Doctoral Program

The PhD program is a research-intensive degree requiring a total of 72 credit hours and a dissertation.

For a complete description of the degree requirements, read our Graduate student handbook.


The 72 credit hours of coursework required of our PhD students can be broken down into 48 hours of coursework and 24 hours of dissertation research (CH 699); for more information, see our Graduate student handbook.  Students must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 (B) to remain in the program.


Each semester in residence, students will register for a research seminar (CH 584, CH 585, or CH 586). As part of these courses, attendance is required at the two departmental seminar series. The graduate seminar series is given by students in the program discussing their own results or research from the current literature. The departmental seminar series provides students with the opportunity to hear talks by academic and industrial researchers.


PhD candidates are normally expected to serve as teaching assistants (TAs) for at least one academic year while in the program. Most students serve as TAs during their first year before becoming research assistants.

International students must gain accreditation by the International Teaching Assistants Program (ITAP) within their first year of support to qualify for additional TA support.

Additional Academic Requirements

Each PhD student must produce an initial research review, pass four cumulative exams, and write and defend an original research proposal.

Research and Dissertation

The quantity of research required for the dissertation will normally be determined by the research advisor, although the entire dissertation committee will determine whether sufficient work has been done to award the PhD degree. Typically the PhD program takes at least four years, the bulk of which is spent working on a research project. The research for the PhD degree should encompass a significant body of work, and it is expected that this work will have resulted in at least one publication in a peer-reviewed journal.