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Degree Requirements

Selecting an Advisor
  1. All ECE Ph.D. students are required to select an Advisor / Special Committee Chair prior to the completion of the first year in their graduate program. The Advisor must be an ECE Graduate Field Faculty Member. Failure to successfully select an Advisor / Special Committee Chair before the end of your first year will be considered a failure to make satisfactory academic progress, and may have an impact on the decision of the ECE Department to provide you with additional funding for your continued graduate program.
  2. You will be required to officially nominate your Advisor / Special Committee Chair, by submitting your nomination via the Student Center.
  3. To officially nominate and select your Advisor / Special Committee Chair
    You can do this electronically via the Student Center. Select your Advisor / Special Committee Chair from the drop-down list provided for you and indicate your choice. You will need to complete the entire transaction for your request to be successfully submitted. An automated email will then be sent for pending approval first the ECE Manager of Student Services, then your Advisor / Special Committee Chair and then ECE Director of Graduate Studies. Once all three of them have electronically indicated their approval online, the process will be considered completed and an automated confirming email will be sent. No hard copy forms are required to be submitted.
Membership of my Special Committee

You will be required to complete the same process listed above each time you make **ANY*** changes to the membership of your Special Committee. Every single time you make any changes to the membership of your Committee, you will need to initiate this same process via the Student Center. The ECE Manager of Student Services, your Advisor / Special Committee Chair, your Minor Committee Members and the ECE Director of Graduate Studies will all be notified. Once all of them have indicated their electronic approval online, the process will be considered completed. No hard copy forms are required to be submitted.

Deadline for selection of the Special Committee Membership

You should have the membership of their Special Committee completed prior to the end of your third semester in your graduate program. All ECE Ph.D. students are required to have a total of three (3) faculty members on their Special Committee in order for it to be considered complete. The first member will be your Advisor / Special Committee Chair, and the other two members are considered Minor Members. 

Choosing a minor and selecting a minor advisor

All Ph.D. students at Cornell (with a few exceptions) are required to have two minors for their Ph.D. In ECE, most Ph.D. students pick ECE as one of these minors, with another minor in a different graduate field. The two Minor Members on your Committee represent these fields. This means that most ECE students will have two ECE field members (Advisor / Special Committee, Minor Member) on their Committee, along with one Minor Member from another graduate field.

Satisfying the minor
1. What do I need to do to satisfy the requirements for my minor?

The faculty members that the student selects as their Minor Committee Members will determine the coursework necessary in order to fulfill the requirements needed to complete the minor. Generally, this amounts to several courses from the Minor Committee Member's area.

2. If one of my minors is ECE, what are the minor requirements? 

The ECE field does not impose any requirements for completion of an ECE minor. Any requirements will be determined by your Minor Committee Member.

  1. List of the Concentrations and Fields of my Advisor and Minor Committee Members
    The Graduate School lists ECE faculty under some fairly broad terms in regard to the Concentrations that can be represented on Special Committees. When you complete your Special Committee nomination process via the Student Center, you will need to select the "Special Committee Chair Concentration" for your Advisor (Chair), and there are only four Concentrations to choose from. They are as follows:
    • Computer Engineering
    • Electrical Engineering
    • Electrophysics
    • Electrical Systems

    If you have opted to have one of your Minor Committee Members also represent ECE on your Special Committee, you will also need to select one of the four options listed above for the "Minor Member Concentration." The Graduate School has put together a complete listing of all ECE Faculty along with their complete listings of approved Concentrations as well as their Research Interests:

    Listing of ECE Faculty - Approved Concentrations and Research Interests

    When in doubt, the best option to select should be the default choice of "Electrical Engineering." If one or more of your Minor Committee Members represent a graduate field other than ECE, you will also need to correctly list the "Minor Member Concentration" for each of them as well from the appropriate field. Minor Members must be approved to represent a specific concentration on your Special Committee. In order to find the correct info for your Minor Committee Members, you will need to do the following:

    1. Go to the Listing of all Cornell Graduate Fields of Study
    2. Select the Field of Study of your Minor Committee Member from the list and click on the link
    3. There will be menu bar at the top of the page. Click on the link labeled 'Faculty' and you will then be directed to the page that lists all of the Approved Concentrations and Research Interests for the graduate field of your Minor Committee Member.
    4. Please review them before completing your Special Committee selection and changes via the Student Center to be certain they are correct.
  2. How many minors are required?
    Most students pick ECE as one of their minors by having an ECE field member (in addition to their advisor) on their special committee. In this case, you have to pick only one additional minor. You can also complete two minors where both are from non-ECE fields.
If one of my minors is ECE, what are the minor requirements?

The ECE field does not impose any requirements for completion of an ECE minor. Any requirements will be determined by your Minor Committee Member.

Q Exam

The Q Exam is the opportunity for your Advisor / Special Committee Chair and Special Committee members to effectively evaluate your academic standing upon entering the Ph.D. program. The results of the exam will determine if there are any shortcomings in your academic background that will need to be supplemented by additional coursework, which will then be determined by both your Advisor/ Special Committee Chair and your Special Committee. The format of the Q Exam is up to the discretion of the student's Advisor / Special Committee Chair and Special Committee. Generally, it is an oral examination.

All Ph.D. students are required to take their Qualifying (Q) Exam preferably before the end of their second semester, and no later than their third semester as a graduate student in ECE. Failure to successfully complete the Q Exam prior to the completion of the third semester will be considered a failure to make satisfactory academic progress, and the ECE Department will no longer be obligated to provide additional funding for your graduate program.

Upon successful completion of the Q Exam, students are required to submit an ECE Qualifying Exam Results Form signed by their Advisor / Special Committee Chair and all Minor Members of their Special Committee. This form should be obtained in the ECE Student Services Office before the exam.

See the Examinations page for more information.

A Exam

You will prepare to take your Admission to Candidacy, or A Exam once you have reached the point in your graduate program when you have completed all of their required coursework as determined by your Advisor / Committee chair and Special Committee members, and have chosen a topic for your dissertation. The format of the A Exam is up to the discretion of your Advisor / Committee Chair and Special Committee. Generally, it is an oral exam.

You are eligible to take your A Exam as soon as they have earned a total of two (2) Registration Units in your graduate program. All Cornell University Ph.D. students are required to take their A Exam prior to the completion of their seventh semester in their graduate program, unless special permission is obtained from the Graduate School.

See the Examinations page for more information.

B Exam

You will prepare to take your B Exam (or Thesis Defense) once you have completed all of the necessary requirements in order to complete your graduate program. Your Advisor / Committee Chair and Special Committee will have the final determination of when you have successfully reached this point. The format of the B Exam is up to the discretion of your Advisor / Committee Chair and Special Committee. Generally, it is an oral exam.

You are eligible to take your B Exam as soon as you have earned a total of six (6) Registration Units in your graduate program. Please note that you must earn a total of two (2) Registration Units between your A and B Exams.

See the Examinations page for more information.