V. M.S./Ph.D. ACADEMICS
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Master of Science (M.S.) Program
The M.S. degree is offered only as a precursor to the Ph.D. degree. It requires at least 30 graduate semester hours of study at the 500-level and above, 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. Barring a written exemption from the Graduate Committee, the M.S. must be completed within 3 years of entering the M.S./Ph.D. program.
Previous Master’s (Non-Rice)
Students admitted with a previous M.S. degree are required to complete a minimum 18 hours of course credit in addition to ELEC 599, and 48 hours of research credit. Previous M.S. degrees are approved or denied upon completion of ELEC 599 in the first year. Your previous master’s degree will be denied if you change subfields. Denied previous M.S. degrees require the student to obtain a Rice ECE M.S. degree before continuing on to the Ph.D. degree. Twenty-four of the 30 hours required for the M.S. 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. Visit bit.ly/1HRZnkN for specifics.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Program
The Rice University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) offers a graduate program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). 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.
The Ph.D. program is full-time only, with a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester. Students must maintain continuous program involvement and enrollment unless granted an official leave of absence. It requires completion of at least 90 semester hours of graduate study and concluding an original investigation that is formalized in an approved thesis. As final evidence of preparation for this degree, the candidate must pass a public oral presentation and submit the approved thesis to the office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Each student is also required to complete 6 semesters of grading as part of their coursework and the seminar class, ELEC 699. See Section II, “Administration” under “Departmental Responsibilities” for more information. 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. Visit ga.rice.edu for more information from General Announcements.
Barring a written exemption from the Graduate Committee, the Ph.D from B.S. must be completed within 6 years of entering the M.S./Ph.D. program, and the Ph.D. from previous M.S. within 4 years.
ELEC 699 Seminar
The ELEC 699 Seminar Course is intended to foster development of breadth among all graduates at all phases of study in ECE. The requirement is registered attendance at 3 ECE sponsored or co-sponsored seminars per semester. Additionally, each student is required to attend and sign in for the following events: ECE Corporate Affiliates Day, the Brice Distinguished Lecture, and the Chapman Distinguished Lecture, in the years they are held. Exceptions must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Department Chair. Reasonable exceptions include travel for conference attendance, internships, etc. The expectation for Corporate Affiliates Day is that students will sign in for all talks by external speakers.All M.S./Ph.D. students are required to take and earn an “S” (Satisfactory) in ELEC 699 as a part of his/her degree requirements for each semester in residence. Details of seminars are emailed on a regular-basis and are posted on the ECE website at ece.rice.edu. Seminars hosted or co-hosted by a student’s thesis advisor cannot be counted towards the student’s 3 seminars. Departmental attendance sheets will be provided at all seminars for the first 10 minutes. It is your responsibility to sign-in at the beginning 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 24 hours of attendance in order to receive credit.
Ph.D. Qualifier – ELEC 599
ELEC 599 serves two purposes: It allows students to begin research early in the Ph.D. program. Projects selected often serve as catalysts for publications and thesis work. It serves as the ECE Ph.D. qualifier by demonstrating one’s ability to perform independent research.
Students must pass ELEC 599 to remain in the Ph.D. program (a passing grade for ELEC 599 is indicated by a grade of A- or higher). At the end of the fall semester of the first year, students select a research project. It is the student’s responsibility to meet with faculty in the first semester and secure an advisor for 599.
ELEC 599 requirements consist of two parts:
1. Research, which is self-scheduled, with regular meetings with the student’s advisor.
2. Communications Seminars, which are 1.5 hours weekly.
Early in the spring semester students submit project abstracts and timelines, followed by the selection of two project committee members in addition to the advisor. At least two committee members must have their primary appointment in ECE as assistant, associate, or full professors. Other committee members may be adjunct faculty selected from ECE as well as faculty from ECE-related interdisciplinary departments. A spring midterm progress evaluation will be conducted with the advisor to ensure the student’s project is on track. Any problems will be referred to the ECE Graduate Committee for intervention.
In April, the ECE Graduate Program Administrator will schedule oral presentations for all ELEC 599 students. Presentations are limited to 20 minutes with a maximum of 20 slides, and questions by committee are limited to 5 minutes. The written project reports must be submitted to committees and the ECE Graduate Program Administrator by mid-April. Reports are limited to 10 pages and should be formatted in 11 pt. font and according to the LaTeX or MS Word templates given in the IEEE transaction style. Visit bit.ly/1qg7vC0 for guidelines.
It is the student’s responsibility to follow up with all committee members prior to the scheduled presentation to confirm all logistics of the ELEC 599 qualifier. Following presentations, project committees will meet to provide written evaluations, which are then submitted to the ECE Graduate Committee for final evaluation and grade.
The ELEC 599 grade is based on:
1. Overall performance on the project;
2. Motivation and enthusiasm for graduate work;
3. Quality of written presentation;
4. Quality of oral presentation;
5. Quality of research; and
6. Prospects for Ph.D. success.
Visit ece.rice.edu/academics/graduate/599calendar/ for specifics. The grading rubric can also be found on that page.
The Graduate Committee meets to determine final ELEC 599 grades, after which individual evaluation letters will be provided to students. At this meeting, the Committee will also determine whether or not previous Master’s degrees will be accepted, which will also be noted in evaluation letters.
Students who do not pass ELEC 599 will not be permitted to continue in the M.S/Ph.D. program and financial support will end on May 15. However, graduate student status may be retained without financial support until August 15.
Academic and Research Advisors
Each incoming Ph.D. 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 be responsible for meeting faculty to 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 of the program. Upon passing ELEC 599 at the end of the first year, the advisor will begin providing stipend support for the graduate student.
A few students in the ECE Ph.D. program have a thesis director/research advisor whose primary appointment is not in the ECE department. In such cases, the student’s program will still be governed by the program requirements of the ECE department as listed in this handbook and on the ECE website, and in accordance with the guidelines of the Rice University General Announcements.
All M.S./Ph.D. students in ECE complete an annual review in conjunction with their thesis advisors. The purpose of this review is to:
1) Evaluate progress towards the degree;
2) Communicate your objectives for the coming year to your advisor; and
3) Ensure a shared set of expectations between student and advisor as to what defines satisfactory progress for the coming year.
Each M.S./Ph.D. student will be asked to complete a self-evaluation each April and discuss the year’s progress with the advisor. Following this review conversation, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the annual review is submitted to the Graduate Program Administrator. Students who do not complete the annual review may not be considered in good academic standing.
If a student has not met the goals from the previous year and/or is not demonstrating satisfactory progress toward the degree, the academic advisor will prepare a written plan, including goals and deadlines, that includes clearly stated consequences of not meeting the goals. A copy of the plan will be placed in the student’s academic file.
Candidacy and Defense
M.S. Course Plan
By the end of the first week of class, the student must develop a M.S. course plan (see Section V – Degree Plan) approved by a member of the ECE Graduate Committee. It is then submitted to the Graduate Program Administrator for the student’s file. Course plans may be revised, re-approved and resubmitted at any time over the course of the degree program.
The Petition for Approval of M.S. Candidacy form is submitted to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator along with a copy of his/her final actualized course plan. The Department Chair’s signature is required on the petition, which is then submitted along with the transcript and course plan to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) for approval. See graduate.rice.edu/candidacy
for more information.
The Petition for Approval of M.S. Candidacy form is submitted to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator along with a copy of his/her final actualized course plan. The Department Chair’s signature is required on the petition, which is then submitted along with the transcript and course plan to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) for approval. See graduate.rice.edu/candidacy for more information.
One week prior to defending, the student must submit the following information to GPS, the Rice Events Calendar (events.rice.edu/rgs), and the ECE department listservs: defense date, time, location, title and abstract, as well as the names, titles and departments of committee members. See graduate.rice.edu/thesis for more information.
The M.S. student receives an initialed Approval of Candidacy form from GPS, which is signed by members of the student’s committee upon passing the M.S. defense. Within a week after the final oral examination in defense of thesis is passed, the student must upload to
thesis.rice.edu a pdf copy of the thesis and a scan of the Approval of Candidacy form, signed (and dated) by the thesis committee. The student has six months from the date of defense to submit his/her signed thesis to GPS, at which time the student becomes a Master’s Degree Candidate.
In addition to the documents required by the Graduate Office (candidacy form and copies of thesis coversheets), the students should see the ECE Graduate Program Administrator for defense evaluations to be completed by each member of the committee at the presentation. Defense evaluations should be returned to the Graduate Program Administrator immediately following the defense. Visit bit.ly/1mBBu5S for guidelines.
Additionally, if a student plans to defend and submit a thesis for the next degree conferral, students must file their applications for approval of M.S. candidacy with GPS before November 1 for mid-year conferral and before March 1 for May conferral. In addition, the defense must be completed and the thesis submitted prior to the deadline found on the registrar’s calendar.
Ph.D. Course Plan
In the semester following successful M.S. defense, the student must develop a Ph.D. course plan (see Section V – Degree Plan) approved by a member of the ECE Graduate Committee. It is then submitted to the Graduate Program Administrator for the student’s file. Course plans may be revised, re-approved and resubmitted at any time over the course of the degree program.
In order to petition for Ph.D. degree candidacy, a student must have completed 45 semester hours of advanced studies as described on the course plan and approved by the Department, and achieved at least a 2.67 (B-) in each of these courses, successfully completed ELEC 599, and earned a Master of Science degree from Rice University, or have an equivalent Master of Science degree, as decided by the ECE Graduate Committee. See graduate.rice.edu/candidacy for more information.
The Petition for Approval of Ph.D. Candidacy form is then submitted to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator along with a current transcript and a copy of his/her course plan before the start of the 9th semester (fifth year). The Department Chair’s signature is required on the petition, which is then submitted along with the transcript and course plan to GPS for approval.
Ph.D. Thesis Proposal
After a student petitions for candidacy, but before defending his/her thesis, the student must present a thesis proposal. This is done after a research direction has been decided upon and after preliminary results are achieved, but with enough time remaining to include any redirections recommended by committee members. This usually occurs over 1 year before the Ph.D. Defense and is an oral presentation to the thesis committee, no written proposal is required. The ECE Graduate Program Administrator will generate a form letter for the student’s committee members to sign in approval of the thesis proposal following the presentation. The student may only defend his/her thesis after successfully presenting the thesis proposal and upon approval of the committee members.
One week prior to presentation of thesis proposal, the student must submit the following information to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator and ECE Department listservs: proposal date, time, location, title and abstract, as well as the names, titles and departments of committee members.
Two weeks prior to defending, the student must submit the following information to GPS, the Rice Events Calendar (events.rice.edu/rgs), and the ECE department listservs: defense date, time, location, title and abstract, as well as the names, titles and departments of committee members. Visit graduate.rice.edu/thesis for more information.
The Ph.D. student then receives an initialed Approval of Candidacy form that is signed by the student’s committee members upon passing the Ph.D. defense. Within a week after the final oral examination in defense of thesis is passed, the student must upload to thesis.rice.edu a pdf copy of the thesis and a scan of the Approval of Candidacy form, signed (and dated) by the thesis committee. The student has 6 months to submit a signed thesis to GPS, at which time the student becomes a Doctoral Degree Candidate.
In addition to the documents required by the Graduate Office (candidacy form and copies of thesis coversheets), the students should see the ECE Graduate Program Administrator for defense evaluations to be completed by each member of the committee at the presentation. Defense evaluations should be returned to the Graduate Program Administrator immediately following the defense.
Additionally, if a student plans to defend and submit a thesis for the next degree conferral, students must file their applications for approval of Ph.D. candidacy in the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies before November 1 for mid-year conferral and before March 1 for May conferral. In addition, the defense must be completed and the thesis submitted prior to the deadline found on the registrar’s calendar.
Grievances and Problem Resolution
The basic path for problem resolution within the department is to consult with the Chair of Graduate Studies followed by the Department Chair. If no resolution can be found at this level, the process from the general announcements found at bit.ly/1Mbc1wp will be followed.
Rice recognizes research interests may change after a student enters a graduate program. If a student feels his/her 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 change:
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 the current advisor, obtain permission from the Chair of ECE Graduate Committee and proceed to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator, who will process the documentation required for the exchange to be used towards earning the MEE degree.
4. Only three credits of ELEC 599 may be transferred to apply towards the MEE degree.
5. An M.S./Ph.D. student who transfers to the MEE program will be responsible for reimbursing the cost of tuition for courses.
ECE Areas of Study
The ECE Department has five interdisciplinary areas of study that the M.S./Ph.D. student can choose from:
The Computer Engineering group at Rice University 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 include the on-chip integration of systems and networks.
Data scientists seek to collect and understand the structure in data, looking for compelling patterns, telling the story that is buried in the data. They get at the questions at the heart of complex problems and devise creative approaches to making progress in a wide variety of application domains. This is an emerging discipline that integrates: tools and techniques involving data acquisition; data analytics and data storage; and computing infrastructure in order to enable extraction of meaningful information from massive data sources.
The brain is essentially a circuit. Neuroengineering is a discipline that exploits engineering techniques to understand, repair and manipulate human neural systems and networks. At Rice, we develop technologies to understand, repair, replace, enhance, or treat the diseases of the nervous system. We also design, construct and study devices that interface with living neural tissue. Rice is uniquely positioned as a leader in the field thanks to the broad, interdisciplinary research performed in conjunction with the world’s largest medical center (Texas Medical Center), steps away from the Rice University campus.
Photonics, Electronics and Nano-devices:
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, including: nanophotonics and plasmonics; studies of 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; single-molecule transistors; and applications of Nanoshells in biomedicine.
Rice is a leader in Digital Signal Processing. Signal Processing is the analysis and transformation of signals in order to understand, simplify, or recast their structure. The understanding of how to analyze and restructure signals is applied to a wide range of areas, including: image and video analysis; computational neuroscience; statistical signal processing, pattern recognition, and learning theory; communication systems; and high-performance, scalable wireless internet.
Coursework is based on the student’s degree plan. The degree plan requirements for the M.S. portion of the program must include:
At least 30 credit hours beyond the B.S., including 18 hours of core and breadth courses (6 courses), 6 hours of research credit (ELEC 800), and 6 hours of ELEC 599, the Ph.D. qualifier. ELEC 699 is required for each semester in residence.
The degree plan requirements for the Ph.D. portion of the program must include 60 hours of credit beyond the Rice M.S., including 12 additional course credits (4 courses). The remaining credits can include research credits, seminars, or other courses. ELEC 699 is required for each semester in residence.
Students may be eligible to transfer up to 6 hours of credit from another university, 24 of the 30 hours required for the M.S. 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. Rice undergraduates entering the M.S./Ph.D. program may transfer course credit not applied to their undergraduate degrees, with the approval of the ECE Graduate Committee and Office of the Registrar.
Students must register for courses using ESTHER. ESTHER is the web application for students, faculty and staff. Students will use this application to register for classes and retrieve certain data such as grades and account information. For information about how to use ESTHER see section II or: registrar.rice.edu/students/esther_FAQs/
Guidelines for Independent Study
ELEC 591 - Vertically Integrated Projects at Rice University (VIP)
The Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program at Rice unites graduate and undergraduate education and faculty research in a team-based context. Undergraduate Rice VIP students earn academic credits, while faculty and graduate students benefit from the design/discovery efforts of their teams. Students interested in VIP projects should meet and consult with the faculty lead of that project. Visit vip.rice.edu for more information.
Grades, Department Duties, Academic Status
Grades—According to university guidelines, students must achieve at least a B- (2.67) grade point average (GPA) in courses counted toward the graduate degree. The ECE Department requires a B (3.0) GPA and adds the requirement that only courses in which a grade of B- or above is earned will count towards the graduate degree. Students whose cumulative GPA falls below a 2.67, or whose semester 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. The period of probation extends to the end of the next semester in which the student is enrolled. If that probationary semester results in a cumulative GPA below 3.0 or a semester GPA below 2.33, the student will immediately be dismissed without further warning. To compute GPA, the credits attempted in semester hours for each course and the points for the grade earned (from A+ = 4.33 to F = 0.00) are multiplied, then the products (one for each course) are added together, and the sum is divided by the total credits attempted.
Pass/Fail—No courses counted towards the degree plan may be taken pass/fail.
Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory—Satisfactory/unsatisfactory courses are those that do not use traditional grading procedures and instead assign a grade assign a grade of “S” or “U”. ELEC 800, Research and Thesis, is such a course. Students should be aware that while a grade of “S” or “U” does not affect their GPA, no credit is awarded if a grade of “U” is received. Courses with a grade of “S” will count towards total credits earned.
Incomplete (INC)—Instructors report this designation to the Office of the Registrar when a student fails to complete a course because of verified illness or other circumstances beyond the student’s control that occur during the semester. For an INC received in the fall semester, students must complete the work by the end of the first week of the spring semester or an earlier date as defined by the instructor, and instructors must submit a revised grade by the end of the second week. For an INC received in the spring or summer semester, students must complete the work before the start of the fall semester or an earlier date as defined by the instructor, and instructors must submit a revised grade by the end of the first week. If a grade is not submitted by the appropriate deadline, the INC will be automatically converted to a failing grade.
Audit (AUD)—Students have the option of auditing courses. For auditing students, instructors report either the AUD or the NC (no credit) grade symbol, the AUD if the student met the audit requirements of the class, or the NC if they have not. There are no credit hours associated with audited courses, and auditing a course does not affect a student’s GPA. Request to audit a class or to change from audit to credit or vice versa must be done by the end of the second week of the semester.