Ph.D. Students

The path to a Ph.D. is a challenging one. With hard work and the support of the department faculty, staff and peers, our students reach the end, well prepared for their next step.

Choosing an Advisor

New graduate students are assigned to a specific faculty advisor and research group at the end of the first semester in residence. To help the process, students are provided with descriptions of all available research projects, and a presentation about each project is given in October by the responsible faculty member.

Your advisor is the most important person in your Ph.D. experience. ”

— Doctoral student Phillip Bloch

Graduate students spend most of their time with their fellow research group members, not their faculty advisor, and a group’s students and postdocs will often provide the most useful information regarding advisor selection.


Late in their second semester, prospective doctoral students write a proposition — a written research proposal — on a topic related to the student’s thesis topic or area. Students can discuss portions of their proposition with their advisor before submitting it to a four-member faculty review committee. Students must give an oral defense of the proposition to the review committee.

Qualifying for the Ph.D. Program

The chemical engineering faculty decides whether to advance individual students into the Ph.D. program. They consider each student’s performance in courses on the written and oral elements of the proposition.

If a student is not recommended for advancement, the faculty will often recommend that the student pursue a Master of Science degree (with thesis).

The Thesis Committee

Each thesis committee must have four members — at least three faculty members from the chemical engineering department and a fourth from either the Graduate School or another academic department.

Students must make an oral presentation with their thesis committee by December of their second year and then meet the committee yearly thereafter.

Visit Thesis and Dissertation Support Services for more information about the preparing and defending your thesis.