Apr 17, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Computer Engineering, Ph.D.

Students receiving a Ph.D. in computer engineering are expected to achieve and demonstrate a mastery of the discipline and to significantly advance the state of knowledge through an original research effort.

Admission Requirements

Applicants are required to satisfy the following:

  1. An M.S. degree in computer engineering or a related field, including computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics or physics, from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association, or completion of an international degree that is equivalent to a U.S. master’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing. In the case of direct admission without a previous M.S. degree, the baccalaureate degree must be conferred prior to the time the student begins classes as a graduate student, and the student will fulfill the requirements for, obtain an M.S. degree, and then continue working toward the Ph.D. Also, the student’s GPA must be at least 3.400 on a 4.000 scale in the student’s junior and senior years.
  2. Excellent academic performance in all completed coursework, with a GPA of at least 3.000 on a 4.000 scale.
  3. A reasonable level of mathematical maturity.
  4. Submission of a complete application, including a statement of purpose, official transcripts for all previous undergraduate and graduate studies and payment of appropriate application fee.
  5. Submission of official GRE graduate school admission test scores.
  6. Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can judge the applicant’s potential success as a doctoral student.
  7. Submission of a notarized financial certification form (graduates from foreign countries only). Before being considered for admission, all international students whose native language is not English and who have not graduated from an American university must provide official proof of English proficiency before their applications may be considered for admission. Scores from TOEFL, IELTS and Duolingo will be accepted as long as they meet the minimum requirements specified by Lyle School of Engineering.

Degree Requirements

In addition to meeting the Lyle School of Engineering requirements for the Ph.D. degree, candidates are required to satisfy the following:

  1. The graduation requirements fall into the categories of completion of a specified number of graduate credits in appropriate subjects with an acceptable GPA, demonstration of understanding of the discipline of computer engineering as evidenced by examination and completion of a substantial research effort documented in a doctoral dissertation. Doctoral students must maintain at least a 3.000 GPA every term and at least a 3.300 overall (cumulative) GPA during their course of study.
  2. All requirements must be completed within seven years of entry into the program.

The steps for completion of the doctoral program are:

  1. Initial advising.
  2. Basic coursework to prepare for the commencement of research work.
  3. Selection of a dissertation director and supervisory committee.
  4. Advanced coursework in the chosen research area and guided thesis research to prepare for the qualifying examination.
  5. Successful completion of the qualifying examination as determined by the doctoral advising committee.
  6. Dissertation research supervised by the candidate’s doctoral adviser.
  7. Successful defense of the research leading to the Ph.D.

Any deviation from the stated requirements must be approved in writing from the student’s adviser and department chair.

Initial Advising

Upon entry into the Ph.D. program, students are assigned a faculty adviser who acts as an academic adviser. The responsibilities of this adviser are to examine the student’s prior background and current state of knowledge and to recommend courses to be taken in preparation for the commencement of research work.

Credit Requirements


All students entering the program are expected to possess knowledge equivalent to the following CS and ECE courses:

  • CS 1341 - Principles of Computer Science
  • CS 1342 - Programming Concepts
  • CS 2240/ECE 3381 - Assembly Language Programming and Machine Organization
  • CS 2341 - Data Structures
  • CS 2353 - Discrete Computational Structures
  • CS 3342 - Programming Languages
  • CS 3353 - Fundamentals of Algorithms
  • CS 3381/ECE 2381 - Digital Logic Design
  • CS 4344 or ECE 5376 - Computer Networks and Distributed Systems
  • CS 4345 - Software Engineering Principles
  • CS 4381/ECE 3382 - Digital Computer Design

Graduate Credit Hours

A minimum of 54 graduate credit hours is required beyond the baccalaureate degree in order to achieve the Ph.D. degree. Of this, a minimum of 21 credit hours must be at the 8000 level. In addition to these 54 credit hours, 24 credit hours are required for dissertation credit. Of the 54 graduate credit hours, a maximum of 30 credit hours may transfer from an appropriate major from another institution.

Core Courses

The following core courses must be taken at SMU if the student has not received credit for these at another university:

Minor Requirement

A minor, usually in an area of computer science, electrical engineering, computer engineering or mathematics, with a minimum of 12 credit hours supporting the chosen research area is required. The minor requirement may be satisfied by transfer credit.


No graduate credit is earned for a course in which a grade of less than C- is received. Such courses do, however, count toward the total GPA. A student must have a GPA of at least 3.000 on a 4.000 scale to graduate. If at any point a student’s GPA drops below 3.000, the student is placed on academic probation. The student then has one term to raise their GPA to a minimum of 3.000 or be dismissed from the program. For part-time students, one term is taken to mean six credit hours. A grade of I (Incomplete) affects the GPA for the term in which the grade is granted rather than when it is removed; therefore, a student is placed on academic probation if they are granted a grade of I on currently completed work in the course and that grade causes the student’s GPA to drop below 3.000.

Additional Requirements

In addition to meeting the Lyle School of Engineering requirements for the Ph.D. degree, candidates for the PhD in Computer Engineering, are required to satisfy the following:

Supervisory Committee. The supervisory committee plays an important role in guiding students and monitoring their progress at all stages of the Ph.D. program. As such, the committee should be constituted as early as possible after the student has begun doctoral work and before they have completed the coursework. The committee will be selected by the student in consultation with the dissertation director, who must be a member of the regular (tenure-track) faculty of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. The committee chair must be a member of the regular faculty of the department and will normally be the dissertation director. After the student has obtained the written consent of those selected, they must obtain the written endorsement of the department chair before transmitting the list to the associate dean for official certification. The supervisory committee is made up of at least five members. Three resident tenured or tenure-track faculty members are drawn from the student’s department, as well as one resident tenured or tenure-track faculty member from each minor field. The chair of the supervisory committee shall be a resident tenured or tenure-track member of the school faculty and shall normally be the dissertation director and a member of the student’s department. Thus, a minimum of four members must be resident tenured or tenure-track faculty of Southern Methodist University.

Qualifying Examination. The qualifying examination for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree has two parts. The first part is called the Research-based Exam:

  1. Six credit hours (dissertation or special topic under the advisor) are to be taken during that first year, which are focused on the student’s research area. These 6 credit hours should be taken in addition to courses that teach or solidify fundamentals related to the student’s research area.
  2. The exam will be oral and will be administered by the end of the first year of commencing the PhD program, by a committee consisting of at least three tenured/tenure-track faculty members, two of which must be from the ECE Department. The entire supervisory committee is not required for this exam.
  3. The student will submit a written report (at least 1 week prior to the oral exam) describing the research results from the first year, followed by an oral presentation and exam. At the oral presentation, the Committee will ask the student questions about the research results as well as questions on fundamental topics underpinning the student’s research area. The student will be able to use a whiteboard to respond. The committee will assess the student’s aptitude for doing research, as well as the student’s knowledge of the fundamental topics required for this research.
  4. If the Committee concludes that the student has passed the exam, with the Department Chair’s approval, the student may continue in the PhD Program. In addition, the Committee may recommend that one or more courses be taken that will enhance the student’s likelihood of success in the PhD program.
  5. If the Committee determines that the student did not pass the exam, the student will not be allowed to continue in the PhD program.
  6. The first part of the qualifying exam may be waived provided the student has previously successfully defended an MS thesis at SMU and the student’s PhD advisor agrees to the waiver.

The second part of the Qualifying Examination is the Oral Dissertation Proposal, which will be administered by the student’s supervisory committee (all members). The exam will be taken after the student has passed the Research-based Exam and has completed most of the required coursework.

The main focus of the Oral Dissertation Proposal will be on the research the student proposes to conduct for their dissertation. The student is expected to write up a description of the research problem, the previous results, and the approach or approaches they propose to consider in the investigation. The write-up must be made available to the supervisory committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the exam, and it should clearly indicate the significance and originality of the research, the proposed approaches and the expected results.

The student will be admitted to candidacy upon passing the Oral Dissertation Proposal. A student who does not pass the Oral Dissertation Proposal may be permitted by the supervisory committee to retake it once. If, after admission to candidacy, the student decides to change their research area, the student will be required to take the qualifying exam again and be readmitted to candidacy before being permitted to complete the dissertation.

Final Examination. Upon completion of all other requirements, the student is required to take a final examination conducted by their supervisory committee, in which the student will present the dissertation. The student will notify the Lyle School of Engineering Graduate Division in advance of the date, time, and place of the exam so that it can be publicized on campus. The student should provide copies of the complete draft version of the dissertation to the supervisory committee at least three weeks prior to the date of the final exam. It is recommended that students submit the results of their research for publication at conferences or in journals before taking the final exam.

The supervisory committee may ask questions and make comments or require changes in the dissertation to satisfy itself that the quality of the work is in keeping with the highest standards of research. If the dissertation requires substantial changes, the student should submit the revised dissertation to the supervisory committee for re-examination. At least one academic year must elapse between passing the oral dissertation proposal and degree conferral.