PhD Requirements

1. Successful completion of four required courses in materials science and engineering:

  • 510.601: Structure of Materials
  • 510.602: Thermodynamics of Materials
  • Either 510.603: Phase Transformations in Materials or 510.610 Fundamentals of Biomaterials
  • 510.615: Physical Properties of Materials (see waiver of required courses below)

Each of the four required courses must be passed with a letter grade of B- or higher. If a student receives a grade of C+ or lower in a required course, the student may re-take the course once to achieve a grade of B- or higher. Receipt of grades of C+ or lower in two or more required courses will ordinarily be cause for dismissal from the program without the opportunity to re-take those courses.

In addition, students must maintain an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher in the four required courses. Courses that have been waived (see below) do not count towards calculation of the GPA. If a student’s GPA falls below 3.0, the student must re-take one or more of the required courses and earn higher grade(s). Upon doing so the prior grade(s) in those course(s) are replaced and not counted towards the GPA.

Deadline for completion: The four required courses must be successfully completed (meeting the grade and GPA requirements above) no later than the start of the student’s third year after matriculation; failure to do so will result in dismissal from the program. Exception: A student who fails to meet the requirements above due to a low grade in a single required course, and who has not had an opportunity to re-take that course during the first two years, will be permitted to re-take that one course in the third year.

Waiver of required courses: Students may submit a petition to the Doctoral Program Committee to waive one of the required courses under either of the following conditions:

  • Students who have an undergraduate degree in Materials Science and Engineering may waive 510.615.
  • Students who ha ve completed prior graduate-level coursework substantially similar to one of the other courses (510.601. 602, 603, or 610) may waive that course.

Students desiring a waiver of a required course must submit their petition no later than the end of the first semester after matriculation. If the petition requests a waiver on the basis of graduate-level coursework taken elsewhere, documentation of the course level, content (syllabus) and grade received must be included in the petition.

2. Successful completion of three advanced (600-level or higher) elective courses in materials science and engineering or a related field.

Elective courses must be completed with a grade of C or higher, but there is no cumulative GPA requirement. Any 600-level or higher regular course in materials science and engineering may be used to fulfill this requirement. Courses from other departments may also be used, but must either appear on the list of approved electives (available from the Academic Program Coordinator) or be approved by the Doctoral Program Committee. Students wishing to use a course not on the list of approved electives must submit their request to the Doctoral Program Committee no later than the end of the first week of the semester in which the course is taken.

The following courses may not be used to fulfill the PhD elective course:

  • Undergraduate courses, unless cross-listed at 600-level or higher
  • Graduate research (510.807-808)
  • Courses in part-time graduate programs (Engineering for Professionals in WSE or Advanced Academic Programs in KSAS)
  • Seminars (courses with fewer than three contact hours per week)

Independent study courses (510.805-806) may be PhD electives, with prior approval of the Doctoral Program Committee.

Waiver of elective courses: Students who have completed prior graduate-level coursework may petition the Graduate Program Committee to waive one of the elective courses. Students desiring such a waiver must submit a petition, no later than the end of the first semester after matriculation, describing the course they wish to use to fulfill this requirement. Documentation of the course level, content (syllabus), and grade received must be included in the petition.

In some cases an adviser may require a student to complete additional coursework, beyond the four required courses and three electives described above.

3. Coursework required by Whiting School of Engineering policy. These include the following:

a.) Responsible Conduct of Research training (AS.360.624 or AS.360.625) in accordance with Whiting School of Engineering policy. Details about this requirement, including the criteria for determining whether the online or in-person course must be taken, are provided in the description of the policy.

b.) Training on academic ethics in accordance with Whiting School of Engineering policy.  This requirement can be satisfied by passing EN.500.603 (Academic Ethics).

4. Teaching Assistant Requirement: Students in their second year in the department will be required to act as teaching assistant for two courses.

5. Successful completion of a comprehensive oral examination. The exam is offered semiannually, usually the week before the beginning of fall semester and spring semester. 

The exam covers three areas of materials science and engineering:

  • Structure of Materials
  • Thermodynamics of Materials, and
  • Either Kinetics and Phase Transformations in Materials OR Biomaterials (at the student’s choice)

Although these subject areas correspond to the four core courses, the topics covered in the exam are not strictly limited to material covered in those courses. Furthermore, each section may include questions related to the properties of materials at a level similar to that covered in EN.510.615 (Physical Properties of Materials).

Additional information about the oral exam is provided in the document Information for doctoral students regarding the oral comprehensive examination, available from the Academic Program Coordinator.

6. A proposal for a research project to form the basis of the candidate’s dissertation.

Each student must write a dissertation proposal and present it orally at a public seminar no later than the end of the sixth semester following matriculation. The written dissertation proposal must be submitted to the department no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the oral presentation. The public seminar will be followed by a closed session with a committee consisting of the research advisor and two other faculty members (to be selected in consultation with the advisor). During the closed session, the committee members will ask questions about and provide comments on the proposed plan of research. The thesis proposal is also an examination, with the committee testing the candidate’s depth of knowledge in his/her area of specialization (and not only on the proposed research). Students who do not successfully complete the dissertation proposal requirement by the end of the sixth semester following matriculation will be placed on probation, with a specified time limit (ordinarily no more than six months) within which to complete this requirement and be removed from probation. Students on probation who do not complete the dissertation within the specified time limit will be dismissed from the program.

7. Completion of an original research project, documented in a dissertation that is defended by the candidate in a public presentation.

Candidates must write a dissertation conforming to university requirements that describes their work and results in detail. A public defense of the dissertation is required, and will be followed by a closed examination session. The committee for the closed examination shall consist of five faculty members, chosen by the Graduate Program Committee, with at least two members being from outside the department. The outcome of the closed examination will be decided by majority vote of the committee. Because the closed examination session fulfills the university Graduate Board Oral (GBO) examination requirement, all procedures pertaining to GBOs as established by the University Graduate Board must be followed.

The committee may impose certain conditions (e.g. changes to the dissertation) for the candidate to meet prior to final certification that he or she has passed the exam. For this reason, the thesis defense must be scheduled for a date at least two months prior to any personal or university deadline for graduation. A complete draft of the dissertation must be submitted to all committee members no later than two weeks prior to the defense.

The dissertation in its final form must be read and approved in writing by two members of the committee (the adviser and one other member to be chosen by the committee as a whole).

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