Graduate Student Handbooks

The CpE Program offers a Ph.D. degree, the primary focus of which is a dissertation describing publishable quality research (directed by a faculty advisor) of significant depth. The CpE Program also offers two Master degrees: a Master of Science (MS), which requires a thesis, and a Master of Engineering (ME).


Degree requirements for the Computer Engineering Program are outlined below.  Additional requirements are set by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and are given in the Engineering School Graduate Record.  The time limit for degree completion after entering the Masters program is five years for the MS and seven years for the ME although the average time for completion is two years. The time limit for the PhD degree completion is seven years although most students graduate in five years or less. The Information about Computer Engineering Requirements may also be found in the Graduate Record here.

The Curriculum Distribution Requirements for all three graduate degrees are outlined in detail in the curriculum requirements guide which can be found below.  The student should discuss a list of proposed courses with their advisor during their first semester. Requests for course transfers can be done at this time.  Although an MS degree in CpE is not required, the List of Courses must meet a set of "pre-requisite coursework requirements," defined to include the architecture/design course requirement, three Computer Science courses, and three Electrical and Computer Engineering Courses.  If the student has earned an MS degree at another institution, the student is entitled to waive up to 12 hours of course work.  The distribution of the 12 hours waived will be determined by the Director with input from the advisor.   

English Language Proficiency is required of all new graduate students whose native language is not English.  Students are tested for English proficiency near the beginning of their first semester at UVa. All non-native speakers of English must take the Virginia Language Proficiency Exam (UVELPE) administered by the Center for American English Language and Culture at this time. The UVELPE test is a diagnostic test which allows CAELC  place the student in a program of courses of instruction designed to help each student address deficiencies if needed. If CAELC courses are recommended, students are required by the CpE program to complete the courses.  Students are also requested to take the Oral portion of the exam at the beginning of the first Fall semester in which the student is enrolled.  This test is required to work as a Teaching Assistant in the School of Engineering.

  • Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements & Procedures

    The Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) in the Computer of Engineering (CpE) focuses primarily on a dissertation describing publishable quality research (directed by a faculty advisor) of significant depth. Although a Master degree in CpE is not required, a student is required to meet a set of pre-requisite coursework requirements, defined to include the architecture/design course requirement, Computer Science course requirements, and Electrical & Computer Engineering course.

     

    Program Overview

    Please see the Curriculum Distribution Requirements for an outline of the exact course credit requirement.  The PhD degree requires at least 24 credit hours of course work.  For the courses meeting these requirements, a Ph.D. student must receive a minimum grade of A-.

    If the student has earned an MS degree at another institution, the student is entitled to waive up to 12 hours of course work. The distribution of the 12 hours waived will be determined by the Director with input from the advisor.  If the student has earned en route master degree, an additional 9 hours of graduate-level coursework is required.  The time limit for completion of the Ph.D. is seven years after admission to the doctoral program.  Degree requirements set by the School of Engineering and Applied Science are given in the School of Engineering Graduate Record and are additional to the following CpE Graduate Program requirements.

    A student may transfer a maximum of 6 hours of credit, subject to approval from the CpE Graduate Director.  Students may only transfer PhD-level courses from other schools of recognized standing in which they earned a grade of B or better.  Students should discuss courses acceptable for transfer of credit with their advisor, prior to submitting the request to the Director.  After the Director has approved the transfer, the student will work with the CpE Graduate Administrator to submit the appropriate forms and documentation to the School of Engineering Graduate Registrar for approval.

     

    Teaching Requirements

    One semester of guided undergraduate teaching experience is strongly encouraged for each student.  The student should work to complete this requirement with the approval and supervision of a faculty member.  The faculty supervisor may or may not be the student’s advisor.  Further guidelines are available from the Graduate Coordinator.

     

    Qualifying Exam Overview

    Student desiring a PhD should take the qualifying examination as soon as possible.  Students entering with a master’s degree should take the exam no later than the beginning of their third semester.  Students entering with a bachelor’s degree should ideally take the exam by the beginning of their third semester, but no later than the beginning of the fourth semester.  (The exam should not be postponed in order to finish a master’s degree first.) The objective of the qualifying examination is to assess the student’s potential to begin doctoral-level research.  The latter requires the student to demonstrate the following in their primary research area and two secondary research areas:

    • an ability to state a problem clearly, provide its motivation, and the requirements for a solution.
    • an ability to determine if a solution is correct.
    • an ability to assess to what extent a (presumably correct) solution meets the requirements (solves the problem).
    • an ability to describe how a problem and its solution fits into the big picture (and to understand the big picture).
    • an ability to communicate effectively (both in writing and speaking) and to answer questions relating to the problem and its solution and the broader research context.

    The qualifying exams are administered twice a year, typically in January and August.  Students must pass the qualifying examination before beginning their fourth academic semester after admission to the doctoral program, unless otherwise approved by the CpE Graduate Committee. 

    We have identified a set of six research areas from which each candidate will be required to select a primary research area and two secondary areas for the examination.

     The areas are:

    • Computer architecture and high-performance computing
    • VLSI, System on chip; low power design
    • Distributed systems; Dependable and Secure computing; software engineering
    • Cyber-physical systems; Embedded, Autonomous, Mobile and Robotic Systems
    • Machine Learning; NLP; Vision, Image and Signal Processing
    • Networks and Internet; Internet of Things; Cloud computing

     The CpE qualifying committee will announce one paper for each area two months prior to the date set for an examination.  One month before the examination date, students will provide the CpE administrative coordinator their selections for the primary and secondary areas.  The paper for the primary area is expected to be studied in depth.  Students will be required to read and understand papers cited by the paper in the primary area as well as follow-on work.  The committee will ask questions to gauge the students’ detailed understanding of the primary paper and related work.  For the secondary areas, students should study the selected papers and be prepared to answer general questions on these papers and related background information.  Our goal for testing the student on these secondary areas is to determine the students’ multi-disciplinary abilities, a key factor that is becoming increasingly important in today’s research environment.

     

    Qualifying Exam Process

    • Two weeks before the oral exam date, the student will submit a written report on the paper in the primary area to the head of the CpE qualifiers committee. This report should demonstrate the five abilities listed at the start of this section. 
    • The student should also prepare a 20-minute (max) presentation on the primary paper, and a 10-minute (max) presentation on each secondary paper summarizing their salient points, for delivery at the oral examination.
    • The oral examination will be in two parts:
      • Part I: Primary area test is a 1-hour examination, which will start with the student’s 20-minute presentation on the paper selected by the student in the primary research area.  The committee will then ask in-depth questions on the presentation, the assigned paper, related papers, and other topics in the selected primary area.
      • Part II: Secondary area test is a 1-hour examination, each half of which starts with the student’s 10-minute presentation on the two secondary papers selected by the student.  The committee will then ask broad questions on the presentation, the assigned papers and other topics in the selected secondary areas.
    • Students will be evaluated on the combined written submission and oral examination.  The result will be a clear-cut pass or fail for the entire exam; no remedial work will be allowed to alter the outcome.  A student who does not pass the qualifying exam on the first try must retake it at the next offering.  A student who fails the examination twice will lose financial support and must leave the program at the end of that semester.
    • The program specific assessment form and the PhD Examination Report form that records the result of the examination will be prepared and submitted as part of the Qualifying Exam process by the Graduate Administrator.

     

     

    Advancement to Candidacy and Dissertation Proposal

    The Graduate Student in CpE advances to the candidacy for the doctoral degree after successfully passing the qualifying examination.   The student is then expected to prepare a dissertation proposal within two semesters of successfully passing the exam. 

    The first step is for the student to put together a Dissertation Committee of five members including the research advisor.  The five members of the Committee will include at least one member from the ECE department and at least one member from the CS department. The three remaining members are at the discretion of the student and advisor but must include one member.  The outside member must also come from a department that is different from the advisor’s department and also from outside the advisor’s area of expertise.

    The student should prepare an acceptable dissertation proposal done under the guidance of the student's advisor. This proposal should be presented before any extensive research is undertaken, in order to receive early faculty approval of the suitability of the proposed research.   The written proposal document should be prepared according to the following guidelines: The proposal must be limited to 20 single-spaced pages including figures exclusive of bibliography. The document should succinctly describe the problem, relationship to other work in the field, the research plan including specific research activities, and the expected contributions. An example of an organization that meets these four requirements is:

    • What is the problem?
    • Why is it important?
    • What is the "shape" of a solution?
    • What is the research agenda?
    • Why will the agenda work (produce a solution)?

    A comprehensive literature review (not subject to page limitations) may be included as an appendix. Any departure from these guidelines must be approved in advance by the student's proposal examining committee.

    The student should prepare a public oral presentation of the proposal, which should be made within two semesters after successfully completing the Ph.D. qualifying examination. The student should provide the proposal examining committee the written proposal document at least two weeks prior to the oral presentation. 

    The student should work with the Graduate Coordinator to provide the chair of the committee with partially completed DISSERTATION PROPOSAL and ENGINEERING DISSERTATION PROPOSAL ASSESSMENT forms at least one day prior to the Proposal.   These forms will be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator by the Chair of the Committee following the exam.

    The presentation should be limited to 30 minutes and will be followed by questions from the audience and the proposal examining committee.

    The student must complete at least one full semester as a candidate before the degree is awarded.   In the event that a suitable proposal is not presented but the faculty believes the student has sufficient research potential, another research presentation will be scheduled within 6 months. If a suitable proposal is still not presented, the student is subject to dismissal from the program.

     

    Publication Requirements

    Each Ph.D. candidate must submit an advisor approved article related to their research to a refereed journal or conference, prior to completing their dissertation defense. If the student’s advisor is not a co-author of the paper, the advisor must provide the CpE graduate committee with a note indicating the advisor’s approval of the paper.

     

    The Dissertation Defense

    The culmination of the PhD program is the defense of the dissertation. It is expected that the work be of sufficient quality to warrant journal publication.

    The dissertation defense is an oral defense before the student's Ph.D. final examining committee as well as any other interested faculty, students or other persons.  The examining committee should meet the same guidelines as the examining committee for the proposal and must be approved by submitting the FINAL EXAMINATION COMMITTEE form to the Graduate Administrator.

    The dissertation defense should be announced publicly at least one week prior to the scheduled date.  The student should work with the Graduate Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the defense to prepare the announcement.  The student will also prepare  the Thesis and Dissertation Assessment and the Report on Final Examination forms with the help of the Coordinator.  These forms should be sent to the chair of the graduate committee no later than one day prior to the exam.  After the defense, these forms should be given to the Graduate Coordinator.

    At the defense, the student will present their research to the committee and other members of the audience followed by a question and answer session.  The student presentation portion should not exceed 45 minutes. Follow the School of Engineering rules with regards to the format of the dissertation and the number of copies required for distribution. Also required is a list of publications. 

    Graduation procedures, including submitting the dissertation, are outlined in detail on the School of Engineering GRADUATE Record .  Outcome assessment for the PhD degree occurs at three different points in the program: the qualifying exam, the proposal and the dissertation defense.

  • Masters of Science Degree Requirements & Procedures

    The Master of Science (MS) degree in Computer Engineering (CpE) requires at least 24 regular course credits plus up to 6 credits of CS/CpE/ECE 8999 (Master’s Thesis Research) for a total of 30 credits.  The student is also expected to work with an advisor to prepare a Master Thesis.

    Program Overview

    Please see the Curriculum Distribution Requirements for an outline of the exact course credit requirement.  No more than nine credits of 5000-level courses can be applied to a graduate degree of which no more than 6 credits may be from any one department (within SEAS delineation plus Data Science).  Also, no more than 3 graded credits of Independent Study or Supervised Project Research may be applied towards an MS degree.  The time limit for degree completion after entering the Masters of Science program is five years although the average time for completion is two years.   Degree requirements set by the School of Engineering and Applied Science are given in the School of Engineering Graduate Record and are additional to the following CpE graduate program requirements.  Transfer Credit is subject to approval from the CpE Graduate Director.  MS candidates may transfer a maximum of six credits of approved graduate courses into the program. Students may only transfer courses in which they earned a grade of B or better. After the Director has approved the transfer, the student will work with the CpE Graduate Administrator to submit the appropriate forms and documentation to the School of Engineering Graduate Registrar for approval.

    Master Thesis and Final Defense

    1. Each M.S.. student must produce a thesis describing research of publishable quality.  In this spirit, at least one paper submission to a refereed conference/journal is expected of all MS candidates. The research and development of the thesis will be directed by the student’s advisor or advisory committee. Once the thesis has been written and approved by the advisor, a public oral defense is required.
    2. Student and advisor select a committee for the examination. The examination committee for the MS oral defense consists of a minimum of three faculty members. The chair of the committee cannot be the advisor and must be from either the CS or ECE Department. This examining committee is selected by the student and the advisor.  The student then works with the Graduate Coordinator to complete Appointment of Final Examination Committee form which is then approved by the CpE Graduate Committee Chair and the Graduate Dean’s office. 
    3. Apply to Graduate in the semester the student intends to defend.   The Graduate Dean’s office will send an email at the beginning of each semester with the deadline for applying to graduate. The other deadlines for completing the defense and submitting paperwork and Thesis will also be included in this email. 
    4. Schedule the date and time for the final defense.  The completed thesis must be delivered to each member of the examining committee at least 7 days prior to the defense.
    5. An announcement the oral examination of the thesis must be sent to the SEAS community at least one week prior to the defense.  Send a list of the committee, the title of the Thesis and the Abstract to the Graduate Coordinator at least 10 days prior to the defense.  The Graduate coordinator will send the announcement to the SEAS community.
    6. The Forms needed for the Defense are REPORT ON FINAL EXAMINATION and THESIS AND DISSERTATION ASSESSMENT and will be prepared with the help of the Graduate Coordinator.  The student emails both forms to the chair of the examining committee the day before the defense. 
    7. The format of the oral defense is a presentation by the student which should be approximately 30 minutes. A question-and-answer session will follow.  If the defense is not successful, the student will be allowed to defend again, after being given sufficient time to make needed modifications. This defense is open to the public.
    8. The student will ask the Chair of the committee to submit the completed Report on Final Examination and the Thesis and Dissertation Assessment form to the Graduate Coordinator who will then coordinator the signature process for the rest of the committee and the director.
    9. After a successful defense, the degree candidate must submit the approved final thesis along with the Thesis/Dissertation Cover and Approval Pages Form to Libra, the online archive of UVA by the date specified in the academic calendar.  For detailed instructions on the process, see The Graduate Record.  Additional information can be found at the School of Engineering Graduate website.  
  • Masters of Engineering Degree Requirements & Procedures

    The Masters of Engineering (ME) degree in the Computer Engineering Program (CpE) requires 30 graded course credits. Please see the Curriculum Distribution Requirements for an outline of the exact course credit requirement.  No more than 9 credits of 5000-level courses can be applied to a graduate degree of which no more than 6 credits may be from any one department (within SEAS delineation plus Data Science). No more than 3 graded credits of Independent Study course and no more than 6 graded credits of supervised project research may be applied towards an ME degree. 

    Degree requirements set by the  School of Engineering and Applied Science are given in the School of Engineering Graduate Record and are additional to the following CpE Graduate Program requirements. The time limit for degree completion after entering the Masters of Engineering program is seven years although the average time for completion is 1.5 years. Graduation procedures are outlined in detail on the School of Engineering Graduate website.

    Transfer Credit is subject to approval from the CpE Graduate Director.  ME candidates may transfer a maximum of 12 credits of approved graduate courses into the program. Students may only transfer courses in which they earned a grade of B or better. After the Director has approved the transfer, the student will work with the CpE Graduate Administrator to submit the appropriate forms and documentation to the School of Engineering Graduate Registrar for approval.

    Research Oppurtunities in Computer Science are available for ME students.  A list can be found here.  Please be sure to select the Masters Tab.

    Assessment Forms are required for students enrolled in the ME program .  The student is expected to achieve competence in Engineering Analysis, Technical Writing and Oral Presentations. Each student will be evaluated for these outcomes, using the appropriate School of Engineeirng assessment forms, availble here.  It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that the required forms are filed with the Graduate Coordinator. If a student completes a project with a written or oral presentation in an earlier semester, the appropriate forms can be completed at that time and given to the graduate coordinator to hold. The entire set of required assessment forms must be completed for each ME student before graduation.

  • Curriculum Distribution Requirements

    Every graduate student in the Computer Engineering Graduate Program must successfully complete 24 credits of graded course work for the MS and PhD, or 30 credits of graded coursework for the ME.  Of the 24/30 credits of graded coursework, at least 21 must be CS/CPE/ECE courses The requirements include: 

    • Computer Architecture Course selected from one of the following:

    * CS 6534 Computer Architecture.
    * ECE 6435 Computer Architecture and Design.

    • At least 9 graded course credits from CS (may include CS 6354).

    • At least 9 graded course credits from ECE (may include ECE 6435). 

      The following restrictions apply:   

    • No more than 3 graded credits of independent study, no more than 6 graded credits of “supervised project research.”

    • No more than 9 credits at the 5000-level of which no more than 6 credits may be from any one department (within SEAS delineation plus Data Science). 
     

  • Pre-2016 Requirements