Ph.D. in Computer Engineering

Admission Requirements

In addition to the CSE graduate admission requirements (, the candidate must meet the following minimum prerequisites for admission to the program:

  • A Bachelor Degree in Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, or another closely related area.
  • Preparation in terms of coursework with passing grades in the following subject areas (the following are also subjects covered in the qualifying examinations):
    • Computer Architecture/Microprocessors
    • Operating Systems, Data Structures and Algorithms
    • Circuits (Analog Circuits and Systems, Digital Circuits, and VLSI Design)
    • Communication Networks (Networking and Data Communications)
  • Those found deficient in their preparation, but otherwise demonstrating good potential, may be admitted provisionally with required coursework to remove the deficiencies.

Breadth Requirements

Three tracks of courses for the Computer Engineering program are defined and listed below.

Note: for details of the tracks, see the Track Listing.

The breadth requirements entail that three groups of classes be taken by a candidate:

  • Group 1: 9 credit hours – All classes should be selected from a single track closest to the candidate’s dissertation research area to be determined by the supervisory committee.
  • Group 2: 9 credit hours – All classes should be selected from two of the tracks not selected for Group 1. At least 3 credit hours should be selected from each of the two tracks.
  • Group 3: (MINOR) 6 credit hours - CS OR EE approved minor courses other than the courses listed in the three tracks.

Additionally, the student must attend at least 30 departmental colloquia, doctoral oral presentations, and/or master's thesis presentations during the Ph.D. program. A sign-up sheet is used during these events as proof of attendance. Note that master's project presentations may not be used to fulfill this requirement.

Depth Requirements

Depth requirements are decided by student, research advisor, and the supervisory committee.

  • A total of 90 credit hours are required of which 24 to 30 credit hours may be used for dissertation.
  • No fewer than 45 credit hours must be completed at the university.
  • College of Engineering policies apply for transfer of credits.

Qualifying Examination:

Effective Fall 2018 the department has adopted the following new Qualifying Examination format

  • Frequency: Once per semester (Fall and Spring) with a schedule to synchronize with the qualifying examination for the Ph.D. in Computer Science.
  • Structure: The qualifying examination shall be composed of 16 problems from 4 subject areas (4 per area), classified into two groups as follows:
    • Group B
      • Computer Architecture
      • Operating Systems
    • Group C
      • Circuits (Digital Logic and VLSI Design)
      • Communication Networks (Networking and Data Communications)
  • Choice of problems: The candidate may choose to answer 8 of the 16 problems, with the following stipulations:
    • (a) At least three problems must be chosen from Group B, and at least three problems must be chosen from Group C,
    • (b) For problems chosen from Group B, at least one problem must be chosen from each subject area in Group B. Problems chosen from Group C do not have any such requirement (i.e., they can all be chosen from a single subject area).
  • When and the number of times a student can take the exam: A student admitted to the CE Ph.D. program with an MS received at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln or elsewhere must fulfill his/her Qualifying Examination requirement no later than the third semester after admission. A student admitted to CSE's Ph.D. program without an MS must fulfill his/her Qualifying Examination requirement no later than the fourth semester after entrance. A student may take the exam no more than twice.
  • Registration for the exam: Students must register to take the exam at least two weeks prior to the exam date, and they will be assigned ID numbers so that their identities will be anonymous to graders.
  • Forming Ph.D. supervisory committee after passing the exam: A student cannot form his/her Ph.D. Supervisory Committee before passing the Qualifying Examination and thus the Program of Studies for the Ph.D. can not be approved before the student has passed the Qualifying Examination. Also, it should be noted that according to Graduate College requirements, a student should not be beyond the half-way mark (that is 45 credit hours applicable towards the degree) when her/his program of studies is approved.

Choosing an Advisor

The choice of an advisor based on your goals for a Ph.D. degree is critical to success in your work. It is important to realize that the research program is a cooperative effort between the student and the advisor.

  • The advisor has the overall responsibility for the direction and course of the student's research program.
  • The advisor must be a fellow of the graduate faculty.
  • Once you have made the selection of your advisor, you must inform the Graduate Secretary.

Supervisory Committee

The purpose of the Supervisory Committee is to assist the student in preparing a program to enable success in the Ph.D. program and in evaluating the research.

  • The supervisory committee must be formed after the candidate has passed the qualifying examination, according to the schedule stipulated by the Graduate Studies.
  • Upon recommendation of the departmental or area Graduate Committee in the student’s major, the Dean of Graduate Studies appoints, for each student, a supervisory committee of at least four Graduate Faculty. All professors on the supervisory committee must either be on the Graduate Faculty or be non-Graduate Faculty approved to perform specified Graduate Faculty duties.
  • The candidate’s dissertation advisor serves as the chair of the supervisory committee. If the candidate has two dissertation advisors, both serve as co-chairs of the supervisory committee.
  • When the candidate’s advisor(s) belong to just one department (CSE/EE), the supervisory committee must include at least one member from another department (EE/CSE), who also serves on the reading committee.
  • The student and the advisor must then submit the "Recommendation for Appointment of a Supervisory Committee for the Doctoral Degree" form to the Graduate Committee chair for his/her signature. After the approval by the Graduate Committee Chair, the form is forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval of the Supervisory Committee.
  • As one additional option, as of February 12, 2009, a Supervisory Committee may be augmented by the addition of one external expert. Such an expert must hold a doctoral degree appropriate to the discipline and have academic accomplishments comparable to the criteria for graduate faculty. Such "courtesy" members may serve as readers and have full voting rights. Please refer to the Courtesy Members of Doctoral Supervisory Committees document for further details and a link to the form that must be completed.

Program of Study

  • The program of study must be filed with the Graduate Studies office before the student has completed 45 credit hours. The supervisory committee should meet to review and approve the program of study and general area of research for the dissertation. A Report of the Supervisory Committee on Program of Studies for the Doctoral Degree is then forwarded to the Graduate Studies office. Any subsequent change in the program or in the dissertation topic must be approved by the supervisory committee and the action reported to Graduate Studies. The program of study cannot be filed until the student has cleared all the deficiency courses listed in his or her Certificate of Admission.
  • The program of study must meet the breadth and depth requirements.
  • The total number of independent study type courses (CSCE 896, CSCE 897, CSCE 898, CSCE 899, and CSCE 996) in the program should not exceed 9 credit hours.

Effective Spring 2018 the deparetment has adopted the folowing new program requirements New PhD Requirements

Comprehensive Examination

  • The comprehensive examination shall be conducted by the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee. The examination will be conducted after the student has completed at least 54 hours of course work and has spent time working on one or more specific research problems that are expected lead to their dissertation. The exam must be completed no later than 7 months prior to the student's Ph.D. defense.
  • The candidate’s supervisory committee may choose from one of the following two formats.
    • Writing an in-depth dissertation proposal, including a comprehensive review of the literature describing the state-of-the-art related to the broader topic
    • Preparing a research proposal similar in form and contents to an NSF-proposal.
  • The comprehensive examination shall consist of two parts: a written dissertation proposal followed by an oral presentation.
    • The written proposal shall be sent to the student's Supervisory Committee at least 2 weeks prior to the date of the oral presentation.
    • The oral presentation shall involve a formal presentation of the proposal by the student, of duration between 30 and 45 minutes. The oral presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer period. The questions may pertain to any aspect of the student's proposal, oral presentation, and planned research.
  • In any event, the Supervisory Committee will report its decision to the student and, in writing, report results to the Graduate Assistant and Graduate Committee (these results will then be reported to the Graduate College).
  • If a student fails the Comprehensive Examination, the Supervisory committee may decide to give the student a second chance, making particular recommendations for improvements, or they may recommend termination of the student's graduate status. A second exam may not be attempted earlier than the following academic term. No more than two attempts to pass the Comprehensive Exam will be allowed.
  • Failure to pass the Comprehensive Examination in will result in the student's dismissal from the Ph.D. program. The letter of dismissal will be issued by the Graduate Committee and Graduate Chair, following receipt of a recommendation and report from the Supervisory Committee. The student will have the usual right to appeal dismissal decisions to the Graduate College.


Upon the successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, the Supervisory Committee will normally recommend the student for admission to candidacy. The Committee, however, may require additional examinations.

  • The student must file the Application for Admission to Candidacy form with the Office of Graduate Studies.
  • The term for candidacy is three years and the student is expected to complete the dissertation during this period.
  • Following admission to Candidacy the student must register for graduate classes during each academic year semester until he/she receives the Ph.D. degree


All Ph.D. students must complete a dissertation under the supervision of a fellow of graduate faculty. It is expected that the work done makes original contribution to the field. It is expected that the work is of a quality that can be published in refereed journals, if it has not already been published. The student is required to write the dissertation in a standard style (Use the "Guidebook for Preparing your Thesis or Dissertation" available from the Office of Graduate Studies.) LaTeX templates are also available on the departmental computers.

Following a thorough review by the advisor, copies of the dissertation are given to the members of the Reading Committee (a subset of the Supervisory Committee). The student must give the committee at least two weeks for review. Upon approval of the Reading Committee a copy of the completed "Application for Final Oral Examination" form and a copy of the dissertation is submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies, at least three weeks prior to the final oral examination.

Final Dissertation: After appropriate changes have been made to the dissertation based on the comments of the committee, and the supervisory committee has approved the final dissertation, the student must upload an electronic version of the dissertation to ProQuest and UNL Digital Commons. The student is required to make a hard-bound copy of the thesis/report to the advisor, unless the advisor chooses not to require one. It is also customary to offer each member of the supervisory committee a copy of the final report.

Visit for the Office of Graduate Studies' instructions on the final dissertation preparation and uploading.

Final Oral Examination (Thesis Defense)

The final oral examination is required for all Ph.D. students. The oral examination will be scheduled for two hours and consist of the presentation and defense of the research. The presentation is open to the public and the student is required to give an abstract (electronic copy) to the office to be used for advertising. After the public presentation and a question-and-answer period, the remainder of the examination is conducted privately by the supervisory committee. The supervisory committee may require the student to make changes to the dissertation and/or conduct additional research and the advisor is generally responsible for making sure that the work is completed. The advisor decides on the grade of the Ph.D. Dissertation.

Track Listing

Track 1: Circuits And Cyber-physical Interfaces

  • CSCE 43X/83X. Cyber-Physical Systems and Interfaces *
  • CSCE 434/834. VLSI Design
  • CSCE 436/836. Embedded Systems
  • CSCE 421/821. Foundation of Constraint Processing
  • CSCE 476/876. Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • CSCE 496/896. Special Topics-VLSI Physical Design
  • CSCE 496/896. Human-Robot Interaction
  • CSCE 839. Robotics: Algorithms and Applications
  • CSCE 932. Fault-Tolerance: Testing/Testable Design
  • CSCE 990. Advanced Topics-Robotics
  • ELEC 416/816. Materials and Devices for Computer Memory, Logic, and Display
  • ELEC 417/817. Integrated Circuits
  • ELEC 469/869. Analog Integrated Circuits
  • ELEC 470/870. Digital and Analog VLSI Design
  • ELEC 9XX. Advanced Analog and Mixed Signal Circuits*

Track 2: Systems

  • CSCE 430/830. Computer Architecture
  • CSCE 413/813. Data Base Systems
  • CSCE 425/825. Compiler Construction
  • CSCE 432/832. High Performance Processor Architectures
  • CSCE 435/835. Cluster and Grid Computing
  • CSCE 437/837. File and Storage Systems
  • CSCE 455/855. Distributed Operating Systems
  • CSCE 456/856. Parallel Programming
  • CSCE 458/858. Real-Time Systems
  • CSCE 868. Requirements Elicitation, Modeling and Analysis
  • CSCE 477/877. Cryptography and Computer Security
  • CSCE 496/896. Special Topics-Self-Managing Computer Systems
  • CSCE 496/896. Genetically Engineered Systems
  • CSCE 930. Adv Computer Architecture
  • CSCE 933. Fault-Tolerance: System Design and Analysis
  • CSCE 990. Advanced Network Security
  • CSCE 990. Advanced Runtime Systems
  • CSCE 990. Cyber-Physical Systems
  • CSCE 990. Hardware Security
  • CSCE 990. Software Verification
  • ELEC 444/844. Linear Control Systems
  • ELEC 477/877. Digital Systems Organization and Design
  • ELEC 8XX. Discrete/Continuous System Modeling and Simulation*
  • ELEC 9XX. Advanced Digital Design*

Track 3: Communications, Networking, & Signal Processing

  • CSCE 462/862. Communication Networks
  • CSCE 464/864. Internet Programming
  • CSCE 465/865. Wireless Communication Networks
  • CSCE 496/896. Special Topics-Adv Internet Technologies
  • CSCE 438/838. Sensor Networks
  • CSCE 463/863. Data and Network Security
  • CSCE 472/872. Digital Image Processing
  • CSCE 473/873. Computer Vision
  • CSCE 496/896. Performance Optimization of Computer Systems and Networks
  • CSCE 952. Advanced Computer Networks
  • CSCE 953. Optical Communication Networks
  • CSCE 990. Seminar-Network Systems
  • CSCE 990. Advanced Sensor Networks
  • CSCE 990. Data Visualization
  • CSCE 990. Molecular and Nanoscale Communication
  • CSCE 990. Queueing Models for Computer Systems and Networks
  • ELEC 408/808. Electromagnetic Fields and Waves
  • ELEC 410/810. Multivariate Random Processes
  • ELEC 462/862. Communication Systems
  • ELEC 463/863. Digital Signal Processing
  • ELEC 464/864. Digital Communication Systems
  • ELEC 465/865. Data Compression
  • ELEC 467/867. Electromagnetic Theory and Applications
  • ELEC 498/898. Image and Video Processing
  • ELEC 911. Communication Theory
  • ELEC 912. Error Control Coding
  • ELEC 915. Adaptive Signal Processing
  • ELEC 996. Multi-camera Systems
  • ELEC 996. Wireless Communications

*Final course numbers to be assigned for XX courses


- Requirements effective May 2013.

Prior Requirements