of courses applied towards the ECE Ph.D. degree requirements, subject to approval.
  • No more than three senior (4000) level courses (9 semester hours) are permitted to be used toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement. 4000 level classes can only be used toward the elective (Group IV) or minor (Group III) areas of the Ph.D. coursework requirements.
  • No more than a total of four pass/fail hours can be used toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement—this includes 8022 and PHIL 6000.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology requires that Ph.D. students maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0/4.0 to remain in good standing and must have at least a 3.0/4.0 to graduate.
  • The minor courses (Group III) must have a minimum grade average of 3.0/4.0.
  • All classes used to fulfill the Ph.D. coursework requirement must have grades of “C” or above.
  • Ph.D. students are required to complete a minimum of two full-time terms on campus. ECE expects that most if not all of one’s Ph.D. coursework and research will be completed on campus, under the supervision of an ECE faculty member.

Filing a Coursework Plan

Applying M.S. Coursework Completed at other Schools toward the Ph.D. Coursework
There is no formal transfer of credit for the Ph.D. degree, that is, classes taken elsewhere would not appear on the Georgia Tech transcript. However, M.S. coursework completed at other schools can be used toward the ECE Ph.D. coursework requirement. An approved Ph.D. coursework plan serves as an agreement between the student and ECE (on behalf of Georgia Tech) to permit the student to count courses from another school toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement.

  • When submitting the coursework plan for the Ph.D. degree, students who have completed an ECE M.S. degree will list classes completed at the M.S. school along with classes to be completed at Georgia Tech. These classes should be listed as they appear on the M.S. school's transcript, using that school's number (if any), course name, and grade awarded.  
    • To request approval of these courses, students should submit a transcript and a syllabus and other descriptive materials to the ECE Graduate Office.
    • The credit hours for classes completed elsewhere should be reported in semester hours. If the M.S. classes were recorded in quarter hours, those hours are to be converted to semester hours by multiplying the number of quarter hours by 2/3, making a three hour quarter class equivalent to two semester hours.
  • If a thesis was completed at the M.S. school, it may be possible to apply up to 12 semester hours of thesis credit toward the 43 hour Ph.D. coursework requirement. The following items are needed in order for this option to be considered for approval:
    • English version of the M.S. thesis
    • Documentation on the official transcript of completion of the M.S. with a thesis
    • Completion of M.S. thesis research hours on the M.S. school’s transcript
  • Six hours of the previously completed coursework that was transferred toward a Georgia Tech ECE M.S. degree may be applied toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement.


Coursework Qualifier

The Coursework Qualifier consists of four courses that are selected by each student from lists prepared by the ECE Technical Interest Groups (TIGs). The lists are included below. A student may select four courses from a single TIG’s list; or three courses from one TIG’s list and a single course from another TIG’s list. A student’s advisor may ask that they select courses from a particular TIG’s list; however, the School of ECE will not enforce this. In order to successfully complete the Coursework Qualifier requirement, a student must earn a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in the four courses they have selected. Once this requirement has been completed, the student must complete the Coursework Qualifier form and turn it in to the ECE Graduate Office for verification. This requirement must be completed by the end of the second year after the student matriculated into an ECE graduate program.

The Coursework Qualifier requirement will apply to all students starting in Fall 2018. For ECE Ph.D. students matriculating into an ECE graduate program in Fall 2018 or after, the Coursework Qualifier requirement must be completed by the end of their second year. Any ECE Ph.D. student who has already passed the ECE Preliminary Exam is exempted from the Coursework Qualifier requirement. Students who matriculated before Fall 2018 but have not passed the Preliminary Exam are subject to the transition timeline for completion of the Coursework Qualifier requirement that can be found on the ECE website under “Coursework Qualifier”.  

An M.S. student who wishes to become a Ph.D. student must complete the Coursework Qualifier requirement, secure funding, and identify a willing ECE faculty advisor before being considered for transfer to the Ph.D. program.

All the Coursework Qualifier Courses must be taken at Georgia Tech. Classes taken at other institutions cannot be used towards the Coursework Qualifier requirements.

The courses that satisfy the Coursework Qualifier requirements are as follows:


ECE 6200 - Biomedical Applications of MEMS
ECE 6229 - Introduction to MEMS (Cross-listed with CHBE/ME 6229)
ECE 6250 - Advanced Digital Signal Processing
ECE 6790 - Information Processing Models in Neural Systems
ECE 8803 - Implantable Microelectronic Devices
ECE 8833 - Biomedical Sensing Systems
ECE 8833 - Medical Ultrasound: From Diagnostic Imaging to Image-Guided Therapy
BMED 6210 - Magnetic Resonance Imaging
BMED 8813 - Optical Microscopy

Computer Systems & Software:

ECE 6130 - Advanced VLSI Systems
ECE 6100 or CS 6290 - Advanced Computer Architecture
ECE 6101 - Parallel and Distributed Computer Architecture
ECE 6276 - DSP Hardware System Design
ECE 7103 - Memory Systems
ECE 8813 - Interconnection Networks
ECE 6102 - Dependable Distributed Systems
ECE 6122 - Advanced Programming Techniques
CS 6210 - Advanced Operating Systems
CS 6241 - Design and Implementation of Compilers
ECE 6280 - Cryptography and Security
ECE 6612 - Computer Network Security
ECE 6612 or CS 6262 - Computer Network Security
ECE 8803 - Advanced Topics in Malware Analysis
CS 6238 - Secure Computer Systems

Digital Signal Processing:

ECE 6250 - Advanced Digital Signal Processing or ECE 88xx - Mathematical Foundations of Machine Learning
ECE 6254 - Statistical Digital Signal Proc & Modeling (Core course in the PhD ML degree)
ECE 6255 - Digital Processing of Speech Signals
ECE 6258 - Digital Image Processing
ECE 6272 - Fund of Radar Signal Processing
ECE 6276 - DSP Hardware Systems Design (cross-listed in VLSI Systems & Digital Design)
ECE 6605 - Information Theory
ECE 7251 - Signal Detection and Estimation (Core course in the PhD ML degree)
ECE 8823 - Convex Optimization for SP (Core course in the PhD ML degree)
ECE 8803  - Probabilistic Graphical Models in Machine Learning (Core course in the PhD ML degree; cross-listed ECE/ISYE/CS)


ECE 6350 - Applied Electromagnetics
ECE 6360 - Microwave Design
ECE 6370 - Electromagnetic Radiation and Antennas
ECE 6380 - Intro to Computational Electromagnetics
ECE 6390 - Satellite Comm and Navigation Systems
ECE 7350 - Topics in Analytical EM
ECE 7380 - Topics in Computational EM
ECE 6420 - Wireless IC Design
ECE 6520 - Integrated Optics
ECE 6250 - Advanced Digital Signal Processing
ECE 6272 - Radar Signal Processing
ECE 8823 - Radio Wave Propagation in the Earth and Space Environment
EAS 6145 - Remote Sensing of the Atmospheres and Ocean
EAS 6360 - Space Physics and Instrumentation

Electronic Design and Applications:

ECE 6412 - Analog Integrated Circuit Design
ECE 6414 - Analog Integrated System Design
ECE 6420 - Wireless IC Design
ECE 6422 - Interface IC Design
ECE 6435 - Neuro Analog VLSI Circuits
ECE 6444 - Si-based Hetero Devices and Circuits
ECE 6445 - Power IC Design


ECE 6320 - Control and Operation of Power Systems
ECE 6331 - Power Electronic Circuits
ECE 8803 - Smart Grids
ECE 6323 - Power System Protection
ECE 6335 - Electric Machinery Analysis (jointly taught with ECE 4335)
ECE 6456 - Solar Cells
ECE 8883 - High Voltage Engineering
ECE 6445 - Power IC Design
ECE 8803 - Power System Economics
ECE 6332 - Power Electronics CAD Laboratory
ECE 6336 - Dynamics & Ctrl Electric Machine Drive


ECE 6229 - Introduction to MEMS (Cross-listed with CHBE/ME 6229)
ECE 6444 - Silicon-Based Heterostructure Devices and Ckts (cross-listed in Electronic Design & Applications)
ECE 6450 - Intro to Microelectronics Technology
ECE 6451 - Intro to the Theory of Microelectronics
ECE 6453 - Theory of Electronic Devices
ECE 6455 - Semiconductor Process Control
ECE 6456 - Solar Cells
ECE 6458 - Gigascale Integration
ECE 6460 - Microelectromechanical Devices (Cross-listed with CHBE/ME 6460)
ECE 6542 - Optoelectronics: Dev, Integr, Pkg, Sys (cross-listed in Optics and Photonics)
ECE 6771 - Optoelectronics: Matls, Processes, Dev (cross-listed in Optics and Photonics) (Cross-listed with PHYS 6771)
ECE 6776 - Microelectronic Systems Packaging Technologies (Cross-listed with ME/MSE 6776)
ECE 6779 - Thermal Engineering for Packaging of Micro and Nano Systems (Cross-listed with ME 6779) ECE 8823 - Memory Device Technologies and Applications

Optics and Photonics:

ECE 6350 - Applied Electromagnetics
ECE 6451 - Intro to the Theory of Microelectronics
ECE 6500 - Fourier Tech System & Analysis
ECE 6510 - Electro-Optics
ECE 6515 - Nanophotonics
ECE 6520 - Integrated Optics
ECE 6522 - Nonlinear Optics
ECE 6530 - Modulation, Diffractive & Crystal Optics
ECE 6540 - Organic Optoelectronics
ECE 6542 - Optoelectronics: Dev, Intgr, Pkg, Sys
ECE 6543 - Fiber Optic Networks
ECE 6771 - Optoelectronics: Matls, Processes, Dev

Systems and Controls:

ECE 6500 - Fourier Tech System & Analysis
ECE 6550 - Linear Systems and Controls
ECE 6552 - Nonlinear Systems
ECE 6553 - Optimal Control
ECE 6554 - Adaptive Control
ECE 6555 - Optimal Estimation
ECE 6562 - Control Robotic Systems


ECE 6601 - Random Processes
ECE 6602 - Digital Communications
ECE 6604 - Personal and Mobile Communication
ECE 6605 - Information Theory
ECE 6606 - Coding Theory & Applications
ECE 6607 - Computer Communication Networks
ECE 6610 - Wireless Networks
ECE 6612 - Computer Netowrk Security
ECE 6613 - Broadband Access Networks
ECE 6615 - Sensor Networks

VLSI Systems and Digital Design:

ECE 6130 - Advanced VLSI Systems
ECE 6132 - Computer-Aided System Design
ECE 6133 - Physical Design Automation
ECE 6140 - Digital Systems Test
ECE 88xx - Cyber Physical Systems
ECE 88xx - Advanced Hardware Oriented Security and Trust
ECE 88xx - Digital Systems at Nanometer Nodes
ECE 88xx - Digital Design using Modern VLSI Devices
ECE 88xx - Machine Learning for IoT
ECE6250 - Advanced Digital Signal Processing
ECE 6254 - Statistical Machine Learning
ECE 6412 - Analog Integrated Circuit Design
ECE 6420 - Wireless IC Design
ECE6550 - Linear Systems and Controls
ECE 6451 - Introduction to the Theory of Microelectronics
ECE 6458 - Gigascale Integration
ECE 6414 - Analog Integrated System Design
ECE 6331 - Power Electronic Circuits
CS 6550 - Design and Analysis of Algorithms
CS 7641 - Machine Learning


Advisor Selection
  • Students who are looking for advisors and/or research topics should register for ECE8999.
  • While completing the Ph.D. Coursework Qualifier, a student is expected to identify a research advisor and report that advisor’s name to the ECE Office for Graduate Affairs.  
  • It may be necessary and appropriate for a student to change advisors during the process of identifying a suitable dissertation topic. Any change should be coordinated through the ECE Graduate Affairs Office.  


Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation Proposal Exam in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering serves two functions:

1. The second part of the ECE Comprehensive Exam (the Coursework Qualifier being the first part.)

  • Test whether the student has sufficient background to enter the Ph.D. Program
  • Allow the committee to judge the student’s ability to execute a research task and to communicate the results.

2. Evaluation of the Ph.D. Dissertation topic and research plan by the Dissertation Reading Committee.

  • Evaluate the proposed topic to ensure that, if completed as posed, it constitutes an original contribution to knowledge.
  • Evaluate the proposed research plan to ensure that it is well-conceived and feasible to complete with the resources available within a reasonable time frame.


Timing of the Proposal Exam

  • The Proposal Exam must be successfully completed by the end of the 7th semester (not including summers) after the student matriculated into an ECE graduate program. Students who matriculated before Fall 2018 are subject to a transition plan that can be found on the website under “Proposal Examination”.
  • As of Summer 2018, the new timing of the Proposal Exam (within 7 semesters) will be strictly enforced. As a result, expectations for the Proposal Exam have changed. The student is not expected to have completed a large body of the original research that is necessary for their Ph.D. Thesis. The student is expected to demonstrate background knowledge of their dissertation topic, as well as a fundamental understanding of the discipline. The Proposal must contain a detailed and sound plan for the completion of Ph.D.-level research on the dissertation topic, and preferably some results. However, it is understood that any results will be early and possibly inconclusive; and the dissertation topic, methods, and results may evolve considerably in-between the Proposal and the Ph.D. defense.
  • The Ph.D. coursework plan should be completed by the time of the Ph.D. Proposal. If the coursework has not been completed, the Academic Office needs to approve the coursework form indicating very clearly when the remaining classes will be completed. The Proposal Examination cannot be held if the student has not completed the Professional Communication Seminar, ECE 8022, and did not meet the Institute Ph.D. residency requirement (full-time enrollment for at least two semesters while classified as a Ph.D. student).
  • The Proposal Exam must occur at least 6 months before the Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Examination.
  • Under no circumstances will the student be allowed to take the Proposal and Defense Exams during the same term.

Proposal Process

The Ph.D. Proposal Committee is comprised of three to four faculty members: the advisor (and a
co-advisor, if one exists) and two faculty members selected by the student. Additional members can be added upon request.

  • The format for the Proposal Examination involves a written report and an oral presentation.
  • The written proposal is no more than 35 pages including references and appendices.
  • The proposal must contain a chapter or sub-chapter entitled “Literature Survey”, appearing anywhere in the document that the student finds appropriate. The “Literature Survey” section is a minimum of five pages and must be written by the student with no outside help.
  • The rest of the proposal document contains at minimum a concise statement of the Ph.D. dissertation topic, summary of the research completed, outline of the research to be completed, and clearly summarizes the contributions of the research. The student can get help in preparing the rest of the proposal document.
  • The documents are submitted to the Academic Office, which is in charge of assigning the Ph.D. Proposal chair and sending the Ph.D. proposal documents to the members of the committee. The committee needs to be given at least two weeks to read the Ph.D. Proposal before scheduling the oral portion of the exam.
  • If the Ph.D. Committee is satisfied with the written report, the oral presentation is scheduled. The presentation usually lasts about 40 minutes. There is a general audience question and answer period followed by a closed door examination period with the committee.


The following is the summary of the Ph.D. Proposal process. For more details, consult the Proposal Guidelines document.

  1. Fill out the coursework plan, showing all grades earned for the classes already completed and the planned remaining classes. Form needs to be approved by the ECE Graduate Affairs Office.
  2. Visit the Academic Office to express the intent of submitting the proposal, to verify the coursework and the committee, and to clarify all details of the process.
  3. Submit the following to the ECE Graduate Affairs Office:
  • Online:
    • Electronic committee form submission at https://secure2.ece.gatech.edu/PHP/gradforms/login.php).
  • To the Academic Office (email daniela@ece.gatech.edu):
    • Electronic (pdf) copy of the proposal document with the scanned disclaimer form inserted before the Table of Contents page (a copy of the disclaimer form is included at the end of this document). 
    • Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy form. Only the Name, Title, and Brief Description fields have to be filled out. The Brief Description must begin with “The objective of the proposed research is…”.
    • The body of the email must contain a copy of the Brief Description from the Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy form.
  1. The Academic Office assigns the chair and distributes the proposal materials to the committee members.
  2. The Committee Chair coordinates proposal committee activities and seeks input on the proposal.
  3. When the committee determines that the proposal is ready for examination, the chair schedules the exam through the ECE Graduate Affairs Office. The date, time, and location of the proposal exam must be announced a minimum of 5 working days in advance.
  4. The process could take as short as 3 weeks but it can take up to 8 weeks or longer especially at busy times of the term or at times when faculty are traveling away from campus.


After passing the proposal

  • The Ph.D. Proposal Committee members chosen by the student, including the advisor, become the Ph.D. Reading Committee Members. Only these people need to sign the “Request for Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy Form”.  
  • Because the proposal examination may occur relatively early in the process of defining the dissertation topic, it may be necessary to modify the topic as the research progresses. Any substantial modification requires approval of the reading committee and a submission of a revised “Request for Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy” form with the new dissertation title and abstract, signed by the student and advisor/co-advisor.  
  • The proposal should not be construed as a “binding contract” between the committee and the student, but as a somewhat flexible agreement that is expected to evolve as the research progresses.


Dissertation and the Final Defense
  • The primary requirement of the Ph.D. student is to do original and substantial research that is reported in the Ph.D. Dissertation and at the Final Defense. The quality of the dissertation depends upon the conscientious work of both the student and the Reading Committee. The School entrusts the standards of the School in this area to this committee.   
  • The Final Defense Committee is composed of five people including the Reading Committee members plus two extra members. The chair of the Dissertation Committee is the Thesis Advisor. The two extra members are chosen as follows:
    • One of the members has to be Academic Faculty outside the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  This person can be from another university, with the restriction that they are not within one year of having earned the Ph.D. degree. If the person is not a Georgia Tech faculty member, then that person must provide a current CV in order to be approved by the Institute Graduate Office. Outside ECE academic faculty who have an adjunct position in ECE are approved, but not faculty with double appointments in ECE and another department.
    • The last committee member can be ECE faculty. At minimum, they must hold a Ph.D. and be active in research. If the extra person is not a Georgia Tech faculty member, then a CV must be provided to the ECE Graduate Office for approval.
  • The student has to clear the dissertation with their thesis advisor before disseminating the document to the committee. The thesis advisor is responsible for proofing the content of the document prior to distributing it to the Reading Committee.
  • The student should submit the dissertation to the Reading Committee with sufficient time to examine, typically at least two weeks but preferably a month. Once the Reading Committee is satisfied with the dissertation, the student must obtain their signatures on the Reading Committee Memo.
  • The Advisor has to coordinate the scheduling of the dissertation exam with the committee members and submit the Schedule Defense Memo to the ECE Graduate Affairs Office.

  • The two memos (Reading Committee and Schedule Defense) need to be submitted to the Graduate office at least two weeks before the dissertation defense date. The memos can be found online in the “Dissertation and Final Defense” section.

  • The additional committee members should receive a copy of the dissertation no later than two weeks prior to the defense date.

  • The Certificate of Thesis Approval which is available through the Graduate Studies – VPR office website should be signed by the final examination committee at the dissertation defense and submitted to the Academic Office for the final signature from the School Chair/Graduate Coordinator signature. Each committee member has to fill out an individual evaluation form right after the dissertation defense, to be submitted to the ECE Graduate Affairs Office together with the Certificate of Thesis Approval. 
  • After all signatures are collected, the student is responsible for submitting the Certificate of Thesis Approval and the rest of the documents on the document checklist to the Graduate Studies – VPR office.
  • The student is responsible for uploading the thesis after all the defense forms have been signed.
  • The Graduate Studies – VPR office controls the format of the thesis and other related reporting. The student must keep in touch with that office in order assure that all degree requirements are met. Guidelines for preparing and submitting the dissertation are available on the Graduate Studies – VPR office website.
  • If, at any time, there is uncertainty about what to do next or what is expected of the student, check with an advisor in the Academic Office. Do not rely on secondhand information!


Reasonable Degree Progress
  • A “Ph.D. student” is defined as one who has accepted an admission offer that indicated "Ph.D." rather than "M.S." degree. M.S. students who wish to be reclassified as Ph.D. students should contact an Academic Advisor for additional information.
  • Graduate students in the ECE degree programs are expected to make diligent progress toward the Ph.D. degree.  It is in the best interests of both students and faculty for all students to progress through the program expeditiously. Recommendations and requirements for reasonable progress are defined as follows:  
    • Students seeking a Ph.D. degree are required to pass to take the Coursework Qualifier in the first four semesters (not including the summer).
    • Ph.D. students are encouraged to complete all required coursework, including the Professional Communications requirement and the minor, by the end of the third year in the program (if entering from a B.S. degree program) or the end of their second year in the program (if entering with an M.S.).  
    • Students are encouraged to identify a Ph.D. research advisor as early as possible in the program, and are urged to do so by the end of the term in which they pass the Coursework Qualifier and no later than the term following the one in which they pass the Coursework Qualifier. 
    • ECE PhD students matriculating into an ECE graduate program in Fall 2018 or after are required to must complete their Proposal Exam by the end of their 7th term, not including summers.  
    • If a student has not met the above Coursework Qualifier or Proposal Exam requirements by the end of the terms specified above, they will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program. A student may petition the graduate committee for a one-semester extension. Petitions for Proposal Exam extensions must include a statement detailing the student’s progress. Exceptions may be made by the Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs after reviewing the circumstances involved as presented by the student and the research advisor.
    • It is recommended that the Proposal Examination will be successfully completed at least one year prior to the Final Defense examination, and that it must be completed at least 6 months in advance of the Defense Examination.  
    • The Institute requires that Ph.D. students (full-time or part-time) complete all degree requirements within 7 years of passing the Comprehensive Examination, that is, the Ph.D. Proposal Exam in ECE.
  • During the Ph.D. program, students are permitted an unlimited number of summer terms of non-residence, during which they may be employed as interns at industrial or government employers. A student’s research advisor, however, may advise against summer leave if circumstances so dictate.  
    • Students supported as GRA are expected to coordinate internships with their advisor.
    • Only one non-summer term may be used for internships or other employment without the prior permission of the ECE Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs.

Last revised August 1, 2019