Doctoral Program (PhD)

Students in a boat.

The PhD program provides an advanced level of study and training for the development of research-level scholars with expertise in human factors, operations research, or production systems.

Degree Specializations

Students graduate from the program having demonstrated, by means of their dissertations, their ability to make original and significant contributions to the fields of:

Entrance Requirements

Students may be admitted to the PhD program if they hold a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering or any of the mathematical, physical, behavioral, or health sciences. Admission to the PhD program requires a demonstration of a high level of performance in previous academic studies and unique promise for making significant research contributions. Those students who are admitted directly to the PhD with a bachelor's degree will have the option to earn an MS degree during their course of study.

If you are currently enrolled as an MS student, you may apply to the PhD program after your second semester of full-time work.

The application to the PhD program by students currently enrolled in the MS program should be in the form of a letter, addressed to either the Director of Graduate Studies or the Department Chair, that requests consideration for admission to the PhD program. The letter should be submitted to the Departmental Graduate Secretary. A letter must also be submitted to the Department by an EE faculty member stating willingness to serve as your major advisor.

Credit Hour Requirements

Beyond the basic requirements, the courses taken in a PhD program are determined by the student's objectives, interests, background, and experience.

The equivalent of at least three years of full-time graduate study beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for completion of the PhD program. At least one year must be in full-time residence. In general, formal coursework (including that taken for the MSdegree) takes two or three years, while the dissertation effort demands, in general, at least one year of full-time concentration in residence. The PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credit hours of work.

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Electrical Engineering impose limits on dissertation credits which are applicable toward graduate degree requirements. Additionally, a maximum of 30 credit hours from a Master's degree may be applied toward the 72 credit hour requirement for the PhD degree. Of these, no more than six credit hours may be derived from a master's thesis.

A minimum of 12 credit hours of dissertation research is required. At most 30 hours of dissertation credit may be applied toward this minimum. The variable credit dissertation exists to allow students flexibility to take additional content courses. It does not impact the expectations for the scope and effort of the dissertation. Hours earned from supervised teaching and research, and the Departmental Seminar do not count toward the 72 hours needed.

Important milestones of the PhD program include: formation of the PhD committee, successful completion of the Written Qualifier and Dissertation Defense Examinations, research proposal defense, and dissertation defense.

The PhD is not a degree conferred on the basis of credit hours accumulated, tests passed, or time elapsed. Students in the program commit themselves to excellence in their fields, and to whatever amount of study and effort the attainment of excellence may require.

PhD Written Qualifier Examination

Admission to formal candidacy for the Ph.D. degree requires successful completion of the EE Ph.D. qualifying examination. The purpose of this examination is to determine whether the student has sufficient knowledge of the EE principles which are essential for conducting advanced research toward a PhD degree. 

The student presents a research topic selected by the Advisor in front of their committee . The committee is comprised of four (4) EE-faculty members, with the Advisor being one of them. The student will orally demonstrate capabilities of conducting a literature review on the chosen topic, in-depth analysis of state-of-the-art research articles, reproduction of results from the chosen literature, and potential directions of innovation (if any).  During the presentation, committee members will ask questions regarding the research topic and fundamental knowledge. A written report should be also provided to demonstrate the student’s writing skills.

The PhD Committee

Soon after a student passes the PhD qualifier exam s/he will form a committee of faculty members who will work with the student closely on dissertation research. By the time the student is ready for the PhD Advanced Examination (Prelim) s/he should have determined, at least in approximate terms, a research area, and should have identified a faculty advisor who is willing to supervise the work. This faculty advisor, sometimes called the "major professor" or "committee chair," will ordinarily head the committee that administers the advanced examination, defense of dissertation research proposal, and dissertation defense. The major professor must be a member of the Graduate Faculty. This committee must include at least three other members of the university faculty who hold the rank of Assistant Professor or higher in the University Faculty.  The major professor can help identify faculty members who share an interest in the topic, and who would be willing to review the dissertation and serve on the examining committee. 

A student can always elect to have more faculty members on their committee than specified. These additional committee members do not have to be members of the graduate faculty or even faculty at UB. The PhD committee will play a major role in setting requirements for the successful completion of your program. Be sure to follow their advice carefully. 

In addition, departmental policy allows the committee chair to elect to have an outside reader evaluate the PhD dissertation. The outside reader is not part of the committee.

Defense of Dissertation Proposal

When you have identified a research topic, thoroughly acquainted yourself with previous work in that area, and explored the topic well enough to have developed a credible research plan, write it all down in a clear and concise way, and you will have a dissertation proposal.

A copy of the proposal must be submitted to each member of your PhD committee, and defended two weeks later in an oral examination of approximately two hour duration. Failing the defense of proposal twice constitutes grounds for dismissal from the program. The research proposal defense must take place within one year of passing the PhD qualifier exam.

Schedule your research proposal defense after your major professor is satisfied that your topic is significant, your research plan is sound, and your qualifications are adequate to tackle the problem. Do not hesitate to discuss your proposal with the members of your committee in advance. Above all, do not postpone the defense until after you believe the work is substantially complete—if the committee discovers, for example, that your methodology is flawed, you may have wasted a great deal of time and effort.

You should not view the defense of research proposal as an adversarial process. While the committee must necessarily ask probing questions to determine the extent of your preparedness, the soundness of your plans, and the significance of your proposed work, the committee is also likely to provide insights and guidance that could greatly improve your dissertation.

Defense of Dissertation

Before the PhD is conferred, the student must successfully defend the dissertation in an oral examination administered by the committee.  Immediately following the dissertation defense, the M-Form should be completed by all members of the committee and the student.

Time Limit for Degree

The time limit for finishing all PhD degree requirements is seven years from the first registration date in the graduate program, excluding approved leaves of absence.

Petition for an extension of time limit requires departmental approval. The student must be currently making active progress toward the degree. The SEAS Divisional Committee will consider each petition and, in certain cases, it may set a deadline for completion of the program. The extension of time limit is normally granted for a period of one year or less. The Graduate School has the ultimate authority to grant a time limit extension.