ISE PhD Degree Guide

Degree Options

Most of the students admitted into our degree programs are admitted without an advisor. Students should:

  • research the advisors in their research area
  • learn what the faculty in their research area is currently working on via their faculty webpage
  • meet with faculty members they are interested in working with
  • submit an advisor agreement via the my.ise portal no later than Reading Day of their first semester in the program.
  • meet with faculty members they are interested in working with
  • submit an advisor agreement via the my.ise portal no later than Reading Day of their first semester in the program. The student will officially choose the thesis or non-thesis option when submitting their advisor agreement. The advisor agreement may be severed at any time by the faculty member or the student.

Start early! The semester will be over before you know it.

My.ise Portal

The my.ise portal is an extremely useful tool for graduate students. You will use this site frequently during your graduate studies. Graduate students use the my.ise portal for the following items:

**IMPORTANT: To access this important website:

  • Log in with your NetID and password to
  • At the bottom of the page you must “Add content to above column”. You can choose to add it to the left column or main page
  • Select “ISE Grad Student Toolbox” and click Add

Curriculum and Degree Requirements

The degree requirements in ISE for our PhD degrees are very flexible. This is so that the student can pursue courses in his/her research area without constraint. To assist the student, ISE has created research area webpages, which list the faculty and courses in each research area.

Thesis Registration

Each professor has their own section of SE and IE 599. To register for your advisor’s section:

  • Email the Graduate Programs Office, include your advisor’s name and your degree program, to obtain the CRN
  • Once registered, confirm that you are registered for your advisor’s section by checking the instructor of the course
  • To change the credit hours you are enrolled for, click the hyperlinked credit hours
  • Please double-check that you are enrolled in the correct section

Independent Study Registration

Each professor has their own section of SE and IE 597. To register for your advisor’s section:

  • Complete the independent study request form on the my.ise portal
  • Once approved by the instructor and the Graduate Programs Office, you will receive the CRN via email. Note: if you are registering after the deadline, the Late Registration/Late Course Change form is required. You must obtain the instructor’s signature and approval from the Graduate Programs Office
  • Once registered, confirm that you are registered for your advisor’s section by checking the instructor of the course
  • To change the credit hours you are enrolled for, click the hyperlinked credit hours
  • Please double-check that you are enrolled in the correct section

ISE Seminar Registration (IE/SE 590)

All on-campus students are required to register for IE/SE 590 every fall and spring semester. MS and PhD Industrial Engineering students must register for IE 590. MS and PhD Systems & Entrepreneurial Engineering students must register for SE 590. This course meets as “arranged”. ISE seminars will be scheduled weekly throughout the semester. All graduate students must attend 6 seminars to pass the course. Seminar substitution forms are available on the my.ise portal for those students who would like to attend a few seminars outside of the ISE department.

Degree Stages Overview

Stage I: Stage I of the PhD program consists of 32 hours, generally represented by an MS degree or equivalent. To advance to Stage II, a student must pass the Qualifying Examination.

Stage II: Stage II of the PhD program consists of 32 hours of coursework beyond the MS degree. To advance to Stage III, a student must pass the Preliminary Examination.

Stage III: Stage III of the PhD program consists of a minimum of 32 hours of 599 thesis research credit, a written dissertation, and a final oral defense.

Timeline of Milestone Requirements


Expected Progress*


Submit Advisor Agreement

End of 1st Semester

End of 2nd semester w/ approved petition

Qualifying Exam

Beginning of 3rd semester

Beginning of 4th semester if have MS/MA

Complete Coursework

End of 4th semester

End of 5th semester if have MS/MA

Preliminary Exam

4th-5th semester

5th semester

Final Exam

8th semester

6 years

Thesis deposit

8th semester

6 years

* Assumes student has an MS/MA degree or has completed all coursework equivalent to an MS/MA if entering with a Bachelor’s. Students entering with a Bachelor’s degree have a time limit of 7 years.

ISE PhD Planning Form

ISE Qualifying Examination (abridged)

Download the complete ISE Qualifying Exam Document

In general, students entering the program with a B.S. degree should take the Qualifying Examination (the Qual) before obtaining the MS degree, and no later than the fifth semester after beginning their graduate study. Students entering the PhD program with a MS degree should take their qualifying examinations no later than their third semester of enrollment. A student admitted in spring may petition to take the exam in the spring term.

To be permitted to take the Qual all students must meet the following requirements:

  • A signed MS/PhD Advisor Agreement Form must be on file in the ISE Graduate Department office.
  • 8 credit hours of 500-level coursework must be completed in IE and/or SE courses, other than the thesis credit courses (IE or SE 599).
  • A grade point average of at least 3.25 must have been attained on all graduate coursework completed.

The Qual has two components. The first component consists of a written-exam; the oral-examination forms the second component. The written exam involves three parts. Each part will be a one hour-long examination (in one three-hour time block) on topics covered in the courses in the qualifying exam guide. The written exam will be held within three weeks of the start of each semester.

A student who fails any portion of the Qual may repeat that portion of the exam in the subsequent semester. A student who fails the exam on the second attempt will not be allowed to continue in the PhD program. A student who fails two or three of the one-hour written exams will not be allowed to take the oral qualifying exam until the following semester.

ISE Written Qualifying Examination

The ISE written qualifying exam will consist of three one-hour written examinations in a single three-hour time block. Each one-hour portion will cover material from 1 of 3 courses. These exams will be graded as “pass/borderline/fail”. The faculty will ratify the results of the written qualifying exam at the monthly faculty meeting following the written exam. A student who is “borderline” on a written exam can be provided a conditional pass with the proviso that he/she takes appropriate remedial course(s). A “fail” on the first attempt requires the student to repeat the written qualifying exam for that area.

The PhD candidate will select one research concentration from the following areas:

  • Decision and Control
  • Design and Manufacturing
  • Operations Research

See the qualifying exam guide to review exam options for your research area.

ISE Oral Qualifying Examination

The second component of the qual is an oral examination. The 45-minute oral examination will be based primarily on a presentation made by the student to a three-person oral examination committee (OEC) within the candidate’s research concentration. This examination will be conducted during the last three weeks of each semester.

The OEC will assign the student one journal paper to critically appraise during the oral exam in terms of:

  • overall significance
  • influence on the development of the field
  • possible future research directions in the area of the paper, and
  • connections to the student’s research interests.

The presentation should be 25 minutes in length, leaving 20 minutes for questions. Questioning may range beyond the material in the assigned paper, and may include questions relating to the student’s written examination problems.

Students should not expect to defend their research in the Oral Examination.

Breadth Requirement

The PhD candidate is also required to take three courses that are outside his/her research concentration, as a part of the breadth-requirement. The student must communicate these courses to the Graduate Programs Office via the my.ise petition portal. The Graduate Programs Office will notify the student of the decision to accept or deny the courses chosen.

The Graduate Programs Office will verify the Breadth requirement before the candidate’s PhD Preliminary Examination

ISE Preliminary and Final Examinations (abridged)

Download the complete ISE Preliminary and Final Examinations Document

The Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination is essentially an oral examination on a proposed dissertation topic and the student's academic preparation. The examination is taken upon completion of all required coursework for the PhD degree, or the semester in which the final unit of coursework is taken, but no sooner, and is administered by a committee which is appointed by the Graduate College in accordance with department requests. A student must be registered for the entire semester in which they take the Preliminary Examination.

The Final Examination

The Final Examination consists of an oral defense of the dissertation and is administered by the doctoral committee. This examination is open to the public. The Graduate College does require that all doctoral candidates be registered for the entire academic term during which they take the final examination, regardless of when the thesis will be deposited or when the degree will be conferred. If enough thesis credits have been accumulated, registration for zero hours is acceptable.

Due to room scheduling limitations, ISE HIGHLY RECOMMENDS that you submit your room request well in advance of your exam. Suggested: 6 weeks

Scheduling the exam, securing the committee members, and reserving an appropriate room is the student’s responsibility. See the complete preliminary and final exam guide for deadlines, committee requirements, dissertation proposal guidelines, and scheduling information.

The Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering requires a minimum of six months between the preliminary and final examinations.

Annual Review

The Graduate College requires departments to perform annual reviews on all students. Students are required to submit a self-evaluation early in the spring term. The advisor will then be required to submit an evaluation of the student. Any students needing special attention will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Students will be notified when the annual review is open, usually at the end of the fall or beginning of the spring term.

Degree Progress

ISE expects PhD degree students to complete the degree requirements in 3-5 years, with those students entering with an MS degree finishing sooner than those without.

A student may request a degree audit at any time via email to the Graduate Programs Office. Forms are also available on the my.ise portal if a student wishes to keep track of courses and degree progress independently.


All students should notify the Graduate Programs Office of their intent to graduate at least one semester in advance of graduation. This will allow the Graduate Programs Office to run the final degree audit and notify the student of any degree shortages. All graduating students will be sent a graduation checklist to ensure that all steps are completed for graduation. Students must add themselves to the pending degree list in UI Self-Service by the deadline posted on the Graduate College website.

Remember…commencement is separate from graduation. You must register for commencement and rent regalia if you plan to walk.

For more information, consult the Checklist for Graduating Students.