Imaging Science Doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree

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Reach the penultimate status of higher education in imaging science acquiring the capabilities, skills, and experience to succeed in this diverse field.

The Ph.D. in imaging science signifies high achievement in scholarship and independent investigation in the diverse aspects of imaging science. Students contribute their fundamental body of knowledge in science and engineering that is associated with this field of study. As an imaging Ph.D. candidate, you’ll acquire the capabilities, skills, and experience to continue to expand the limits of the discipline and meet future scholarly, industrial, and government demands on the field.

Candidates for the doctoral degree must demonstrate proficiency by:

  • Successfully completing course work, including a core curriculum, as defined by the student’s plan of study;
  • Passing a series of examinations; and
  • Completing an acceptable dissertation under the supervision of the student’s research advisor and dissertation committee.

Plan of study

All students must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours of course work and research. The core curriculum spans and integrates a common body of knowledge essential to an understanding of imaging processes and applications. Courses are defined by the student’s study plan and must include core course sequences plus a sequence in a topical area such as remote sensing, digital image processing, color imaging, digital graphics, electro-optical imaging systems, and microlithographic imaging technologies.

Students may take a limited number of credit hours in other departments and must complete research credits including two credits of research associated with the research seminar course, Graduate Seminar.

Graduate elective courses offered by the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (and other RIT academic departments in fields closely allied with imaging science) allow students to concentrate their studies in a range of imaging science research and imaging application areas, including electro-optical imaging, digital image processing, color science, perception and vision, electrophotography, lithography, remote sensing, medical imaging, electronic printing, and machine vision.

Advancement to candidacy

Advancement to candidacy occurs through the following steps:

  • Advisor selection
  • Submission and approval of a preliminary study plan
  • Passing a written qualifying exam
  • Study plan revision based on the outcome of qualifying exam and adviser recommendation
  • Research committee appointment
  • Candidacy exam based on thesis proposal

Following the qualifying exam, faculty decide whether a student continues in the doctoral program or if the pursuit of an MS degree or other program option is more acceptable. For students who continue in the doctoral program, the student's plan of study will be revised, a research committee is appointed, candidacy/proposal exams are scheduled, and, finally, a dissertation defense is presented.

Research committee

Prior to the candidacy exam, the student, in consultation with an advisor, must present a request to the graduate program coordinator for the appointment of a research committee. The committee is composed of at least four people: an advisor, at least one faculty member who is tenured (or tenure-track) and whose primary affiliation is the Carlson Center for Imaging Science (excluding research faculty), a person competent in the field of research who is an RIT faculty member or affiliated with industry or another university and has a doctorate degree, and the external chair. The external chair must be a tenured member of the RIT faculty who is not a faculty member of the center and who is appointed by the dean of graduate education. The committee supervises the student’s research, beginning with a review of the research proposal and concluding with the dissertation defense.

Research proposal

The student and their research advisor select a research topic for the dissertation. Proposed research must be original and publishable. Although the topic may deal with any aspect of imaging, research is usually concentrated in an area of current interest within the center. The research proposal is presented to the student's research committee during the candidacy exam at least six months prior to the dissertation defense.

Final examination of the dissertation

The research advisor, on behalf of the student and the student's research committee, must notify the graduate program coordinator of the scheduling of the final examination of the dissertation by forwarding to the graduate program coordinator the title and abstract of the dissertation and the scheduled date, time, and location of the examination. The final examination of the dissertation may not be scheduled within six months of the date on which the student passed the candidacy exam (at which the thesis proposal was presented and approved).

Barring exceptional circumstances (requiring permission from the graduate program coordinator), the examination may not be scheduled sooner than four weeks after formal announcement (i.e. center-wide hallway postings and email broadcast) has been made of the dissertation title and abstract and the defense date, time, and location.

The final examination of the dissertation is open to the public and is primarily a defense of the dissertation research. The examination consists of an oral presentation by the student, followed by questions from the audience. The research committee may also elect to privately question the candidate following the presentation. The research committee will immediately notify the candidate and the graduate program coordinator of the examination result.'


All students in the program must spend at least two consecutive semesters (summer excluded) as resident full-time students to be eligible to receive the doctoral degree. If circumstances warrant, the residency requirement may be waived via petition to the graduate program coordinator, who will decide on the student’s petition in consultation with the advisor and graduate faculty. The request must be submitted at least nine months prior to the thesis defense.

Maximum time limit

University policy requires that doctoral programs be completed within seven years of the date of the student passing the qualifying exam. Bridge courses are excluded.

All candidates must maintain continuous enrollment during the research phase of the program. Such enrollment is not limited by the maximum number of research credits that apply to the degree. Normally, full-time students complete the course of study for the doctorate in approximately three to five years. A total of seven years is allowed to complete the degree after passing the qualifying exam.


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Curriculum for Imaging Science Ph.D.

Imaging Science, Ph.D. degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Graduate Seminar I
This course is focused on familiarizing students with research activities in the Carlson Center, research practices in the university, research environment and policies and procedures impacting graduate students. The course is coupled with the research seminar sponsored by the Center for Imaging Science (usually weekly presentations). Students are expected to attend and participate in the seminar as part of the course. The course also addresses issues and practices associated with technical presentation and technical writing. Credits earned in this course apply to research requirements.
Graduate Seminar II
This course is a continuation of the topics addressed in the preceding course Imaging Science Graduate Seminar I. The course is coupled with the research seminar sponsored by the Center for Imaging Science (usually weekly presentations). Students are expected to attend and participate in the seminar as part of the course. The course addresses issues and practices associated with technical presentations. Credits earned in this course apply to research requirements.
Graduate Laboratory I
This laboratory course is intended to familiarize graduate students with many concepts, tools, and techniques necessary for completion of the Imaging Science graduate curriculum. Students will work in a variety of areas including scientific programming, numerical analysis, imaging system analysis, and characterization. (Pre-requisite: Graduate standing in Imaging Science or permission of the instructor.)
Probability, Noise, and Systems Modeling
This course develops models of noise and random processes within the context of imaging systems. The focus will be on stationary random processes in both one dimension (time) and two dimensions (spatial). Power spectrum estimation will be developed and applied to signal characterization in the frequency domain. The effect of linear filtering will be modeled and applied to signal detection and maximization of SNR. The matched filter and the Wiener filter will be developed. Signal detection and amplification will be modeled, using noise figure and SNR as measures of system quality. At completion of the course, the student should have the ability to model signals and noise within imaging systems.
Fourier Methods for Imaging
This course develops the mathematical methods required to describe continuous and discrete linear systems, with special emphasis on tasks required in the analysis or synthesis of imaging systems. The classification of systems as linear/nonlinear and shift variant/invariant, development and use of the convolution integral, Fourier methods as applied to the analysis of linear systems. The physical meaning and interpretation of transform methods are emphasized.
This course is focused on the fundamentals of radiation propagation as it relates to making quantitative measurements with imaging systems. The course includes an introduction to common radiometric terms and derivation of governing equations with an emphasis on radiation propagation in both non-intervening and turbid media. The course also includes an introduction to detector figures of merit and noise concepts.
The Human Visual System
This course describes the underlying structure of the human visual system, the performance of those structures and the system as a whole, and introduces psychophysical techniques used to measure them. The visual system's optical and neural systems responsible for collecting and detecting spatial, temporal, and spectral signals from the environment are described. The sources and extent of limitations in the subsystems are described and discussed in terms of the enabling limitations that allow practical imaging systems.
Optics for Imaging
This course provides the requisite knowledge in optics needed by a student in the graduate program in Imaging Science. The topics covered include the ray and wave models of light, diffraction, imaging system resolution.
Image Processing and Computer Vision
This course will cover a wide range of current topics in modern still digital image processing. Topics will include grey scale and color image formation, color space representation of images, image geometry, image registration and resampling, image contrast manipulations, image fusion and data combining, point spatial and neighborhood operations, image watermarking and steganography, image compression, spectral data compression, image segmentation and classification, and basic morphological operators. Projects will involve advanced computational implementations of selected topics from the current literature in a high level language such as Matlab or IDL and will be summarized by the students in written technical papers.
Elective (optional)*
Second Year
Research & Thesis
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor.
Third Year
Research & Thesis
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor.
Fourth Year
Research & Thesis
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor.
Fifth Year
Research & Thesis
Doctoral-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor.
2 or 5*
Total Semester Credit Hours


* Students opting to take the optional Elective in the first year would take 2 units of IMGS-PHD in the final year. Students opting not to take the optional elective would take 5 units of IMGS-PHD in the final year. 


Admission Requirements

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

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college in engineering, computer science, applied mathematics, or one of the natural sciences. 
  • Have completed courses in calculus, university physics (one year), modern physics, and a computer language.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Submit scores from the GRE, if seeking financial assistance.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives addressing research interests.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from professional sources directly to RIT. Letters must be confidential. 
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 100 (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.

Imaging science encompasses a wide variety of scientific disciplines. Exceptional candidates from other fields and with diverse backgrounds are accepted into the program.

Admission decisions are made by a committee comprised of graduate faculty of the Center for Imaging Science.

Students with an MS degree in a related field may be granted credit toward the doctoral degree after successful completion of the qualifying examination and approval of their study plan. (Students should consult their academic adviser for more information.) The required research credits may not be waived by experience or examination.

Financial aid, scholarships, and assistantships

Graduate assistantships and tuition remission scholarships are available to qualified students. Applicants seeking financial assistance from the center should contact the Office of Graduate and Part-time Enrollment for current application materials and deadlines. Students whose native language is not English are advised to obtain as high a TOEFL or IELTS score as possible if they wish to apply for a teaching or research assistantship. These candidates also are encouraged to take the Test of Spoken English in order to be considered for financial assistance.

Learn about admissions, cost, and financial aid 

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