The Doctoral (PhD) degree offered through the Materials Science and Engineering Department is an intensive research and doctoral dissertation degree. Students may directly pursue a PhD degree without first earning a MS degree.

MSE Graduate Handbook Year 2020-2021

MSE Graduate Handbook Year 2018-2019

MSE Graduate Handbook Year 2017-2018

Academic Advising

Office: CME 304

Degree RequirementsQualifying ExaminationSupervisory CommitteeProgram of StudyDissertation ProposalDissertation and Defense


Complete a minimum of 54 credit hours in courses level 6000 or above

  • 30 hours of course work (that include 3 hours of MSE Graduate Seminar MSE 7800/7801, and 15 out of the 30 hours must be MSE/MET E courses). Exceptions to this rule are at the discretion of the student’s Supervisory Committee
  • A minimum of 24 hours of Thesis Research (MSE 7970)

All coursework must be completed at a cumulative 3.0 GPA (B grade average). All courses must be passed with a B- or better.

Students will also be required to complete the following requirements during the course of the program:

  • Qualifying Examination
  • Supervisory Committee
  • Program of Study
  • Dissertation Proposal
  • Dissertation

Required Courses

All entering PhD students are required to take the following MSE core courses within their first two semesters, regardless of where they received their Mater’s degree.* These courses will count towards the 25 hours of MSE coursework hours.

  • MSE 6032 – Advanced Thermodynamics (3 credits)
  • MSE 6001 – Engineering Materials (3 credits)
  • MSE 6034 – Kinetics (3 credits)
  • MSE 6011 – Advanced Materials Techniques: Experiment, Theory, and Characterization (3 credits)

*EXCEPTION: Students who received a B.S. or M.S. degree from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah, and received a B or better in MSE 5034 and MSE 3001 will not be required to take MSE 6034, 6011 and 6001. These students are allowed to substitute these three required courses with any other 6000/7000 level MSE or MET E course.

Graduate Seminar

Students are required to take 6 semesters (0.5 credit hours each semester) of MSE Graduate Seminar.

  • MSE 7800 – Graduate Seminar I (0.5 credits) Fall Semesters
  • MSE 7801 – Graduate Seminar II (0.5 credits) Spring Semesters

Two oral presentations are required. Graduate Seminar credit hours cannot be used to satisfy the 25 credit hours of MSE coursework.

MSE Graduate Seminar Independent Study

If students are unable to attend the Graduate Seminar in a given semester due to an academic or work related conflict, they will be required to make up the credit through an independent study. Students will still be required to register for MSE 7800/7801, as the credit hours are required for the graduate program. However, it will be the student’s responsibility to attend at least 10 seminars or lecture during the duration of the semester.

The seminars or lectures must be related to the field of Materials Science & Engineering. The seminars or lectures can be on or off campus. They could also be pre-recorded and viewed from various media platforms (example YouTube).

Students must write a one page (typed, single spaced, 12 pt. font) paper addressing the following topics:
• How the topics relates to your research
• One full paragraph should discuss the research style and communication skills of the speaker.
• Students should give advice on how the presentation could have been better

The 10 one-page papers are due the last day of classes in the given semester.

Thesis Hours

Students must complete at least 14 hours of Thesis Research (MSE 7970, Thesis Research: Ph.D.). The candidate must also be regularly enrolled at the University and registered for at least one course during the semester in which the final oral examination (dissertation defense) is taken.

After the residency requirement has been met (two consecutive semesters of nine hours or more), graduate students who are registered for three credit hours in any one of the following classes are considered full-time status:

  • Classes within the range of 6970-6989, 7970-7989

This does not fulfill state residency requirements.

Registration Restrictions

Credit hour requirements for full time and part time status at the University of Utah:

Student Full Time Part Time
Graduate 9 hours per term 5-8 hours per term
  • Graduate credit may be transferred from other regionally-accredited institutions with department and advisor approval. Credits transferred from another institution may be used for only one degree. Up to six semester hours of transfer credit may be applied toward fulfillment of graduate degree requirements if they are of high letter grade (B or higher; ‘credit only’ grades are unacceptable), are recommended by the student’s supervisory committee, and were taken within four years of semester of admission to the University of Utah for master’s students and within seven years of semester of admission to the University of Utah for doctoral students.
  • Only nine semester hours of nonmatriculated credit, taken no more than three year prior to approval, can be applied toward a graduate degree.
  • No candidate for a graduate degree is permitted to register for more than 16 credit hours in any single semester. A schedule of nine credit hours is considered a full load for doctoral degree candidates.
  • Only 3 hours of MSE 6980/7980 – Faculty Consultations can be counted towards the PhD degree provided there is proper documentation. This can take the place of 3 MSE coursework hours on the Program of Study.
  • Only 1 hour of MSE 6950 – Independent Study can be used towards the PhD degree.

English Proficiency

The University of Utah Admissions Department sets the requirements for English Proficiency, not the department. This requirement cannot be waived. Applications will not be processed without official test results dated within two years. For more information, please see the admissions page on English Proficiency found here.


Candidate will write a report and prepare an oral presentation for a topic of scientific area which is NOT directly related to his/her ongoing Ph.D. research. The presentation and report shall cover:

  •  Current state of the art of the area,
  • Key challenges related to materials design,
  • Ideas for future research directions in this field (students are encouraged to propose their own ideas and discuss possible plan and feasibility of proposed research).

Students will be expected to do a deep dive into the topic and be prepared to apply/discuss the basic MSE principles (covered by the core courses) to the selected topic.

Topic selection: The topics will be suggested/assigned by the MSE graduate committee.

  • Report (written portion) should be concise and not exceeding 10 pages (single spaced).
  • Oral presentation will be a 20minute power point presentation with additional 20-30 minutes for questions from the committee.
  • Topic selection/assignment will occur earlier May (after the Spring semester).
  • Reports will be due first week of June.
  • Presentations will be scheduled in the second/third weeks of June depending on examination committee schedule availability.

Examination committee will consist of at least three MSE faculty, excluding student’s primary advisor.


After successfully passing the Candidacy Evaluation, PhD students must make an appointment with the MSE Academic Advisor to start building a supervisory committee.

Each supervisory committee consists of five faculty members. In compliance with The Graduate School’s policy, the majority of the committee members (3) must be tenure line faculty in the MSE department. The supervisory committee chair must be a regular tenure line faculty at the University of Utah. The dean of The Graduate School may approve requests to appoint a committee member from another university where appropriate justification and supporting documentation is provided. The supervisory committee is responsible for approving the student’s academic program, preparing and judging the qualifying examinations, approving the dissertation subject and final dissertation, and administering and judging the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

Supervisory Committee Form


During the third year of graduate study, PhD students are required to complete a Program of Study. This form is not a selection of courses that satisfies the minimum requirements but will be a list of all course work and research hours proposed for the PhD degree that will be approved by the Supervisory Committee. It is important that students understand that the Supervisory Committee makes the final decision for the courses that will appear on the Program of Study for the PhD.

Procedure to Complete

The procedure to complete the Program of Study form is as follows:

  • Students must arrange a meeting with their Supervisory Committee Chair to present the proposed course for the Program of Study form.
  • At the meeting, the Supervisory Committee Chair will review and approve the student’s courses for their degree.
  • In some cases, the Supervisory Committee Chair may require extra course work that exceeds the minimum requirements for a PhD degree based on the dissertation topic.
  • As stated in the Graduate School’s requirements: coursework used to complete requirements for one graduate program may not be used to meet the requirement of another.
  • All course work must be completed in the first two years of graduate study.

Program of Study Form


After advancing to candidacy, but before the end of the third year (6th semester) in the program, students must complete the written and oral portions of the Dissertation Proposal Exam. An exception can be granted by a student’s Supervisory Committee Chair for extenuating circumstances.

The Dissertation Proposal must occur before the Dissertation Defense and the two many not be completed within the same semester. The Dissertation Proposal Exam (written, oral, or both parts) may be repeated once if a “Fail” or “Conditional Pass” is received the first time.

Written Proposal

Students must independently prepare a written proposal for the research they will complete for their dissertation. It must be given to their Supervisory Committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the oral exam. Students must propose their own original research which will form the basis of their publications and PhD dissertation. The proposal should detail the prior work in the field, detail any results already obtained by the student, and lay out the research objectives and plan for meeting those objectives before completing the dissertation. A copy of the Dissertation Proposal will be provided to the Academic Advisor to be retained in the student’s file.

The proposal should follow the NSF proposal format (or other federal agency if approved by the committee). For more information on the format, student should refer to the MSE Dissertation Written Proposal Template here.

For additional resources and information on NSF formatting, students should refer to the University of Utah Office of Sponsored Projects website by clicking here.

Oral Proposal

Students must arrange with their Supervisory Committee to present and defend their proposal. A common format is to prepare a talk lasting 40 minutes if uninterrupted based on the same ideas and research plan contained in the Written Proposal.

The committee will ask questions, evaluate the proposal, and give feedback and suggestions to the student on the proposed research. The committee will sign the Dissertation Proposal from, which has separate “Pass,” “Conditional Pass” and “Fail” marks. Again, the committee may require remedial actions for “Conditional Pass” or “Fail” marks.



Students must submit a dissertation embodying the results of scientific or scholarly research. The dissertation must provide evidence of originality and the ability to do independent investigation and it must contribute to knowledge. The dissertation must show a mastery of the relevant literature and be presented in an acceptable style. The style and format are determined by departmental policy and registered with the thesis and dissertation editor, who approves individual dissertations in accordance with departmental and Graduate School policy. The approved style guides can be found here.

At least three weeks before the final dissertation defense, students should submit an acceptable draft of the dissertation to the chair of the Supervisory Committee; committee members should receive copies at least two weeks before the examination date.

The doctoral dissertation is expected to be available to other scholars and to the general public. It is the responsibility of all doctoral candidates to arrange for the publication of their dissertations. The University accepts two alternatives for complying with the publication requirements:

The entire dissertation is submitted to UMI Dissertation Publishing, ProQuest Information and Learning, and copies are made available for public sale. The abstract only is published if the entire dissertation has been previously published and distributed, exclusive of vanity publishing. The doctoral candidate may elect to microfilm the entire previously published work. Regardless of the option used for meeting the publication requirement, an abstract of each dissertation is published in UMI Dissertation Publishing, ProQuest Information and Learning, Dissertation Abstracts International.

Detailed policies and procedures concerning publication requirements, use of restricted data, and other matters pertaining to the preparation and acceptance of the dissertation are contained in A Handbook for Theses and Dissertations, published by The Graduate School and available on The Graduate School website.

Please be sure to check the Thesis Office manuscript tracking system to see if your dissertation has been uploaded to ProQuest.


PhD students must orally defend the significant contents, results, and conclusions associated with their doctoral research before the entire Supervisory Committee at an open and public defense. At the conclusion of the public participation, the committee will excuse the public and conduct further questioning on the thesis and related topics. The outcome of the defense is reported on the PhD Defense Form.

The draft or final dissertation document will serve as the written basis for the presentation and should be submitted to the Supervisory Committee four weeks prior to the oral defense. The Supervisory Committee will examine in detail the contents, results, conclusions and contribution made by the student’s research and written dissertation.

“The Supervisory Committee Approval” and “Final Reading Approval” forms must be filled out by the student and the appropriate signatures obtained before final dissertation can be submitted to the Thesis Editor for final approval and release. These forms are the responsibility of the student and can be found on The Graduate School’s website.

When should you defend in order to graduate in a specific semester?

The earlier you defend in a given semester, the more likely you are to be able to graduate that same semester. Check the Thesis Calendar to see when the submission deadline is. You need to defend far enough ahead of that deadline that you can make any changes to the text required by your committee and ensure that the manuscript adheres to your chosen style guide and Thesis Office requirements by the deadline. Be aware that if you submit your manuscript on the deadline and there are any formatting errors you will not graduate that semester. The sooner you turn your manuscript in the more likely you are to graduate in that semester.  As a general rule of thumb, plan to defend in the first 2 months of the semester if you want to graduate that semester.


Student must be registered for 3 credit hours of MSE 7970 during the semester they defend. Once student defends and the dissertation has been accepted by the Supervisory Committee, the student is not required to register for another semester. International Students should check with the International Center once they have defended to make sure that they do not go out of status while completing requested rewrites.

Defense and Dissertation Forms

Materials Science and Engineering Department form:

Graduate School Forms

  • For information on admission to the PhD program click here.
  • For information about housing options at the University of Utah, click here.
Degree Residency Requirement
According to the University of Utah Graduate School regulation, “At least one year (i.e., two consecutive semesters) of a doctoral program must be spent in full-time academic work at the University of Utah. When a student proceeds directly from a master’s degree to a PhD degree with no break in the program of study (except for authorized leaves of absence), the residency requirement may be fulfilled at any time during the course of study. A full load is 9 credit hours. Three hours of Thesis Research: PhD 7970 also is considered a full load after the residency requirement is fulfilled.” Students registered for 9 hours of Thesis Research: PhD for two consecutive semesters will be allowed to fulfill the residency requirement. Students that are not continually registered will have to reapply to the University of Utah before continuing. Students in the College of Engineering cannot simultaneously be candidates for a PhD in one department and a ME, MS, or PhD candidate in the same or in another department.
Degree Time Limit
A PhD student is eligible for 5 years (10 semesters) of tuition benefit, providing the students did not come in with a M.S. degree from another institution or department at the University of Utah. Students entering the Ph.D. program with a MS degree from another institution are only eligible for 4 years (8 semesters) of tuition benefit. Students, who completed a MS degree in another department at the University of Utah, will only be eligible for the number of tuition benefits they did not use towards their MS degree. In compliance with the Tuition Benefit Program, PhD students should in all practical purposes complete their degrees in 5 years. In accordance with the Graduate School time limit requirements: “Students whose studies have been interrupted for long periods and who have been granted an extension to complete their degrees may be required to complete additional courses, pass examination, or otherwise demonstrate that they are current in their field.”
Continuous Registration
All graduate students must be registered for at least one course from the time of formal admission through completion of all requirements for the degree they are seeking, unless granted an official leave of absence (see Leaves of Absence section, below). Students not on campus and not using University facilities are not expected to register for summer term. Students must, however, be registered during summer term if they are taking examinations or defending theses/dissertations. If students do not comply with this continuous registration policy and do not obtain an official leave of absence, they will be automatically discontinued from graduate study. In this case, students will be required to reapply for admission to the University through Graduate Admissions upon approval of the home department. Students should be registered for graduate level courses (6000-7000 level for doctoral) until they have completed all requirements for the degree including, the defense of dissertation. MSE 7990 Continuing Registration: PhD is only allowed if the student is not using faculty time or University facilities except the library. Upon successfully defending the PhD dissertation, students no longer are required to register; however, those who wish to check out books from the library must register for MSE 7990. MSE 7990 is not allowed to fulfill degree requirements and is limited to four (4) semesters. Students are still responsible for the tuition and fees for MSE 7990.
Full Time Status

Full Time Student Status

Full time status for graduate students at the University of Utah must meet the following conditions: Registering for 9 credit hours and up to 11 credit hours of approved graduate study courses. Some of these credit hours may be for of Thesis Research: PhD 7970.

Part Time Student Status

Domestic graduate students are allowed to attend graduate school on a part-time basis; however, it is necessary that a part-time student be registered for a minimum of 3 credit hours each semester. A letter must be submitted to the Materials Science and Engineering Administrative Office and must be received at the beginning of the student’s first semester advising the Academic Advisor that the student will be part- time. This student will remain a part-time student until the Materials Science and Engineering Administrative Office is notified otherwise. Part-time students still need to satisfy the residency requirement for their perspective degrees.
Leave of Absences
Domestic students who wish to take a leave of absence for a semester must complete a Request for Leave of Absence form and have it approved by their supervisory committee. The form must then be submitted to the Academic Advisor for further processing. The form must be filled out prior to the semester that will be missed. Leave of absences can be granted for up to one year. International students are not allowed to take a leave of absence.
Credit/No Credit
The only courses that will be graded with a Credit/No-Credit (CR/NC) Grade in the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Program are MSE 7800 and MSE 7801, (Graduate Seminar) and Thesis Research: PhD MSE 7970. All other courses on the student’s program of study must be taken for a letter grade. Students will receive Credit (CR) for satisfactory research progress. If the student is not showing satisfactory progress for their research a grade of No Credit (NC) will be given.
Adding, Dropping, and Withdrawal Procedures
Adding Classes – All classes must be added within two weeks of the beginning of the semester. Adding classes after the deadline is not permitted in the College of Engineering and requires a petition letter. Dropping Classes – A drop implies that the student will not be held financially responsible and a “W” will not be listed on the transcript. Student may drop any class without penalty or permission during the first ten calendar days of the term. Withdrawing from Classes – means that a “W” will appear on the student’s transcript and tuition will be charged. Withdrawal from Full Term Length –Beginning the eleventh calendar day and continuing through the midpoint of the term, students may withdraw from a class or the University without instructor/department permission. After midpoint of the term, students may petition the deadline for withdrawal if they have a nonacademic emergency. For more information about the petition process, please contact your Academic Advisor. Check the academic calendar for specific add, drop, and withdrawal dates.
Appeals Procedures
If a student believes that an academic action is arbitrary or capricious he/she should discuss the action with the involved faculty member and attempt to resolve. If unable to resolve, the student may appeal the action in accordance with the following procedure.
  1. Appeal to the Department Chair (in writing) within 40 working days; chairs must notify student of a decision with 15 days. If the faculty member or student disagrees with decision then,
  2. Appeal to Academic Committee, see II Section D, Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities for details on Academic Appeal Committee hearings.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in classes, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the instructor and to the Center for Disability and Access.
Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom and/or research lab experience to a practical work experience off-campus after graduation. Optional Practical Training is authorized by Immigration Service. This authorization can take several months to obtain so students need to apply well in advance of graduation. The maximum amount of time granted to work in F-1 Optional Practical Training is 12 months. Working before practical training has been authorized by the Immigration Service constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the United States. So it is important that students coordinate their OPT request with the International Center.
Health Insurance and Family Leave
Graduate students have an option to obtain affordable health insurance coverage through the Graduate School as part of the Tuition Benefit Program. TAs and RAs are generally eligible. If a student prefers a different insurance policy, reimbursement can be obtained up to the cost of the plan available through the Graduate School. See link here. The MSE Department supports graduate students seeking family medical leave and/or reasonable accommodation as outlined generally under Policy 5-200 Leaves of Absence (health related) of the University of Utah Regulations that cover family medical leave and/or reasonable accommodation for conditions such as illness, pregnancy leave, military leave, foster care, adoption, hardship leave, care for elderly parents, or care for children. Graduate students in the MSE graduate programs and employed by the MSE Department as either an RA or TA are entitled to up to 12 weeks for a family medical leave of absence beginning within the time of employment. A leave will not extend beyond the time of the thesis defense or other final date marking the completion of examinations needed for the program.
Orderly Dismissal Policy for Graduate Students
In some cases, a student may not satisfy the requirements and expectations of the MSE PhD program triggering an assessment of the student’s status in the program. These include reasonable rate of progress towards completing the requirements of the degree program. While expectations for scholarly output and rate thereof is left to the judgement of the advisor and supervisory committee, a general guideline is that PhD students in the MSE department are encouraged to present at conferences and workshops and should have at least three first-authored papers accepted to reputable peer-reviewed journals before graduation and multiple conference presentations and papers. The student’s supervisory committee (or a majority thereof) will be the deciding body. The maximum sanction for unacceptable academic performance is dismissal from the Program (see Student Code, University Policy 6-400; In cases requiring dismissal from the Program, a “Recommendation for Change of Graduate Classification” form will be filed with the Graduate Records Office. The student may appeal the decision, following the procedure outline in the Student Code (University Policy 6-400). If any of the criteria listed below are not met, the advisory committee will have discretion to either:
  1. Dismiss the student from the program immediately.
  2. Place the student on academic probation for 1 semester. In this case, the student’s committee will provide a list of specific milestones which the student must accomplish in order to be reinstated to good standing. If these milestone are not accomplished within 1 semester, the student will be dismissed from the program.
Criteria Graduate students must:
  1. Maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  2. Passing all required examinations within specified times limits (e.g. for PhD students the candidacy exam, dissertation proposal, and thesis defense).
  3. Continuously maintain an official advisor and supervisory committee from the 3rd semester through completion of the program.
  4. Continually make acceptable progress toward the degree as determined by the supervisory committee + thesis advisor.
A Handbook for Theses and Dissertations contains information on The Graduate School’s policies and procedures for preparing a thesis or dissertation, having it edited by the Thesis Editor, and filing it as the final step in graduation. The Handbook includes an explanation of the University of Utah format, examples of forms and essential pages for the thesis, a list of departmentally-approved style guides, and a discussion of copyright issues. A copy of the Handbook is available here. Please be sure to check the Thesis Office manuscript tracking system to see if your dissertation has been uploaded to ProQuest.

Preliminary Formatting

What is a preliminary formatting review? This lower-stakes, shorter review will help reveal significant formatting issues in manuscripts that will be an impediment to speedy approval by the Thesis Office. Students are allowed to turn in a chapter or more of a manuscript for a preliminary review, or may sign up for a 20-minute, in-person format review consultation. The Thesis Office will have an appointment calendar for students in place by Spring 2018. How will this affect my graduation? Students who do not complete a preliminary review will not be barred from graduating. However, students who do not complete a preliminary format review will no longer be guaranteed that their manuscripts will be approved in time for graduation in the semester the manuscript is submitted. Preliminary reviews will be conducted by the Thesis Office up to two weeks before the first manuscript deadlines. Following that time, no requests for preliminary reviews will be accepted until the next semester. What are the important dates? Review deadlines are updated on the Thesis Office website. Does a student need to wait until the semester they’re graduating to have a preliminary review? No. If the student learns the correct formatting early in the writing process and implements it in their writing, it is more likely that the manuscript will exhibit no major formatting problems. If a student is off-campus, how can they have a preliminary format review? Students may ask a colleague to submit their manuscript for a preliminary review, just as they may for their final manuscript review. Students who wish to have a colleague pick up an edited preliminary format review must sign a FERPA form (available on the Thesis Office website). Off-campus students who wish to have an in-person preliminary format review may arrange with a Thesis Office representative to have a Skype or phone-in appointment. Will students who have had a preliminary formatting review be prioritized by the Thesis Office when they turn in their manuscript for the final manuscript review? Manuscript review submission to the Thesis Office will continue to operate in a first-come, first-serve basis. This will be reflected in the Thesis Tracking Tool, available for students and administrators on the Graduate School website. Students who fail to have a preliminary formatting review and who have no major formatting issues will continue to graduate in the semester they submit. A student who has not had a preliminary formatting review and has major formatting errors that bar them from publication (as explained in the Thesis Office Handbook) may have their manuscripts be given a low priority for follow-up or have their manuscripts rejected for graduation that semester. Whom can I contact if I have further questions? Questions can be directed to the new Thesis Office general email address,
The following process is recommended to help students prepare for graduation:
  • During the semester before your graduation date, students should check their Electronic Graduate Record File in CIS. For more information on how to access the Electronic Graduate Record File click here.
  • If students have questions or issues surrounding graduation, they should make an appointment with the MSE Academic Advisor. It is important that you communicate with the Academic Advisor about your intended graduation date and progress.
In order to graduate, students must meet all of the University of Utah requirements as well as the department requirements for graduation. For graduation deadlines and how to apply click here. Students can also find information on the Commencement Ceremony here.
Campus Resources

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