Doctorate Degree in Robotics

The Robotics Ph.D. program of study comprise a minimum of 108 credits, including at least 48 credits of coursework and 36 credits of Thesis (ROB 603). The balance may either constitute additional coursework and/or thesis credits or come from other sources such as research, reading and conference, etc. At least 50 percent of the course credits should represent stand-alone graduate courses (500 level or above). The remaining credits may include the 5XX component of 4XX/5XX-level courses (so-called slash courses). Of the coursework credits, 16 must come from approved core courses.

Robotics Core:
The intent of the Robotics core is to ensure each program of study both specializes in robotics, and contains sufficient breadth. To that end, the four-course core comprises one introductory course, one introductory hands-on robotics course, one autonomy course, and one fundamental control/dynamics course:
1.         ROB 514: Introduction to Robotics
2.         ROB 515: Introduction to Robotics II
3.         ROB 537: Learning-Based Control -OR- ROB 534: Sequential Decision Making in Robotics
4.         ME 531: Linear Multivariate Control Systems I -OR-  ROB 545: Kinematics, Dynamics, and Control

Timeline of a Ph.D. in Robotics:
The major milestones in completing a Ph.D. in robotics at Oregon State are listed below. For more information about these milestones, please contact the graduate advising team (

Selecting a major professor: Your major professor will serve as your primary advisor throughout your graduate program. While we assign all incoming MIME graduate students an interim advisor, it is your responsibility to select your major professor and assemble your committee as soon as possible. Your Ph.D. program of study, which must be filed with the Graduate School prior to the sixth term of enrollment, requires your committee's approval.

Qualifying examination:  The purpose of the Ph.D. qualifying exam is to assess students’ research skills (their ability to analyze, interpret, and communicate fundamental scientific, mathematical, and engineering concepts) for the purpose of determining their aptitude for the Ph.D. program. The examination also includes a diagnostic function to highlight potential weaknesses in the students’ background that can be addressed through additional coursework or independent study.

Qualifying exam format: The qualifying exam consists of:

  • A written research paper on a topic selected by the committee. This will generally consist of literature review of two areas, with a discussion highlighting the interesting research directions in that topic and a discussion off the social implications of the research. The committee will specify the format and length of the paper, which will be due one week prior to the scheduled oral examination.
  • A 20 minute oral presentation on the topic of the research paper.
  • A 15 minute examination session on:
    • topics presented in the research paper
    • topics identified by the committee as a result of evaluating the research paper

Qualifying exam timeline: The qualifying exam is conducted every Winter term. Students entering the program with an MS degree must take the qualifying exam in their first year in graduate school. Students entering the program with a BS degree must take the qualifying exam in their second year in graduate school.

Program of Study meeting: After passing the qualifying examination and establishing a Ph.D. committee, students must convene a program meeting at which all committee members (including the Graduate Council Representative) are present. The purpose of this meeting is for you to present your program of study. At this meeting you will also present an approximate timeline for Ph.D. requirement completion (coursework completion, preliminary exam, and final oral exam).

Preliminary exam: The preliminary examination evaluates a Ph.D. candidate's research methodology, experimental plan, and interpretation of preliminary results (if appropriate). The purpose of the exam is to allow the committee to aid the candidate in planning and implementing the highest quality thesis.

Preliminary exam format: The preliminary exam consists of:

  • A written document that summarizes previous work in the area, including the student's, and proposes the novel research needed to complete the thesis. 
  • A presentation of the proposal to the committee
  • An oral examination on the proposal’s content

Preliminary exam timeline: The preliminary exam must be scheduled through the Graduate School using their Exam Scheduling Form, and exam takers must be formally enrolled (for a minimum of 3 credits) during the term in which the exam takes place.

Final Oral Examination: After completing all required coursework and thesis credits and submitting the pretext pages of your thesis to the Graduate School, you must schedule your final oral examination through the Graduate School using their Exam Scheduling Form. Also, you must be formally enrolled (for a minimum of 3 credits) during the term in which the exam takes place.


Outcome 1: Scholarship
The student will be able to produce and defend a significant contribution to knowledge.

Outcome 2: Mastery of Subject Material
The student will be able to demonstrate mastery of subject materials.

Outcome 3: Ethical Conduct
Students will be able to conduct scholarly or professional activities in an ethical manner.

Note: For the most recent university guidelines and requirements, please consult the Graduate School. For the latest graduate handbooks, please see here.