Electrical and Computer
Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering
The Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, offered by the Department
of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the only combined electrical engineering
and computer engineering doctoral program in Virginia. The program prepares students
for leadership positions in research and development in industrial, government,
and academic settings. The program includes course requirements, a qualifying
examination testing fundamental concepts and the ability to think creatively,
a teaching requirement, a research competency examination and dissertation proposal
defense, dissertation research, and a dissertation defense. Students may choose
to emphasize in such areas as communications, networking, computer engineering,
control and robotics, signal processing, electronics, photonics, and electromagnetics.
The general doctoral requirements of George Mason University apply to this program.
All general George Mason University and specific School of Information Technology
and Engineering admission requirements apply. Students typically admitted to the
program hold M.S. degrees in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and
other related areas. Students holding European (or equivalent) diploma degrees
may also be considered for admission. The application material for each student
is reviewed by the departmental doctoral committee, which makes a recommendation
to the department chair.
Each student, upon admission to the program, is assigned a faculty member as
advisor. Upon passing the qualifying examination, the advisor is replaced by (or
becomes) the dissertation director. All decisions concerning the student's course
requirements and selections have to be approved by the Ph.D. advisor with the
consent of the chair of the ECE Department.
A dissertation committee is formed within a year after the student has passed
the qualifying examination. The committee is headed by the dissertation director,
and has two more faculty members from the ECE Department and one from outside
the department. One more member, from outside the university, may be added to
the dissertation committee if justified by the subject of the dissertation. The
composition of the dissertation committee must be approved by the chair of the
The total credit required after the B.S. degree is 72 hours, of which 24 hours
typically is thesis research. Students entering with M.S. degrees may use up to
24 credits of course work from their M.S. programs, subject to approval. Students
entering with European diploma degrees may use some course credit, subject to
individual consideration, but not more than 24 hours.
Of the required 48 credits of course work, at most 12 credits may be at the
500 level and at least 12 credits have to be at the 700 level or higher. For courses
taken elsewhere, the equivalent levels are to be determined by the Ph.D. advisor,
subject to the approval of the chair of the ECE Department. Individualized reading
courses at any level cannot account for more than 6 credits.
Each student is required to take one graduate course (6 credits) at the 600
level outside the department in a subject considered foundational for his/her
area of specialization. Typical examples would be advanced mathematics or statistics
courses for those wishing to pursue an emphasis in signal processing or control,
physics courses for those desiring an emphasis in electronics, and computer science
courses for those pursuing the computer engineering emphasis. Since such courses
are usually not taken for M.S. degrees, this requirement can rarely be satisfied
with a course taken previously.
Each student is required to take two courses (6 credits) within the department
but outside his/her area of emphasis. This requirement may be satisfied with courses
taken during previous studies, subject to approval.
The 24 hours of dissertation research (ECE 998 and ECE 999) must include at
least 12 hours of ECE 999. The dissertation proposal must be approved by the dissertation
committee before the student may enroll in ECE 999.
The department offers a doctoral qualifying examination twice each year. The
exam is to test primarily the student's familiarity with fundamental concepts
and the ability to think creatively.
Students have to take the qualifying examination within the first semester
after they have completed 24 credit hours past the B.S.. The qualifier consists
of a written, in-class examination and an oral interview, the latter administered
by the doctoral committee. Only students passing the written part proceed to the
interview. The written exam is offered in at least six course subjects (see tentative
course list below). The student has to select three of the course subjects, of
which one has to be outside his/her area of emphasis. The exam may be repeated
once. A student failing the exam twice is removed from the program.
Tentative list of qualifying exam subjects/courses:
- CS 571 Operating Systems
- ECE 511 Microprocessors
- ECE 521 Modern Systems Theory
- ECE 528 Random Processes in Electrical and Computer Engineering
- ECE 535 Digital Signal Processing
- ECE 542 Computer Network Architecture and Protocols
- ECE 545 Introduction to VHDL
- ECE 546 Parallel Computer Architectures
- ECE 548 Sequential Machine Theory
- ECE 565 Introduction to Optical Electronics
- ECE 584 Semiconductor Device Fundamentals
- ECE 586 Digital Integrated Circuits
To acquire lecturing and teaching experience, each doctoral student is required
to participate in the department's teaching activity. This typically takes the
form of working as a recitation instructor. The minimum requirement is one full
semester of such activity in one course, or equivalent arrangements approved by
the doctoral coordinator.
Research Competency Examination and Dissertation Proposal
Upon completing all course work requirements, the student takes an oral research
competency examination to demonstrate his or her knowledge and preparation for
dissertation research. The exam covers the knowledge derived from higher level
courses taken, familiarity with the relevant technical literature, and preliminary
thoughts about the proposed research. The exam is administered by the student's
The student prepares a written dissertation proposal outlining the contents
of the dissertation and the research activities leading up to it. The dissertation
proposal is submitted to the dissertation committee for approval. The proposal
is orally presented by the student, preferably as part of the research competency
Dissertation Research and Defense
The student conducts dissertation research under the guidance of the dissertation
director, with regular consultation with other members of the dissertation committee.
During this period, the student has to present research results at least once
in the form of a departmental seminar. The dissertation must represent an achievement
in research; it must be a significant contribution to its field and should be
deemed publishable in refereed journals or at highly selective conferences. Upon
completion of the dissertation, a public defense is administered by the dissertation
committee. This may be preceded by a pre-defense in the presence of the committee
members only, at the discretion of the committee. A copy of the dissertation must
be placed in the university library four weeks prior to the public defense.
Following a successful public defense, and the completion of the final form
of the dissertation, the dissertation committee recommends the candidate for the
degree of doctor of philosophy.