Engineering Doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree

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The doctorate program in engineering prepares the next generation of engineering leaders to tackle some of the most daunting and complex problems facing our society.  

The engineering doctorate produces graduates who are subject matter experts in a knowledge domain within an engineering discipline. Instead of restricting graduates to individual engineering fields, the engineering Ph.D. provides students with the flexibility to become discipline-specific subject matter experts and engineering innovators in an open-architecture environment, fostering intellectual growth along both interdisciplinary pathways and within the bounds of conventional engineering disciplines. With this approach, the program develops world-class researchers who can capitalize on the most promising discoveries and innovations, regardless of their origin within the engineering field, to develop interdisciplinary solutions for real-world challenges.

The doctorate in engineering requires each student to address fundamental technical problems of national and global importance for the 21st century. Four key industries—health care, communications, energy, and transportation—are addressed specifically. These application domains impact every individual on the planet and are the focus areas doctoral candidates and faculty will contribute to through study and research. The college has identified several technology research strengths including: manufacturing and materials, signal and image processing, robotics and mechatronics, heat transfer and thermo-fluids, performance and power-aware computing, access and assistive technologies, simulation, modeling and optimization, safety and security, and nano-science and engineering. Students collaborate with faculty members from a variety of engineering disciplines to bring these technology strengths to bear on solving problems of global significance in the application domains.

Plan of study

The curriculum for the doctorate in engineering provides disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses, research mentorship, and engineering focus area seminars. Students are expected to have a disciplinary-rooted technical strength to conduct and complete independent, original, and novel collaborative interdisciplinary research contributing to one of the four industrial and/or societal focus areas. The program is comprised of 66 credit hours: 18 core course credits, 9 discipline foundation credits, 9 industry focus area credits, and 30 research credits

Core courses

Students complete the following core courses: Interdisciplinary Research Methods (ENGR-701), Engineering Analytics Foundation (ENGR-707), Translating Discovery into Practice (ENGR-702), an engineering analytics elective, and doctoral seminar.

Discipline foundation courses

Foundation courses build depth within a disciplinary field of engineering, such as mechanical engineering, electrical and microelectronics engineering, computer engineering, industrial and systems engineering, chemical engineering, or biomedical engineering.

Application domain courses

This rigorous set of engineering courses provides students with comprehensive coverage of engineering challenges and solution approaches in one of the four key industry areas associated with the program: health care, energy, communications, and transportation. Students choose a focus area and work with the program director to identify a set of focus area courses appropriate to their research and professional interests. Students can also take additional courses from their selected industry as electives.

Qualifying exam

Students complete a qualifying exam at the end of their first year of study. The exam evaluates the student's aptitude, potential, and competency in conducting Ph.D. level research.

Dissertation proposal and candidacy exam

Students must present a dissertation proposal to their dissertation committee no sooner than six months after the qualifying exam and at least twelve months prior to the dissertation defense exam.  The proposal provides the opportunity for the student to elaborate on their research plans and to obtain feedback on the direction and approach to their research from his/her dissertation committee.

Research review meetings

Research review meetings provide comprehensive feedback to the student regarding their dissertation research progress and expected outcomes prior to defense of their full dissertation. Research review meetings must be held at least every six months following the conclusion of the dissertation proposal and candidacy exam until the dissertation defense.

Dissertation presentation and defense

Each doctoral candidate prepares an original, technically sound, and well-written dissertation. They present and defend their dissertation and its accompanying research to their dissertation committee.


  • Aerospace

  • Electronic and Computer Hardware

  • Health Care

  • Manufacturing

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Engineering, Ph.D. degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Engineering Analytics Foundation
This course trains students to utilize mathematical techniques from an engineering perspective, and provides essential background for success in graduate level studies. An intensive review of linear and nonlinear ordinary differential equations and Laplace transforms is provided. Laplace transform methods are extended to boundary-value problems and applications to control theory are discussed. Problem solving efficiency is stressed, and to this end, the utility of various available techniques are contrasted. The frequency response of ordinary differential equations is discussed extensively. Applications of linear algebra are examined, including the use of eigenvalue analysis in the solution of linear systems and in multivariate optimization. An introduction to Fourier analysis is also provided.
Interdisciplinary Research Methods
This course emphasizes collaboration in modern research environment and consists of five modules. Students will introduced to the concepts of inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research conducted from both a scientific and an engineering perspective. Students will learn how to write a dissertation proposal, statement of work, timeline for their program of study and the elements of an effective literature review. Students will develop skills related to reviewing and annotating technical papers, conducting a literature search and proper citation. Students will demonstrate an understanding of (a) ethics as it relates to the responsible conduct of research, (b) ethical responsibility in the context of the engineering professions, (c) ethics as it relates to authorship and plagiarism, (d) basic criteria for ethical decision making and (e) identify professional standards and code of ethics relevant to their discipline. Students demonstrate an ability to identify and explain the potential benefits of their research discoveries to a range of stakeholders, including policy makers and the general public.
Translating Discovery Into Practice
This course provides graduate students with the professional skills needed by PhD graduates within their major research focus area to move the results of their research from the lab into practice. Students will demonstrate a strong contextual understanding for their research efforts. Students will learn professional skills related to Teamwork; Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization; Research Management; Policy and Societal Context; and Technical Writing.
Dissertation Research
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor. Students must successfully pass the PhD Candidacy examination prior to enrolling in this course
Discipline Foundation Courses
Engineering Analytics Elective
Engineering Focus Area Seminars
Second Year
Dissertation Research
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor. Students must successfully pass the PhD Candidacy examination prior to enrolling in this course
Cross-disciplinary Electives
Engineering Focus Area Seminars
Third Year
Dissertation Research
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor. Students must successfully pass the PhD Candidacy examination prior to enrolling in this course
Engineering Focus Area Seminars
Fourth Year
Continuation of Dissertation
Engineering Focus Area Seminars
Total Semester Credit Hours

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program in engineering, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college in an engineering discipline.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) for all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent).
  • Submit scores from the GRE.
  • Submit a Statement of Purpose for Research describing the applicant’s (a) interest in one of the four application domains of transportation, energy, communications or health care; (b) areas of technology strength aligned with the college’s faculty; and (c) disciplinary foundation.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae highlighting educational background and experiences.
  • Submit at least two letters of academic and/or professional recommendation. Letters for doctoral candidates must be confidential and must be submitted directly from the referee to RIT.
  • Participate in an on-campus or teleconference interview (when applicable).
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 94 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 7.0 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.

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Additional Info


All students in the program must spend at least three years in residence before completing the degree.