Chemical Engineering Doctoral Degree Program

The Ph.D. Program is intended to prepare students for a variety of careers in research and teaching. The emphasis is on research. All students, in consultation with their advisors, develop appropriate course programs that will prepare them for the Preliminary Qualifying Examination and for their dissertation research. These programs must be planned to meet the time limits established to advance to candidacy and to complete the requirements of the degree.

PhD Course & Program Requirements
After completing the M.S. degree (or meeting equivalent requirements) and meeting the minimum standard on the comprehensive examination to be admitted to or continue in the Ph.D. program, a student must:

  1. Meet all the university’s residency and other requirements.
  2. Successfully complete 9 courses: the 5 required core courses, and 4 elective courses.
  3. Any courses that are not JSOE engineering, sciences, or math, graduate or upper division level courses, must be approved by the Graduate Affairs Committee, prior to enrollment.
  4. In addition, students must enroll in CENG 205 every quarter, (note, CENG 205 units do Not count in the degree units). See “Courses” for descriptions. 
  5. Pass the Literature Review Examination. This requirement must be successfully completed within one year after passing the Comprehensive Examination.
  6. Pass the Ph.D. Advancement to Candidacy or Senate Exam, before the Pre-Candidacy Time Limit (PCTL) deadline, to be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.
  7. Complete 1 quarter as a Teaching Assistant in a Ceng, Nano or STEM course, prior to the dissertation defense.
  8. Successfully complete and defend a dissertation, which in the opinion of the dissertation committee, contains original work that should lead to publication of at least one significant article in an appropriate refereed journal.

All Ph.D. Students are required to pass four examinations. The first is a Preliminary Qualifying Examination (Comprehensive Examination), which should be taken within three to four quarters of full-time graduate study, and passed with at least a 70% grade in all components of the exam. The second is a Literature Review Examination (detailed below), which should be completed by the end of the second year. The third is the Ph.D. Senate Exam (often referred to as ‘Advancement to Candidacy Exam’). The last is the Dissertation Defense.

Students planning to take the Literature Review Exam, Advancement to Candidacy / Senate Exam, Defense Exam, or who need to Reconstitute the doctoral committee, or change exam information already submitted, need to notify Graduate Advising at least 4-5 weeks in advance of the exam date, by entering the information into the PhD Exam form.

The Comprehensive Examination: The examination will consist of questions from each of the five-core courses. A passing grade is 60 percent for successful completion of the Master’s degree, and 70 percent for qualification to the Ph.D. program. The examination will not exceed six hours in duration. The examination is usually administered in the second or third week of the spring quarter. Typically, students take the exam after completion of the core courses. This exam may only be retaken once before the end of the second year of study.

Literature Review Examination: The Literature Review Examination tests the student’s ability to prepare and present a comprehensive overview of a topic based on existing journal literature. It should be a comprehensive oral discussion of the literature (3-5 key papers), scientific theory, problems or theoretical deficiencies, and possible areas of research in some area related to nanoscience or nanoengineering. The topic may be in the general area in which the student plans to pursue his or her thesis research, or it may be in an unrelated field of NanoEngineering. The topic must be approved by the three faculty member committee in advance of the seminar. The length of the prepared material should be around 40 minutes, but 90 minutes should be scheduled (to ensure adequate time for questions and discussion). The Literature Review Examination will conclude with a short preliminary overview of the student’s research project or their research proposal (approximately the last 20% of the presentation). This exam must occur within one year of the student having passed the Comprehensive Examination. The exam will be evaluated using a rubric distributed to the student ahead of time. The presentation is open to the public, but the faculty questioning period is not.

The Literature Review Committee should have 3 members, your faculty advisor, and 2 other faculty of the department. 

Depth Requirement: A candidate must have the ability to perform in-depth analysis in the dissertation topic. A candidate should consult with the thesis advisor to develop a proper course program if it is deemed necessary. Depending on an individual’s background and the nature of the research problem, a candidate should either complete a set of a minimum of four courses or demonstrate to the thesis advisor the equivalent knowledge and ability.

Ph.D. Senate Examination: Prior to taking this examination, the candidate must have completed the departmental qualifying examination, obtained a faculty research advisor, and must have made initial progress on a chosen dissertation project.

Upon completion of formal course requirements (see above), each student will be required to take an oral qualifying examination that will advance the student to candidacy in the Ph.D. Program. It is often known as the “Senate Exam” or “Advancement to Candidacy” exam.  The senate exam must be successfully completed before the Pre-Candidacy Time Limit (PCTL).

At the time of application for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral committee responsible for the remainder of the student’s graduate program is appointed by the Graduate Council under the policy listed in the “Graduate Studies” section of the UC San Diego General Catalog.

Prior to this examination, each student, in consultation with his or her faculty advisor, will establish a dissertation committee of four faculty members. The committee will include the student’s Ph.D. advisor as the Chair of the committee. The committee will consist of two faculty members who are affiliated with the NanoEngineering Department. At least one member must be from a primary appointment (department) different from the committee chair’s, at least one member must be tenured or emeritus. The thesis advisor will have the major responsibility for the student’s research and dissertation.

The committee conducts the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination, during which the student must demonstrate the ability to engage in thesis research. The process involves the presentation of a plan for the thesis research project. The committee may ask questions directly or indirectly related to the project and general questions that it determines to be relevant. Upon successful completion of the examination, subject to the UC San Diego time limit policy, the student is advanced to candidacy and is awarded the candidate in philosophy degree (see “Graduate” section in this catalog). Please note that there is a $50 candidacy fee upon completion of the examination.

Teaching Experience: Prior to the dissertation defense, the candidate must serve at least one quarter as a teaching assistant with the responsibility to hold a problem-solving section one hour a week.

Dissertation Defense: This is the final Ph.D. examination. Upon completion of the dissertation research project, the candidate writes a dissertation that must be successfully defended in an oral examination and public presentation conducted by the doctoral committee. A complete copy of the student’s dissertation must be submitted to each member of the doctoral committee four weeks before the defense. It is understood that this copy of the dissertation given to committee members will not be the final copy, and that the committee members may request changes in the text at the time of the defense. This examination may not be conducted earlier than three quarters after the date of advancement to doctoral candidacy. Acceptance of the dissertation by the Office of Graduate Studies and the University Librarian represents the final step in completion of all requirements for the Ph.D. degree.

Ph.D. Time Limit Policy: Pre-candidacy status is limited to four years. Doctoral students are eligible for university support for six years. The defense and submission of the doctoral dissertation must be within seven years.

Annual Evaluation: In the spring of each year, the faculty advisor evaluates each doctoral student’s overall performance in course work, research, and prospects for financial support for future years. A written assessment is given to the student after the evaluation. If a student’s work is found to be inadequate, the faculty may determine that the student cannot continue in the graduate program.