PhD in Imaging Science (Interdisciplinary PhD)


To complete the PhD in Imaging Science, students must do the following:

  • Maintain an average grade of B (3.0 grade-point average) for all 72 units (up to 24 graduate units may be transferred with approval)
  • Complete courses with no more than one grade below 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 one mentored teaching experience, including workshops and other related requirements


Required Core Courses (19 units)

BME 570Mathematics of Imaging Science (or equivalent CSE or ESE course)3
ESE 596Seminar in Imaging Science and Engineering1
ESE 520Probability and Stochastic Processes3
BME 601CResearch Rotation for BME Doctoral Students (refer to the Research Rotations section later on this page)3
ESE 5932Computational Methods for Imaging Science3
ESE 5933Theoretical Imaging Science3
ESE 5934Practicum in Imaging Science3
Total Units19

Elective Imaging Courses from any of the Following Categories (at least 12 units):

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

Typical Progression of Courses

CourseFall UnitsSpring Units
First Year
Mathematics of Imaging Science (BME 570) (or equivalent CSE or ESE course)3
Seminar in Imaging Science and Engineering (ESE 596)1
Research Rotation for BME Doctoral Students (BME 601C) (refer to the Research Rotations section later on this page)3
Biological Imaging Technology (ESE 589)3
Computational Methods for Imaging Science (ESE 5932)3
Elective or optional second research rotation (BME 601)3
Second Year
Theoretical Imaging Science (ESE 5933)3
Elective or doctoral research66
Practicum in Computational Imaging (BME XXX) (or equivalent CSE or ESE course)3

Elective Options

Elective Courses — Computational Imaging & Theory

CSE 412AIntroduction to Artificial Intelligence3
CSE 501NIntroduction to Computer Science3
CSE 513TTheory of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning3
CSE 515TBayesian Methods in Machine Learning3
CSE 517AMachine Learning3
CSE 519TAdvanced Machine Learning3
CSE 543TAlgorithms for Nonlinear Optimization3
CSE 546TComputational Geometry3
CSE 554AGeometric Computing for Biomedicine3
CSE 559AComputer Vision3
CSE 566SHigh Performance Computer Systems3
ESE 523Information Theory3
ESE 524Detection and Estimation Theory3
ESE 588Quantitative Image Processing3

Elective Courses — Image Formation & Imaging Physics

BME 494Ultrasound Imaging3
BME 5820Fundamentals and Applications of Modern Optical Imaging3
or ESE 582 Fundamentals and Applications of Modern Optical Imaging
BME 591Biomedical Optics I: Principles3
BME 594Ultrasound Imaging3
BME 5XXImaging in Nuclear Medicine (to be developed)
BME 5XXMagnetic Resonance Imaging (to be developed)

Elective Courses — Medical Physics

BME 507Radiological Physics and Dosimetry3
BME 5071Radiobiology2
BME 5072Radiation Therapy Physics3
BME 5073Radiation Protection and Safety2

Approved Life Science Courses

BME 530AMolecular Cell Biology for Engineers3
BME 538Cell Signal Transduction3
BME 5902Cellular Neurophysiology3
Biol 404Laboratory of Neurophysiology4
Biol 4071Developmental Biology3
Biol 4580Principles of Human Anatomy and Development3
Biol 4810General Biochemistry I3
Biol 4820General Biochemistry II3
Biol 5053Immunobiology I4
Biol 5068Fundamentals of Molecular Cell Biology4
Biol 5146Principles and Applications of Biological Imaging3
Biol 5147Contrast Agents for Biological Imaging3
or Chem 5147 Contrast Agents for Biological Imaging
Biol 5224Molecular, Cell and Organ Systems3
Biol 5285Current Topics in Human and Mammalian Genetics3
Biol 5319Molecular Foundations of Medicine3
Biol 5352Developmental Biology3
Biol 548Nucleic Acids & Protein Biosynthesis3
Biol 5488Genomicsvariable; max. 4
Biol 5571Cellular Neurobiology6
Biol 5651Neural Systems4
Biol 5663Neurobiology of Disease2

Approved Mathematics Courses

Any graduate-level course within the Department of Mathematics and Statistics is approved.

Research Rotations

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

A rotation will be chosen in consultation with program 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.

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam will be administered during the spring of the student's second year of graduate school. The examining committee, which will develop and grade the exam, will consist of three members of the Imaging Science PhD Program Committee. The director of the graduate program will approve the committee, the members of which will be suggested by the thesis advisor.

Students will choose three out of the following four exam topics:

  • Mathematics of Imaging Science
  • Imaging Physics & Image Formation Methods
  • Image Analysis & Data-Driven Imaging
  • 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, students should have found a thesis advisor who will oversee their PhD research and assume financial responsibility for their stipend, tuition, health insurance and student fees. The thesis advisor must be a faculty member on the Imaging Science PhD Program Committee with the title of professor, associate professor or assistant professor. Failure to find a research advisor by May 1 will result in the student being placed on probation that can last until August 31. During that time, the student must continue to seek a research advisor. Failure to find a research advisor by August 31 will lead to dismissal from the PhD program and termination of funding.

Research Presentation/Thesis Proposal

Before the end of their third year, the student will give an oral presentation of their proposed PhD project — with the necessary background to support it — to the Research Advisory Committee. This committee must follow all guidelines for PhD degrees in the McKelvey School of Engineering and consists of five members (the dissertation research mentor plus four other members) with the following requirements:

  • No more than three faculty members with primary appointment from any one department; 
  • Four of the members must be tenured or tenure-track faculty at Washington University;
  • Three of the members must be imaging science program faculty members;
  • If requested by the research mentor and approved by the co-directors, a sixth member may be added to the committee.

The committee will be chaired by the PhD mentor. At least two weeks prior to the presentation, the student will present a written document outlining the research background, proposed procedures, preliminary results and plans for completion. The required document will typically be between 15 and 30 pages in length, and it must contain a comprehensive bibliography.

The student will be placed on probation if they fail 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 Research Advisory Committee, now referred to as the Dissertation Defense Committee. The student 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 Associate Dean, 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 Committee will inform the director of the graduate program, and they will warn the student in writing that the student 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 Committee still finds deficiencies and cannot reach unanimous agreement to approve the dissertation, the policy from the Office of the Provost 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 Center for Teaching and Learning. They will be expected to fulfill the teaching requirements of their designated administrative home departments. The teaching requirements must be completed before the students submit their doctoral dissertations to the McKelvey Registrar.

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