Ph.D. Program Overview
The typical progression of courses, research and other requirements for a graduate student in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Penn are summarized below. Complete details can be found in the "Procedures for Advanced Degrees."
Courses: In their first year Ph.D. Candidates complete seven approved courses, three core courses (Structure of Materials, Thermodynamics, Phase Transformations) and four others, selected according to the background and area of interest of the student. These courses are chosen from offerings within MSE or other departments in SEAS or the Physical and Biological Sciences. To qualify for the Ph.D. program, the student must earn a Grade Point Average (GPA) of above 3.25 on the 4.00 scale after the first year of courses. In addition to the seven first year courses, three other courses must be completed during the course of the Ph.D. degree.
Advisor Selection is conducted in September and October during the Fall Semester of the first year. At this time, all of the faculty of the MSE Department will give 15-minute presentations about their current research; you are then asked to speak with the faculty in whom you are interested as well as their graduate students or post-docs. Then you are asked to rank your top three advisors and submit this list to the faculty. Finally, the faculty meets to determine which students will join which groups. Typically students are assigned their first choice; the likelihood that you will be able to work with one of your selections is typically 100 percent. In certain special cases, pre-selection of advisors prior to arrival at Penn is possible.
The Qualifying Examination will be held at the end of May after the second semester. As part of this exam the students write and defend a paper based upon their chosen focus area in Materials Research. The paper (typically 15-20 pages) incorporates a thorough analysis of two or more important and significant research papers and includes a proposed research plan. The oral exam consists of a 30-minute presentation to the qualifier committee (3 MSE Department faculty other than your research advisor), after which you will answer questions about your proposal.
Your Research Proposal is the second major step toward your Ph.D. Up to this point in your graduate career your advisor has guided your research. The Research Proposal is where you determine what you will study for your dissertation research. This is done in conjunction with your advisor. You will write a 20 page paper and prepare a 30-45 minute presentation for your committee and guests, followed by a question-and-answer session with your committee. The acceptance of your Research Proposal is also necessary for continuation with your Ph.D. work.
The final step for your Ph.D. is the Dissertation Defense. At this point, you have completed the experiments for your thesis and are now presenting your results. The format is similar to that of the Research Proposal. It is expected by this point that you can conduct research independently and can guide research on your own. Following the successful defense of your dissertation and the submission of your doctoral thesis, you will have completed your Ph.D. at Penn.
*This timetable has been prepared by the MSE Department of Penn Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, and was accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it was created. Because policy and procedure continues to change and to be revised, it is advised that students, and potential students, check with the appropriate sources to verify the accuracy at present.