Doctoral Degree

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral Degree

Apply Now!

Candidates in the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in ECE are expected to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge in a specialized area. The ECE Ph.D. program consists of passing a preliminary Ph.D. evaluation—an individualized program of study—performing satisfactorily on a qualifying examination and completing a research dissertation. 

  • Admissions Requirements
  • Consideration for admission requires completion of Graduate Studies’ online application, with fee payment, by the stated deadline. Application deadlines are updated yearly and are available on our "preparing to apply" page. Applications are submitted online through the Office of Graduate Studies. Additional materials required for admission consideration include:

    ♦   A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. International applicants must meet an equivalent minimal level of study;
    Transcripts from each college-level institution attended;
    ♦   Three letters of recommendation;
    ♦   A Statement of Purpose, and a Personal History and Diversity Statement;
    ♦   Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for applications to the PhD program;
    ♦   TOEFL or IELTS score (if applicable); International applicants must meet the Office of Graduate Studies' minimum score requirement. Applicants who believe they may be eligible for a TOEFL or IELTS waiver should consult the Office of Graduate Studies page for international applicants for eligibility requirements.

    Meeting some or all of the minimum criteria does not guarantee admission, but merely eligibility. Admission decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, with emphasis placed on the promise of success in graduate studies and research, as judged by the students’ previous research experience, college record, statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. The decision to recommend admission to the Dean of Graduate Studies will be made by the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Program Admissions Committee on the basis of available space and the competitiveness of the eligible applicant pool.

    Applicants to the Ph.D. program are strongly encouraged to communicate with potential research advisors (major professors) prior to admission to the program. It is important that the prospective students contact faculty in the ECE Graduate Program (ECEGP) whose laboratories are conducting research in areas the student wishes to pursue, in order to introduce themselves and inquire about faculty willingness to accept a new student in this degree program. This process of communicating with potential major professors should begin in the fall, prior to the relevant application deadline. Applicants should take the initiative to inquire about future research directions of laboratories, exchange research ideas with potential major professors, and make every effort to identify viable research opportunities. While formal acceptance to a research group cannot occur prior to admission, it is strongly recommended that contacts should be far-enough developed such that a tentative identification of a research advisor is made concurrently with an offer of admission.

    ♦   Prerequisites: None.
    ♦   Deficiencies: Admitted students not holding a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering must complete a remedial course plan.

    Students with a background other than electrical or computer engineering will meet with the ECE Graduate Advisor during their first quarter of residence to determine the required sequence of remedial courses. Students must demonstrate competency by completing the remedial course requirements, obtaining a grade of B or better in six of the courses listed below, or their equivalents. The six courses must be selected from at least three of the six areas listed.

    1) Active and Passive Circuits:
    EEC110A Electronic Circuits I
    EEC110B Electronic Circuits II
    2) Electromagnetics:
    EEC130A Introductory Electromagnetics I
    EEC130B Introductory Electromagnetics II
    3) Physical Electronics:
    EEC140A Principles of Device Physics I
    EEC140B Principles of Device Physics II
    4) Signals and Systems:
    EEC150 Introduction to Signals and Systems I
    EEC151 Introduction to Signals and Systems II
    5) Computer Engineering:
    ECS30 Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving
    ECS40 Introduction to Software Development
    6) Digital Systems:
    EEC170 Introduction to Computer Architecture
    EEC180A Digital Systems I
    EEC180B Digital Systems II

    None of these courses can be counted toward an ECE graduate degree and cannot be taken on an “S/U” basis. Remedial courses may be taken concurrently with courses used to satisfy graduate degree requirements and must be completed prior to advancing to candidacy.

  • Course Requirements
  • ♦   Core Courses: None
    ♦   Elective Courses: None
    ♦   Summary:

    Doctoral students must acquire both a broad knowledge of the theoretical and practical aspects of their field of study, and in-depth knowledge of an area within their field. The minimum required number of units differ for students with and without an MS degree in ECE. A doctoral program of study must contain (exclusive of EEC200, EEC29X seminar series and EEC299 courses) at least:

    • 36 200-level graduate course units if the student does not have an MS degree in ECE.

    1). 20 units must be from 200-level EEC courses
    2). 16 units can be from 200-level EEC or non-EEC courses

    • 20 200-level graduate course units if the student has an MS degree in ECE.

    1). 12 units must be from 200-level EEC courses
    2). 8 units can be from 200-level EEC or non-EEC courses

    Among the total number of units listed in the program of study, at least 24 units must be taken at the UC Davis. Coursework used to fulfill degree requirements may not be taken S/U unless the course is normally graded S/U. For courses listed on the program of study, a grade point average of at least 3.5 is required. Only courses in the 200 series in which the student receives a minimum grade of “B-“ or “S” (290X series) may be counted in satisfaction of the requirements for the PhD degree. A course in which a student receives a “C+” or lower cannot be used to satisfy the unit requirement for the PhD degree but will count in determining the grade point average.

    A Doctoral Program of Study must be approved by the Major Professor, the PhD Guidance Committee, the PhD Advisor, and the ECE Graduate Study Committee. The Doctoral Program of Study form must be completed and submitted within the first 7 days of the fall quarter immediately following the passing of the Doctoral Preliminary Examination. A revised Program of Study must be submitted, and approved, each time changes are made to the coursework plan.

    Students must enroll in a minimum of 12 units per quarter including research, academic and seminar units. Once course requirements are completed, students can take additional classes as needed, although the 12 units per quarter are generally fulfilled with research units (290C and 299). Per UC regulations students cannot enroll in more than 12 units of graduate level courses (200) or more than 16 units of combined undergraduate and graduate level (100, 200, 300) courses per quarter.   

  • Special Requirements
  • All graduate students are required to take EEC290, Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering each quarter that it is offered. An S grade in EEC390, the Teaching of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is required to be eligible to hold a Teaching Assistantship in ECE, but may not be used to satisfy graduate coursework requirements. International students may need to take LIN25, LIN26, LIN391, or a combination thereof, to meet university language proficiency requirements.

    ECE requires an exit seminar. This seminar is administered by at least three faculty, who are members of the Dissertation Reading Committee or were members of the Qualifying Examination Committee for the student, and must be completed before the dissertation can be filed.

  • Committees
  • ♦   Admissions Committee
    Once the completed application, all supporting materials and the application fee have been received, the application will be submitted to the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee consists of the faculty members of ECE’s Graduate Study Committee (GSC) and the GSC Admissions Chair. Applicants who apply by the space available deadline (but after the general deadline) are not guaranteed to have their application reviewed by the graduate program. Their application will be reviewed only if the graduate program determines that they have additional space available. Based on a review of the entire application, a recommendation is made to accept or decline an applicant’s request for admission. The recommendation to accept or decline an applicant’s request for admission is forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval of admission. Notification of admissions decisions will be sent by Graduate Studies. Applications are accepted from the date the admission system opens (typically in September) through the Space Available Deadline for the next fall-entering class.

    ♦   Major Professor Selection
    The student must select a major professor from the members of the ECE Graduate Program (ECEGP) by the end of the first quarter of enrollment. In the case of a change in major professor, signatures of the previous and new major professor are required acknowledging the change. ECE’s Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, also referred to as the Graduate Program Chair, will serve as the interim advisor to the new students during the process of selecting a major professor.

    ♦   Preliminary Examination Committee
    Examination panels will be composed of two faculty members in each of the following six areas: (1) physical electronics, (2) signals and systems, (3) electromagnetics, (4) active and passive circuits, (5) systems and software and (6) digital system design.

    ♦   Course Guidance Committee
    The student must declare a Ph.D. Guidance Committee after passing the Preliminary Examination. This committee is chaired by the major professor and is made up of at least two other members. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECEGP. The responsibility of this committee is to guide the student through their program of study until the Ph.D. qualifying exam is taken.

    ♦   Qualifying Examination Committee
    The Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee consists of five faculty members including the major professor and at least one member from the student’s minor area. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECE Graduate Program. At least one member must be from outside of the ECE Graduate Program. The chair must be someone other than the student’s major professor. In consultation with his/her major professor and Graduate Advisor, the student nominates five faculty members to serve on the Qualifying Examination Committee. These nominations are submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for formal appointment in accordance with Graduate Council policy. The committee conducts the exam and submits results to the Office of Graduate Studies.

    ♦   Dissertation Reading Committee
    The Dissertation Reading Committee is a three-member committee identified by the student, in consultation with the major professor. The committee is chaired by the major professor and is made up of at least two other members. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECE Graduate Program. The third member can be either a member of the ECE Graduate Program or the Academic Senate. If the third member of the committee is neither a member of the ECE Graduate Program nor the Academic Senate, a request for an external committee membership must be completed and approved by the Graduate Advisor. If the student wishes to include two members outside the ECE Graduate Program on their committee, a four-person committee may be established. The composition of the dissertation committee is entered on the Advancement to Candidacy form and submitted to Graduate Studies for formal appointment in accordance with Graduate Council policy.

    The role of the Dissertation Reading Committee is to advise the doctoral student of the research topic and methods, then to review the final completed dissertation for acceptance. The Dissertation Reading Committee Chairperson should ascertain the level of interest from other committee members regarding their direct participation in the research and dissertation review at the time the committee is constituted. Students are expected to meet with the Chair of their dissertation committee regularly. The dissertation must be reviewed and approved (via signature) by all members of this committee. Dissertation committee members are expected to read and comment on a dissertation within four weeks from its submission. This time limit policy does not apply to summer periods for faculty holding nine-month appointments. The student and faculty will coordinate a timeline for the student to present the thesis to the dissertation committee. This timeline must allow all dissertation committee members enough time to fulfill their responsibilities within the four-week deadline.

  • Advising Structure and Mentoring
  • The major professor is the faculty member who assists the student in preparing a detailed program of study and who supervises the student’s research and dissertation. The major professor serves as the Chair of the Ph.D. Guidance Committee and Dissertation Committee. The major professor also serves as a member of the Qualifying Exam Committee.

    The Graduate Advisor, who is nominated by the department chair and appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies, is a resource for information on academic requirements, policies and procedures and registration information until the Ph.D. Guidance Committee is formed.

    The Graduate Program Coordinator should be the first person consulted on all actions regarding graduate affairs. The Graduate Program Coordinator may advise the student to contact the ECE Graduate Advisor or the Office of Graduate Studies to address particular issues.

  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Before advancing to candidacy for a doctoral degree, a student must have satisfied all requirements set by the graduate program, maintained a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all coursework listed on the program of study and passed both the Preliminary and Qualifying Examinations. Normally, students advance to candidacy by the end of their ninth quarter. The student must file the appropriate paperwork with the Office of Graduate Studies and pay the candidacy fee in order to be officially promoted to Ph.D. Candidacy. Refer to the Graduate Council website for additional details regarding the Doctoral Qualifying Examination at

  • Doctoral Preliminary Oral Examination
  • The Ph.D. preliminary evaluation process is based on an oral examination and a letter of support from a Major Professor if the result of the oral examination is intermediate. 

    Schedule and Application
    If you intend to take the oral examination, please attend the Preparing for the Prelim Workshop on Friday October 20th on Zoom 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. for instructions on how to register for the exams as well as suggestions on how to prepare. Please note that, as students taking the exam, you should not discuss the prelim problems with the examiners before or after the exams. The Preliminary exam will be held the week of January 22, 2024 and the times will be announced later once we complete the signup process. Applications for the preliminary exam are due to the Graduate Coordinator by 5 p.m. on November 3rd. 

    The oral Examination will be offered in the six areas listed below. Students are required to take the examination in at least two and no more than three areas. Scores of two areas leading to the best outcome will be used. One of these two areas should be a research area of their Major Professor.
    ♦   Electromagnetics
    This material is typically covered in courses EEC130A and EEC130B. Specific topics include:
    Electrostatics and magnetostatics. Solutions of simple boundary value problems of Maxwell’s equations in free space and in dielectrics
    Plane electromagnetic waves in lossfree and lossy media. Reflection and transmission of waves at boundaries (normal and oblique incidence)
    Transmission lines (impedance, reflection, transmission, matching, power)
    Guided waves in hollow rectangular metal guides
    ♦   Physical Electronics
    This material is typically covered in courses EEC140A-B and EEC145A. Specific topics include:
    Solid-state basics: crystal structure, electronic states, vibrational states, optical properties, electronic and heat transport properties of solids (insulators, metals, and semiconductors)
    Semiconductor technology: contacts, heterojunctions, pn junctions, bipolar transistors, and FETs
    Optical devices: LEDs, photodiodes, and photoconductors
    ♦   Active and Passive Circuits
    This material is typically covered in courses E17, EEC100, and EEC110A-B. Specific topics include:
    Complete time domain response of RLC circuits.
    Analysis of RLC circuits in complex frequency domain and with phasors.
    Analysis of Operational Amplifier circuits.
    Large- and small-signal device models for MOSFET, JFET, and BJT
    Large- and small-signal analysis of circuits containing active devices
    ♦   Signals and Systems
    This material is typically covered in courses EEC100, EEC150A, EEC150B, EEC157A, and EEC160. Specific topics include:
    Discrete- and continuous-time linear time-invariant systems and their difference- and differential equation descriptions (EEC150A, EEC150B)
    Discrete and continuous convolution (EEC150A, EEC150B)
    Laplace transform, Z transform, and transfer functions (EEC100, EEC150A, EEC150B)
    Fourier series and transform analysis of continuous-time signals (EEC150A, EEC160)
    The discrete-time Fourier transform (DTFT) and discrete Fourier transform (DFT) for discrete-time signals (EEC150B)
    Filtered signals (EEC150A, EEC150B), time-sampled signals (EEC150B), and amplitude-modulated signals (EEC160)
    Sampling theorem for bandlimited signals (EEC150A, EEC160)
    Bode plots (EEC100, EEC157A)
    Block diagram representation of transfer functions, signal flow graphs, feedback, stability, root loci (EEC150A, EEC150B, EEC157A)
    ♦   Computer Systems and Software
    This material is typically covered in courses EEC70, EEC170, ECS60, ECS122, and ECS150. Specific topics include:
    Assembly Language
    Instruction Set Design
    Instruction Pipelining
    Memory Hierarchy
    Data Structures: Arrays, Linked Lists, Graphs, Trees.
    Algorithms: Sorting, Searching, Hashing, Optimization.
    Basics of algorithm analysis
    Process Management
    File Systems
    ♦   Digital System Design
    This material is typically covered in courses EEC180A, EEC180B, and EEC172. Specific topics include:
    Boolean Algebra
    Combinational Logic
    Sequential Logic: Flip-flops, Clocking
    Programmable Logic
    Finite State Machines: Implementation & Optimization
    Memory Organization
    Computer Arithmetic
    Microprocessor-based System Design

  • Preliminary Examination
  • ♦   General Information
    The purpose of the Ph.D. preliminary examination process is to determine a student’s potential for independent research. All students are encouraged to take the preliminary examination as soon as possible after entry into the graduate program. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program who already have an M.S. degree in ECE must pass the preliminary examination within two years of admission. Students not in possession of an M.S. degree in ECE when admitted must pass the examination within their first three years. To participate in the Ph.D. preliminary examination process, a student must be in good academic standing, have full-time status, and have a major professor who signs a statement indicating his/her willingness to supervise the student provided that the student secures a “clear pass” in the examination process. A student may not participate in the examination more than twice. The Ph.D. preliminary examination process is based on an oral examination and a letter of support from a major professor if the result of the oral examination is intermediate. Each preliminary examination period takes place during the winter quarter

    ♦   Oral Examination
    The examination will be given by two faculty members in each of the following six areas: (1) physical electronics, (2) signals and systems, (3) electromagnetics, (4) active and passive circuits, (5) systems and software and (6) digital system design. Students are required to take the examination in at least two and no more than three areas. Scores of two areas leading to the best outcome will be used. One of these two areas should be a research area of their major professor. The faculty examiners will restrict themselves to questions on the topics described in the document “Preliminary Examination Topics” which will be available each year during the fall quarter. Nevertheless, since the purpose of the examination is to assess research potential, the questions may be significantly less structured than questions on written examinations, and the follow-up questions may range over a broad spectrum of related material. Each examining panel can decide the length of its exam but it must be between 15 and 30 minutes long. The oral exams will be finished by the end of the third week of the winter quarter.

    ♦   Scoring
    Each of the two examiners present will assign a score from 1 to 4, with fractional scores allowed. Generally, `1′ means a clear fail, `2′ means a marginal fail, `3′ means a marginal pass and `4′ means a clear pass. A total score of 16 is possible and the maximum exam score of each area, which is the sum of two individual scores, is 8. The following determinations are made from scores of four examiners in two areas:

      1) Clear pass if all of the following holds: the sum of all four scores is at least 12, the exam score of each area is at least 5, and no individual score (from any  of the four examiners) is less than two.
      2) Intermediate result if the student does not get a clear pass but the exam score of each area is at least 4.
      3) Clear fail if the student does not achieve either a clear pass or an intermediate result.

    ♦   Letter from Major Professor for Intermediate Result Cases
    A student who secures a "clear pass" has no other requirements and is allowed to proceed with their Ph.D. program. However, for a student in the intermediate range, a letter of support from the major professor is needed. It is understood that in order for a student to pass, the letter will have to be stronger if the student did poorly on the oral examination. The student should discuss what information their major professor will require them to provide in order to write the letter. The letter should not be more than two pages long and should be received by the Graduate Program Coordinator by the end of the sixth week of the winter quarter.

    ♦   Outcome of the Exam for Intermediate Result Cases
    The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Committee will make a recommendation on each intermediate result case by the end of the eighth week of the winter quarter. The ECE Graduate Program faculty vote will determine the final outcome, either pass or fail, by the end of the winter quarter.

  • Qualifying Examination
  • ♦   General Information
    The purpose of the Doctoral Qualifying Examination (QE) is to determine the student’s preparation to pursue his or her proposed research. It should be scheduled at the time when the student has completed all of the necessary course work and the preparation for doctoral research.

    To be eligible for examination, the student must have completed all courses in their approved Doctoral Program of Study and remedial requirements (if applicable) and passed the Preliminary Examination. A grade point average of at least 3.5 in courses on the Ph.D. Program of Study is required. At least one month before the qualifying examination is taken, a student must contact the ECE Graduate Advisor, who will confirm that all the Ph.D. courses requirements have been met and the selection of a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee will be initiated.

    Students must have full-time status during the quarter in which they take their QE. The QE must be taken as soon as coursework has been completed, typically by the 9th quarter. In no instance can the exam be taken later than two quarters before the completion of the doctoral program.

    The Doctoral Qualifying Examination may be used to fulfill certain requirements for the M.S. Plan II degree, see Master of Science degree requirements.

    ♦   Written Portion of the Exam – Research Proposal
    The student must submit a research proposal to each committee member at least 10 days before the oral portion of the exam. The format of the research proposal is flexible, but it should clearly indicate the problem under study, the progress made toward a solution, the work remaining to be done and the methods to be used in the remainder of the work.

    ♦   Oral Portion of the Exam
    The oral examination will focus on the major and minor areas of the student’s doctoral program of study. The examination is not strictly limited to these areas, as the examination is intended to test the student’s mastery of a large field of knowledge and potential for scholarly research, which is generally broader than the dissertation field.

    ♦   Outcome of the Exam
    The committee will reach a decision on the student’s performance immediately after the oral exam. The committee, having reached a unanimous decision, shall inform the student of its decision to:

    “Pass” (no conditions may be appended to this decision),
    “Not Pass” (the chair’s report should specify whether the student is required to retake all or part of the examination, list any additional requirements, and state the exact timeline for completion of requirements to achieve a “pass”)

    If a unanimous decision takes the form of “not pass” or “fail,” the chair of the QE committee must include in its report a specific statement, agreed to by all members of the committee, explaining its decision and must inform the student of its decision. Having received a “not pass,” the student may attempt the QE one additional time and the QE report must list the specific conditions and timing for the second exam. After a second examination, a vote of “not pass” is unacceptable—only “pass” or “fail” is recognized. Only one retake of the qualifying examination is allowed. Should the student receive a “fail” on the first or second attempt at the exam, they will be recommended for disqualification from the program to the Dean of Graduate Studies. In the event that the committee is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the outcome will be resolved through the Dean of Graduate Studies as well as the Graduate Council, in accordance with the procedures detailed in the Graduate Advisors Handbook GS-202.

  • Dissertation Requirements
  • ♦   Exit Seminar
    The dissertation follows Plan B with a required exit seminar. The exit seminar is open to the public. At least three faculty, who are members of the Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee or were members of the Qualifying Examination Committee for the student, must be in attendance. Upon completion of the exit seminar, students must submit an Exit Seminar Verification form. This form (and the seminar) must be completed before the dissertation can be filed.

    An exit seminar notice will go out to graduate program members and graduate students in the department. The student will provide the Graduate Program Coordinator with the date, time, location, major professor and abstract one week prior to the seminar.

    ♦   Dissertation: General Requirements
    Filing of a Ph.D. dissertation with the Office of Graduate Studies is normally the last requirement satisfied by the candidate. The deadlines for completing this requirement are listed each quarter in the campus General Catalog (available online at the website of the Office of the Registrar or from the Bookstore). A candidate must be a registered student or in filing fee status at the time of filing a dissertation, with the exception of the summer period between the end of the spring quarter and the beginning of fall quarter. The Ph.D. dissertation will be prepared, submitted and filed according to regulations instituted by the Office of Graduate Studies ( Satisfaction of this requirement must be verified by the Dissertation Reading Committee Chair.

    ♦   Dissertation:
    The doctoral dissertation should be an original substantial contribution to knowledge in the student’s major field. It must demonstrate the ability to carry out a program of original research and to report the results in accordance with standards observed in recognized scientific journals.

  • Normative Timeline
  • For students who do not have an M.S. degree upon admission to the Ph.D. program, it normally takes 9 quarters to advance to candidacy. For students who do have an M.S. degree, it normally takes 6 quarters. For most students, it takes about 9 quarters to advance to candidacy.

    The timeline below is typical for students who do not have an M.S. degree upon admission. For students who have an M.S. degree upon admission, the sequence of events listed in year two is typically not applicable and may be skipped.
  • Sources of Funding
  • Please see more information on helpful funding resources.
  • PELP, In Absentia and Filing Fee Status
  • Information about PELP (Planned Educational Leave), in absentia (reduced fees when researching out of state) and filing fee status can be found in the Graduate Student Guide:

    In order to be approved for filing fee status, a student must submit the filing fee request, along with signatures of all three members of the Ph.D. Dissertation Reading Committee, stating they have received an acceptable working draft of the dissertation. This application must be routed through the ECE Graduate Program Coordinator for the ECE Graduate Advisor’s approval and then must be filed with Graduate Studies. Filing fee is available for one quarter only, but extensions may be approved on a case-by-case basis. In the event that filing fee status expires, the student must file a readmission application.

  • Leaving the Program Prior to Completion of Ph.D. Requirements
  • Should a student leave the program prior to completing the requirements for the Ph.D., they may still be eligible to receive the master’s degree if they have fulfilled all the requirements. Students can use the Change of Degree Objective form available from the Registrar’s Office: