Doctoral Degree Requirements

  • 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor's level
  • minimum of 37 course credits (including the core curriculum)
  • minimum of 24 hours of doctoral dissertation research
Requirements & Courses


  • Maintain an average grade of B (GPA 3.0) for all 72 credit hours (Up to 24 graduate credit hours may be transferred with the approval)
  • Complete courses with no more than one grade below a B- 
  • Complete at least one semester-long research rotation
  • Become integrated with a research group
  • Pass a qualifying exam
  • Successfully defend a thesis proposal
  • Present and successfully defend a dissertation
  • Complete the mentored teaching experience required by the student's administrative home department

Research Rotations

During their first year, students are required to register for and complete at least one research rotation (for 3 credit hours) with program faculty mentors. The research rotation(s) allow students to sample different research projects and laboratory working environments before selecting the group in which they will carry out the PhD dissertation research. 

A rotation will be chosen in consultation with faculty and must be mutually agreeable to both the student and the mentor. At the completion of each rotation, the student must submit to the mentor and director a written report approved by the mentor.


Required Core Courses (22 credit hours)

  • BME/CSE/ESE, Mathematics of Imaging Science (3 credit hours)
  • ESE 506, Seminar in Imaging Science and Engineering (1 credit hour)
  • BME 593, Computational Methods for Imaging Science (3 credit hours)
  • ESE 589, Biological Imaging Technology (3 credit hours)
  • BME/ESE 5907, Theoretical Imaging Science (3 credit hours)
  • BME/ESE/CSE, Practicum in Computational Imaging (3 credit hours)
  • BME 601, Research Rotation (3 credit hours, see Section III.D)

At least 12 credit hours in elective imaging coursework must be completed that span any of the following categories:

  • Computational Imaging & Theory
  • Imaging Sensors & Instrumentation
  • Image Formation & Imaging Physics
  • Translational Biomedical Imaging
  • Medical Physics 

Progression of Courses (typical)

First Semester
  • BME/CSE/ESE, Mathematics of Imaging Science (3 credit hours)
  • ESE 506, Seminar in Imaging Science & Engineering (1 credit hour)
  • BME 601, Research rotation (3 credit hours, see Section III.D)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)
Second Semester
  • BME 593, Computational Methods for Imaging Science (3 credit hours)
  • ESE 589, Biological Imaging Technology (3 credit hours)
  • Elective (3 credit hours) OR optional Second Research Rotation – BME 601 (3 credit hours)
Third Semester
  • BME 5907, Theoretical Imaging Science (3 credit hours)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)
Fourth Semester
  • BME/ESE/CSE, Practicum in Computational Imaging (3 credit hours)
  • Elective or doctoral research (3 credit hours)
  • Elective or doctoral research (3 credit hours)

Electives Courses — Computational Imaging & Theory

  • BME/ESE, Adaptive Imaging
  • BME/ESE, Wave Physics and Applied Optics for Imaging Scientists 
  • CSE 501N, Programming Concepts and Practice
  • CSE 511A, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • CSE 513T, Theory of Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • CSE 515T, Bayesian Methods in Machine Learning
  • CSE 517A, Machine Learning
  • CSE 519T, Advanced Machine Learning
  • CSE 543T, Algorithms for Nonlinear Optimization
  • CSE 546T, Computational Geometry
  • CSE 554A, Geometric Computing for Biomedicine
  • CSE 555A, Computational Photography
  • CSE 559A, Computer Vision
  • CSE 566S, High Performance Computer Systems
  • ESE 523, Information Theory
  • ESE 588, Quantitative Image Processing
  • ESE 524, Detection and Estimation Theory

Electives Courses — Imaging Sensors & Instrumentation

  • BME, Imaging Instrumentation 

Electives Courses — Image Formation & Imaging Physics

  • BME 591, Biomedical Optics I
  • BME 494, Ultrasound Imaging
  • BME 5XX, Advanced topics in Ultrasound Imaging (To be developed)
  • BME 5XX, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (To be developed)
  • BME 5XX, Imaging in Nuclear Medicine (To be developed)
  • ESE 582/BME 5820 Fundamentals and Applications of Modern Optical Imaging

Electives Courses — Translational Biomedical Imaging

  • BME, Therapeutic Applications of Biomedical Imaging 

Electives Courses — Medical Physics

  • BME 5071, Radiobiology
  • BME 5072, Radiation Oncology Physics
  • BME 507, Radiological Physics and Dosimetry
  • BME 5073, Radiation Protection and Safety 

Approved Life Science Courses

  • BME 530A Molecular Cell Biology for Engineers
  • BME 503A Cell & Organ Systems (6CR,WUSM)
  • BME 538 Cell Signal Transduction
  • BME 5902 Cellular Neurophysiology
  • BIOL 4071 Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 4580 Principles of Human Anatomy & Development
  • BIOL 4810 General Biochemistry
  • BIOL 4820 General Biochemistry II*
  • BIOL 5068 Fundamentals of Molecular Cell Biology
  • BIOL 5319 Molecular Foundations of Medicine
  • BIOL 5053 Immunobiology (4Cr)
  • BIOL 5146 Principles and Applications of Biological Imaging
  • BIOL/CHEM 5147 Contrast Agents for Biological Imaging
  • BIOL 5224 Molecular, Cell, and Organ Systems
  • BIOL 5285 Fundamentals of Mammalian Genetics
  • BIOL 5352 Developmental Biology
  • BIOL 5488 Genomics
  • BIOL 5571 Cellular Neurobiology (4 units)
  • BIOL 5651 Neural Systems
  • BIOL 404 Laboratory of Neurophysiology
  • BIOL 548 Nucleic Acids and Protein Biosynthesis
  • BIOL 5663 Neurobiology of Disease

Approved Mathematics Courses — Any graduate-level course within the Department of Mathematics is approved.

Qualifying Exam

A written qualifying exam will be administered during the spring of their second year of graduate school. The examining committee, who will develop and grade the exams, will consist of three members of Imaging Science PhD Program Committee. The Director of the Graduate Program will approve the committee, whose members will be suggested by the thesis adviser.

Students will choose three out of the four exam topics:

  • Mathematics of Imaging Science
  • Imaging Physics & Image Formation Methods
  • Theoretical Image Science

Finding a Thesis Research Mentor

Because the PhD is a research degree, the student is expected to become integrated within a research group. By the end of the first year of study, the student should have found a thesis adviser who will oversee his/her PhD research and assume financial responsibility for stipend, tuition, health insurance, and student fees. The thesis adviser must be a faculty member in Imaging Science PhD Program Committee with the title of Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor. Failure to find a research adviser by May 1 will result in the student being placed on probation that can last up until August 31. During that time, the student must continue to seek a research adviser. Failure to find a research adviser by August 31 will lead to dismissal from the PhD program and termination of funding.

The student's admission application should include transcripts and letters of evaluation. The Graduate Admissions Committee will review all applications and construct a ranked list of candidates. This list and the associated application packages will be forwarded to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval for admission to the Program. Following approval by the Dean of the Graduate School and the Director of the Graduate Program, the Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee will notify the students accepted by letter.   

Research Presentation/Thesis Proposal 

Before the end of the student's third year, the student will give an oral presentation of his/her proposed PhD project, with the necessary background to support it, to the Thesis Committee. As described in Section V.A, this committee will consist of six members. Four members must be members of the Imaging Science PhD program committee. At least one committee member must be chosen from outside the Imaging Science PhD Program Committee, and must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member at Washington University. The committee will be chaired by the PhD mentor.  At least two weeks prior to the presentation, the student will present to the Thesis Examination Committee a written document outlining the research background, proposed procedures, preliminary results, and plans for completion.  The required document will be typically between fifteen and thirty pages in length and must contain a comprehensive bibliography.

The student will be placed on probation if he/she fails to pass their Thesis Proposal by the sixth semester. The student will be given a second opportunity to pass the exam during their seventh semester. If the student passes the second exam and meets the other program requirements (e.g. grades), they may continue the program without prejudice. If the student fails the exam a second time, they will be terminated from the PhD program.


The student will prepare a written dissertation for examination by the Thesis Examination Committee and will defend the dissertation before this committee. Should a member of this committee be unable to participate, the Director of the Graduate Program, in consultation with the PhD mentor, will choose a replacement. If the committee members feel that the dissertation has deficiencies, they may recommend that the candidate address them and send the revised dissertation to the committee members for approval. The committee may also recommend that the candidate present another oral defense of the modified work. The Thesis Committee will inform the Director of the Graduate Program, and he/she will warn the student in writing that they must submit a revised dissertation and pass the oral defense (if recommended) in order to complete the PhD program. If, after revision and reexamination, the Thesis Committee still finds deficiencies and cannot reach unanimous agreement to approve the dissertation, the Graduate School's Policy on Dissenting Votes will apply.

Teaching Requirements

Students in the PhD program will receive formal pedagogical training by attending a minimum of two Teaching Workshops offered by the Washington University Teaching Center. He/She will be expected to fulfill the teaching requirements of his/her designated administrative home department. The teaching requirements must be completed before the student submits his/her doctoral dissertation to the graduate school.