For the Ph.D., student learning and research progress is assessed through individual courses and through three examinations:  the preliminary exam, the comprehensive exam, and the Ph.D. thesis defense.

  • The preliminary exam is a combination written and oral exam focusing on general knowledge of environmental engineering, based on introductory graduate-level course work.  The preliminary exam will normally be taken within the first three semesters of the Ph.D. program.  Students taking the preliminary exam select two core areas from a list of approved topics, based on their research objectives.  The exam includes a five-page prospectus and an oral exam, with a committee of three professors. The exam could be taken up to two times. Failure to pass this exam will result in the inability to continue in the PhD program. 
  • The comprehensive exam entails preparation of a written thesis proposal and defense of the proposal before the student’s dissertation committee.  The committee must have at least five members with research expertise relevant to the dissertation topic.  At least three of the committee members must be members of the Environmental Engineering program faculty. Timing for the exam is determined by the student and his or her faculty advisor, but will normally be scheduled after all course work is completed and at least one year before the anticipated date of Ph.D. completion.
  • The Ph.D. thesis defense is the culmination of the student’s research efforts and entails preparation of a written dissertation and an oral presentation and defense before the dissertation committee.  In a satisfactory defense, the Ph.D. candidate will demonstrate to the committee’s satisfaction that she or he has independently produced original research that advances the state of knowledge of environmental engineering. 

Useful links:
Overview of Preliminary Exam
Overview of Comprehensive Exam
Conducting Your Research
Preparing Your Thesis