Ph.D. Requirements

phd requirements

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

Admission to the Ph.D. Program. As a general policy, applicants with an M.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering or an allied field that includes the completion of a thesis can be considered for the Ph.D. program.  Applicants may also bypass the M.S. degree and apply directly to the Ph.D. program.  In both cases, once admitted to the program, the student will not be elevated to Ph.D. candidacy (allowing his/her to pursue a doctoral degree within the Department) until successful completion of the MSE qualifying examination. 


General Requirements. The Ph.D. program in The Department of Materials Science and Engineering includes the following required elements:


1.  Satisfactory completion of the MSE qualifying examination (see below for description and specific requirements). 


2.  The selection of a Dissertation Committee.  This Committee will be composed of a minimum of three members. The Research Advisor and two additional members must be tenured, or tenure-track with appointments within the MSE Department.  Additional members may be tenured or tenure-track with appointment within the University of Arizona.  Pre-approval for a “special” member, i.e. one from outside the University of Arizona, can also be requested through the MSE Academic Programs office and the Dean of the Graduate College. Typically external members are involved with the student’s research topic and may represent perspectives and expertise unique to the interdisciplinary nature of the research effort.  The Student and Research Advisor will work together to identify appropriate Dissertation Committee members.



3.  The completion of at least 63 units of graduate work beyond the B.S. degree. To meet the minimum Graduate College residence requirement, the student must complete a minimum of 30 units of “in-residence” graduate credit at the University of Arizona, (18 units of dissertation plus 12 units of regular graded coursework taken at the University of Arizona). "In residence" units are those offered by the University of Arizona, either via conventional, on-campus classroom courses or through online course offerings.   In addition to satisfying the “in-residence” requirement, the 63 graduate units must include:


·       36 units of work in the major subject (MSE).  These units must include: 


a.  18 units of  regularly scheduled classes that utilize an A,B,C-type grading scheme.  This coursework shall include - MSE 510 - Thermodynamics, MSE 572 - Kinetics,  and at least 9  units of 500 level courses in the Department.   


b.  18 units of  non-graded coursework (this may include research, independent study).  Graded courses may also be used to satisfy this unit requirement.


c.   Of these 18 non-graded units, the student must enroll in Colloquium, MSE 595a, during each Fall and Spring semester throughout their doctoral program of study.  Only 2 units of seminar (MSE 595a) will count towards the non-graded unit requirement, however.  In addition, each student at the Ph.D. level is required to make one colloquium presentation during the pursuit of this degree.    (Students who are unable to register for seminar in a given semester (s) may request enrollment exemptions by formally petitioning the MSE Graduate Studies Committee.)  


·       18 units of dissertation


·       9 units in the Minor subject (see Ph.D Minor requirements below)


NOTE:  In the event that the student has already received a M.S. in MSE at the University of Arizona or elsewhere, up to 30 units from a completed M.S. degree program may be credited toward the Ph.D.  Specific distribution of these units amongst the required curriculum elements above will be determined in consultation with the MSE Academic Programs Office and the MSE Graduate Studies Committee.  Units earned from a completed M.S. program from outside the University may also be considered for transfer via a petition for approval to the MSE Graduate Studies Committee.  Identification of appropriate units for transfer and their application amongst the required curriculum elements will be determined in consultation with the MSE Academic Programs Office and the MSE Graduate Studies Committee.


·       Plan of Study:  In conjunction with his/her major professor or advisor, each student is responsible for developing a Plan of Study during their first year in residence, to be filed with the Graduate College no later than the student's third semester in residence. The Plan of Study identifies (1) courses the student intends to transfer from other institutions (see above NOTE for additional information regarding transfer units); (2) courses already completed at the University of Arizona which the student intends to apply toward the graduate degree; and (3) additional course work to be completed in order to fulfill degree requirements. The Plan of Study must have the approval of the student's major professor and department head (or Director of Graduate Studies) before it is submitted to the Graduate College.



4.  The satisfactory completion of all requirements associated with the minor program chosen by the student.


5.  The satisfactory completion of the MSE Comprehensive Examination (see below for description and specific requirements).


6.  The preparation of a dissertation detailing the research work performed that is accepted by both the student’s Research Advisor as well as the faculty Dissertation Committee.


7.  The satisfactory completion of the Final Dissertation Defense Examination. The date, time and location of final defense must be scheduled with the graduate college in advanced using the announcement of final oral defense form in Grad Path.



Qualifying Examination.  The Qualifying Examination (QE) must be completed within the first three regular academic semesters (i.e. not including summer and winter sessions) after admission to the Ph.D. program.  In the event that the student does not successfully complete this requirement, the student has the option to pursue a Masters degree (if one has not already been obtained) or to leave the program.  Specifics of the QE format and schedule follow:


The QE is administered as a written examination comprised of two modules addressing the following material:

a.   fundamental materials science concepts and principles (thermodynamics, kinetics, phase transformations, etc.).

b.   the application of these fundamental principles to specific issues in  materials processing, structure, and properties. 


Each testing module will last a maximum of 3 hours.  The qualifying examination will be administered as needed each semester by the MSE faculty.

In the event that a student fails the QE on the first attempt, another attempt may be made in the next academic semester.  No further attempts, however, may be made in the event of a second failure.

QE content will be focused on a limited set of primary source materials (texts, notes) identified to the student by the Graduate Studies Committee within the semester immediately prior to that in which the student will take the QE.


                  Comprehensive Examination. The Comprehensive Examination is comprised of two parts:


Both parts of the examination must be passed satisfactorily in order to pass the entire examination.


1.  Written Examination


Satisfactory completion of the MSE Qualifying Examination written component satisfies the written component requirement for the Comprehensive Examination.


2.  Oral Examination


When the written portions of the Comprehensive Examination (in the major and in the minor fields) have been completed satisfactorily and when the student is ready to take the Oral Examination, the Department will officially acknowledge successful completion of the written Comprehensive Examination requirements. The student will work with the MSE Academic Programs Office to notify the Graduate College and request a date for the Oral Examination. The oral portion of the examination must be taken within 6 months of departmental acknowledgement. The Oral Examination shall be taken no later than 3 months before completion of the dissertation and Final Dissertation Defense Examination.   It should be taken as soon as the student has met all the requirements of the written portions covering the minor field.   The Oral Examination will include a brief presentation reporting on progress on the dissertation topic. The presentation will be followed by a question period covering general MSE topics and concepts.  The Oral Examination is not intended as an opportunity for questioning regarding student dissertation work.


The members of the Oral Examination Committee will be chosen by the candidate. The examining committee must consist of a minimum of four members. The Major Advisor and two additional members must be tenured, or tenure-track. The fourth member may be tenured or tenure-track, or a special approved member. Special members must be pre-approved by the Dean of the Graduate College. Any members beyond the fourth can also be tenured or tenure-track, or special approved members.


Dissertation and Final Examination. The dissertation represents the culmination of the candidate's research.  The candidate submits the dissertation to the Dissertation Committee (previously determined by the student and Dissertation Advisor;  see Item 2 under General Requirements (above) for description and specific requirements), the document should be of a very high quality in which the need for further editing should be minimal. The Graduate College has a Dissertation/Thesis manual available in order to assist students with formatting their Dissertation or Thesis. Please refer to the following website:  Some latitude is permitted for adherence to practices of technical journals in the candidate's field of interest. The student should consult with his/her advisor and dissertation committee for advice in these specific situations. The presentation is expected to be complete and to include all of the details necessary to make clear the basis used for the theoretical and experimental treatment of the problem.  Full use of appendices should be made to support areas dealt with in a condensed manner in the text.


The candidate will submit the proposed dissertation to each member of his/her examining committee for preliminary acceptance and minor editing suggestions of the work. As submitted, however, the proposed dissertation is expected to be complete, in typed form and technically and grammatically correct.


The candidate will arrange a time schedule such that each member of the Dissertation Committee will have at least one week to review the proposed dissertation before the final examination unless otherwise required by the Dissertation Committee members.


The Final Examination will consist of a presentation by the candidate of his/her dissertation in a manner similar to that commonly used at technical meetings in the presentation of technical research papers. The presentation will be followed by a question period in which the Dissertation Committee may ask questions related to the dissertation and to general matters of the candidate's field of study.


The report of the Dissertation Committee will be sent to the Graduate College. If the candidate has passed, the report will be placed in the Graduate College Degree Check office awaiting completion of the final copy of the dissertation. It is the student's responsibility to make corrections, additions, or deletions required by the Dissertation Committee. When the Committee approves the final copy, the student submits it to the Graduate College for its approval. The Graduate College will have final approval of the format of this final copy of the dissertation.  Upon successful completion of the Final Dissertation  Defense Examination, the candidate submits the dissertation electronically for forwarding to the Library of The University of Arizona and to University Microfilms, Inc (UMI).


Dissertation Copies. The student is responsible for paying for the preparation and copying of this dissertation. One bound copy must be provided to the major professor and one copy to the Department.




Ph.D. students majoring in the MSE Department must choose a minor course of study.  The minor may be pursued either within the MSE Department or in a different department within the University.  The selection of the minor area will be done with the approval of the student's Dissertation Advisor in consideration of the student's goals. If taken within the Department, the minor shall consist of a minimum of 9 units of graduate credit courses listed in the Department.


Ph.D. candidates in other departments at the University of Arizona who wish to take a minor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will be required to take a minimum of 9 units of graduate credit courses listed in the MSE Department.   


A minimum GPA of 3.5 is required within the 9 units to fulfill MSE minor requirements.  This minimum GPA also satisfies the written portion of the minor examination.



Additional Information:  For more information on policies, degree requirements including deadlines and forms, please go to the following website:




University of Arizona College of Engineering