MS and PhD students play a critical role in our department’s research and teaching enterprise, partnering with the faculty to deliver excellence in education and discovery. As such, they typically receive financial support from their adviser and/or the department to cover the costs of their tuition, health insurance, and stipend. This support can take the form of a graduate research assistantship (GRA) or graduate teaching assistantship (GTA). The paragraphs below summarize our department’s expectations and opportunities for research-active graduate students.
MS Program Requirements
Coursework. The MS in Civil Engineering requires 30 credits of coursework and research beyond the BS, of which at least 12 credits must be taken within Civil Engineering.
Thesis and Committee. MS students will work with their adviser to identify a suitable Master’s research topic. Up to six of the 30 credits towards the MS will typically comprise thesis research via the CE 8999 listing. The MS candidate and his/her adviser will also select a MS thesis committee comprising at least three UVA faculty members. One of these three members may be from outside of Civil Engineering. The thesis committee must review and approve the student’s academic requirement report, written thesis, and oral thesis defense. MS students should check the accuracy and completeness of their Academic Requirements Report in SIS frequently, at least at the start and end of each semester, in consultation with their faculty adviser.
Seminar Series. As members of our community of scholars, MS students are expected to attend and participate in the coordination of the Civil Engineering Seminar Series. Students will have the opportunity to invite and host speakers of interest, together with their adviser and research group.
Training and Engagement. MS students are expected to be good citizens of the department by engaging in required training activities and participating in departmental activities (e.g., symposia, workshops, social events, etc.)
Additional Considerations. Candidates must satisfy all SEAS requirements for the MS.
PhD Program Requirements
Coursework. The PhD in Civil Engineering requires 72 credits of coursework and research beyond the BS .This must include a minimum of 24 hours of formal course work. The remainder of these credits will typically comprise thesis or dissertation research via the CE 8999 (MS) or CE 9999 (PhD) listings.
Milestones. The three main milestones towards completion of the PhD include: the Qualifying Exam, the Dissertation Proposal, and the Dissertation Defense. Completion of these requirements is tracked via the Academic Requirements Report in SIS. PhD students should check the accuracy and completeness of their Academic Requirements Report frequently, at least at the start and end of each semester, in consultation with their faculty adviser. Timing and other specifications of the three PhD milestones are outlined below.
- Qualifying Exam. PhD students will confer with their adviser to determine when they should take the Civil Engineering Qualifying Exam, generally within 1-2 years of starting the doctoral program. The purpose of the exam is to assess the student’s core knowledge within their Civil Engineering focus area and evaluate their research abilities. The exam will comprise both a written and oral component. The timing and format of this exam will vary based on the student’s committee, which must comprise at least four faculty members at the time of the exam. The committee will convene to evaluate the student’s performance on the exam and also review a printed out version of his/her Academic Requirements Report (from SIS). At this time, the committee may make recommendations about additional coursework or other topics. The Academic Requirements Report should be revised accordingly, and a fifth member may be named for the doctoral committee. The documentation certifying completion of the Civil Engineering Qualifying Exam will not be filed until an approved, annotated version of Academic Requirements Report has been appropriately updated with departmental staff.
- Dissertation Proposal. Within one year after successfully completing the Qualifying Exam, a doctoral student should write and defend a dissertation proposal. The purpose of the proposal is three-fold:
- To advise the student on general approaches and specific techniques that may be helpful in the proposed research.
- To determine whether the proposed work, if completed, would provide the basis for an acceptable dissertation.
- To determine if the student’s knowledge of the area chosen for research and the pertinent literature is adequate.
The timing of the proposal defense is also at the discretion of the doctoral committee. The committee will convene to evaluate the student’s performance on the exam and also review a printed out version of his/her Academic Requirements Report (from SIS). If the committee is satisfied with the proposal and the Academic Requirements Report, the student will be officially classified as a doctoral candidate. The documentation certifying successful completion of the Dissertation Proposal will not be filed until an approved, annotated version of Academic Requirements Report has been appropriately updated with departmental staff.
- Dissertation Defense. Upon completion of appropriate coursework, the proposed dissertation research, and other departmental requirements, the PhD candidate will write and defend his/her dissertation. This may occur no earlier than one semester after completion of the dissertation proposal. The format of the dissertation is at the discretion of the student’s committee, taking the form of either a single monograph or an integrated compendium of at least three papers or manuscripts. Regardless of its form, the document must represent a substantial and cohesive body of work and make a clear contribution to the student’s field. The student should adhere to copyright requirements and documentation requirements associated with submitting any previously published work in their dissertation.The dissertation defense will be open to the public. An open forum is intended to foster a broader awareness of ongoing graduate research and promote scholarly dialogue. For these reasons, graduate students, faculty, and staff are expected to participate regularly in dissertation defenses. If the committee is satisfied with the dissertation, the degree will be conferred.
Seminar Series. As members of our community of scholars, PhD students are expected to attend and participate in the coordination of the Civil Engineering Seminar Series. Students will have the opportunity to invite and host speakers of interest, together with their adviser and research group. Doctoral students may also be invited to present their work as part of the seminar series.
Additional Training Requirements. Education and scholarship are critical components of the PhD formation process. As such, each doctoral student must serve as a graduate teaching assistant for at least two semesters. Each PhD candidate must also be first author on at least one published (or accepted) peer-reviewed journal papers prior to scheduling his or her final defense.
Training and Engagement. Doctoral students are expected to be good citizens of the department by engaging in required training activities and participating in departmental activities (e.g., symposia, workshops, social events, etc.)
Additional Considerations. Candidates must satisfy all SEAS requirements for the PhD.
Opportunities for Professional Development
The Engineering Systems and Environment Department is committed to the success of its graduate students during and after the completion of their Civil Engineering degrees. As such, we are pleased to offer the following opportunities for professional development.
Awards and Recognition. Our department offers two prestigious awards to recognize excellence in research and teaching by our graduate students. A committee of faculty members solicits nominations for the Outstanding Graduate Research Award and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award from faculty and students. Winners are announced at the annual end-of-year celebration. The recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award is typically nominated for similar honors at the SEAS and University levels. The recipient of the Outstanding Research Award is typically invited to present his/her dissertation research as part of the Civil Engineering Seminar Series.
Teaching Training. Excellence in undergraduate instruction is at the heart of UVa’s mission. As such, we strive to develop the teaching skills of our doctoral candidates. This is done in partnership with UVa’s renowned Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), most notably their “Tomorrow’s Professor Today” and “Teaching + Technology Support Partners” programs. We are committed to supporting our graduate students’ professional development and preparation for academic careers.
Travel Grants.The purpose of the Civil Engineering Graduate Travel Grant Award is to allow PhD students to showcase their research and network at well-recognized conferences. Each PhD student is eligible to receive one-time Travel Grant Award up to $1500 if the student is recommended by his/her advisor. To receive the Award, faculty advisor should submit the application package including accepted paper, estimated budget, and planned activities at the conference to the Graduate Director.
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 at www.virginia.edu/registrar/catalog/grad.html.