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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 14, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Materials Science and Engineering, PhD

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Requirements for the PhD Degree

A minimum of 72 credits is required for the PhD. Of the total of 72 credits required for the PhD degree a minimum of 36 credits must be coursework beyond the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. PhD students must maintain a minimum QPA of 3.3 (B+) in this coursework. The coursework consists of (I) a materials core (six required courses students must take in the first year of enrollment), (II) a group of courses tailored for each student’s research and as required technical broadening beyond the MSE focus, (III) courses to address mathematical/numerical skills, and (IV) PhD Research and Dissertation credits. The student’s advisor must approve the course sequence selection. Students can transfer up to 30 credits from an MS or equivalent degree, subject to approval by the graduate program committee. If students are awarded with 30 block credits, they need to take at least 12 credits from the MSE program.

The 18-credit core course component must be taken within the first year of the program. Typically, PhD students will carry a course load of three courses per term until their coursework is completed. If a student’s background is insufficient for a given graduate course, the student must prepare by attending appropriate undergraduate courses or through independent study. This should be arranged in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor and the lecturing faculty of the relevant course(s). Students must take the PhD qualifying exam near the end of their 1st year when they complete core courses. Students who fail in their first attempt can have a second chance in the following semester. Students who fail the exam at both attempts are dismissed from the program.

In addition to core courses, a student must take at least 15 credits from advanced and technical elective courses in the MSE graduate program and relevant science and engineering disciplines. As a part of advanced and technical elective courses, a total of up to 12 credits may be taken in relevant engineering disciplines outside of the MSE designation of graduate level courses and in relevant science disciplines outside of SSoE. The selection of courses, in general, must be acceptable to the student’s advisor.

In addition to core and advanced/technical elective courses, the student is required to take three (3) credits from mathematics/numerical courses.

Minimum credit requirements include:


A student must score at least a B (3.0) in each of these six classes. If a student does not get at least a letter grade of B, the class must be taken a second time. These classes must be successfully completed before the student can apply for admission to PhD Candidacy. If a student has a bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering, MSE 2067 can be waived upon the permission of the Program Director. In this case, one (1) more advanced/technical elective course must be substituted for MSE 2067 to complete the requirements for the PhD degree.

Advanced and Technical Elective Courses

A student must take advanced courses and technical elective courses. These are comprised of at least two courses (6 credits) selected by the student and his or her advisor as the best advanced preparation for research in the area of the dissertation, and additional courses, as a broadening experience, to complement the student’s PhD specialization and contribute significantly to career preparation.

Mathematics Courses

A student must take one mathematics/numerical course for three (3) credits beyond those required for the materials science and engineering Bachelor of Science degree. This can be satisfied by many courses. This requirement may be waived if it was met in a previous graduate program which the student attended before entering MSE, PhD program.

PhD Research and Dissertation Credits

Each student must also have:

  • At least six (6) credits of MSE 3997  (PhD Research);
  • At least 12 credits of MSE 3999 * (PhD Dissertation);

*Please note that registration for MSE 3999  is allowed only after the student has passed the Comprehensive Examination and defended the PhD Proposal, which qualifies the student for the status of PhD Candidacy.

The course requirements described in these guidelines are a minimum requirement. The minimum requirement of 72 credits of graduate work must be satisfied by combinations of research, course work and transfer credits for the award of a PhD degree. Students are allowed to take additional courses with the agreement of their advisors. In some cases, these courses may be suggested by the PhD Committee for better preparation for a given research area. Note that completion of the PhD degree and admission PhD candidacy require a GPA of B+ or better (≥3.3).

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