Skip to main content

Ph.D. Requirements and Timeline

Applied Physical Sciences lives in the collaborative space between science and engineering, combining knowledge and discovery with an engineering mindset, team-based science, and entrepreneurship to address real-world problems. Our graduate training offers an interdisciplinary, collegial environment so that our doctoral students can excel in their research and are prepared for the career of their choice.

The materials science program offers flexibility in coursework so that students can work with their advisor to identify courses that meet their specific scientific goals. Because students pursue unique research areas and aspire to a variety of careers, it is important to meet at least annually with your doctoral advisory committee and maintain an individual development plan.

To earn a Ph.D. in Materials Science in the Applied Physical Sciences department, students must:

Complete a set of required courses;

Participate in seminars;

Submit a written literature review and present it to the Doctoral Advisory Committee at the end of year 1;

Present a research seminar in year 2;

Submit prospectus and pass the first doctoral oral exam;

Submit a dissertation and pass a final oral exam.

Professional Development

In addition to developing technical skills and knowledge in their research area, students are encouraged to participate in professional development opportunities so that they are prepared for their post-graduate career. Opportunities include developing communication skills (oral and written), grant writing, teaching & mentorship, leadership & professionalism, and are tailored for each student’s career goals.

Required Courses

All APS graduate students must pass 6 courses of 3 credit hours each and 4 seminar courses of 1 credit hour each in their first year (22 credit hours total). This includes one cohort course, two electives, one professional development seminar and one research seminar in the fall semester. In the spring semester, students enroll in one cohort course, two electives one professional development seminar and one research seminar. The fall cohort course is Advanced Materials Science (MTSC780) and the spring cohort course is Scientific Computing for Material Science (MTSC785). Cohort courses strengthen each student’s background in materials science. Elective courses are selected in close consultation with the Ph.D. advisor and are based on research interests and academic background. There are many potential elective courses available. In consultation with their Ph.D. advisor, graduate students may take additional courses in year 2 if deemed necessary.

The professional development seminar course (MTSC 710 and MTSC 711) are required courses for all first-year students. The courses offer an opportunity for students to develop their Individual Development Plan, explore careers, practice their presentation skills, and learn about the research of other MTSC graduate students. Second-year students will present their research to first year students in the seminar series. Students will develop a flyer to promote their presentation, and faculty and other graduate students may attend. The presentation will include the results of the student’s literature review, preliminary research results and future directions.

Research Seminars

To become a successful scholar, it is important that students look beyond their specific field of research. Students are exposed to a variety of cutting-edge research topics during their APS graduate career and are encouraged to explore beyond their specific field of research by regularly attending departmental and other seminars. A variety of speakers present their work in APS departmental seminars including external speakers from industry and other universities, APS and affiliated departments, and current APS graduate students. All students will be required to register for MTSC 718, and attendance for these seminars will count towards their grade in this course.

Doctoral Advisory Committee

Students work closely with their Ph.D. advisor to decide on a doctoral advisory committee. The DAC serves as the academic advisory team for each student’s graduate career and selecting DAC members is an important decision for students. The DAC consists of at least 5 faculty members and includes the student Ph.D. advisor.

The DAC supports each student through developing their scientific excellence and professional skills. Students document short- and long-term professional goals in their individual development plan (IDP). The IDP is a living document, reviewed and updated at least annually with the DAC to support each student with a plan tailored to their career goals.

Literature Review

At the end of the first year students write a literature review. The literature review is intended to prepare students and their advisor for their specific research, their oral defense, and future publications.

First Doctoral Oral Exam

The first oral exam is coordinated with the student’s DAC and will ascertain if the student has acquired the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in research. Two weeks prior to the exam students submit a written prospectus to their DAC. The prospectus describes a detailed research proposal. The first oral exam includes a 45-minute presentation of the student’s research project aim in the context of the existing literature and research results to date. It is recommended that students also present their possible next steps (future work!) and elaborate on what is needed in order to be successful in their research.

Dissertation and Final Oral Exam

The final oral exam is coordinated with the student’s DAC. Additional details from The Graduate School can be viewed here.