student working with computer and wires

PhD in Computer Engineering


Northeastern’s PhD program in Computer Engineering offers the opportunity to pursue cutting-edge research in the following areas: computer architecture, parallel computing, fault tolerance, performance analysis and modeling, security, embedded systems, VLSI, algorithms, data mining, testing, machine learning, machine vision and software engineering.

Innovative Curriculum

Northeastern offers a PhD in Computer Engineering that is completely research-based with minimal and flexible course requirements which can be pursued as full-time or part-time. As a computer engineering student at Northeastern, you will study computer architecture, software engineering, computer-aided design (VLSI), microprocessor-based design, and applied algorithms.

In addition to a broad background in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, this curriculum gives you solid foundation in both hardware and software design. RISC microprocessors, object-oriented Java, and cellular networks are just three of the technologies you will encounter in the program.

In the past ten years, the internet has revolutionized all aspects of our lives, from the way we communicate to the way we do business. Wireless communication, online commerce, medicine, and multimedia are examples of new applications that have transformed our world. Computer engineers developed the fundamental technologies that made the web possible, including high-performance microprocessors, gigabit networks, and object-oriented computer languages. Demand for computer engineers has increased dramatically in recent years. Students with a strong background in computer engineering are aggressively recruited by cutting-edge computer companies nationwide.

The ECE department offers a variety of graduate courses giving students the flexibility in planning their course requirements according to their research requirements and personal interests. Many graduate courses are offered in two sections; in-class and streaming video. Part-time students and full-time students who have schedule conflicts can register in the streaming video sections.

  • Northeastern ECE is the host or major partner in nine state-of-the-art research centers
  • Financial support available
  • Internationally-recognized Internships & Co-op opportunities
  • Professional Development Workshop Series to complement the research and classroom experiences
  • Northeastern ECE is a research powerhouse in the Boston area and beyond
  • The ability to use basic engineering concepts flexibly in a variety of contexts.
  • Ability to formulate a research plan.
  • Ability to communicate orally a research plan.
  • Ability to conduct independent research.
  • Qualifying exam: Students who already hold an MS degree and matriculate in the fall semester must take the qualifying exam in the spring semester of their first year. Students matriculating in spring semester, or students who hold a BS degree and matriculate in the fall semester , can postpone the exam to the second spring semester. Those who fail the exam the first time, have one more chance to take the exam. These students must take the exam the next spring after their first attempt.
  • Research Advisor: Students should have a research advisor one year after their matriculation.
  • Thesis Committee: The Dissertation Committee must be formed not later than six months after passing the qualifying exam.
  • Comprehensive exam: The deadline for comprehensive exam is two years after passing the qualifying exam.
  • Dissertation Defense: The dissertation defense should be scheduled at least one year after taking the comprehensive exam.

Dissertation/Thesis Instructions

The Electrical and Computer Engineering department offers a variety of graduate courses giving students flexibility of planning their course requirements according to their research requirements and personal interests. Many of graduate courses are offered in two sections; in-class and streaming video. Part-time students and full-time students who have schedule conflicts can register in the streaming video sections.

Our graduates pursue careers within academia and beyond.

  • Ditto Labs
  • Lousiana Tech University
  • Google
  • Draper Laboratories
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Intel
  • Bose Corp.
  • The Mathworks

Experiential Learning

With a large number of high-tech firms in and around Boston, both start-ups and large multinational corporations, many PhD students do an internship during their program while remaining right here in Boston. Often their advisor is instrumental in identifying the internship position, with a funding sponsor or research collaborator, be they in Boston or elsewhere in the United States. Internships can be informally arranged for several months at any time during the calendar year.

PhD students can also take advantage of the more formally arranged co-op program which entails up to 8 months of work experience preceded by several professional development courses to prepare students. The Cooperative Education Program, also known as a “co-op,” is one of the largest and most innovative in the world, and Northeastern is one of only a few that offers a co-op program for graduate students. Through this program, students gain industry experience in a wide variety of organizations, from large companies to entrepreneurial start-ups, while helping to finance their education. Another option for PhD students is the university’s Experiential PhD program.

man at computer area with double monitors showing columns of coding

Academic Advising

The Academic Advisors in the Graduate Student Services office can help answer many of your questions and assist with various concerns regarding your program and student record. Use the link below to also determine which questions can be answered by your Faculty Program Advisors and OGS Advisors.

Admissions & Aid

Ready to take the next step? Review degree requirements to see courses needed to complete this degree. Then, explore ways to fund your education. Finally, review admissions information to see our deadlines and gather the materials you need to Apply.

Student News

Computer PhD Student Selected for ACM-IEEE CS George Michael Memorial HPC Fellowship

Tirthak Patel, PhD’22, computer engineering, was selected as a recipient of the 2021 ACM-IEEE CS George Michael Memorial HPC Fellowship, for his contributions toward making current error-prone quantum computing systems more usable and helping HPC programmers solve computationally challenging problems.

Computer engineering graduate student Rui Luo operates the robot that will be entered into the September 2021 semifinals of a $10 million global robotics competition.

Creating a Human Avatar in Remote Locations

A group of Northeastern University students led by MIE Assistant Professor Peter Whitney, has made it to the semifinals of the global Avatar XPrize competition which aims to create an avatar system that can transport human presence to a remote location in real-time.

ECE PhD Student Wins 2021 VNN-COMP Award

Kaidi Xu, PhD’21, computer engineering, from Assistant Professor Xue “Shelley” Lin’s lab, got the Top Highest Score Award and Category Winner during the 2nd International Verification of Neural Networks Competition (VNN-COMP’21) at the 33rd International Conference on Computer-Aided Verification. The work was done in collaboration with researchers from CMU, Columbia University, and UCLA.

Khan Receives Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Humanics

Congratulations to computer engineering student, Zaid Khan, PhD’24, who won the Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Humanics.