PhD Program in Materials Science

Program Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is awarded to those students who have demonstrated unusual competence in their field. The recipient must produce an original contribution to the science and/or engineering of the chosen research field. You must display a deep understanding of that field and demonstrate the ability to apply this knowledge effectively toward the solution of new problems.

Doctoral study is a period of intensive study and research under the direction of the advisor and with the guidance of the Doctoral Committee, appointed by the Graduate Dean. A series of formal steps have been established which will guide you and your advisor in assessing your progress. The steps are given below in order of completion.

  1. The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires a minimum of 72 hours of course and research credit including; the fulfillment of the three Materials Science core courses (9 credits hours), plus 5 more courses within the Materials Science program or a participating department, totalling 24 course credits hours. In order to achieve the required 72 credit hours, credits are acquired through a mix of courses and research credit hours, again tailored to the individual student needs. The 48 remaining credits will primarily be research credits.
  2. Successful completion of the written qualifying examination in the specialty area
  3. Successful completion of the thesis proposal
  4. Prepare and submit a written thesis and pass a Defense of Thesis examination before the Thesis Committee.

Degree Process

The following constitutes the qualifying processes by which doctoral students are admitted to candidacy in the Materials Science program.

  • CORE CURRICULUM – The three required core classes must be completed within the first Fall and Spring semesters for all doctoral candidates. Students must obtain a grade of B- or better in each class to be eligible to take the qualifying examination at the end of the succeeding spring semester. If a student receives a grade of less than B- in a class, the student may request an additional final examination be given during the mid-term break of the following spring semester. If the result of this examination is a B- or better, the student will be allowed to take the qualifying examination. The grade originally obtained in the course will not be changed as a result. If not allowed to complete the qualifying examination at the end of the spring semester, students will be discouraged from the PhD program and encouraged, rather, to finish with a Masters degree.
  • QUALIFYING EXAMINATION – A qualifying examination is given annually at the end of the spring semester under the direction of the Materials Science Graduate Affairs Committee. All first-year Materials Science students are expected to successfully complete the qualifying examination within three semesters to remain in good standing in the program. The examination covers material from the core curriculum plus a standard introductory text on Materials Science, such as “Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction”, by William Callister.
  • THESIS PROPOSAL –  A student’s PhD thesis committee administers a PhD Thesis Proposal defense. The PhD proposal defense should occur no later than the student’s fourth semester. While the proposal itself should focus on the central topic of a student’s research efforts, during the proposal defense, candidates may expect to receive a wide range of questions from the Committee. This would include all manner of questions directly related to the proposal. Candidates, however, should also expect questions related to the major concept areas of Materials Science within the context of a candidate’s research focus. The Committee formally reports results of the PhD proposal defense to the Materials Science Program Director using the Committee Reporting form developed by the Office of Graduate Studies.
  • Upon completion of these steps and upon completion of all required coursework, candidates are admitted to candidacy.
  • THESIS DEFENSE – Following successful completion of coursework and the qualifying process, doctoral students must submit a thesis and successfully defend it in an oral presentation to the Thesis Committee in a public meeting. The thesis must present the results of original scientific research or development. For more detailed instructions on the thesis defense process, please see the Office of Graduate Studies website.

Typical Timetable

For students with an acceptable MS degree, it normally takes three to four years to complete a PhD. For students with an acceptable BS degree, it normally takes four to five years to complete a PhD.

  • 1st Year: Complete core course work, select research topic, form thesis committee, begin research, and the qualifying process examination.
  • 2nd Year: Written and/or oral qualifying process examination/thesis proposal, completion of course work, continue thesis research.
  • 3rd Year: Complete course work and thesis; defend thesis.
  • 4th/5th Year: Complete thesis; defend thesis.