Computer Engineering

The Department offers a graduate program leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Engineering. The program provides advanced instruction and research opportunities in a broad range of Computer Engineering areas and is focused on both the theoretical and practical aspects of the state of the art in Computer Engineering. The Ph.D. program emphasizes research as a major element of its degree requirements.

Fields of specialization in Computer Engineering supported within the department include:

VLSI design and testing including mixed signal analog and digital design
Systems hardware/software co-design and testing
Computer networks
Digital signal processing

General Policies

When seeking admission to the graduate program, applicants must satisfy all entrance requirements of the Graduate School at UMBC. Applications are not processed until all documents and fees are received. Applicants must submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, Graduate Record Examination (GRE General Test) scores, and, for foreign students, scores for the TOEFL. Applicants seeking admission to the M.S. degree who have obtained an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from a four year U.S. institution and who are not interested in an assistantship do not need to submit GRE test scores. Applications are available on-line at

Application deadlines

Note that the application deadlines are specified by the Graduate School and are subject to change. Please refer to the on-line information provided by the graduate school at for more information.

U.S. citizens and U.S.-educated permanent residents:

Fall semester - July 1

Spring semester - December 1

International students and permanent residents who are attending or have attended a foreign school:
Fall semester - January 1

Spring semester - May 1 of the prior academic year

The application review process will begin by February 1 for admission to the Fall semester and by October 1 for admission to the following Spring semester. It is the policy of the CSEE department to admit students based solely on their academic and research performance.

Students may apply for admission to either the M.S. or Ph.D. program. However, admission to the Ph.D. program is highly selective and only the student with an exceptional background will be accepted. Financial aid will be preferentially given to the Ph.D. students. New students will be assigned an academic advisor who can provide advice on choice of courses, degree requirements, and other important matters during the first year. By the end of the first year, M.S. and Ph.D. students should seek a faculty member to serve as research advisor for their M.S. thesis or Ph.D. dissertation research.

Financial Assistance

Financial aid is available on a competitive basis to a limited number of qualified graduate students in the form of graduate teaching assistantships (TAs) and graduate research assistantships (RAs). Preference for TAs is given to first year Ph.D. applicants and to those students whose academic background (and work experience) best matches the anticipated TA duties. Graduate RAs are often available to students actively engaged in funded research of the faculty and are awarded and renewed subject to availability of funds and satisfactory research progress. Students are encouraged to also apply directly to nationally awarded fellowship programs for financial support.

Prerequisites of M.S. and Ph.D. Degree Programs

An applicant to the graduate program in Computer Engineering is expected to have a strong background in computer engineering, computer science, and mathematics courses. This includes the Calculus course series, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, and Probability and Statistics in mathematics. In addition, applicants are expected to have taken courses equivalent to the following Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering courses at UMBC:

CMPE 310 Systems Design and Programming

CMPE 212 Principles of Digital Design

CMPE 314 Electronic Circuits

CMSC 413 Principles of VLSI Design

CMSC 341 Data Structures

CMSC 411 Computer Architecture

CMSC 421 Principles of Operating Systems

ENEE 206 Basic Circuit Theory

Program Requirements

Course Listings:

Breadth Courses:

CMSC 611 Computer Architecture

CMPE 650 Digital Systems Design

CMPE 640 Advanced VLSI Design

And one of the following:

CMPE 642 Principles of Mixed Signal Design

CMPE 645 Computer Arithmetic Algorithms and Implementations

ENEE 610 Digital Signal Processing

CMPE 646 VLSI Design Verification and Testing

CMPE Electives:

CMPE 641 Topics in VLSI

CMPE 646 VLSI Design Verification and Testing

CMPE 645 Computer Arithmetic Algorithms and Implementations

New CMPE Electives (to be developed as new faculty are hired):

CMPE 642 Principles of Mixed Signal Design

CMPE 643 Low Power Design

CMPE 644 High Level Synthesis

CMPE 645 CAD Algorithms

CMPE 651 Parallel Architectures

CMPE 652 Fault Tolerant Computing

CMPE 653 Robotics

CMPE 725 Contemporary Issues

New faculty hires in Computer Engineering will develop most of the new courses above in addition to adding special topics courses in their areas of research. Courses will be developed over the next several years, coinciding with the faculty buildup in the department.

CMSC Electives:

CMPE 691 Special Topics in Computer Engineering

CMSC 621 Operating Systems

CMSC 625 Modeling and Simulation of Computer Systems

CMSC 641 Design and Analysis of Algorithms

CMSC 652 Cryptography and Data Security

CMSC 653 Coding Theory and Applications

CMSC 655 Numerical Computations

CMSC 681 Computer Network Architecture

CMSC 682 Networking Technologies

CMSC 691 Special Topics in Computer Science

CMSC 742 Parallel Algorithms

CMSC 781 Distributed Computing

ENEE Electives:

ENEE 611 Adaptive Signal Processing

ENEE 612 Digital Image Processing

ENEE 620 Probability and Random Processes

ENEE 622 Information Theory

ENEE 623 Communication Theory I

ENEE 624 Error Correcting Codes

ENEE 625 Data Compression

ENEE 630 Solid State Electronics

ENEE 631 Semiconductor Devices

ENEE 680 Electromagnetic Theory I

ENEE 681 Electromagnetic Theory II

ENEE 683 Lasers

ENEE 684 Introduction to Photonics

ENEE 723 Communication Theory II

ENEE 737 Semiconductor Device Processing Techniques

ENEE 738 Characteristics of Semiconductor Optoelectronics

ENEE 785 Topics in Optical Networks

Most graduate courses currently offered in the CSEE department, as well as new courses that might be developed in the future, are available as electives for the Computer Engineering program.

Requirements for the Master of Science (M.S.)

Within five years of admission, the student must earn a minimum of 30 credit hours with thesis option, 33 credit hours with a project option (there is no course-only option, all students MUST do either a thesis or a project). The student must satisfy the GPA and course requirements for their field of specialty and attend the department's Graduate Seminar (CMPE 608). Each student must complete either a thesis or a scholarly paper. The thesis option in the student's field requires a minimum of eight graduate-level courses and six credit hours of thesis, CMPE 799. The thesis must be defended with an oral exam and accepted with the approval of the student's M.S. thesis committee. The committee must consist of at least three graduate faculty within the department. The project option in the student's field requires a minimum of ten graduate-level courses and three credit hours of CMPE 698 research project work resulting in a scholarly paper which must be approved by the advisor.

Required Courses

Breadth Courses

Each student must take four breadth courses, distributed as given in the Course Listing section and receive a grade of B or better in each course.

Additional Courses

Beyond the four breadth courses and the six credits of CMPE 799 (M.S. Thesis), a minimum of twelve additional course credits is required for students who choose the thesis option. For students who choose the project option, the minimum number of additional course credits (beyond the four breadth courses and three CMPE 698 credits) is eighteen. Under either the M.S. Project or M.S. Thesis options, students must take two courses from the CMPE Electives given in the Course Listing section. The remaining course requirements are specified as follows.

M.S. Project

Two courses must be selected from each of the CMSC Electives and ENEE Electives given in the Course Listing section.

M.S. Thesis

One course must be selected from the CMSC Electives and the other course from the ENEE Electives given in the Course Listing section. Any student may undertake a Master's Thesis, supervised by a faculty member as the thesis advisor. M.S. Degree candidates undertake a thesis worth 6 credits, and the thesis needs to show a tangible research component. Upon completion of the thesis research, the thesis must be defended in a public presentation.

Research Courses: Research courses provide the course credits for the student's research activities, e.g., independent study, graduate project, scholarly paper, and M.S. Thesis.

Graduate Seminar: Each student must attend the Graduate Seminar course (CMPE 608) for one semester.

Transfer Credits: No more than six credits may be transferred from another university. Credit transfers and/or exceptions to the 6-credit transfer limit must be approved by the Graduate Program Director and the Associate Dean of the Graduate School.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Each field of specialty sets its course requirements for Ph.D. students in that field. The department's minimum requirement is eleven courses (beyond Bachelor's degree) excluding graduate seminar participation, graduate research credits prior to Ph.D. candidacy, and doctoral dissertation research credits (CMPE 899). The Ph.D. student must spend the equivalent of at least three years of full-time residency with at least one year on the UMBC campus. The doctoral dissertation must be an original and substantive contribution to knowledge in the student's major field. It must demonstrate the student's ability to carry out a program of research and to report the results in accordance with standards observed in the recognized scientific journals related to that field.

The Ph.D. student must:

(1) Pass the written comprehensive exam within four semesters of entrance to the program (five semesters for part-time students)
(2) Develop and defend a doctoral dissertation proposal and be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy within four years of entrance to the program
(3) Complete all Ph.D. requirements for their field of specialty within four years of admission to Ph.D. candidacy

Comprehensive Examination

Each student must pass a written examination based on the material covered in the four breadth courses. The comprehensive examinations are offered twice a year and may be retaken once if failed the first time provided the time limit (four semesters for full-time students and five semesters for part-time students) is not exceeded. Any student who fails the exam twice will be dismissed from the graduate program. (See the department's graduate program web page for detailed policies for comprehensive exams,

Graduate Seminar

Each student must attend the department's Graduate Seminar course (CMPE 608) for one semester, usually during the first year.

Course Requirements

Each student must satisfy the minimum course requirements for their field of specialty (typically eleven courses totaling 33 credits) excluding the department's Graduate Seminar, graduate research credits prior to Ph.D. candidacy, and doctoral dissertation research credits. Four of the eleven courses must be taken from the Breadth Courses as specified in the Course Listing section.

The remaining elective courses must be distributed such that a student takes at least two courses from each of the CMPE Electives, CMSC Electives and ENEE Electives given in the Course Listing section.

Students cannot take dissertation research credits (CMPE 899) before passing the comprehensive examination.

Preliminary Examination

Each student must select a dissertation advisor and a dissertation preliminary examination committee. Each student must pass a two-part preliminary examination. In the first part, the student will present and defend his or her dissertation proposal to the committee. In the second part, the committee examines the student orally on his or her research area(s) to assess his or her ability to successfully complete the proposed research. Each full-time student must pass the preliminary examination within one and a half years after passing the comprehensive exams to remain in the Ph.D. program (part-time students will be given two and a half years to pass the preliminary examination).

Ph.D. Candidacy

After passing the preliminary examination and completing the course requirements, the graduate program committee recommends to the Graduate School that the student be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

Dissertation Research

Each student will conduct and report on a significant original research project under the guidance of his or her dissertation advisor. This research must be completed and defended within four years of admission to candidacy. Ph.D. candidates take at least 12 dissertation credits, and the dissertation must demonstrate a significant contribution to the state of the art in the topic selected. The Ph.D. dissertation committee must include four graduate faculty members from the CSEE department and one external member. Students must be admitted to candidacy at least two full sequential semesters before the date on which the doctoral degree is to be conferred.

Residency Requirements

A minimum of three years of full-time graduate study or its equivalent is required. At least one year of full-time study must be completed at UMBC.

Facilities and Special Resources

The department's computer engineering facilities include two dedicated computer engineering laboratories that provide computers and test and measurement equipment. The department also provides two dedicated servers that allow students to use commercial design software. The University Computer Services has over 400 workstations for general student use and several high-end computing systems.

Program Admission Requirements

Applicants must apply separately to the graduate programs in Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Admission processes for the M.S. degree program and the Ph.D. degree program are separate. Applications are not processed until all documents and fees have been received. For further details on General Policy, Financial Assistance, etc. please refer to the department's graduate catalogue.