PhD Requirements Timeline Explanation

Language/Communication Testing and Placement 
All Ph.D. students who do not have a prior degree from an English speaking university must take an English Language Assessment. If it is determined at the assessment that the student needs further English language instruction, he/she will be required to take 370.600 or equivalent.

Determination of Permanent Advisor
In some cases students are admitted to work with a specific advisor, in which case the permanent advisor is the faculty member listed in the offer letter. In other cases students are not assigned a specific advisor at the time of the admission letter. During September and October of the first semester, these students should meet with the faculty, discuss their research interests, and learn more about the research being conducted by the faculty. By the beginning of November the student must state his/her preference(s) for a permanent advisor. The faculty will meet and determine the final advisor placements prior to the end of the semester. Every effort will be made to match students with their requested advisors, but financial constraints may not always make this possible.

Intersession
Intersession (the period between Fall and Spring terms) is an important time for research. Intersession is not a vacation. Any leave taken during intersession is subject to the policies outlined in the Graduate Student Assistant Leave Guidelines. Release time (if any) granted in that period must be approved by the advisor.

Department Qualifying Examination (DQE)
The DQE is a comprehensive oral exam to determine whether or not the student is properly prepared to continue in the Ph.D. program. All first-year students studying for a Ph.D. take the DQE after their first semester of enrollment, typically in early-January of the first year. This exam tests whether the student is prepared to continue in their Ph.D. studies based on their grasp of basic undergraduate-level and beginning graduate-level Civil Engineering knowledge. Possible outcomes of the exam are Pass, Retake, or Fail.  Only an outcome of Pass is considered passing the exam. If the student receives a Retake, they are provided a single retake of the exam, typically in the Fall or early January of their second year. Possible outcomes of this exam retake are Pass or Fail.  If the outcome of the exam is Fail, the student may pursue, with approval from the chair, a M.S.E. degree. Financial support for a student beyond the first academic year is not typical.

Annual Reviews
Reviews of all Ph.D. students in Civil Engineering must be performed annually prior to January 31 (consistent with the WSE policy found in the Graduate Student Academic Review Policy. The review process follows the format given in the annual review form. The completed form must be submitted to the Academic Program Coordinator by January 31. If this annual review is not completed by this date, the student’s funding may be put in jeopardy.

Ph.D. Thesis Committee
Every Ph.D. student must have a Thesis Committee of at least 3 faculty members. The Advisor, in consultation with his/her student, selects the makeup of the committee, and this information is recorded in the student’s file. The thesis committee also typically serves as a subset of the actual GBO examination committee and forms the final Ph.D. defense committee. This committee must consist of a minimum of 2 full-time faculty of the Civil Engineering Department.

Ph.D. Thesis Committee Meeting
Thesis Committee meetings are recommended to occur annually beginning in the fall of Year 2 until the Ph.D. final defense. The student is encouraged to submit a report to the committee members at least one week prior to the meeting. A typical report would include a literature review of the field relevant to the student’s research, a progress report of research performed to date, goals for research in the coming year, and a basic timeline of expected activities in the remaining years of the Ph.D. degree. The committee meeting should consist of a presentation of key aspects of the report, along with discussion and feedback from the Thesis Committee. In certain cases, particularly in later years of the Ph.D. degree, it may be appropriate for the student to meet individually with members of the committee in lieu of the group meeting at the suggestion of the research advisor. When formal Thesis Committee meetings are completed, the Ph.D. Thesis Committee Meeting Form should be signed by the members of the committee and submitted to the Department.

Responsible Conduct of Research
Every Ph.D. student of the Whiting School of Engineering is required to take the Responsible Conduct of Research course (details on the requirement can be found on the WSE Policy on Responsible Conduct of Research Training webpage.  For Civil Engineering students, this should be completed in Spring or Summer of the first year of studies. Students who do not complete this requirement prior to Fall of their third year of studies may put their funding in jeopardy.

GBO Examination
The University maintains complete guidelines for the Graduate Board Orals here. The GBO committee consists of 5 members, (3 in Department, 2 outside) with 2 alternates (1 in Department, 1 outside) and is selected by the Chair of the Department and the Director of Graduate Studies, who will consult with the student’s advisor. When a PhD student and advisor feel that the student is ready to take the GBO, the advisor should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and the Civil Engineering Academic Program Coordinator to initiate the process of scheduling the exam. Both students and advisors should be aware that 4-6 weeks advance notice is needed in order to allow for scheduling the exam with the faculty and with the Graduate Board.

The exact format of each GBO examination is specified by the individual Chair of the GBO committee; however, a typical format is described here. The student may be requested to provide to the GBO committee prior to the examination some written document describing his or her research. In such cases, the latest annual Thesis Committee report and/or a recent conference or journal publication may serve this function well. It is typical that the student would be asked to provide a brief presentation of research at the beginning of the examination (no more than 10 slides, no longer than 10 minutes). The examination questions may be on any topic of the committee members’ choosing, but many of the questions relate to the student’s coursework and research. At the conclusion of the examination, the GBO committee may recommend, pass, conditional, pass, fail with re-examination, fail (final).

M.S.E. Degree for PhD Students
PhD students may petition for a M.S.E. degree following their GBO Examination. If the student passes the GBO, he/she may file for a non-terminal M.S.E. degree. If the student fails (final) the GBO, he/she may petition for a terminal M.S.E. degree. In all instances the students must have satisfied the M.S.E. degree course requirements as detailed here.

In instances where the research is highly interdepartmental, the student, with permission of the advisor, may request that the M.S.E. degree be awarded by another department in the Whiting School of Engineering. In such cases, the student must have satisfied M.S.E. degree requirements and receive approval of the awarding Department, as well as satisfied M.S.E. degree requirements of the Civil Engineering Department and receive approval from the Civil Engineering Chair. In all cases, the awarding of any JHU M.S.E. degree to a Civil Engineering PhD student may only occur after the student has completed the GBO exam.

Thesis Defense
The Thesis Defense is the final examination before conferral of the Ph.D. degree. The student defends his/her thesis in a seminar setting that is open to the public. The seminar is followed by a comprehensive examination of the student, focused on the thesis research.

Ethics. The Department of Civil Engineering is dedicated to upholding the highest standards of academic and research integrity.  Plagiarism, and other forms of unethical conduct, are not tolerated.  Students are referred to the JHU Graduate Board Policies webpage and the Whiting School of Engineering’s Responsible Conduct of Research Policy for a discussion of ethics and university policies.

Defense Committee. A committee of at least 3 members administers the exam (typically the Ph.D. Thesis Committee). The Advisor in consultation with the Department selects the committee members, at least 2 of whom must be full-time faculty of the Civil Engineering Department. This should be done at the beginning of the semester in which the student plans to graduate. It is the student’s responsibility to keep the committee members apprised of all deadline dates.

Scheduling and Pre-Defense. The Defense should be scheduled, at least 3 weeks in advance through the Department’s Academic Program Coordinator. A complete written dissertation should be given to the committee at least 14 days in advance of the exam. Failure to meet this 2 week deadline will result in rescheduling the Ph.D. defense. The date and place of the Defense, along with the thesis abstract, should be circulated 5-7 days prior to the exam.

Post-Defense. Completion of the Ph.D. requirements typically takes 4-8 weeks after a successful defense examination. All data and source codes related to the thesis should be properly archived according to requirements set forth by the Advisor. Any changes or additions specifically requested by the reviewers before or during the defense seminar should be incorporated into the thesis in consultation with the Advisor. A final copy of the thesis must then be made available to the reviewers for inspection no less than 48 hours before the deadline date for filing set by the Graduate Board.

Additional Information. It is the responsibility of the student to be aware of requirements and deadlines. It is suggested that this information be obtained before the start of the semester of intended graduation. All students should plan timing of the final defense accordingly (making sure to account for the 4-8 week period following the defense) to satisfy any deadlines related to upcoming graduation or exhaustion of funding.

University requirements for the thesis can be obtained from the Graduate Board web site. Information sheets entitled “Dissertation Requirements” are available to student and contain details on the form, cost and timing for submitting the thesis. Doctoral Theses must be submitted to both the ETD (Library) and the Department of Civil Engineering. The deadline date for filing is set by the Graduate Board Office. This date also applies to filing with the Whiting School Graduate Committee and with the Department. A receipt of ETD approval email must be sent to the Academic Program Coordinator and the Graduate Board/WSE Office of Academic Affairs (for M.S.E. students).

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