The program information below was valid for the fall 2016 term (September 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016). This is the archived version; the most up-to-date program information is available through the current Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

The Graduate Studies Academic Calendar is updated 3 times per year, at the start of each academic term (January 1, May 1, September 1). Graduate Studies Academic Calendars from previous terms can be found in the archives.

Fields (areas of research)

  • Human and Biomedical Engineering
  • Intelligent Systems and Software
  • Mechatronic and Physical Systems
  • Modelling, Simulation and Systems Theory
  • Optimization and Decision Making
  • Signal and Image Processing
  • Societal and Environmental Systems
  • Admit term(s) 
    • Fall
    • Winter
    • Spring
  • Delivery mode 
    • On-campus
  • Length of program 
    • The minimum period of registration for a PhD degree is four terms. Degree requirements must be satisfied within four calendar years following the date of admission into the PhD program, unless extensions are approved by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Faculty of Engineering. Requests for extension must be supported by a written departmental recommendation along with a realistic timetable for the completion of the degree, and evidence of adequate progress in research. Extensions are not granted automatically and will be refused in the case of inadequate progress. University of Waterloo regulations stipulate that approval of an extension past three extended terms is at the discretion of the Associate Provost, Graduate Studies.
  • Program type 
    • Doctoral
    • Research
  • Registration option(s) 
    • Full-time
    • Part-time
  • Registration option(s) information 
    • A minimum of two terms of full-time residence is expected from students who wish to proceed on a part-time basis. Full-time residency means that a candidate is present on campus for at least three days a week, or a sufficient period of time per week to satisfy the supervisor. The most appropriate time for this residence period will be established in consultation with the supervisor(s) and the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies. Part-time students should be advised that the Faculty of Engineering expects at least 20 hours per week to be devoted to advanced study and research.
  • Study option(s) 
  • Minimum requirements 
    • Excellent background preparation and academic achievement in prior degrees, usually a relevant (i.e. thesis-based) Master's degree with an 80% average from a recognized university.
    • Demonstrated ability to formulate research problems and to execute the research required to solve problems (such as a Master of Applied Science (MASc) research thesis or published scientific/technical papers).
    • At the time of admission, each student must have an approved PhD supervisor or two co-supervisors (at least one of whom is an approved PhD supervisor) who have agreed in writing to supervise the academic program of a candidate. The Faculty of Engineering maintains a list of individually approved research supervisors ("LIARS", which is equivalent to the current University of Waterloo designation of "ADDS": Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisors). Additions and deletions to this list are made by the Engineering Graduate Studies Subcommittee upon the recommendation of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in the appropriate department.
    • Note: in the Faculty of Engineering, a minimum 80% standing in an applicant's appropriate Master's program is the usual requirement. A MASc obtained without a full research thesis is normally an inadequate qualification for admission to the PhD program. Admission to the PhD program is based upon the student's academic record and evidence of ability to pursue independent work. No candidate will be admitted to the program before a faculty advisor is appointed as the student's supervisor.
    • Transfer to the PhD program without completion of the MASc program: a student enrolled in a MASc program at the University of Waterloo may apply for transfer to the PhD program without completing a Master's degree. Transfer from a MASc program to a PhD program will normally be considered if an applicant:
      • Has an excellent undergraduate record.
      • Has obtained a grade average of at least 80% in courses that have been taken for graduate credit.
      • Has developed a clearly defined research program that seems likely to satisfy the research proposal component of the PhD comprehensive examination and has demonstrated an aptitude for research.
      • Presents objective evidence of adequate English language skills which should enable the candidate to write a thesis and to communicate orally.
      • Is not beyond the fourth academic term of a MASc program.
  • Application materials 
    • Résumé
    • Supplementary information form
    • Transcript(s)
  • References 
    • Number of references:  3
    • Type of references: 

      2 from academic sources that are able to comment upon academic preparation and research ability.

  • English language proficiency (ELP) (if applicable)

    Thesis option:

  • Graduate Academic Integrity Module (Graduate AIM)
  • Courses 
    • PhD candidates possessing a recent Master's degree in an appropriate discipline are required to take 3 courses at the 600 or 700 level (with unit weights of 0.50 each). The Department may require individual candidates to take more than 3 courses. In every case, a graduate course program is established by the supervisor(s) in consultation with the student, and is subject to the approval of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. Candidates may also be required to take additional courses as a result of a comprehensive examination.
    • Candidates admitted to the PhD program who do not possess a recent and relevant Master's degree, or have transferred directly to the PhD program without a Master's degree, are required to complete a minimum of 7 courses (with a credit weight of 0.50 each) at least 5 of which must be at the 600 or 700 levels.
    • The Faculty of Engineering requires that no more than one-half of the courses used for credit towards a graduate degree may be taught by the candidate's supervisor(s). In the case of co-supervision in small research groups, it may be necessary to relax this rule, but the student's file must contain a statement of formal approval from the Department and endorsement from the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Faculty of Engineering.
  • Link(s) to courses
  • PhD Comprehensive Examination
    • The PhD Comprehensive Examination consists of an oral examination conducted at the University of Waterloo with the candidate and members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee in attendance. This examination consists of the following two parts:
      • A critical examination of the research proposal based on a written summary provided in advance.
      • An examination of the breadth of the candidate's knowledge of the academic field of the thesis and the adequacy of the candidate's background preparation to pursue the proposed research.
    • The Comprehensive Examination is normally conducted before the end of the fourth term of a PhD program. Delay of a comprehensive examination may be granted by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Faculty of Engineering in response to a written request outlining the reasons for the delay, accompanied by a timetable for the completion of the comprehensive examination, the research program and the thesis defence. Each request must be supported in writing by the research supervisor(s) and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies.
    • A research proposal will consist of a machine-printed, double-spaced report [no more than fifty pages] including tables, diagrams and references. The proposal will identify the research problem, review the relevant literature, describe the tasks planned to solve the problem, and propose a timetable for the completion of the project and the defence of the PhD thesis. Students, with the approval of their supervisor(s), may wish to distribute background working papers to members of the Committee to provide further evidence of background preparation.
    • The Research Proposal must be submitted to the Examination Committee [one copy to each member] at least two weeks before the date of the examination.
    • The Comprehensive Examination Committee is appointed by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Faculty of Engineering on the recommendation of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. It consists of the supervisor(s), plus a minimum of three members, at least one of whom shall be from another academic department of the University of Waterloo. The Department shall inform the Engineering Graduate Studies Office of the date and time of the comprehensive examination and the composition of the Examining Committee [at least two weeks prior] to the examination (through the use of "Form D"). The Associate Dean will appoint a neutral Chair for the comprehensive examination. The role of the Chair is to ensure that the examination is conducted according to the comprehensive examination guidelines. The Chair is not an examiner and cannot vote.
    • The mechanism of the two-phase examination is established by the Faculty of Engineering, and made known to the Chair of the Examination Committee when the examination documents are delivered to the Chair prior to the date of examination. The examination starts with the candidate's [oral presentation] of the main points of the program proposal and should be presented within thirty minutes. According to departmental specifications, the Chair invites members of the Committee either to examine the proposal or the candidate's background preparation as the [first phase] of the examining process. When members of the Committee have no more questions to ask, the Chair may declare a short break, after which the [second phase] of the examination takes place (i.e. the examination of either the research proposal or the candidate's background preparation, complementary to the first phase of the examination, in accordance with departmental specifications).
    • The Chair will permit members of the University community to enter and leave the examination prior to and at the end of the candidate's oral presentation, during the break, and at the end of the overall examination. Only members of the Examination Committee, the Associate Provost, Graduate Studies, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Faculty of Engineering, the Department Chair and the Department Associate Chair for Graduate Studies are allowed to stay for the in camera deliberation following the examination. However, these four officers have no vote, and they do not participate in the discussions of the Committee, except by invitation, unless they are (regular) members of the Examination Committee.
    • An Examination Committee must choose from one of the four decisions:
      • Passed (equivalent to Accepted)
      • Passed subject to completion of recommendations (equivalent to Accepted Conditionally)
      • Re-examination (equivalent to Decision Deferred)
      • Failed (equivalent to Rejected)
    • The Chair must inform the candidate, in the presence of the Comprehensive Examination Committee, of the outcome of the comprehensive examination and of all recommendations and/or conditions imposed on the candidate.
  • PhD Seminar
    • PhD candidates are required to present a seminar on their thesis topic as part of the degree requirements. These seminars allow candidates to communicate the results of their research work and should not be interpreted as an oral examination of their thesis. Candidates in the program normally hold their seminar three terms after completing their Comprehensive Examination.
  • PhD Thesis
    • Candidates are expected to maintain continuous registration until the thesis is submitted to the Graduate Studies Office. Under exceptional circumstances, inactive terms or a leave of absence may be requested for a prior specified period with departmental approval. The role of a supervisor is to assist a candidate in establishing a research problem with an appropriate scope, to suggest alternative general approaches to the solution of a problem and to provide general advice on the structure and content of a thesis. It is imperative that the engineering code of ethics be strictly observed in the supervisor-candidate relationship.
    • The PhD degree in the Faculty of Engineering is awarded to a candidate who has successfully completed a program of advanced study and conducted original research. The program of research and its findings must be presented in the form of a thesis and submitted to the University for public examination prior to its oral defence.
    • The writer of a thesis must demonstrate a critical awareness and understanding of the literature in the research field, exhibit a capability of defining original and useful research problems and a capability of independent thought in solving a research problem. An ability to communicate research results verbally and in writing must be shown. The University of Waterloo allows students to submit theses in English or in French, the latter being governed by certain important constraints. The principles governing the submission of theses in French are specified in the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar. The oral examination of a thesis will assess the ability of a candidate to communicate orally the results of the research and to defend the contents of the thesis.
    • Originality in a thesis may be reflected in a number of ways. A candidate may have posed and solved an important new problem or have formulated an existing problem in a novel and useful way. A candidate may offer new and significant insights into problems examined previously by other researchers. Replications of previous investigations may be acceptable if, and only if, they incorporate [significantly new] elements in the design or execution of an experiment.
    • Objective criteria describing what is meant by a significant contribution to knowledge are difficult to specify. One way of gauging a candidate's contribution is to consider the extent to which parts of the thesis might be published in peer-reviewed technical journals with an international stature or as a monograph by an acceptable publisher. The ultimate test of the acceptability of a thesis is the ability of a candidate to satisfy, through an oral examination, to a University-appointed committee of research specialists in the general field of study, that a significant research contribution has been made and communicated adequately.
    • It must be emphasized however, that a PhD thesis in the Faculty of Engineering cannot consist of a collection of technical papers that may have already been published in peer-reviewed literature. PhD theses submitted for examination in the Faculty of Engineering should be prepared in accordance with the thesis regulations published by the Graduate Studies Office. Earlier theses should not be used as a guide, as the regulations are revised periodically. A candidate's PhD supervisor(s) should also provide important advice about the appropriate form of a PhD thesis and its content.