Physics - Degrees - Engineering Acoustices PhD

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Acoustics

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and the Department of Physics (PH) jointly sponsor an interdisciplinary program in Engineering Acoustics leading to the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Acoustics. Areas of special strength in the departments are physical acoustics, underwater acoustics, acoustic signal processing, and acoustic communications. Specific areas of current research are listed in Appendix I. A noteworthy feature of this program is that a portion of the student's research may be conducted away from the Naval Postgraduate School at a cooperating laboratory or other federal government installation. The degree requirements and examinations are as outlined under the general school requirements for the doctorate degree. In addition to the school requirements, the departments require a preliminary examination to show evidence of acceptability as a doctoral student. The PhD program includes course work, written and oral examinations, and research. A student wishing to embark on this program of study must present evidence of suitable undergraduate preparation in both physics and signal processing and of having excelled in previous academic endeavors. Applications for this program should be submitted for the 536 Engineering Acoustics PhD curriculum. Completion of a doctoral program can be expected to require a minimum of three years of full time graduate study.

Specific requirements for pursuing studies towards the PhD in Engineering Acoustics are as follows:

  1. Preliminary Examination. Admission to the PhD program is based on GRE scores and previous transcripts of undergraduate and graduate studies. In addition, a preliminary exam will be administered by the Engineering Acoustics PhD Committee. This exam may be waived for students who hold a Master’s degree in Engineering Acoustics from NPS. Normally, the student is expected to successfully complete the preliminary exam within six months after enrollment. Prospective students not currently enrolled at the Naval Postgraduate School may, if they wish, take the preliminary examination (in Monterey) and receive the Committee’s decision before enrolling. This exam consists of two parts. The purpose of the exam is to judge the student’s basic knowledge and problem approach to judge their suitability for PhD level work. The physics portion of the exam consists of approximately six questions in classical physics at the undergraduate level. The signal processing portion focuses on the fundamentals of signals and systems including Fourier analysis, probability and random variables. Three hours are allotted for each exam. The student should bring a calculator (not a smart phone) to the exams. A student who fails to pass this exam may, at the discretion of the PhD Committee, be allowed to retake the examination once. Passage of either of these examinations permits the student to continue in the PhD program. A student who fails to pass either exam may choose to pursue a Master of Science degree.


  2. Dissertation Committee. As soon as possible after successful completion of the preliminary examination, the Engineering Acoustics PhD committee will appoint a Dissertation Committee for the student. The Dissertation Committee will consist of five or more members. Four of the committee members must be full-time NPS faculty with representation from both the Physics and ECE Departments, and one must be must be external to these departments. One or more members of this committee may be from another university or appropriate institution. No more than one member of the committee without an earned doctorate degree will be allowed. The Engineering Acoustics PhD Committee shall designate one or more members of the Dissertation Committee to be the Dissertation Supervisor (who must be a member of either the Department of Physics or the ECE Department with an earned doctorate degree).


  3. Course Work. Study for the PhD in Engineering Acoustics requires the student to earn a grade of “B” or better in a sequence of physics and electrical engineering courses at the 3000 or 4000 level. These courses typically include the following or their equivalents:
    • PH3119 Waves and Oscillations (4-2) Summer
    • PH3451 Fundamental Acoustics (4-2) Fall
    • PH3452 Underwater Acoustics (4-2) Winter
    • PH4454 Sonar Transducer Theory and Design (4-2) Winter
    • PH4455 Sound Propagation in the Ocean (4-0) Spring
    • EC3400 Digital Signal Processing (3-2) Fall
    • EC3410 Discrete Time Random Signals (3-2) Summer
    • EC4440 Statistical Digital Signal Processing (3-2) Fall
    • EC4450 Sonar Systems Engineering (4-1) Winter


    Additional courses may be approved by the Engineering Acoustics PhD Committee or by the Dissertation Committee, and should be selected to prepare the student for the Qualifying Examinations and dissertation research.

    Any coursework to be transferred must have been successfully completed with a minimum grade of “B” within the three years prior to admission into the graduate program at NPS.

    Validation of approved 4000 level courses is possible on a case-by-case basis determined by the PhD or Dissertation Committee.

  4. Qualifying Examination. After the student’s formal studies are essentially complete, and approximately one year, but no more than three years, after successful completion of the preliminary examination, the student will take a comprehensive examination covering the course work outlined above. This examination will be given in two parts, written and oral. Successful completion of the entire Qualifying Examination (written and oral) requires a unanimous vote of the student’s Dissertation Committee.
    • A. Written Portion. The written portion of the Qualifying Examination is prepared and administered by the Dissertation Committee. This examining committee will act upon the written examination in one of the following ways:
      • a) Recommend the student for oral examination
      • b) Require re-examination (written) (Upon failing this exam a second time, the student is denied advancement to candidacy.)
    • B. Oral Portion. As soon as practical (normally within a month) after successful completion of the written portion of the Qualifying Examination, the Dissertation Committee will hold an open oral examination and will invite the Academic Council and all members of the Departments of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering to attend.


  5. Advancement to Candidacy.    After the following steps are completed:
    • a) the Dissertation Committee and Dissertation Supervisor are approved by the Academic Council,
    • b) the proposed dissertation topic is approved by the Dissertation Committee, and
    • c) the written and oral portions of the Qualifying Examination are successfully completed,


  6. Dissertation Research.  The distinct requirement for the PhD degree in Engineering Acoustics is the successful completion of a scholarly investigation leading to an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the corresponding discipline.


  7. Dissertation Defense.  At least six months after advancement to candidacy and upon approval of the Dissertation Supervisor, a complete draft of the student’s dissertation will be distributed to the Dissertation Committee. This committee will schedule the dissertation defense to be held at least ten days after the draft is distributed and invite the Academic Council and members of the Departments of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering (as well as any others the PhD Committee may select) to attend. The presentation will provide a defense of the dissertation and will necessarily include questioning in the field of specialization.
Physics - Degrees - Engineering Acoustics -appendix


The faculty of the Departments of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering have a diversity of interests and are able to support dissertation research in a variety of areas relating to Engineering Acoustics. In collaboration with its research sponsors, the departments conduct basic and applied research in underwater acoustics, acoustic communications, sonar, signal processing, and communication networks. The following list represents areas of current activity that would be particularly suited for Ph.D. dissertation research.

  • Acoustic remote sensing
  • Noise interferometry
  • Nonlinear oscillations and nonlinear waves
  • Propagation of sound in the ocean
  • SONAR systems analysis and simulation
  • Acoustic vector sensors and vector field studies
  • MEMS/nano-based sensors