Doctoral Degree

Doctoral Degree

The Doctoral Degree

The doctoral (Ph.D.) degree prepares students to solve complex, long-term research problems. You can expect to graduate in four to five years and to work on a large research project, culminating in a dissertation. The majority of our doctoral graduates end up in industry careers, usually in research and product development positions. Others go on to careers in academia, either as a postdoctoral researcher or an assistant professor.

Course Requirements

Program of Study / Handbook / Recommended Electives

Doctoral students complete the same core courses as the master’s degree students, but have additional examinations along the way that test both the breadth and depth of their chemical engineering knowledge. Over the course of your first fall quarter, you will be matched with a major professor through the "Preparing for Graduate Student Success" course (ECH 200). The five core classes mentioned above are listed below:

  • ECH 252: Statistical Thermodynamics
  • ECH 253A: Advanced Fluid Mechanics
  • ECH 253C: Advanced Mass Transfer
  • ECH 256: Chemical Kinetics and Reaction Engineering
  • ECH 259: Advanced Engineering Mathematics.

For electives, you can select from any available upper-division undergraduate course (courses numbered 100-199) or graduate level course (courses numbered 200-299) in a science or engineering discipline. Doctoral students are encouraged to select any physics, chemistry, mathematics or engineering-related courses that will assist them in preparing for their dissertation research.

You are also expected to enroll in ECH 290: "Department Seminar" four times as students prepare for their qualifying examinations. The course requires students to attend a majority of the weekly departmental lectures by visiting scholars in the field, exposing them to the latest advances in chemical engineering.

Sample Schedule Year 1 and 2: Full-Time Student
Year 1: Fall   Winter   Spring  
ECH 252 4 ECH 253C 4 Elective 2XX 3
ECH 253A 4 ECH 259 4 ECH 299 Research 8
ECH 256 4 Elective 1XX/2XX 3 ECH 290 1
ECH 200 1 ECH 290 1    
ECH 290 1     Preliminary Exam  
Year 2: Fall   Winter   Spring  
Elective 2XX 3 Elective 2XX 3 ECH 299 12
Elective 2XX 3 ECH 299 8 / 9    
ECH 299 3 / 4     Qualifying Exam  
ECH 290 1     Advance to Candidacy  
Research and Dissertation

In years three and four, students will enroll in 12 units of research each quarter and begin working on dissertation research and writing until graduation at the end of year four or five.

Read the full list of degree requirements for more information.
Transferring Coursework

Graduate-level coursework completed at another institution may be substituted for elective or required coursework in some cases, depending on the content of the course. If a graduate-level course was taken during the student’s undergraduate degree program, students must provide documentation that the course was not used to satisfy the bachelor’s degree requirements. Transferred courses are evaluated through an internal process by the instructor of the course at UC Davis. If approved, the course is waived for the student. The waived course does not formally appear on the UC Davis transcript as a transferred course, but does appear on the internal Program of Study form as satisfying the course requirements for the degree. Limits for transfer credit are detailed in the full degree requirements.

Preliminary Exam

Taken in spring quarter of your first year, this exam consists of a 10-minute presentation followed by 20 minutes of questioning by a committee consisting of five faculty members, including your major professor. Prior to the exam, students prepare a one-page abstract containing a general overview and critical assessment of two to three research articles. The exam assesses your ability to communicate a solid understanding of fundamental scientific and engineering concepts, particularly in the context of your research topic. You must complete all core courses and maintain at least a 3.25 GPA to be eligible to take the exam.

Qualifying Exam

Like the preliminary exam, the qualifying exam contains both a written and an oral portion. The written portion consists of a 10-15 page dissertation research proposal and bibliography that follows a format similar to an NSF or NIH grant proposal. After distributing the proposal to the committee, the student prepares a 30-35 minute oral presentation, during which a faculty committee will question the student. The qualifying exam committee consists of four graduate program faculty members and one external faculty member. Major professors are not allowed to participate on the qualifying exam committee.

Exit Seminar

After you complete your dissertation, you will present your research to the department prior to scheduling an appointment with Graduate Studies to submit your dissertation. At least two of your dissertation committee members must be present at the exit seminar. If the seminar is successfully completed, the committee will sign off on the dissertation signature page. Note that original signatures are required. Scanned images or electronic signatures will not be accepted.

Designated Emphases (DE)

As a doctoral student, you have the unique opportunity to participate in an affiliated designated emphasis (DE). A DE is similar in concept to an undergraduate minor. You will be required to complete additional coursework and must have a faculty member from that DE serve on both the qualifying exam committee and the dissertation committee. Students who successfully complete the DE will have a notation included on their diploma and transcript. The Chemical Engineering graduate program is affiliated with three designated emphases: