PhD Program Requirements


Upon admission to the Doctoral program, you will be assigned to a faculty member who will serve as your academic adviser.  Coursework taken without adviser approval may not be accepted as part of a student's program.

Students may change advisors as their study plans develop (please contact the department for the form), and a faculty member may withdraw from serving as dissertation adviser to a Ph.D. student. The faculty recognizes its responsibility to provide adequate advising to all students, and the departmental Graduate Coordinator will ensure that all graduate students have an academic adviser. To successfully complete a Ph.D. dissertation, it is essential that you work very closely with your adviser.

Degree Requirements

In addition to the University doctoral degree requirements listed in the PSU Bulletin, a candidate for the Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering must complete a minimum of 80 graduate credits consisting of at least 45 ECE graduate credits, 8 elective graduate credits and at least 27 credits of ECE 603 (dissertation).  Of the 45 ECE credits, 32 credits must come from ECE lecture courses (24 lecture credits if the student successfully completed an ECE MS Thesis).  The 8 elective credits may come from any academic department, but must be lecture credits only.

Each Ph.D. must have at least one journal publication. Specific course requirements depend on the student’s area of emphasis, and the student’s program must be approved by his/her academic adviser. Students in the Ph.D. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering are required to pass a comprehensive examination (written or oral) after completing a substantial amount of coursework. They are also required to obtain approval of their proposed research plan by their doctoral committee before they can be advanced to candidacy. A dissertation containing a real contribution to knowledge based on the candidate’s own investigation and a final oral dissertation defense are required. The dissertation must show a mastery of the literature of the subject and be written in credible literary form. The defense is public and its schedule must be posted in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at least two weeks in advance. Please contact the Graduate Coordinator ( to schedule the defense and announcement.  

Lecture courses taken under the undifferentiated grading option (P/NP) shall not be used to satisfy any graduate degree program requirements. All coursework must be completed with a grade of B- or better.

Students should choose a research topic and adviser for their dissertation.

Check List for Ph.D. Degree Requirements

  1. Appointment of the Advisory Committee (ECE-PhD-1)
  2. Study Plan (ECE-PhD-2) Approved by the Advisory Committee
  3. Research Proficiency Exam Passed
  4. Doctoral Dissertation Committee Approved (GO-16D)
  5. Residency requirement
  6. Dissertation Proposal Approved (GO-23D)
  7. Advancement to Candidacy
  8. Minimum of 3 years beyond BS degree
  9. Journal Publication Requirement
  10. Final Oral examination – Dissertation Defense (GO-17D)
  11. Dissertation Signature Page

Forms can be found on the Graduate School website.

Doctoral Degree Timeline

Study Plan Approved by the Advisory Committee

Students are required to complete a tentative degree plan that has been approved by their advisory committee not later than the second quarter of their residence at PSU. A Ph.D. Study Plan form for this purpose is available in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Office. Coursework taken without adviser approval may not be accepted as part of a student's program.

Research Proficiency Exam

Every Ph.D. student is required to take the Research Proficiency Exam (RPE) by the end of their second year at PSU. Students shall demonstrate their ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate a body of knowledge within their domain of research. This satisfies the university’s Comprehensive Exam requirement.

  • Years are counted from the term in which the student enters the Ph.D. program.
  • Extensions to the two-year period may be granted by the student's advisory committee in consultation with the ECE director of graduate studies. In particular, part time students may routinely obtain an extension to three years. The extension cannot exceed the university limits, which are currently 5 years if entering with MS degree and 7 years otherwise.

The exam consists of a written research paper and an oral presentation:

  • Students must complete the scholarship methods sequence before taking the RPE
  • The student is assigned a three-person RPE committee created by her/his advisor, and with approval by the ECE graduate committee.
  • The committee members must be knowledgeable in the research area. If appropriate, one member of the committee may be a faculty member from a different department or institution, with approval of the ECE graduate committee.
  • The student conducts research on a problem and writes a paper that is in a format appropriate for publication at a conference or workshop in that research area. Standard formatting can be used as appropriate for that area.
  • The student schedules the RPE presentation with the RPE committee.  
  • Presentations can take place at any time during the academic year, and need not be coordinated with each other.
  • The presentation is open to all and the paper is circulated to the faculty two weeks before the presentation
  • The format is typical technical talk that first motivates the problem, then describes related work, followed by the research contributions.

The 3-person committee decides on a Pass/Fail/Retake:

  • A decision to pass must be unanimous
  • In case of a retake, the student must retake the exam within six months
  • The exam can only be taken twice

Dissertation Proposal

All Ph.D. students must successful present a proposal of the dissertation subject to an approved dissertation committee. Students have a maximum of three years from the completion of comprehensive examinations to advancement to candidacy. Under no circumstances may a student defend their proposal more than two times. This rule applies even if the faculty adviser or dissertation committee members change. Failure to comply with this requirement and its deadlines will result in automatic dismissal from the Ph.D. program.

A proposal defense is not valid without a dissertation committee approved by the Graduate School. A completed GO-16D Appointment of Doctoral Dissertation Committee must be submitted to the ECE Department at least six weeks prior to the tentative proposal date. The PhD dissertation committee must consist of not less than three ECE faculty members, all of which must hold tenure/tenure-track faculty appointments in the ECE department equal or greater than 0.5 FTE. The committee chair must hold an ECE tenure/tenure-track faculty appointment.

Effective January 13th, 2021: The Graduate School leadership has eliminated the role of Graduate School Representative (GS Rep) from dissertation committees. 

  • Doctoral committees will still require a minimum of 4 (and a maximum of 6) eligible members.
  • The revised GO-16D form is now available on the Graduate School website.
  • This change is effective January 13th, 2021 for committees appointed in the future.
  • For GO-16D forms that have been submitted but not yet approved by the Graduate School, the Graduate School will reach out to confirm how each student and adviser would like to proceed.
  • For doctoral students who already have committees appointed, the committee will remain unchanged unless you want it to be changed. To support continuity, we recommend that the person currently serving as GS Rep remain on the committee; however, they will no longer be functioning as a GS Rep and will be considered a regular member.
  • If committee changes are needed due to this policy change, please contact the Graduate School directly.

Not less than two weeks prior to the date of the exam the student shall give each dissertation committee member a written proposal describing the research topic of the PhD dissertation. This written proposal submitted to the committee for approval should be sufficiently detailed and clear to provide a blueprint for the study to follow. The proposal is expected to include the following:

  1. General nature and present status of knowledge of the problem.
  2. The theoretical and empirical framework within which the proposed problem exists.
  3. The significance of the proposed research and its likely contributions.
  4. The research methodology to be used.
  5. A timeline for conducting the research and completion of the dissertation

The committee will have at least two weeks to read a student’s written proposal and make a decision if the student is ready for the exam. The exam can be postponed to allow the student to make improvements indicated by the Ph.D. dissertation committee members.

The defense is public and its schedule must be posted in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at least two weeks in advance. Please contact the Graduate Coordinator ( to schedule the defense and announcement.

The exam itself begins with an oral presentation by the student describing the proposed research effort, which will be the topic of the PhD dissertation. The dissertation committee may ask the student questions about the oral presentation, the written proposal or any questions necessary to determine if the student has a sufficient background and preparation necessary to conduct the research. The exam shall not exceed three hours.

Advancement to Candidacy

Once the dissertation proposal is approved, the student will be advanced to candidacy.  The student is informed by the Dean of the Graduate School of advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree. A doctoral candidate has a minimum of four months and a maximum of five years from the effective date of advancement to candidacy to complete all requirements for graduation.  Failure to comply with this requirement and its deadlines will result in automatic dismissal from the Ph.D. program. Please see the Graduate School section of the PSU Bulletin for more details.

PhD Program Progress Review Policies

Once a student has passed the comprehensive exam, the ECE graduate affairs committee will ask each PhD student to submit evidence of progress toward completing the degree. The following are evidence will be considered:
- Present a poster or presentation at the annual ECE PhD day.
- Publish and present a conference paper.
- Publish a journal paper.
- Give a graduate seminar

Absent this evidence, a 2 page progress report must be submitted.

The submission deadline for any evidence of progress is due by April 30th. The annual evidence of progress will become part of the student’s file.

The ECE graduate affairs committee, after consulting with the student’s advisory or dissertation committee advisor, can put students on probation for one year if no or insufficient progress is reported. A letter signed by the Graduate Program Director and the Department Chair will notify the student of the probation period.

If the graduate committee, after consulting with the student’s advisor, determines that insufficient progress was made during the probation period, the student can be dismissed from our graduate program.

If a faculty advisor wants to appeal, he/she can make a motion during a faculty meeting to overturn the committee’s decision to dismiss the student. The advisor must notify the department chair in writing of the appeal within 20 days of the committee's decision.



All students admitted to graduate studies (regular, conditional, and graduate certificate) at Portland State University must maintain a GPA of at least 3.00 for all graduate credit earned at Portland State University. An admitted student is placed on probation if:

The student's cumulative graduate GPA at Portland State University, based on the completion of 9 graded graduate credits at Portland State University, is below 3.00 at the end of any term; or

The student's term graduate GPA, based on a minimum of 6 graded graduate hours, is below 2.67 for a given term.

While on academic probation the student will not be permitted to graduate, to be advanced to doctoral candidacy, to receive approval of the masters degree program (GO-12 form), to receive or continue to hold a graduate assistantship, or to register for more than a total of 9 credit hours in any term. Removal of academic probation occurs if the cumulative graduate GPA is brought to 3.00 within the next 9 graduate credits in graded courses in the case of probation due to a low cumulative GPA, or both cumulative and term GPA of 3.00 or above in the case of probation due to a low term GPA.


A student who is disqualified may not register for any graduate courses at PSU for at least one calendar year. Disqualification occurs if:

1. The student on academic probation for low GPA fails to achieve a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.00 or higher within the next 9 graduate credits in graded courses; or
2. The student on probation for a term GPA of below 2.67 does not receive at least a 3.00 term GPA, and does not achieve a 3.00 cumulative GPA with the next 9 graded graduate hours, if applicable; or
3. The student becomes subject to academic probation for a second time. 
Readmission after Disqualification

A disqualified student may petition for re-admission as a degree-seeking student in a graduate program after one calendar year. Re-admission after the mandatory one-year period is initiated by the student's filing of a petition for re-admission to the Graduate Council through the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. Re-admission is not automatic. To be readmitted the student must meet all current admission requirements with the exception of the graduate GPA.

If the student's graduate program has recommended re-admission, the Graduate Council may grant re-admission, with or without additional academic requirements, or may recommend continued disqualification. The readmitted graduate student is subject to all University and program requirements in effect at the time of readmission. The student must raise the PSU cumulative graduate GPA to 3.00 or better with 12 credits of graded graduate coursework after re-admission, or she/he will be disqualified.

Graduate courses completed at other institutions while a student is under disqualification at PSU will not be applied toward a graduate program at PSU.


A student in good academic standing may petition for a leave of absence of up to one year. The leave of absence status ensures the student will not be dropped from the program during an extended absence.  Students formally apply for a leave of absence, in writing, to the Chair of the ECE department graduate committee.  The application must state the dates of absence and the reason why the leave is requested. Any supporting documentation should be included.

A student may petition for a second leave of absence from a graduate program, but approval is required from the department chair and graduate committee of the college or school.  Any student who requests a leave of absence for a non-health related reason must provide supporting evidence that the situation prompting this request will not be repeated. The student must also present a work plan after coming back from the leave of absence. Applications submitted without this information will be returned without action.

A leave of absence will delay any ECE department degree deadlines but it does not constitute a waiver of the time limit for completion of a PSU graduate degree. Moreover, while on a leave of absence the student is prohibited from using any university resources that could contribute to completion of a degree. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, access to the university library, CECS computer accounts and the student's faculty advisor, advisory committee members or thesis/dissertation members.


If a student wishes to appeal a departmental decision then a formal request must be made, in writing, within 60 day of notification (also see section “XI. Readmission Policy” if applicable). To appeal an ECE Department decision, a student must submit an appeal packet to the ECE graduate committee chair. The appeal packet must consist of the following:

1. A statement identifying which decision should be overturned.
2. A statement explaining why the prior decision should be overturned (include any supporting documentation).
3. A letter of support from the student's faculty adviser recommending the prior decision to be overturned.

An incomplete appeal packet will be returned without action.

The ECE graduate committee will review the appeal packet and make a recommendation to the ECE graduate program director who will then render a final decision. The student will be informed of the final decision in writing.

Not all decisions can be appealed. Students must check with ECE graduate program staff prior to submitting an appeal packet (email: or phone 503.725.3002).


This policy applies to all students who were previously admitted to an ECE department graduate degree program or graduate certificate program, matriculated, and then were subsequently dropped from their ECE graduate program for any reason other than misconduct. Students removed for misconduct shall have their applications for readmission returned without action.

In this policy the phrase “graduate program” refers to a master’s degree program, a doctoral program or a graduate certificate program in the ECE department. Furthermore, the term “drop date” refers to the date the ECE department dropped the student from their degree program.

Students dropped from any ECE department graduate program must reapply within 12 months after the drop date. Any readmission application received more than 12 months from the drop date will be returned without action. Students must also comply with any university requirements for readmission.

The readmission application packet must contain the following:

  1. A statement describing why the student was dropped from the graduate program.
  2. A statement explaining why the conditions that lead to removal from graduate program no longer exist. Include any supporting documentation.
  3. Transcripts from any graduate coursework taken since being dropped from the ECE graduate program.
  4. A list of all graduate program requirements remaining before graduation.
  5. A plan showing when the remaining graduate program requirements are scheduled to be completed.
  6. A letter from the student’s faculty adviser supporting the readmission request.

The readmission packet shall be submitted to the ECE graduate program director for review. The readmission must be approved by the ECE department graduate committee.