Computer Engineering Program Qualifying Exam

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.

Tools to assist the student:


Exam Dates: January 8-10, 2020 

December 8, 2019 -- Declare intent to take the Qualifying Exam and state your selections of primary and secondary areas. (Please submit by email to

January 1,, 2020 -- Student will submit a 3-page written report on the Type-1 paper to Prof. Dugan by email.

Day of the Exam -- Provide the Director of CpE with a partially complete PhD Examination Report and Program Specific Qualifying Exam Report form at the time of the exam. These forms will be completed by the committee and submitted to the CpE office after the exam.

The areas identified in Computer Engineering Graduate Handbook for the qualifiers are as follows:

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


NOTE: Please read the handbook carefully and note the committee’s expectations. The committee will both “assess the student’s potential to begin doctoral-level research,” as well as examine fundamental understanding by asking questions on “related topics.” Therefore, students should not only understand the problem and solution presented in the paper (and demonstrate the “abilities” listed in the handbook), but also be responsible for background material (which is *not* limited to references in the paper) for the question-answer session.



List of Papers for the January 2020 Exam Offering



Computer Architecture and High-Performance Computing

Akshitha Sriraman, Abhishek Dhanotia, Thomas F. Wenisch,  SoftSKU: Optimizing Server Architectures for Microservice Diversity @Scale. In Proceedings of ISCA ’19, Phoenix, AZ, USA, June 22-26, 2019, 14 pages.

VLSI, System on Chip; Low Power Design

Matteo Agostinelli, Massimo Alioto,  David Esseni, and Luca Selmi, Leakage–Delay Tradeoff in FinFET Logic Circuits: A Comparative Analysis With Bulk Technology.  IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems, Vol. 18, No. 2, Feb. 2010.

Distributed Systems; Dependable and Secure Computing; Software Engineering

Michele Tufano , Fabio Palomba , Gabriele Bavota , Rocco Oliveto , Massimiliano Di Penta, Andrea De Lucia, and Denys Poshyvanyk, When and Why Your Code Starts to Smell Bad (and Whether the Smells Go Away)​  IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol 43, No. 11, November 2017.

Cyber-Physical Systems; Embedded, Autonomous, Mobile and Robotic Systems

Shinpei Kato, Shota Tokunaga, Yuya Maruyama, Seiya Maeda, Manato Hirabayashi, Yuki Kitsukawa, Abraham Monrroy, Tomohito Ando, Yusuke Fujii, and Takuya Azumi, Autoware on Board: Enabling Autonomous Vehicles with Embedded Systems​,  9th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Cyber-Physical Systems, 2018.

Machine Learning; NLP; Vision, Image and Signal Processing

Zhe Zhu , Dun Liang ,Songhai Zhang, Xiaolei Huang, Baoli Li, Shimin Hu, Traffic-Sign Detection and Classification in the Wild, IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, 2016.

Networks and Internet; Internet of Things; Cloud Computing

Gaoyang Guan, Wei Dong∗, Yi Gao, Kaibo Fu, Zhihao Cheng,  TinyLink: A Holistic System for Rapid Development of IoT Applications​, MobiCom’17, Snowbird, UT, USA, October 16-20, 2017,



The Computer Engineering Committee Members are:

Joanne Bechta Dugan, Chair
Brad Campbell
Samira Khan
​Mircea Stan