Doctoral Program

A graduate program leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Engineering is offered by the College of Engineering. The Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Innovation is the head of the program. Currently, the departments of Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering participate in the program. The general requirements for a Ph.D. in Engineering are the same for all departments. The admission requirements, application procedures, admission to candidacy, degree requirements, and other such details may be found here in Graduate School Admissions.

Tennessee Tech University Carnegie Classification

Learning Objectives

  1. The student should demonstrate breadth of knowledge in the discipline and depth in the specific area of his/her research topic.
  2. The student should gain experience in doing independent academic work and research.
  3. The student should demonstrate his/her ability to identify and define the research topic. 
  4. The research work performed by the student should contribute to the existing knowledge in the engineering field. 
  5. The student should demonstrate the ability to clearly communicate complex engineering and research topics in both verbal and written format.

Doctoral program admission follows multiparameter criteria and is used to evaluate admission to the program:

A graduate program leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Engineering is offered by the College of Engineering. When applying for admission, a student must state on the application the major area of study for which admission is requested.

  • Masters of Science GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale,
  • GRE® General Test (GRE) scores with Quantitative greater than or equal to 50%; Verbal greater than or equal to 33%; Analytical Writing greater than or equal to 33%. Students with BS degrees in related fields from Tech are not required to take the GRE.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation that demonstrate strong evidence for success in the graduate program.
  • Availability of appropriate faculty to serve as research advisor(s).
  • Participation in undergraduate research.
  • Post-BS degree professional experience relevant to planned degree of study.
  • Publications in peer reviewed journals and/or award-winning presentations in technical conferences.
  • International students must score at least 550 (213 computer-based or 79 internet-based) on the TOEFL or a minimum base score of 6.0 on the IELTS.

Though the general requirement for admission to the Ph.D. program is a master's degree in an appropriate discipline, students with a bachelor's degree may be admitted to the Ph.D. program directly (Direct Ph.D.) on exceptional basis, undergraduate GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale or better, provided the applicant has a record of excellent academic performance in an appropriate engineering undergraduate program. The applicant's test scores, personal recommendations, and relevant work experience must indicate a high potential for success in doctoral studies and research. In addition, factors such as appropriateness of the applicant's research objectives to the research interests of the program faculty, availability of faculty to supervise the applicant's research, and prior research accomplishments of the applicant will also influence the admission decision. 

Fulfilling the minimum requirement does not guarantee admission; an applicant who does not meet the above minimum, but appears to have reasonable potential for success as a Ph.D. student, may be admitted to provisional standing. His/her status may be changed to full standing after satisfying requirements specified by the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies and Research, in consultation with the appropriate departmental chairperson, at the time of admission.

If admitted in provisional standing, the student must remove all deficiencies and apply for reclassification to full standing prior to the completion of fifteen (15) graduate hours.

Degree Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree in Engineering

  • A. Students Admitted with a Master's Degree

The Ph.D. is a research degree. The general requirements for a Ph.D. degree in Engineering are the same for all departments:

  • A minimum of 48 credits of course work and doctoral research and dissertation as follows:
  • A minimum of 18 semester credits of course work beyond the master’s degree, including 6 semester credits of 7000-level course work acceptable to the student's advisory committee. Additional six semester credits of either graduate level course work or research experience as per the policy of the student's major department. No 5000-level courses are to be used to meet the minimum requirements of course work.
  • The equivalent of 24 semester credits of doctoral research and dissertation built upon the student’s course of study and making a significant contribution to the state of knowledge or to the art of the engineering profession is required; not more than 9 credits may be earned in a particular semester.
  • Residence of four semesters beyond the master’s degree, with at least two semesters in continuous residence, is required. All requirements, including the dissertation, must be completed within a period of eight consecutive years.
  • Maintenance of a minimum quality point average of 3.0 and adherence to the general regulations of the Graduate School are expected.

All students in the program must follow a plan of study and research developed in conjunction with an advisory committee, satisfactorily complete a comprehensive examination, achieve candidacy, and satisfactorily defend the dissertation.

  • B. Student's Admitted Directly from the Bachelor's Degree

A student admitted with a bachelor's degree on exceptional basis, must successfully complete a qualifying examination based mostly on undergraduate materials before the end of the second semester of enrollment. This examination will be aimed at determining the student's mastery of the basic concepts in the discipline and the potential for successfully conducting research at the doctoral level. Based on the student's performance on the qualifying examination, the student may be (i) permitted to continue in the Doctoral Program, or (ii) advised to transfer to a MS Degree program in an appropriate discipline in the College, or (iii) recommended for termination from the graduate program of the College.

If permitted to continue in the doctoral program, the student, as described elsewhere in the catalog, will select a research advisor, form an advisory committee, and submit a program of study satisfying the following requirements.

The program of study should have a minimum total of 72 semester credit hours of academic work, consisting of course work and dissertation work, beyond baccalaureate work, subject to the following:

  • The program of study should include a minimum of 42 semester credits of appropriate graduate level course work consisting of a minimum of 6 semester credits at the 7000-level and a maximum of 9 semester credits at the 5000-level, acceptable to the student's advisory committee. It should also include an additional 6 semester credits of either graduate level course work or research experience as per the policy of the student's major department. 
  • A minimum of 24 semester credit hours of doctoral research and dissertation, built upon the student's course of study and making significant contribution to the state of knowledge and the art of the engineering profession, is required; no more than nine credit hours may be earned in a particular semester.

The other requirements, such as residency, grade point average, comprehensive exam, and dissertation are the same as those for students admitted with a master's degree, as described in the catalog.

Advisory Committee

Each Ph.D. student's advisory committee will have a minimum of five (5) voting members with at least three members from the student's major department and at least one (1) member from outside the department. The College of Engineering's Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research will serve as an ex officio, nonvoting member. The student is responsible for identifying, in consultation with the departmental chairperson and Associate Dean, a faculty member who is willing to chair his/her advisory committee. In consultation with the chairperson of the committee, the student is responsible for identifying the other faculty members required/desired and determining if they are willing to serve. Advisory committee is permitted to have more than the minimum number required. Normally one faculty member will serve as the chair. If the proposed research work is interdisciplinary, or if the initial chair retires, experiences health problems, or for some other cannot continue to perform all of the duties of the chair, the student may request that a co-chair be appointed. The request should be made in writing to the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, via the Departmental Chair and the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies and Research. If a student is not able to identify a sufficient number and type of faculty who are suitable and willing to serve on his/her advisory committee, the student will be advised by the Associate Dean that he/she should either change his/her area of research interest to more closely match those of the available faculty or consider selecting another major. Failure to be able to form a committee is a cause for transfer to non-degree status. Further regulations concerning the membership, appointment, and responsibilities of the advisory committee are given in other sections of the catalog, including the sections on "Organization of the Graduate School" and "Degree Requirements."

Important Documents:

Change of Advisor Policy

Program of Study

All students will undergo a preliminary assessment during their semester of enrollment. The purpose of the preliminary assessment is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the newly admitted student so that a program of study could be tailored to prepare the student for advanced course work and independent research. Each department will make an objective assessment of the student's strengths and weaknesses, and the program of study should reflect such assessment. The department may employ a written examination or other objective instruments to make this assessment. Each department is required to develop its own policy in this regard and submit it to the Engineering Graduate Committee. The preliminary assessment must be done before the end of the second semester of enrollment for the degree. A memo from the chairperson of the department should accompany the student's program of study to the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies stating the results of the preliminary assessment of the student.

The plan of study is specified in the student’s Program of Study. The Program of Study shall include a minimum of 24 semester credits of coursework beyond the master’s. The Program of Study will also include a list of background, graduate-level courses taken prior to enrollment in the Ph.D. program. If the student has not taken at least 24 semester credits of appropriate (timely and relevant) background courses (as determined by the advisory committee), the student will be required to take additional courses either as background courses or in addition to his/her required minimum of 24 semester credits of coursework beyond the masters. These additional courses will be shown appropriately on the Program of Study. All courses shown on the Program of Study, including background courses, are indicators of the student’s depth and breadth of knowledge in the discipline and shall be considered by the committee when designing the written part of the student’s comprehensive examination. In determining the time limits for taking the comprehensive examination, for earning the degree, and for determining eligibility for financial aid, the time that the background courses were completed shall not be considered.

Each proposed Program of Study must be approved by the student’s advisory committee, the departmental chairperson, the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies and Research, and the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. There will be a hold placed on a student’s registration if his/her Program of Study has not been filed in the Graduate School office by the time 15 semester hours have been earned.

Comprehensive Examination and Admission to Candidacy

The comprehensive examination will consist of a written part and the presentation and oral defense of the research proposal. The written examination will consist of several parts as appropriate to the engineering major discipline and the research area. This examination will be to test the student's breadth of knowledge in the discipline, depth of knowledge in selected areas, and the ability to integrate the knowledge acquired from several courses. This examination must be given after the student has completed at least eighty (80) percent of the coursework beyond the master's degree, as prescribed in the program of study. However, the written comprehensive examination should be completed before the end of the semester following completion of the coursework prescribed in the program of study. The extension of this deadline is possible with the appropriate justification. A student desiring an extension shall make a request in writing to the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies and Research. The request must include justification and a schedule for completion. If the student is not satisfied with the decision of the Associate Dean, the decision may be appealed to the Engineering Graduate Committee, with the Dean of Engineering substituting for the Associate Dean as chair of the committee.

All parts of the written examination should be completed within a period of two weeks. Other details of this examination, including format, content, method of evaluation and timing, will be left to the discretion of the committee. All voting members of the committee should participate in evaluating the student's performance in the written parts of the examination.

The written research proposal should, as a minimum, consist of the development of the research problem from the extant knowledge in the area, the approach and methodology to be followed, the expected original contribution to the extant knowledge and the expected time-line for the completion of the research. The student should submit copies of written proposal to the committee within thirty (30) days from the date of taking the final part of the written examination, and the proposal defense will be scheduled shortly thereafter. The student will be informed of the results of the entire comprehensive examination (written part and proposal presentation) at the end of the defense of the research proposal.

On passing the entire comprehensive examination, the student will become an official candidate for the doctoral degree. Normally, a student not passing any part of the comprehensive examination will not be permitted to continue in the doctoral program. However, at the request of the student, the committee may agree to give a second chance to the student to pass that part of the written examination that he/she did not pass. The committee may prescribe additional academic work to be undertaken by the student prior to making the second attempt. No student will be permitted to continue in the program if he/she does not successfully complete all parts of the comprehensive examination after the second attempt.

Current Ph.D. Enrollment Numbers Fall 2018

Department Number of Students
Chemical Engineering 17
Civil and Environmental Engineering 7
Computer Science 23
Electric and Computer Engineering 32
Mechanical Engineering 28
Total Enrollment 107

Graduation Rates

Year Enrollment (Fall census) Degrees Conferred (07/01-06-30)
2009-10 54 9
2010-11 49 10
2011-12 50 14
2012-13 48 6
2013-14 66 13
2014-15 88 9
2015-16 94 7
2016-17 83 12
2017-18 108 8

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