Princeton University

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Ph.D. Program

The doctoral program combines course work and participation in original research. Most students enter the program with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, computer science, physics, or a related discipline. Some have a master’s degree, but that is not necessary for success in the program. Every admitted Ph.D. student is given financial support in the form of a first-year fellowship. In addition, all admitted Ph.D. students are automatically considered for the prestigious Wu and Upton Fellowships.

In the first year of the program the main emphasis is on coursework. Students take courses both for proficiency within their specialty as well as for breadth. The program has no specific required courses, but there is a required minimum course count and a required minimum GPA. During the first year, students must complete a minimum of six courses in their area(s) of interest in preparation to undertake research. Each student’s assigned first-year academic advisor will assist in determining the appropriate courses. After the midpoint of the first year, each student selects a research advisor. We suggest that students speak with all the professors in their areas of interest and chat with their graduate students as part of the decision-making process. After the selection process is complete, students begin participating in a research project under the guidance of their research advisors.

Readmission for the second year is based on how well students have completed the items above. Maintaining satisfactory progress is necessary for readmission each year and for renewal of financial support.

During the second year of the program, more emphasis is placed on research participation under the guidance of a research advisor. Before the end of the second year of enrollment, students must pass the research presentation and oral exam of the General Examination. Details are available in the Department of Electrical Engineering Graduate Handbook. Students must also have completed a minimum of eight graded, graduate-level (400- or 500-level) courses with a minimum GPA of 3.3. Two of these courses should be outside the student’s major research area. These are minimum requirements. A student’s particular research project may necessitate the completion of additional courses or other requirements.

From the third year onward, the primary emphasis is on the research project. Students are encouraged to write papers detailing their research results and submit them to appropriate conferences and workshops. This is an important component of the program. Many of our graduate students have been awarded prizes for best presentation or best poster at international conferences and workshops.

Prior to completion of the program, doctoral students must complete at least one assignment as a teaching assistant (TA). To be a teaching assistant, a student must first demonstrate proficiency in English by passing, or being exempted from, the Princeton Oral Proficiency Test (POPT). Students are encouraged to satisfy the POPT requirement as early as possible.

The final stage of the program requires writing a Ph.D. dissertation that should detail the new contributions to knowledge that have resulted from your research. An appointed faculty committee will examine the dissertation and, if it is found acceptable, the student may then present the dissertation at a Final Public Oral (FPO) exam. In our Department, the mean time to completion of the Ph.D. is about 5 years.