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Graduate Program

Doctoral Electrical Engineering Degree

Program Requirements

The PhD degree requires 90 credit hours of graduate study, 60 of these being beyond a master’s degree.

All PhD students must take and pass 16 credits of ECE graduate-level coursework. At least two ECE graduate-level courses from their concentration area and at least one ECE graduate-level course from each of the other two concentration areas. These four ECE courses must be taken during the first year of study.

The Comprehensive Examination, to be completed by the end of the third semester of study, is required for continuation in the PhD program. Students may petition to extend the time for completing these requirements. Part-time students and those with a non-ECE background may need additional time.

If a PhD student wishes to pursue a MS in electrical engineering, two additional courses will be required to complete a total of 24 course credits toward the 30 required for the MS (non-thesis) degree. At least 16 of these course credits must be in ECE courses. The Comprehensive Examination will complete the MS Final Exam requirement for the MS degree.

All graduate students matriculated for the PhD degree are required to perform a certain amount of teaching assistance as part of their education. Teaching experience deepens and enriches a student’s understanding of the discipline and provides invaluable professional training and is, therefore, considered to be a vital component of any PhD program. The ECE department requires two semesters of TA experience.

For more information about program requirements see the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Bulletin or talk to an advisor. For information about financial aid and applying to the PhD program, visit the apply to Rochester page.

Proposal/Qualifyer Requirements

All doctoral students must pass a PhD qualifying examination and submit a written PhD thesis proposal in their third to fourth year of full-time graduate study.

Students who pass the PhD qualifying examination will get thesis research assistance from the Faculty Thesis Advisory Committee. The student's research advisor serves as chair. The committee meets with the student at least once each year.

Areas of Concentration and Research 

PhD concentrations and research areas are broken up into three overarching topics:

Students will take two graduate-level classes in their chosen concentration area and at least one graduate-level course from each of the other two concentration areas. The specific courses will be selected by each individual student and their research advisor.

A. Signal Processing, Music Acoustics, and Communications

Biomedical Ultrasound and Biomedical Engineering

High-frequency sound (ultrasound) is used in many areas of medicine to obtain images of soft organs in the body. High-intensity ultrasound is used to destroy kidney and gallstones without surgery (lithotripsy).

Students in this program will conduct scientific investigations that focus on the interactions of ultrasonic energy with biological materials ranging from heart and liver tissues, to bones and gallstones. Students may also conduct research on the applications of ultrasonic contrast-producing agents similar to radiological contrast and tracer techniques.

The results from these efforts are used to improve or extend clinical applications of ultrasonic techniques, both in diagnosing diseases of the heart and liver, and in therapeutic users such as lithotripsy. This work is also used to set standards for exposure of patients during examination and to improve the application of high-intensity sound for therapy.

Signal and Image Processing, Music Acoustics, and Communications

Students in this program can participate in a wide range of research including:

  • Signal research on:
    • Wide-band radar and sonar systems design
    • Digital image and video processing
    • Very low bitrate video compression
    • Medical image processing
  • Communications research on:
    • Frequency hopping codes for multiple-access-spread-spectrum communications, designed to minimize interference in radar and sonar systems
  • Digital image processing research on:
    • Image enhancement and restoration
    • Image segmentation/recognition
    • Processing of magnetic resonance images
  • Digital video processing research on:
    • 2-D and 3-D motion estimation techniques
    • Deformable motion analysis
    • Stereoscopic image analysis
    • Standards conversion and high-resolution image reconstruction
    • Object-based methods for very low bitrate video compression
  • Biomedical signal processing research on:
    • Spectral analysis in one-, two-, and three-dimensional spaces
    • Analysis and algorithms for computed tomography
    • Inverse scattering techniques for imaging tissue characterization
  • Music Acoustics
    • Internet-enabled music telepresence and immersive audio environments
    • Musical source separation and automated music transcription
    • Physical modeling musical sound synthesis
    • Music representations
    • Audio watermarking
    • Quantitative studies of musical timbre
B. Integrated Electronics and Computer Engineering

VLSI/IC Microelectronics and Computer Design

Students in this program work in a variety of VLSI/IC microelectronics and computer design research areas. Some of the current research being conducted here at Rochester includes:

  • Research in VLSI and CAE to address topics in integrated circuit design methodologies and automation.
  • Specific system-oriented research including an analytical model for multi-access protocols with prioritized messages and distributed control architecture.
  • Testability studies that explore operational parallelism in any testing process to determine the set of automated test procedures which minimizes the silicon area consumed by the built-in self-test structures.
  • Applying VLSI design and analysis techniques to develop ultrafast superconducting digital integrated circuits.
  • Designing and analyzing high performance VLSI-based digital and analog integrated circuits and their systems. Specifically, speed, area, and power dissipation tradeoffs are investigated in terms of application-specific constraints and their fundamental circuit level limitations.
C. Nanoscale Electronics, Photonics, and Acoustics

Nanoscale Electronics

In a new and ever-changing landscape of electronics needs, there has been a strong focus to work with deeply scaled nanoelectronic transistors and to go beyond conventional Si-based transistors entirely. New technologies such as spintronics, 2D electronics, phase-change electronics, neuromorphic electronics, superconducting electronics and topological electronics are becoming more important in defining what the next 50 years of electronics looks like from the device level up. 

Students in this program work in a variety of next generation nanoelectronic device research areas. Some of the current research being conducted here at Rochester includes:

  • Nanoelectronic devices with 2D van der Waals-bonded materials (graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides, phosphorene, etc…).
  • Heteroepitaxial growth of new electronic materials, or heteroepitaxial assembly of 2D vdW electronic materials. 
  • Novel spintronic and magnetic devices with unconventional magnetic materials or unconventional device constructs. 
  • Topological electronic devices implemented with quantum electronic materials.
  • Implementing new superconducting devices, along with the design/fabrication/testing of superconducting digital integrated circuits. Applications may include quantum computing or ultra high speed digital electronics. 
  • Using picosecond electrical and optical pulses to probe the transient response of semiconducting and superconducting devices, such as Metal-Semiconductor-Metal (MSM) photodiodes and tunnel junctions.


Information processing with optical pulses allows for high data rates than electronic signals. Optoelectronics research is focused on obtaining a detailed understanding of ultrafast phenomena and ultrafast nonlinearities in semiconductors and high-temperature superconductors, and at using silicon quantum dots and nanometer-size objects in optoelectronics and biosensing.

Students in this program work in a variety of optoelectronic research areas. Some of the current research being conducted here at Rochester includes:

  • Using laser technology, solid-state physics, materials science, and device physics and engineering to design novel optoelectronic devices.
  • Studying electron and hole thermalization and recombination in semiconductors and semiconductor quantum wells, and the optoelectronic properties of porous silicon, which unlike crystalline silicon emits light efficiently at room temperature.
  • Determining response times using laser processing of Y-Ba-Cu-O epitaxial thin films into oxygen-rich (superconducting) and oxygen-poor (semiconducting) regions, together with pump-probe femtosecond reflectivity measurements.


Students in this program work in a variety of acoustic research areas. Some of the current research topics here at Rochester include:

  • Acoustic wave equation
  • Plane, spherical, and cylindrical wave propagation
  • Reflection and transmission at boundaries
  • Normal modes
  • Absorption and dispersion
  • Radiation from points, spheres, cylinders, pistons, and arrays
  • Diffraction
  • Nonlinear acoustics