Graduate Student Milestones

As a Chemical Engineering graduate student, you can expect to encounter four major milestones during your time here:

New Graduate Students

Getting ready to begin your studies is an exciting time! You can’t wait to take your bike for a spin around town or register for classes, but there are a few steps that have to be completed before you can rent that moving truck. Check out our guide for a complete list of the actions you need to take to become an Aggie!

First-Year Graduate Students

Students can expect at least one main milestone in their first year – finding a major professor. Over the course of Fall Quarter, students participate in the ECH 200: Preparing for Graduate Student Success course, which guides you in the selection of a major professor. In general, you should plan to meet with five to six faculty by the midway point of the quarter. Attendance at group meetings is also a great way to meet the faculty member’s current students and learn about current research projects. From there, you should narrow your preferences down to the top three research groups you would like to join. Once we collect the preferences from the faculty, we begin matching students with major professors. This process is usually complete by the end of Fall Quarter.

For doctoral students, another milestone is passing the preliminary exam at the end of Spring Quarter at the end of the first year. Master’s students who wish to move to the doctoral degree track may also take the preliminary examination provided they have the consent of their major professor, a 3.25 GPA, and are in good academic standing. Updated guidelines for the preliminary exam are usually discussed as a group during Winter Quarter. Over the course of Spring Quarter, you should write your abstract, prepare and practice your presentation, and complete your program of study. By mid-April, you will be notified of the date of your exam and the committee. Most exams are taken in mid to late May with notification of results by the beginning of June.

Advancing to Candidacy

For Master’s students, advancement to candidacy can occur as soon as the majority of your coursework has been completed usually by the Fall Quarter of the second year. However, doctoral students must complete all coursework and pass their qualifying exam before advancing, which usually occurs by the Spring Quarter of the second year. Ready to advance? Read about the guidelines of advancing to candidacy. 


You’re almost done and ready to throw that cap in the air! Here’s what you need to know to say farewell to your fondest years at UC Davis.