Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Program

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemical Engineering

The course work, examinations, research and dissertation necessary to fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering are prescribed by the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department, the Viterbi School of Engineering, and the Graduate School. The Ph.D. is administered by the Graduate School and certain procedures must be followed to ensure fulfilling all requirements.
The Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering requires 60 units of course work (academic or research) beyond the Bachelor’s degree, a Screening Examination, a Qualifying Examination, an original investigation (research), a written dissertation, and a final oral dissertation examination. If your B.S. was not in Chemical Engineering, additional courses* (in accordion item below) may be required.

CHE 501: Modeling and Analysis of Chemical Engineering Systems
CHE 530: Thermodynamics for Chemical Engineering
CHE 540: Viscous Flow
CHE 541: Mass Transfer
CHE 542: Chemical Engineering Kinetics and Reactor Analysis
CHE 544: Heat Transmission
CHE 550a and CHE 550b: Seminar
CHE 590: Research
CHE 594a,b*: Thesis

Chemical Engineering Deficiency Courses

For students who did not receive a BS in Chemical Engineering, certain deficiency courses will be required at the discretion of the Program Director.  Units from these courses cannot be applied towards the degree.
Detailed descriptions of each of these courses can be located in the Course Catalog. 


Course units
CHEM 105aL and CHEM105bL: General Chemistry 4
CHEM 300L Analytical Chemistry 4
CHEM 322aL: Organic Chemistry 4
CHEM 430a: Physical Chemistry 4


Course units
MATH 125: Calculus I 4
MATH 126: Calculus II 4
MATH 226: Calculus III 4
MATH 245: Mathematics of Physics and Engineering I 4


Course units
PHYS 151Lg: Fundamentals of Physics I 4
PHYS 152L: Fundamentals of Physics II 4

Chemical Engineering

Course units
CHE 330: Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics 3
CHE 350: Introduction to Separation Processes 3
CHE 442: Chemical Reactor Analysis 3
CHE 443: Viscous Flow 3
CHE 445: Heat transfer 2
CHE 446: Mass Transfer 2

A student is officially admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree if the student has successfully: (a) passed the Screening Examination, (b) completed a minimum of 24 units, (c) passed the D.Q.E.

Screening Exam

At the end of the second semester of full time graduate study (normally end of May/beginning of June), Ph.D. students are required to take the Ph.D. Screening Examination. This is a written examination of basic undergraduate/first year graduate chemical engineering and it is intended to test the knowledge of the students in fundamentals of chemical engineering.  The decision to permit the student to become a Ph.D. aspirant is based on the screening examination, the overall academic performance and the successful definition of a research topic.

The Doctoral Qualifying Examination (D.Q.E.)

 At the completion of the course requirements and no later than 2 semesters after passing the Screen Exam, Ph.D. aspirants are required to take the Doctoral Qualifying Examination (D.Q.E.). The primary function of the D.Q.E. is to verify the aspirant’s ability to perform original and creative research, and to report upon it.  The examination consists of two parts:
a.  A written research proposal in acceptable format to be distributed to the five member committee by the aspirant at the initiation of a month-long examination period. This document should consist of a detailed discussion of the proposed research project including literature surveys, past research accomplishments and future plans. It is expected that a substantial portion of the proposition is generated by the student himself.
b.  An oral defense of the above proposal before the entire committee. The student is responsible for scheduling the oral examination at the convenience of the members of the committee.
Both portions of the D.Q.E. must be completed within one month. All committee members must be present for the oral portion of the D.Q.E. More than two votes are sufficient to record the examination as a failure. The D.Q.E. may be repeated only once at the discretion of the committee, in a period not less than six months and not later than one year after the date of the first examination. After passing the D.Q.E., the student is normally expected to be on campus full time.

More information about the screening exam and the qualifying exam is located in the Ph.D Student Handbook.