Aims and Scope of the Graduate Program
Award of the Bachelor of Science degree may be followed by graduate study leading to the Master of Science degree in electrical engineering, and the more advanced degrees of Electrical Engineer or Doctor of Philosophy. Because admission to graduate studies in electrical engineering at Caltech is extremely competitive, the Admissions Committee attempts to select those applicants it judges both best qualified and best suited for the graduate program. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) will not be required or considered for admission to the Ph.D. or M.S. degree programs in Electrical Engineering. The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy offers two tracks: EE only and Medical and Electrical Engineering (Med-EE). The Med-EE track is offered jointly by both departments of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering (see MedE Section), available to any students to graduate after Fall 2022; the single degree to be shown on the diploma is “Ph.D. in Medical and Electrical Engineering.”
EE Master’s Degree
Normally, the master’s degree in electrical engineering is completed in one academic year. The principal criteria for evaluating applicants for the MSEE are the excellence of their preparation for the math- and physics-oriented nature of Caltech’s graduate courses, and the judgment of the Admissions Committee on their ability to successfully pursue and benefit from the course program. The Institute does not normally admit an applicant to the master’s degree in a field in which the applicant already has a master’s degree from another U.S. institution. Financial aid is seldom offered to those who intend to complete their graduate work with a master’s degree. A joint B.S./M.S. degree is not available in electrical engineering.
135 units (100 or above) are required as approved by the electrical engineering graduate student adviser. No more than 30 units of pass/fail grades may be counted toward this requirement. Units toward this are not transferable from other schools. At least 54 units of EE letter-graded courses (courses listed or cross-listed as EE) labeled 100 or above and not counting EE 291 are required. EE 105 ac and EE 102, Electrical Engineering Seminar, is also required. Students are urged to consider including a humanities course in the remaining free electives.
Students who have been admitted to the M.S.-only program must reapply if they are interested in the Ph.D. program.
EE Degree of Electrical Engineer
The engineer’s degree may be awarded in exceptional cases. The awarding of this degree requires fulfilling the Institute requirements for an engineer’s degree and receiving a recommendation for its awarding from the candidacy oral examination committee.
EE Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
As a rule, applicants who wish to undertake research work leading to a degree of Doctor of Philosophy in electrical engineering are admitted initially only for the MSEE. They are, however, evaluated according to additional criteria, the most important of which is the applicant’s interest in and potential for research in one of the areas described below. The statement of purpose required as part of the application should clearly address this match. Considerable weight is also given to the opinions expressed in the applicant’s letters of recommendation.
During the Ph.D. applicant’s master’s degree year, evaluation continues. It is based in part on performance in courses and in part on a one-hour oral presentation scheduled early in the second quarter. As the year progresses, the electrical engineering faculty get to know the student, and the student makes contact with the professor in his or her area of research interest. Upon acceptance into a research group, the student begins research work and defers receiving the master’s degree until formal admission into the Ph.D. program. In the event that the Adviser is not an EE faculty member, the student should meet with the EE Option Representative and develop an oversight plan to monitor progress. Before the end of his or her second academic year of graduate study, the student normally takes the Ph.D. qualifying oral examination. This must, however, be done no later than the end of the third academic year.
Ph.D. applicants who already hold a master’s degree in electrical engineering from another U.S. institution may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program, but must provide sufficient information to obtain advance acceptance into a research group.
Financial aid available to a Ph.D. applicant includes teaching assistantships and fellowships. TA duties consist of grading papers or lab instruction but not classroom lecturing. A fellowship may be supplemented by a teaching assistantship, and either or both include a full tuition scholarship. Tuition scholarships alone are not available. If financial aid is not requested, or if the box on the application form labeled “willing to come without aid’’ is checked, information on the source of funds for each year of intended graduate study must be included.
Med-EE Track Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Admission to candidacy. To be recommended for candidacy for the Med-EE Ph.D. program, each student must do the following.
- Complete a minimum of 156 units of courses. The MedE requirement of 21 units of MedE courses plus the EE requirement of 135 units must be met. Cross-listed MedE/EE courses can be double counted.
- MedE course requirements
- Complete the three-term seminar sequence, MedE 100abc (1 unit), with a passing grade.
- Complete MedE 101 (9 units) with a passing grade. Introduction to Clinical Physiology and Pathophysiology for Engineers.
- Complete a 9-unit MedE course. Biomechanics/fluidics: MedE/BE/Ae 243 (9 units), ChE/BE/MedE 112 (9 units) or ChE103b (9 units). Medical Imaging: MedE/EE 268 (9 units). Biomedical Optics: MedE/EE 168abc (9 units each). Design and Construction of Biodevices: BE/EE/MedE 189ab (12 and 9 units).
- All required courses must be taken for grades and passed with a grade no lower than C, except for those courses offered only for pass/fail.
- EE course requirements
- Complete 135 units total with no more than 30 units of pass/fail.
- Complete 54 units of letter-graded EE courses numbered 100 or above towards the 135-unit requirement.
- Complete 27 units of mathematics courses, with letter grade no lower than C. Many math-related courses can count towards the requirement after confirming with your advisor and option representative.
- Complete 18 units of research in his or her field of interest directed by your advisor.
- MedE course requirements
- Pass the oral qualifying and oral candidacy exams of the Electrical Engineering department for students having chosen Electrical Engineering as the home department. Please refer to the MedE Section for the reciprocal requirement.
To be recommended for candidacy for the doctor’s degree, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements (and pass the Ph.D. qualifying oral examination) no later than the end of the third academic year:
- Complete 18 units of research in his or her field of interest.
- Obtain approval of a course of study consisting of at least 135 units of advanced courses in electrical engineering or the related subjects approved by the Ph.D. adviser, with at least 54 units of letter-graded EE courses numbered 100 or above (not counting EE 291). Only up to 27 units in research (e.g., EE 291) may be counted in this total. No more than 30 units of pass/fail grades may be counted toward this requirement. The courses taken to satisfy the math requirement below and courses taken to fulfill the Master of Science degree requirement may be included to satisfy this requirement. Units toward this requirement are not transferable from other schools.
- Pass 27 units of mathematics courses, as approved by the student’s research adviser, with letter grade no lower than C.
- Pass a qualifying oral examination covering broadly the major field. Students are strongly encouraged to do this before the end of the second year of residency.
The Ph.D. qualifying oral exam and the final defense exam are conducted by committees that are set up by the student and approved by the option representative. Members of these Ph.D. committees also serve as second or backup mentors in cases where such additional advising and problem solving are appropriate.
Thesis and Final Examination
The candidate is required to take a final oral examination covering the doctoral thesis and its significance in and relation to his or her major field. This final examination will be given no less than two weeks after the doctoral thesis has been presented in final form, and before its approval. This examination must be taken at least four weeks before the commencement at which the degree is to be granted.
The Med-EE Ph.D. thesis must be related to both options. The final thesis defense exam is conducted by a committee that is set up by the student and approved by the option representative of the home department. The committee must be composed of 2 members from each option. The committee must include the advisor, but another member of the committee must be selected as chair.
Advising and Thesis Supervision
Periodic meetings between the advising faculty and the graduate student are an integral part of the Ph.D. program. These meetings should be at sufficiently frequent intervals, as determined by the student and adviser. Students are also encouraged to meet with other members of the Ph.D. committee, the option representative, the executive officer, or Caltech’s ombudsperson to discuss problems relating to satisfactory progress.
EE Subject Minor
A student majoring in another option at the Institute may elect a subject minor in electrical engineering. The student must obtain approval from the electrical engineering faculty of a course of study containing at least 45 units (over the 100 level) of advanced courses with an EE listing (excluding 291). At least 36 of these should be for letter grades no lower than C. Undergraduate first-year classes cannot be counted toward this.