Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering

The Ph.D. degree in MSE intends for the successful student to produce tangible-intellectual achievement(s) from independent at a frontier in the engineering or applied science of materials.

As a foundation, the Ph.D. degree in MSE requires that the student achieve satisfactorily at least 32 course credits beyond the BS level and that they be distributed as follows:

4 MSE core courses (12 credits)

4 MSE elective courses* (12 credits)

2 elective courses from MSE, SEAS or UVA Sci/Math* (6 credits)

Graduate seminar (2 credits)

Total of 32 credits

*Minimum of 4 courses in MSE beyond core
*Maximum of 2 courses at 5xxx level in MSE
*Maximum of 3 courses at 5xxx level in total

  • The program of study requires two semesters of MSE graduate seminar (MSE 7820 for a total of two credits).
  • No more than six elective credits may be earned in faculty-supervised independent study courses. 
  • The program of study includes six elective courses (18 credits) beyond the four MSE core courses. These electives are at the 5xxx, 6xxx and 7xxx levels. 4 of which must be MSE and 2 can be MSE, SEAS, or UVA Sci/Math. 
  • Students entering the PhD program without an MS degree may transfer up to 12 credits of graduate course work to be applied to their plan of study, provided those courses were not used to earn another degree, subject to approval by the MSE Graduate Director and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.
  • Students entering the PhD program with an MS degree from another institution are required to complete the four-course MSE core or to demonstrate that they have taken the equivalent courses elsewhere. Students are also required to complete four courses for credit chosen from MSE, SEAS, or UVA-Science/Math courses at the 5xxx, 6xxx, or 7xxx level. 
  • All MSE/UVA courses taken by students who completed their MS or MMSE at UVA can also be re(used) to satifsy the requirements of the PhD degree.
  • The PhD student will work closely with their advisor to develop a program of study that both meets the department requirements and supports the academic needs of the student and their research goals.  This may be done in consultation with the MSE Graduate Director.
  • The performance of students in the core courses provides one indicator of a student’s preparation for the qualifying examination. A cumulative GPA of less than 3.3; i.e., a student has received one or more grades of B or below in a core course, indicates that there are likely one or more areas of weakness in core material that should be addressed prior to sitting for the qualifying examination at the end of the second year of study. The MSE department will make available past course information as appropriate, but this deeper exploration of knowledge missed or misunderstood is expected to be driven by the student’s own initiative, and will not take away from the student’s other research or academic commitments. In further examination of core knowledge, students may study independently or in groups, and may use material from their core courses, in addition to any other reference materials.
  • The PhD candidate must pass a qualifying examination consisting of both written and oral components and which includes both general and comprehensive elements. All students will take the qualifying examination by the beginning of their second or third year of graduate school. The qualifying examination is offered every August.
  • The PhD candidate must write and defend publicly the PhD dissertation proposal that is the foundation for his/her dissertation. The PhD dissertation proposal and the public defense of the PhD dissertation must occur in different semesters. It is expected that all students will have defended their PhD dissertation proposal by the end of their third year of graduate school, preferably in the semester following completion of the qualifying examination.
  • All members of the dissertation defense committee must receive the completed dissertation at least seven calendar days prior to the defense date. Faculty members may request additional time when the defense date is being set.
  • The PhD degree requires at least 25 satisfactorily graded credits of research, under the supervision of a faculty advisor, culminating in a written dissertation that is presented and defended in a public forum.
  • For all PhD students, the MSE core-course foundation, qualifying examination, research proposal, dissertation, and public defense of dissertation are departmental requirements that cannot be waived.
  • Recommendation: One of the eight elective courses should be math intensive, consistent with a list established by the MSE faculty and allowing for transfer of an equivalent course. The PhD candidate’s advisory committee should tailor the program of courses to reflect the importance of both depth and breadth in MSE.

Each PhD candidate will be assessed by faculty after public defense of the dissertation with respect to the ability to form a research plan, ability to perform original research, proficiency at technical writing, and oral presentation skills.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found here.