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Systems Design Engineering - PhD at Waterloo

Program information

Department/School Systems Design Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering
Admit term(s)

Fall (September - December)

Winter (January - April)

Spring (May - August)

Application and document submission deadline

February 1 (for admission in September)

June 1 (for admission in January of the following year)

October 1 (for admission in May of the following year)

Delivery mode On-campus
Program type Doctoral, Research
Length of program 48 months (full-time)
Registration option(s) Full-time, Part-time
Study option(s) Thesis
Research field(s) –  Graduate research fields are used to better define a student’s research concentration

Biomedical Engineering

Human Factors and Ergonomics

Machine Learning and Intelligence

Mechatronic and Physical Systems

Modelling, Simulation and Systems Theory

Optimization and Decision Making

Societal and Environmental Systems

Vision, Image and Signal Processing

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What does it take to get in?

Minimum admission 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 material

  • Resume
  • Supplementary information form (SIF)
    • The SIF contains questions specific to your program, typically about why you want to enrol and your experience in that field. Review the application documents web page for more information about this requirement
    • If a statement or letter is required by your program, review the writing your personal statement resources for helpful tips and tricks on completion
  • Transcript(s)
  • References
    • Three references, two from academic sources that are able to comment upon academic preparation and research ability
  • Proof of English language proficiency, if applicable
    • TOEFL 80 (writing 22, speaking 20, reading 20, listening 18) IELTS 6.5 (writing 6.0, speaking 6.0)

How much will it cost?

What can you expect at Waterloo?

This program page is effective September 2023; it will be updated annually.  Any changes to the program page following this date will be indicated with a notation. 

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