Graduate Student Guide
The following guide is intended to describe the procedures and rules of the graduate program of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Drexel University. The information contained herein should guide you in planning a successful academic program. The fact that you have been admitted as a matriculated student in a degree program implies that the university admissions officers and the departmental Graduate Committee have evaluated your previous accomplishments and believe that you are capable of performing well in our program of graduate studies. The program is not an easy one; the graduate courses are at a high level and the degree requirements are demanding.
The faculty welcome you and hope our mutual efforts will result in your proceeding through to your degree while accomplishing some work which will benefit you, and our society.
- A student is classified as full-time if she/he is in residence in the E.C.E. Department, as indicated by having registered for nine (9) or more credits for two terms. Subsequent change to part time status (i.e., fewer than 9 credits per term) does not change the student's category with regard to departmental requirements such as a thesis requirement.
- A student is classified as part-time if she/he registers for fewer than 9 credits per term (with the possible exception of one term). International students may be classified as full-time while registering for fewer than 9 credits/term with permission of the International Students and Scholars Office and the graduate advisor.
- Some students are admitted with a provisional status, until they can prove their capability to enter the program or enable them to correct deficiencies in their background. They may take up to 12 credits after which, if their GPA is 3.0 or greater, they automatically become a student with full-time or part-time status.
- Students who enter with an MS are classified as Post MS students.
- A student who has passed the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination is classified as a Ph.D. Candidate.
The department's course offerings are focused on six general areas: Computer Engineering; Controls, Robotics and Intelligent Systems; Electrophysics; Image and Signal Processing and Interpretation; Power Engineering; Telecommunications and Networking. We offer four different degree programs at the Master's level. Please click on the links below to learn about the curricular requirements of each of the MS programs and related details.
- MS in Electrical Engineering (MSEE)
- MS in EE/Telecommunications Engineering
- MS in Software Engineering (MSSE)
- MS in Computer Engineering (MSCPE)
The MSEE degree can also be pursued online. Click here to learn more about Drexel University's distance learning/e-learning programs.
It is not necessary to register for thesis or research credits in order to do the thesis work, though it is generally advisable to do so. A maximum combination of 9 thesis and research credits may be counted toward the 45 credits required for the MSEE degree. The thesis requirement is intended to familiarize the student with the techniques for guiding an entire project and to develop the student's creativity in solving real problems. An academic research thesis generally involves more than an industrial project in that the goal is not merely to solve the specific problem but also to understand its relevance to previous work and to the discipline in which one is working. It is expected that the thesis work will represent an advance in understanding of the state of the Engineering Art and that it will be suitable for publication in an engineering journal or for inclusion as part of a more comprehensive publication. The thesis generally takes considerably more time and effort than the nine allowed credits. The student is strongly urged as soon as possible to meet with faculty members working in the area of interest and to discuss research topics on which he/she might work. When the student and Professor agree on a program of research, the work should begin at once since M.S. thesis work usually involves more than a year's time. Upon the commencement of thesis research, the professor involved will become the student's advisor with regard to courses to be taken, plan of study, academic progress, etc.
The completed thesis is a formal document, hard bound and stored in the University library. The rules regulating printing, format and binding are available in the University Graduate Office or the library. Before acceptance of the thesis, the student is required to present and defend the results of the project at a departmental seminar (Thesis Defense). The M.S. thesis defense committee will consist of three or more faculty members, including the research advisor. A complete copy of the thesis must be given to the Graduate Programs Coordinator at least one week before the thesis is defended. Notification of the defense will be posted by the Graduate Programs Coordinator when the thesis review copy is received. Note: a receipt for the thesis must be signed by the Librarian and returned to the ECE Graduate Programs Coordinator before the student is cleared for graduation.
Policy on M.S. Thesis
Full-time M.S. students are required to do a thesis. This M.S. thesis requirement will be waived upon request if:
- the student has published a paper (as the first author) in a peer reviewed journal, or
- the student has received no TA/RA support ever.
If the student was supported as a RA/TA, his/her advisor may petition the Graduate Committee to waive the M.S. thesis requirement. Note that B.S/M.S. students will be required to do a design oriented M.S. Thesis or Senior Design.
This section describes procedures for the progress of doctoral students towards their final degree. These involve time scheduling and exams to be taken. Note that a Ph.D. candidate (i.e., a student who has successfully passed the Ph.D.Candidacy Examination) must register each term (including the Summer term) even if the student is not on campus.
The purposes of these procedures are:
- to encourage the most qualified students to continue in the graduate ECE program, and to assure their steady progress toward completion of the Ph.D. degree without imposing onerous burdens,
- to protect those students who are unlikely to succeed in the program from pointless investment of time and effort, without denying them participation in the program to the extent to which they are capable,
- to help maintain and promote the high quality of the ECE graduate program.
The student must complete appropriate forms at each stage of her/his progress towards the Ph.D. The forms can be downloaded from the Graduate Studies web page.
The required examinations for the Ph.D are:
- A Candidacy Exam, consisting of a written specialty part, immediately followed by the University Oral Exam portion.
- A Thesis proposal presentation and approval by the Advisory Committee.
- Dissertation Defense.
The candidacy examination explores the depth of understanding of the student in his/her specialty area. The student is expected to be familiar with, and be able to use, the contemporary tools and techniques of the field and to demonstrate familiarity with the principle results and key findings.
Requests to take the exam will be submitted to the ECE Assistant Department Head for Graduate Studies. Students who have earned the equivalent of 30 quarterly credits of graduate work (at
A Candidacy Exam Committee of at least five (5) members will be appointed in consultation with the departmental Graduate Committee, to include at least three (3) ECE faculty members (one of whom is outside the principal technical area of the candidate), and one (1) member who is not member of the ECE faculty. The student’s advisor can be a member of the committee but not the Chair.
Unless otherwise approved by the chair of the Graduate Committee, one of the members of the candidacy exam committee will also be a member of the Graduate Committee – in order to ensure consistency and provide feedback to the Graduate Committee on the way the candidacy exams are administered.
The student, in consultation with his/her advisor, will declare a principal technical area. The student will propose to the committee (a) four (4) to six (6) papers from the archival literature in the student’s technical area for self study; and (b) the student’s preference as to which three of these four to six papers will be used for the self study. Papers authored by the student while studying at
In most cases, the self study will be a principal reference for the student’s PhD dissertation; however, this is not a requirement.
Within 60 days of the selection of the self-study papers (90 days for part-time students with advisor approval), the student will submit to the committee a written report (15 pages or less) on the papers, describing their objectives, key questions and hypotheses, methodology, main results and conclusions. It is expected that the student’s report will integrate the ideas of the three papers and not be a mere catalog of content. Moreover, the student must show in an appendix independent work s/he has done on at least one of the papers – such as providing a full derivation of a result, or showing meaningful examples, simulations or applications. There are no length limitations on the appendix.
The student must attest that s/he has worked on this report and the appendix individually with no material assistance from other individuals.
No later than three weeks after submitting the report, the candidate will meet with the committee for the oral Candidacy Exam which takes the following format:
- A short description of the student’s principal area of interest (5 minutes, by student).
- A review of the self-study papers and report appendix (25-30 minutes, by students).
- Questions and answers on the report, the appendix and directly-related background (40-100 minutes, student and committee).
The committee will prepare a report (using Drexel University forms D4 and form D4a). The Graduate Committee will receive an electronic copy of the reports and have 24 hours to make comments or request clarifications. The Chair of the committee will respond to Graduate Committee queries and submit the forms to the Office of Graduate Studies via the Graduate Program Coordinator by the deadline (48 hours after the exam).
Timeline for Candidacy Examination
1. If the students are supported by the department, their TA support will be discontinued after two years if they have not taken the candidacy examination. Support will be reinstated upon passing the candidacy examination.
2. If the student has not taken the candidacy examination within the first three year period, the student will be asked to withdraw from the doctoral program, regardless of whether the student receives support or not.
3. Students will be allowed to petition the graduate committee regarding item (2).
4. These policies will be effective starting Fall 2002.
- Each student, after having attained the status of Ph.D. Candidate, must present a Research Proposal to a committee of faculty and industry members, chosen with her/his advisor, who are knowledgeable in the specific area of research.
- This Proposal should outline the specific intended subject of study, i.e., it should present a problem statement, pertinent background, methods of study to be employed, expected difficulties and uncertainties, and the anticipated form, substance and significance of the results.
- The purpose of this presentation is to verify suitability of the dissertation topic and the candidate's approach, and to obtain the advice and guidance of oversight by mature, experienced investigators. It is not to be construed as an examination, though approval by the committee is required before extensive work is undertaken.
- The thesis proposal presentation must be open to all (faculty and students). Announcements regarding the proposal presentation must be made in advance.
- The thesis advisory committee will have the sole responsibility of making any recommendations regarding the thesis proposal.
- It is strongly recommended that the proposal presentation be given immediately after the successful completion of the candidacy examination.
- The student must be a Ph.D. candidate at least for one year before he/she can defend his/her doctoral thesis.
- The advisory committee chair will send a report to the Graduate Advisor after the presentation.
Dissertation Defense procedures are described in the Office of Graduate Studies policies regarding Doctor of Philosophy Program Requirements.
The student must be a Ph. D. candidate at least for one year before he/she can defend his/her doctoral thesis.
Note that it is required that the appointment and scheduling of the dissertation defense (Ph.D. form D-6) must be filed in the Graduate Office at least 4 weeks prior to the scheduled date of the examination.
- Each Ph.D. candidate is required to take 6 additional ECE core course graduate credits in an area other than that in which the candidate qualified for the M.S.E.E.
- With the advisor's prior approval, and that of the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs, appropriate courses from another department can qualify for application toward the Ph.D requirements in ECE. Students who earned the M.S. degree outside Drexel should consult with their Advisors and the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs for guidance in this matter.
Internships for Doctoral Students
Some doctoral students may need practical experience in the form of an internship. The internship is not for credit but will be a required component of the student's academic program. The student's supervising professor and the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs will determine whether the student must take an internship and the length of the internship.
Clearance for Graduation
At the beginning of the term in which the student expects to graduate, she/he must notify the Student Resource Center so that a diploma can be ordered. Filling out the graduation form initiates the clearance process during which the graduate office checks that all requirements for the Ph.D. have been completed.
Occasions arise when students are permitted to "walk through" graduation although all requirements are not completed. This can occur only if the student has successfully defended the dissertation and needs less than two weeks to get the final version to the library. In all cases, a student's "walk through" graduation must be specifically approved by the student's advisor and the graduate advisor, and the coordinator for Graduate Studies and Research.
Special cases and considerations not covered in these rules may be brought before the Graduate Committee of the ECE department.