Students are admitted to the PhD program only in the fall semester. ECE PhD students move through the program in stages, starting as first-year student, advancing to MS candidate, PhD-qualified student, and PhD candidate; each advancement requires the approval of the ECE Graduate Committee. Students entering with previous graduate work may follow a hybrid program developed in consultation with the faculty and the Graduate Committee.
The first academic year concentrates on foundation coursework and developing a research area as well as taking and passing ELEC 599. A candidate for the PhD degree must demonstrate independent, original research in ECE. After successful completion of all coursework, a student is eligible for PhD candidacy.
The student then engages in full-time research, culminating in presentation of the PhD research proposal and then the completion and public defense of the PhD dissertation. Details of the PhD program requirements, the phases of study, and a timetable may be found on the ECE website.
Each incoming PhD student will be assigned two seasoned ECE graduate students, one in the student’s primary area of research and one from another area. Mentors will assist first-year students in academic matters, including preparation for ELEC 599, and social interaction with members of ECE and other departments. Mentor/mentee social events will be planned over the course of the first year by the Student Mentor Committee.
Upon completing the PhD degree program in Electrical and Computer Engineering, students will be able to:
1. Identify and define relevant research topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering and conduct independent research with results that advance the state of the art in the field.
2. Lead research and design groups by communicating innovative ideas effectively.
3. Solve real-world problems by integrating knowledge gained in courses and through research.
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Each student must successfully complete a project course, ELEC 599, in their chosen area of research in lieu of an oral or written qualifying exam. In addition to enabling the faculty to evaluate the student’s research potential, the project encourages timely completion of the MS degree. The student must complete a master’s thesis and successfully defend it in an oral examination. Students who have already acquired a master’s degree elsewhere must also complete the ELEC 599 project, after which acceptance of their previous master’s degree will be determined by the Graduate Committee. No ELEC 599 course in which the student earned a grade lower than a A- may count toward an MS or PhD.
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 PhD qualifier by demonstrating one’s ability to perform independent research. Students must pass ELEC 599 to remain in the PhD program. 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: Research, which is self-scheduled, with regular meetings with the student’s advisor, and 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 IEEE publication site 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:
Visit ELEC 599 Page for grading rubric and more information.
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 MS/PhD program and financial support will end on May 15. However, graduate student status may be retained without financial support until August 15.
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 three (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.
Corporate Affiliates Day is scheduled for April 3, 2020, and attendance is mandatory.
All MS/PhD students are required to take and earn an “S” (Satisfactory) in ELEC 699 as a part of their degree requirements for each semester in residence at Rice University.
Details of seminars are emailed on a regular basis and are posted on the ECE website. 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.
Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) at Rice University. This program unites graduates and undergraduate education and faculty research in a team-based context. Students interested in VIP should meet and consult with the faculty lead of that project. Visit the VIP Website for more information.
All enrolled full-time PhD students are supported with full tuition and a stipend and all first-year PhD students are supported by fellowships. Thereafter, students in good standing will be supported as Research Assistants by their MS/PhD advisors. Compensation is calculated and paid semi-monthly from August 16 to December 31 and from January 1 to May 15. Many PhD students obtain fellowships in addition to what is provided by Rice. See graduate.rice.edu/fellowship-opps for info.
Summer Support - Students should discuss their summer plans well in advance with their advisors. In order to be paid by Rice for the summer, students must register for at least 6 hours of their advisor’s section of ELEC 800. Students planning a summer internship off-campus, with advisor’s approval, must inform the Lead Financial Analyst, Cyndi Menchaca, and Graduate Program Administrator by May 1 in order to complete the financial arrangements required.
Graduate students often receive financial support in the form of graduate stipend and tuition waivers. The termination of financial support to a graduate student, while not equivalent to dismissal, is a serious action that could deprive students of their financial ability to continue graduate studies.
Active participation in required academic activities (for example, laboratory work in certain science and engineering programs) is a basic condition for continued financial support. Students who are absent from such required activities for a contiguous two weeks without permission and without mitigating circumstances may be subject to termination of financial support. Such absences may be taken as an indication that inadequate academic progress is being made. Thus, if absences have to occur, they must be pre-arranged with the student’s supervisor, except for medical and family emergencies, in which case timely notification is required.
Graduate advisors and programs should be aware of unexplained student absences and must provide immediate written warnings when students are not present and carrying out required academic activities for more than one week. The nominal vacation periods are appropriate and must be discussed with the student’s graduate advisor.
In most research degree programs, students must undertake a limited amount of teaching or perform other services as part of their training. Assigned duties should not entail more than 10 hours per week, averaged over the semester, or extend over more than eight semesters. ECE students are required to complete 6 semesters of grading as part of their training. Grader assignments are made at the beginning of each semester and responsibilities include grading coursework for the instructor and possibly delivering one or two lectures for practice and/or to fill in while the instructor is away on university business. Grading positions are required to fulfill these service obligations to the department and are unpaid.
A limited number of Teaching Assistant (TA) opportunities are available for PhD students with additional stipend supplement provided. Students should discuss these positions with the faculty member teaching the course and with their own thesis advisors prior to accepting the position. A mandatory TA training is provided by the Dean of Engineering’s office each fall and additional training opportunities are provide by the Center for Teaching Excellence. For students interested in pursuing a career in academia after graduation, the TA program provides an excellent opportunity to practice developing and delivering instructions.
Electrical and Computer Engineering PhD students move through the program in stages, starting as a first-year student, advancing to MS candidate, PhD-qualified student, and PhD candidate; each advancement requires the approval of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Committee.
The MS degree is offered only as a precursor to the PhD 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 MS degree in the case of a denied previous master’s degree. Your previous master’s degree will be denied if you switch subfields.
The MS 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 MS must be completed within 3 years of entering the MS/PhD program.
Students admitted with a previous MS degree are required to complete a minimum 18 hours of course credit in addition to ELEC 599, and 48 hours of research credit. Previous MS 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 MS degrees require the student to obtain a Rice ECE MS degree before continuing on to the PhD degree. Twenty-four of the 30 hours required for the MS must be completed at Rice; therefore, no more than 6 hours may be transferred from a previous MS degree in the case of a denied previous master’s degree.
The Rice University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) offers a graduate program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The Department does not offer a stand-alone thesis Master of Science degree; students admitted to our PhD program with a bachelor’s degree are required to earn the MS within the program before proceeding to the PhD.
The PhD 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 the concluding of 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.
Barring a written exemption from the Graduate Committee, the PhD from BS must be completed within 6 years of entering the MS/PhD program, and the PhD from previous MS within 4 years.
Each incoming PhD 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, PhD 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.
Some students in the ECE PhD 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 online, and in accordance with the guidelines of the General Announcements.
All MS/PhD students in ECE complete an annual review in conjunction with their thesis advisors. The purpose of this review is to:
Each MS/PhD 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 this 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.
Your first semester at Rice will begin with Orientation Week (known as O-Week) where you will learn about Rice and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The week will include presentations by several of the faculty you will become familiar with. You will meet your academic advisor, discuss your career objectives, and select your courses for your first semester. The first academic year concentrates on foundation coursework followed by focus on a research area. The year consists of a minimum of 18 hours of coursework as follows:
Any variance to this plan requires a written petition to and approval from the ECE Graduate Committee.
Fall (1st semester):
By the end of the first week of class, the student must develop a MS course 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. A minimum of 9 credit hours of core course-work is required.
Spring (2nd semester):
ELEC 599 (6 credit hours) 3 credit hours in core or breadth courses
Year 2 and Thesis Defense
The second year consists of research credits (ELEC 800) and the remaining core and breadth course credits.
ELEC 800 (at least 6 credit hours)
Fall (3rd Semester):
6 credit hours in core or breadth courses, ELEC 800 and/or additional course credits
MS degrees are expected to be obtained by the end of the 4th semester (second year), and no later than the end of the 8th semester. Once the student has completed the requisite hours and established a committee, the student must submit the Petition for Approval of MS Candidacy to the Graduate Program Administrator. Once the student has performed research, written a thesis, and is ready to defend, the student will schedule their oral presentations with their committees. See graduate.rice.edu/boundaries for time boundaries and graduate.rice.edu/candidacy for candidacy information.
In year 3 and beyond, the student will perform their additional coursework and ELEC 800 totaling at least 30 hours for the MS and 90 for the PhD, All Rice graduate students must petition for PhD candidacy before the start of the 9th semester (fifth year). PhD 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).
MS Course Plan
By the end of the first week of class, the student must develop a MS course 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 MS Candidacy form is submitted to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator along with a copy of their 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; the date of defense, time, location, title, and abstract, as well as the names, titles, and departments of committee members. This must be sumbitted to GPS, the Rice Events Calendar, and to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator who will publish and email to the department listservs. See graduate.rice.edu/thesis for more information.
The MS student receives an initialed Approval of Candidacy form from GPS, which is signed by members of the student’s committee upon passing the MS defense. Within a week after the final oral examination in which the defense of thesis is passed, the student must upload to website 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 their signed thesis to GPS, at which time the student becomes a Master’s Degree Candidate.
In addition to the documents required by GPS, 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, the student must file their applications for approval of MS 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.
See registrar.rice.edu/calendars for more information
PhD Course Plan
In the semester following successful MS defense, the student must develop a PhD course 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 PhD degree candidacy, a student must have completed 45 semester hours of advanced studies as described on the course plan and approved by the Department. While having achieved a grade of B- or above 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 PhD 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.
PhD Thesis Proposal
After a student petitions for candidacy, but before defending their 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 PhD 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 their 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 to publish to the 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: defense date, time, location, title and abstract, as well as the names, titles and departments of committee members. This information must be sumbitted to GPS, the Rice Events Calendar events.rice.edu/rgs, and to the ECE Graduate Program Administrator to publish to the department listservs. Visit graduate.rice.edu/thesis for more information.
The PhD student then receives an initialed Approval of Candidacy form that is signed by the student’s committee members upon passing the PhD 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 GPS, the student 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 PhD 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. See registrar.rice.edu/calendars for more information.
The basic path for problem resolution within the department is to consult with the Graduate Program Chair followed by the Department Chair. If no resolution can be found at this level, the process from the general announcements found in the GA Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities section here will be followed.
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, or group, or 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 interest, 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 their degree.
4. An MS/PhD student who transfers from their program to the MEE program may be responsible for reimbursing the cost of tuition for courses taken while in the MS/PhD program.