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Welcome to EE at Caltech
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Graduate Program
Caltech has a reputation as a world-class research university, and it is no exaggeration to say that much of this reputation is based on the quality of its graduate students. The Electrical Engineering option (department) at Caltech is no exception: its bright and motivated graduate students collaborate with its professors in their research efforts and make it one of the top Electrical Engineering departments in the country.

Completed applications are due in the Graduate Studies Office no later than December 15, for entrance the following September. Applicants are encouraged to submit their applications as early as possible. Applications will not be reviewed until all credentials and official copies of test scores have been received. It is strongly recommended that applicants take the GRE in October of the preceding year, which leaves enough time for Caltech to receive the scores by January.

Please visit the Caltech Graduate Studies website for downloadable forms, important dates, and further information about the admissions process.

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The EE department enjoys vigorous interactions with other departments around campus. These include Applied Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics, Computation and Neural Systems, and Control and Dynamical Systems. There are separate graduate programs in all of these disciplines, and the Electrical Engineering department offers joint courses and seminars with these departments, shares resources, including students, and indeed many of our faculty members hold joint appointments with one or more of these departments.

The Electrical Engineering department, like Caltech itself, is small. There are currently 16 full-time-equivalent faculty members, and at any one time there will be about 80 graduate students in residence, including about 20 first-year students chosen from a pool of over 500 applicants. Almost all of these students will be Ph.D. track students, i.e., students whose ultimate goal at Caltech is a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. We also have a small number of Master's only students, most of whom will be on leave from industry or government posts. Admission is highly competitive, and applicants are evaluated on the basis of a number of criteria including transcripts, letters of recommendation from former teachers, standardized test scores (including, when appropriate, TOEFL scores), written statements of purpose, appropriateness of research interests, and research experience and promise.

Financial aid is provided for virtually all Ph.D. students, either in the form of a Teaching Assistantship (TA), a Research Assistantship (RA), or a Fellowship. These awards provide full tuition-offsetting scholarships. Teaching assistants are expected to grade papers or provide laboratory instruction in selected classes. Research assistants will be assigned to a specific professor's research group.

Normally, the Master's degree in Electrical Engineering (MSEE) is completed in one academic year by taking five courses, as approved by the student's adviser, in each of the three academic terms. Occasionally (for example a student on a work-study program) will take two years to complete the Master's degree. No Master's thesis is currently required.

 

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Applicants who wish to obtain a Ph.D. are, as a rule, initially admitted only to the MSEE program. (The most common exception to this rule is that students who have already obtained a Master's degree from an accredited U.S. university may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program.) During the MSEE year, a student who wishes to be admitted to the Ph.D. program must identify one or more potential Ph.D. advisers from the EE faculty, and inform those professors of his/her interest in working in the group. All Ph.D. aspirants are also required to pass a one-hour oral examination, normally held in late January, which tests the student's undergraduate background in EE. In late February, the entire Electrical Engineering Faculty meets to discuss each Ph.D. aspirant individually, and, based on classroom performance, the result of the oral examination, appropriateness of research goals, and other criteria, decisions are made as to which students will advance to the Ph.D. program, and those students are assigned to research groups. From then on, the student's advancement towards a Ph.D. is monitored closely by the student's research professor. Before the end of the student's second year of graduate study, the student is expected to take a Ph.D. oral qualifying examination, during which the student is expected to describe in detail the preliminary results of his/her research, and to submit to questioning by professors who have taught the student one or more classes.

In summary, the Caltech Electrical Engineering department is a small and friendly environment, which is home for its graduate students for three to five years. While plainly not for everybody, our program can provide priceless research apprenticeship for individuals whose career goals include highly skilled professional posts in academic, industrial, or government positions.

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   last update: 08/05/2014
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