Carnegie Mellon University

Thesis & Defense

Once the student has completed all the research that was agreed upon at the prospectus meeting, they must write a PhD thesis and orally defend it.

ECE adheres to CIT's policy on PhD completion timelines. The CIT policy is as follows: "Passing the PhD Qualifying Examination admits a student to candidacy for the PhD degree for a period of no longer than six calendar years. If, at the end of this six-year period, the PhD has not been awarded, the student must reapply for admission to the graduate program and will be judged competitively with other students applying at the same time." Students wishing to obtain an extension due to special circumstances must submit a formal petition at least one semester prior to the expiration of their defense timeline.

Once their PhD thesis is written, the student must submit the Defense Declaration Form to the Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Office at least two weeks before the defense date. The Thesis Committee is usually the same as the Prospectus Committee. If there is any change in the committee, the student must submit a one-page biographical description of any new committee member from outside Carnegie Mellon for approval. Additionally, the student is expected to adhere to CIT's guidelines: they should provide the committee with a copy of their thesis at least one-and -a-half months prior to the defense.

The oral defense is a public examination open to all members of the Carnegie Mellon community. All four members of the Prospectus Committee must actively participate in the defense meeting. It is desirable to have all committee members participate in person; however, a student is allowed to have one committee member of four participate by teleconferencing. Any deviation from this teleconferencing policy is exceptional and must be petitioned for approval from the Department via the Final Defense Declaration Form

In addition to these ECE requirements, CIT has its own requirements pertaining to the thesis and defense process. This site includes instructions for the document standards and format. Students should pay particular attention to the format of the thesis title page and required content of the acknowledgements section.

Students will not be eligible to participate in any commencement ceremonies until their degree has been formally certified by the ECE Department.

Thesis defense deadline & degree certification for Spring 2024

While degrees are awarded three times per year (May, August, and December), there is only one formal commencement ceremony, which happens in May. The commencement program includes those students who graduated during the previous August and December, plus those students expected to graduate in May.

The certification deadline in May is always two weeks after commencement. Depending on if students defending in the spring semester choose to walk in the commencement ceremony or not, the deadlines they must abide by change. 

Thursday, January 18: Thesis defense information session

Deadlines for students who choose to walk in commencement 

  • Defense deadline: Students should schedule their defense absolutely no later than the last day of classes, April 26, to make sure they have time to finish before the end of the semester.
Post-defense steps completion deadline: Students must finish everything and have their degree certified by commencement. Students are strongly encoured to complete the post-defense steps by May 3

Deadlines for students who choose not to walk in commencement 

NOTE: Students can graduate in spring but choose not to walk in commencement. In that situation, if they want their degree to be certified within the spring semester, they must defend their thesis and complete all post-defense steps by May 13. 

This deadline is set by ECE to ensure that the Academic Affairs Office has sufficient time to process students' post-defense paperwork (and obtain signatures from the ECE department head and associate dean) and certify their degree by the Spring 2024 certification deadline. 

Tuition adjustment deadlines for Spring 2024 

100% tuition reimbursement for advisors

  • Defense: February 5
  • Post-defense steps completion: February 19

50% tuition reimbursement for advisors

  • Defense: March 8
  • Post-defense steps completion: March 22 

    NOTE: If you defend after March 8, or if your dissertation is submitted after March 22, your advisors should be prepared to cover 100% of fall tuition and applicable university fees, plus stipend support.

    Full semester (no tuition reimbursement for advisors)
  • Defense: April 26
  • Post-defense steps completion: May 3