Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.)

asian male graduate student in lab coatA doctoral program consists of a combination of courses and research that fulfills the requirements of the Graduate School, and is approved by the student’s doctoral committee. A master's degree is not a prerequisite for the doctorate. However, the first year of graduate study leading to the Ph.D. may be the same as that for the M.S. degree. Acceptance into the Ph.D. program is based on the student's performance on the Ph.D. candidacy exam, which is administered by a graduate candidacy exam committee.

Ph.D. Requirements

General requirements are based upon completing the required course work, passing the candidacy examination, a period of residence, passing the comprehensive examination, the writing of a satisfactory thesis (and its acceptance by the doctoral committee and the Graduate School).

Although there is no specified graduate school requirement for the number of course credits required for a Ph.D. degree, the iMatSE program requires a minimum of 18 credits of 500-level courses (excluding MatSE 590 and MatSE 582: Professional Development) for completing a doctoral degree. The instructional program includes three required graduate core courses in materials: Thermodynamics of Materials (MATSE 501), Kinetics of Materials Processes (MATSE 503) and Principles of Crystal Chemistry (MATSE 512). Additional courses are determined by the student and the advisor, in consultation with the student’s doctoral committee. A student with a M.S. degree from Penn State can use the 500-level credits earned during his or her M.S. study to (partially) fulfill the course requirement.

Upon approval by the doctoral committee and the graduate program chair or co-chair, a student with a M.S. degree from another U.S. university can use up to a maximum of 10 credits from their former institution to partially fulfill the coursework requirement.

The Graduate School requires that all candidates for advanced degrees complete training in Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI). The SARI requirements for the iMatSE program include completion of an online Responsible Conduct of Research training program and a 1 credit Professional Development course (MATSE 582). Students should complete the SARI requirements by the end of their first year of study.

Upon completion of coursework, a comprehensive exam will be administered by the student’s Doctoral Committee. The comprehensive exam consists of a written progress report and thesis proposal, and its defense, to the student’s Doctoral Committee. At the culmination of the Ph.D. thesis research experience, each candidate must write a thesis, present it to his/her Ph.D. committee, and defend it at a final oral exam. All candidates must demonstrate proficiency in English in both written and oral form. All pre-comprehensive students are required to register and attend the program seminar series, and post-comprehensive students are required to attend by scheduling the course for audit. A summary of the Ph.D. degree requirements can be found below.

 

Requirements Summary

Candidacy Exam (Offered twice a year at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters)

Minimum Formal Course Work Requirements

Comprehensive Exam: Progress report and thesis proposal (administered by student's Doctoral Committee)

Successful completion of a candidacy examination is required for formal admission into the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Materials Science and Engineering (IGDP MatSE) Ph.D. program. The exam is scheduled each Fall and Spring semester. It is recommended that the exam be taken after completion of at least 12 graduate course credits, which includes the 9 credits of required graduate core courses.

Students will write a research proposal (maximum of 10 pages of text, including references and figures) and give a 20 minute oral presentation to three members of the program Candidacy Committee, whose members will ask questions about the proposal and other topics related to the student's prior coursework. The student will choose one of three topics for the proposal provided by the faculty committee.  Once the three topics have been provided to the student, the student may withdraw from the candidacy exam attempt only because of illness or other unforeseen circumstances that prevents the student from having a fair opportunity to complete the proposal.  These topics will be chosen to reflect the interest area(s) of the individual candidate. Students will be given 3 weeks to write the proposal and turn it in to the Graduate Office in electronic format. This proposal must be prepared and written by the candidate alone.

18 credits of 500-level courses after B.S. (excluding MatSE 590 and MatSE 582).

The instructional program includes three required graduate core courses in materials including Thermodynamics of Materials (MatSE 501), Kinetics of Materials Processes (MatSE 503), and Principles of Crystal Chemistry (MatSE 512).

Additional courses to be taken are determined by the student, their advisor, and a thesis committee made up of at least 4 faculty members (minimum of 2 faculty members from the program).

Seminar: 2 credits/year of MatSE 590
 
Scholarship and Research Integrity: Online training and 1 credit of MatSE 582 (Materials Science and Engineering Professional Development)
 
Minimum GPA: 3.00
 
Thesis: A written thesis and an oral defense administered by the Doctoral Committee
 

Candidacy Examination

Candidacy Exam Application Form

Successful completion of a candidacy examination is required for formal admission into the Intercollege MatSE Ph.D. program. The exam is scheduled each Fall and Spring semester. It is recommended that the exam be taken after at least 12 course credits have been earned beyond the B.S. degree.

Students will write a research proposal (maximum of 10 pages of text, including references and figures) and have 1 hour and 30 minutes for an oral presentation to three members of the program candidacy committee, whose members will ask questions about the proposal and other topics related to the student’s prior coursework. The student will choose one of three topics for the proposal provided by the faculty committee. Once the three topics have been provided to the student, the student may withdraw from the candidacy exam attempt only because of illness or other unforeseen circumstances that prevents the student from having a fair opportunity to complete the proposal. These topics will be chosen to reflect the interest area(s) of the individual candidate. Students will be given 3 weeks to write the proposal and turn it in to the iMatSE Graduate Office in electronic form. This proposal must be prepared and written by the candidate alone.

The candidacy committee is populated by faculty members of the graduate program, including a chair. A sub-committee of three faculty will evaluate each candidate. Members of the student’s sub-committee will be selected on the basis of relevant expertise and to avoid conflict of interest. If the exam is not passed on the first try, it must be taken again within the next year. If the student does not pass on the second try, he/she will not be permitted to enter the iMatSE Ph.D. program.

For complete details please review the Graduate Handbook (available in our Links and Forms section here

Formulation of the Ph.D. Committee

The Ph.D. Committee will be appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation/request of the iMatSE chair or co-chair, in consultation with the student’s advisor. This should be done within six months of passing the candidacy exam or completion of the M.S. thesis. For students entering with a Master’s degree from another university, the committee should be chosen within six months of enrolling at Penn State. The Ph.D. Committee must consist of a minimum of four members of the Graduate Faculty; at least two from the iMatSE Graduate Faculty. The committee must contain at least one representative from outside the student’s major field. This point requires clarification for an Intercollege Graduate Degree Program: the “outside” member of the student’s committee is a faculty member from a Department that differs from the student’s advisor’s tenure home. The committee chair will normally be an iMatSE faculty member, generally the student’s research advisor.  If the student is pursuing a minor, a representative from the minor field should be on the committee. Persons from outside of Penn State can be members of the Ph.D. Committee with special approval (see Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin): http://www.psu.edu/bulletins/whitebook/. 

Comprehensive Exam

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to ensure that the student has developed a comprehensive and integrated knowledge in the field and has developed a sound plan for doctoral thesis research. Students should take the comprehensive exam as soon as possible after completing coursework requirements and passing the candidacy exam. It is appropriate to take the comprehensive exam before preliminary work for the thesis proposal has been published. It is also desirable to take the exam before work is too far along to take full advantage of feedback from the committee at all stages of the project. Although prior versions of the handbook have stipulated that the comprehensive exam should be completed no later than the 7th semester, students are urged to do so earlier.  Please review the student handbook (available here) for complete details.

Residency Requirements

There is no required minimum number of semesters of study, but over some twelve-month period during the interval between admission to candidacy and completion of the Ph.D. program the candidate must spend at least two semesters (which may include the semester in which the candidacy examination is taken) as a registered full-time student (at least nine credits) engaged in academic work on the University Park campus.

Continuous Registration Requirements

After a student has passed the comprehensive examination and has met the two-semester residence requirement, no further registration for credit is required by the Graduate School. However, status as a student must be maintained by registering continuously each Fall and Spring semester (beginning with the first semester after both of the requirements mentioned above have been met) until the thesis is accepted by the Doctoral Committee.

If a Ph.D. student will not be in residence for an extended period for compelling reasons, the Dean of the Graduate School will consider a petition for a waiver of the continuous registration requirement. The petition must come from the Doctoral Committee chair and carry the endorsement of the graduate program chair or co-chair

Final Oral Examination

Upon completion of the thesis, the Doctoral Committee examines the thesis and administers the final oral examination. The student and advisor are responsible for assuring that the defense draft of the thesis is complete, of acceptable format for the Graduate School, and in a form acceptable for evaluation by the committee, no later than two weeks prior to the defense date. The student must complete paperwork to schedule the oral defense and receive approval from the graduate school at least two weeks in advance of the exam date. Please contact the iMatSE graduate office to schedule the Ph.D. defense. Also note that students must be registered during the semester that they complete the thesis defense as described in the Course Registration section of this handbook. Students intending to graduate in a particular semester must activate their intent to graduate, submit the thesis for format review and submit a final version of the thesis to the graduate school by the specific dates listed on the graduate school website. After the defense, the committee then makes recommendations as to the student’s status (pass/fail) to the iMatSE Graduate Office and Graduate School. When a period of more than six years has elapsed between the passing of the comprehensive examination and the completion of the thesis defense, the student is required to pass a second comprehensive examination before the final oral examination will be scheduled.

Annual Evaluations

The faculty member is required to provide a written evaluation of the student’s progress in academics and research (signed by both the advisor and the student) to the iMatSE Graduate Office on an annual basis. This typically occurs during the spring semester.