Kristen Maitland, PhD '06


While working toward her bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering and after an arthroscopic knee surgery, Kristen Maitland began thinking about applying optics to biomedical engineering. Maitland chose The University of Texas at Austin to pursue her doctoral studies because she wanted to work with Professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum (currently at Rice University), an expert in high-resolution imaging. Read more...



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Ph.D. Program

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Personalized Learning Plan

The concept of a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) is to tailor educational experiences to meet individual needs. Courses are selected in consultation with the student's supervisor, dissertation committee, and the graduate advisor to ensure adequate breadth and depth.

Graduate Coursework Requirement

26 credit hours are required (approximately 8 technical* 3-credit hour courses + 2 seminar 1-credit hour courses). All eight of the technical courses must be graduate level and taken for a letter grade.

Five of the eight technical courses (3-credits each, 15 credits total) MUST meet the following requirements:

  • Biological or clinical sciences
  • Basic or applied mathematics
    • To meet this requirement, a statistics course is encouraged, but another mathematics topic may be approved in some circumstances.
  • Students must take a course from three of the four technical areas below:
    • Technical area 1: Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation.
    • Technical area 2: Cellular and Biomolecular Engineering.
    • Technical area 3: Computational Biomedical Engineering.
    • Technical area 4: Biomechanics.


Qualifying Exam

Students must pass a qualifying exam, typically at the end of their first year. This is required for students to continue in the Ph.D. program. This exam has both written and oral components. Detailed instructions for the qualifying exam are available at the graduate office and are provided to students in advance.

Dissertation Proposal

Students who pass the qualifying exam must also pass a dissertation proposal before they can be admitted to doctoral candidacy, typically at the end of their second year.

Students must identify a doctoral dissertation committee of at least five faculty members in consultation with their supervisor and the graduate advisor. This proposal exam includes both a written and an oral component. The written component involves submitting an NSF- or NIH-style proposal (maximum 15 pages) to the student’s dissertation committee no less than two weeks prior to defending it orally to the same committee.

Read more detailed instructions on preparing for the Dissertation Proposal and Applying for Candidacy.

Final Oral Defense

Students complete their final oral defense typically at the end of their fifth year. The Graduate School provides critical information regarding deadlines, paperwork, and scheduling. Students file to graduate at the beginning of their last semester.

Read more detailed instructions on preparing for the Final Oral Defense.

Teaching Assistant Requirements

All Ph.D. students are expected to participate as a teaching assistant (TA) for two semesters. The department recommends that students participate as a TA sometime between their first and third years, but the timing of this service will depend on the needs of the department and the recommendation of the student's research supervisor.

The TA application is available here.



Contact Us


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Andrew Dunn, Ph.D., Graduate Advisor, Professor

Frequently Asked Questions

Need a safe walk home from campus?

SURE Walk is a student-run volunteer group that provides walks to and from campus to UT students, faculty and staff, with the help of student volunteers. SURE Walk is in service Monday-Thursday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. during the fall and spring semesters.

To use SURE Walk, call 512-232-9255 or email