In the PhD program, student learning and research progress is assessed through individual courses and three examinations:  the preliminary exam, the comprehensive exam, and the PhD 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 PhD 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 can 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 your 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 you and your faculty advisor, but will normally be scheduled after all course work is completed and at least one year before the anticipated date of PhD completion.
  • The PhD thesis defense is the culmination of your research efforts and entails preparation of a written dissertation and an oral presentation and defense before the dissertation committee.  In a satisfactory defense, you will demonstrate to the committee’s satisfaction that you have independently produced original research that advances the state of knowledge of environmental engineering. 

Useful links