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Electrical and Computer Engineering

ECE Graduate Student Handbook

Academics: Overview  

The Rice University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) offers graduate programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and to the Master of Electrical Engineering (M.E.E.), a non-thesis professional degree.

The Department does NOT offer a stand-alone thesis Master of Science degree; students admitted to our Ph.D. program with a bachelor’s degree are required to earn the M.S. within the program before proceeding to the Ph.D.

Students admitted with an approved previous M.S. degree are required to complete a minimum 18 hours of course credit and 48 hours of research credit. Previous M.S. degrees are approved or denied upon completion of ELEC 599 in the first year. Denied previous M.S. degrees require the student to obtain a Rice ECE M.S. degree before continuing on to the Ph.D. degree.

Graduate Application 

Our online application for admission is located at https://ecegradapps.rice.edu/. The deadlines to apply to either our M.E.E. or Ph.D. programs are:  

  • Spring admission:  M.E.E. Program Only – October 15 
  • Fall admission:  Ph.D. and M.E.E. Program – January 5 

The application process for both sessions is opened beginning on September 1.  (Late applications may be considered, at the discretion of the ECE Graduate Committee.) 

The application fee is $85, payable by credit card. Applicants with financial needs may be eligible for application fee waivers, please see the below list. 

University-paid application fee waivers include: 

  • IRT (Institute for Recruitment of Teachers) 
  • McNair Scholar Program 
  • Nankai University Hundred Young Teachers Program 
  • Project 1000 
  • VEF (VietnamEducation Foundation) 

Students admitted to the Ph.D. program are fully funded with a monthly stipend and tuition waiver. The Ph.D. program is full time only with a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester. Ph.D. students are required to fulfill 6 semesters of grading as part of the degree requirements.  

Successful applicants to the Ph.D. program must have a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Our average admitted students obtain GRE scores in the range of V600 and Q770 and above.  

Students admitted to the M.E.E. program are self-supported, but often with whole or partial support provided by the student’s employer in the workforce.  The M.E.E. (a total of 30 credit hours of course work) may be pursued part time with a minimum of 3 credit hours per semester.   

Successful applicants to the M.E.E. program must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. The GRE is not required for admission to the M.E.E. program, but TOEFL requirements apply as stated above. For internationals admitted to M.E.E. program, proof of financial support is also required. 

Minimum TOEFL scores for international applicants are 600 (paper), 250 (computer), and 90 (IBT ).  TOEFL requirements for the Ph.D. and M.E.E. program may be waived for students who have received a degree from a university where English is the official language of communication. 

Degree Programs 

ELEC 699 Seminar:  All graduate students (M.E.E./M.S./ Ph.D.) are required to take and earn an “S” in ELEC 699 as a part of his/her degree requirements for each semester in residence.  The goal of the course is to foster development of breadth among all graduates at all phases of graduate study in ECE. The requirement for 699 is registered attendance in three (3) ECE co-sponsored seminars per semester.  Details of seminars are e-mailed to all department personnel on a regular-basis and are posted on the ECE website at www.ece.rice.edu.  Seminars hosted or co-hosted by a student’s thesis advisor cannot be counted towards the students’ three (3) seminars.  It is the student’s responsibility to sign in on the attendance sheets provided at all seminars; they will be taped to the entry door of the seminar.  If for some reason there is no sign-in sheet available, students will be responsible for emailing the Graduate Program Administrator within 48 hours of attendance in order to receive credit. 

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 

The Ph.D. program prepares students for research careers in academia and industry. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program with a bachelor’s degree are required to complete 90 hours of credit (typically 42 hours of coursework and 48 hours of research). Courses must be 400 level and above, except for mathematics (300 and above), as stated on the course plan of study. Each student is also required to complete 6 semesters of grading as part of their coursework and the seminar class, ELEC 699. 

The first academic year concentrates on foundation coursework followed by focus on a research area. The first year consists of a minimum of 18 hours of coursework, which include 6 hours of ELEC 599 - a research presentation, developed under the guidance of a faculty advisor and committee that qualifies the student for continuation in the Ph.D. program.  ELEC 599 is taken in the second semester of his/her first year. 

M.S. degrees are expected to be obtained by the end of the 4th semester (second year). All Rice graduate students must petition for Ph.D. candidacy before the start of the 9th semester (fifth year). Ph.D. degrees are expected to be obtained by the end of the 10th semester (fifth year) and no later than the end of the 16th semester (eighth year). 

A 3.0 GPA (B-) must be maintained in major and minor coursework.  Only courses in which a grade of B- or above is achieved will be counted towards the M.S./Ph. D degrees.  Students whose GPA falls below a 2.33 will be placed on academic probation by the university.  Students whose GPA falls below a 3.0 will be placed on academic probation by the ECE Department.  For more information see General Announcements here

Master of Science (M.S.) 

The M.S. degree is offered only as a precursor to the Ph.D. degree. It requires at least 30 semester hours of credit beyond the bachelor’s degree (typically 24 hours of course credit which includes ELEC 599, and 6 hours of ELEC 800 research credit). Twenty-four of the 30 required hours must be completed at Rice; therefore, no more than 6 hours may be transferred from a previous M.S. degree in the case of a denied previous master’s degree. Your previous master’s degree will be denied if you switch subfields. 

The M.S. program requires original research work reported in a thesis and a public oral presentation, evaluated by a master’s thesis committee consisting of a thesis advisor and at least two other faculty members. 

Master of Electrical Engineering (M.E.E.)  

The Master of Electrical Engineering is a terminal, non- thesis degree intended primarily for students who wish to strengthen their academic background through additional coursework. The M.E.E. program is a bridge to industry, designed to provide advanced learning and training in the applied aspects of ECE technology beyond the typical undergraduate electrical and computer engineering degree program.                   

Upon matriculation, the M.E.E. student selects a faculty advisor in his/her primary area of interest. The advisor will counsel the student in developing a degree plan to include 18 hours of course work in the major area, 6 hours in a minor area, and 6 hours of electives, for a total of 10 courses/30 semester hours. 

Students may be eligible to transfer up to 3 hours of course credit from another university.  Rice undergraduates entering the M.E.E. program may transfer course credit not applied to their undergraduate degrees, with the approval of the ECE Graduate Committee and Office of the Registrar.  

The M.E.E. may be pursued on a part time or full time basis during the fall and spring semesters.  A 3.0 GPA (B-) must be maintained in major and minor coursework.  Only courses in which a grade of B- or above is achieved will be counted towards the M.E.E. degree.  Students whose GPA falls below a 2.33 will be placed on academic probation by the university.  Students whose GPA falls below a 3.0 will be placed on academic probation by the ECE Department.  For more information see General Announcements.   

Joint M.B.A. and M.E.E. (Master of Business Administration and Master of Electrical and Computer Engineering) 

Students wishing to pursue this joint degree should apply through the Jones School of Business 


ECE Research Groups 

The ECE Department has four interdisciplinary research groups. 

Computer Engineering: The Computer Engineering group at Rice University collectively has a long track record of innovative research in physical modeling and characterization, VLSI signal processing, computer architecture, computer-aided design, and storage and network systems. Spanning the spectrum of computing from low-power personal devices to large-scale parallel information systems, networked computing solves a myriad of technology challenges. Future computing technologies, including the on- chip integration of systems and networks, will move us beyond current methods in silicon.

Neuroengineering:  Neuroengineering is the analysis and control of the nervous system in order to enhance and restore neuronal function.  Within ECE, specific areas of interest include interfaces at the device, circuit, and systems levels; neural signal processing; and brain-computer interfaces.  Research includes new technologies to understand, repair, replace, enhance. or treat the diseases of the nervous system as well as to design, construct and study devices that interface with living neural tissue.  Research areas include study of the behavior of neural circuits using nano-fabricated devices in tandem with optical, genetic and electro-physiological techniques; exploration focused on the hippocampus, the region in the brain where spatial learning takes place and where memories are formed, stored, and used.  Further research in information theory and signal processing methods for neuroengineering including an emphasis on closed loop neuromodulation and real time deep brain stimulation.

Photonics and Nanoengineering: The focus of this program is the improved understanding of electronic, photonic, and plasmonic materials, optical physics, the interaction of light and matter, along with the application of that knowledge to develop innovative devices and technologies. The specific areas of interest cover a broad range: nanophotonics and plasmonics, optical nanosensor and nano-acutator development, studies of new materials, in paricular nanomaterials and  magnetically active materials; imaging and image processing, including multispectral imaging and terahertz imaging; ultrafast spectroscopy and dynamics; laser applications in remote and point sensing especially for trace gas detection; nanometer-scale characterization of surfaces, molecules, and devices; organic semiconductor devices; single-molecule transistors; techniques for optical communications; and optical interactions with random, nanoengineered and periodic media;  and  applications of Nanoshells in biomedicine.

Systems: Communications, Control, Networks and Signal Processing: The understanding of how to analyze and restructure signals is applied to a wide range of areas, including image and video analysis, representation, and compression; wavelets and multi-scale methods; statistical signal processing, pattern recognition, and learning theory; distributed signal processing and sensor networks; communication systems; and computational neuroscience. Emergent applications include high-performance, scalable and widely deployed wireless Internet and expanding “broad- band” services for residences and public spaces.

Academic and Research Advisors 

Each incoming Ph.D. and M.E.E. student is initially assigned an academic advisor, usually a member of the ECE Graduate Committee, to help with course selection and other initial academic concerns. Final course selection does not need to be completed until after the start of classes. 

During the first year, Ph.D. students will select a research advisor, who will then take over the student’s advising.  Usually the research advisor will be derived from the ELEC 599 research project undertaken in the second semester.  Upon passing ELEC 599 at the end of the first year, the advisor will begin providing stipend support for the graduate student.  

Ph.D. Graduate Student Mentors 

Each incoming Ph.D. student will be assigned two seasoned ECE graduate students, one in his/her primary area of research and one from another area. Mentors will assist first year students in academic matters, including preparation for ELEC 599, social interaction with members of ECE and other interdisciplinary departments. Mentor/mentee social events will be planned over the course of the first year by the student mentor committee. 

Honor System and Code of Student Conduct  

General Announcements  

Research and Scholarly Activities 

General Announcements 

Advice on Changing Research Groups or Departments 

Rice recognizes research interests may change after a student enters a graduate program. If a student feels their interests and talents could be better served working with a different advisor or in another research group or department, a change can be accommodated. 

Although each case is unique, following are guidelines for making an advisor/group/department switch: 

(1) Discuss issues with current advisor. Often an adjustment of research topic may resolve the problem 

(2) If issues are insurmountable, speak with faculty members whose research interests are more in line with the student’s and who have the funding for support. 

(3) When an alternate faculty member agrees to replace current advisor, obtain permission from the Chair of ECE Graduate Committee and proceed to ECE Graduate Program Administrator, who will process the documentation required for the exchange.