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Ph.D. - Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering program offers advanced courses in the areas of structural analysis and design, water resources and environmental engineering, transportation engineering, and geotechnical engineering. This program aims to educate technical experts to meet challenges related to enhancing infrastructure and the environment.  Students learn about conducting research and solving technical problems that have an impact both regionally and globally. The PhD program culminates in a written dissertation representing an original contribution to knowledge in the field, significantly enlarging, modifying or reinterpreting what was previously known. Students work closely with their advisor, but PhD research is an original, independent investigation of the chosen research topic.

Admission Criteria – PhD: CEE

Admission requirements for the PhD program include a M.S. degree in an engineering field, science, or closely related area.  All applicants must contact a CEE faculty member prior to submitting an application seeking a PhD advisor. For admission, a student must have a CEE faculty member agree to be his/her PhD advisor. Applicants must also meet PSU graduate admission requirements.

Degree Requirements – PhD: CEE

A PhD student must complete the following departmental requirements:

1.    Complete a minimum of two years of full-time graduate work (including coursework and thesis credits) beyond the M.S. degree;
2.    Complete an approved program of study, which includes a minimum of 24 hours coursework;
3.    Pass the comprehensive examination;
4.    Present and pass a prospectus defense for advancement to candidacy;
5.    Complete 27 credit hours of dissertation credit (CE 603) leading to the completion of a doctoral dissertation;
6.    Present and pass the final oral dissertation defense; and
7.    Submit the written dissertation in compliance with University guidelines and deadlines.

The PhD student must be registered for 9 credits per term (full time) for three consecutive terms after admission. Once a PhD student is advanced to candidacy, he/she is expected to register for dissertation or research credit for a minimum of one full-time academic year. After this requirement for the first year of candidacy is met, the student must be registered for at least one credit for every term until all degree requirements are met.  PhD students must complete 27 hours of dissertation (CE 603) credits before graduation.

Note: Students should thoroughly read the PSU Bulletin’s Graduate Admissions Requirements and other information, especially the “General Requirements for Doctoral Degrees” and “Summary of Procedures for Doctoral Degrees.”

Pass/No Pass Grading Policy

All courses taken in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering by degree candidates must be taken for a letter grade, unless a course is only offered with a pass/no pass option. Courses outside the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering may be taken pass/no pass only with the consent of the student’s adviser. Non-degree seeking students may take Civil and Environmental Engineering courses pass/no pass with the consent of the instructor.

Steps to the PhD Degree

Coursework and Comprehensive Examination

  1. The newly admitted Ph.D. student will meet with his/her department adviser within the first quarter of his/her enrollment. The adviser and the student will develop a draft program of study and will discuss the potential scope and nature of the comprehensive examination. The student should work with his/her adviser to modify the program of study as needed using the Department's Program of Study form.
  2. The comprehensive examination will generally be taken at the end of coursework and may include both written and oral sessions. At least 6 months before the comprehensive exam, a CEE examination committee will be formed to set a date for the comprehensive exam. The CEE examination committee will include at least three PSU faculty, with a minimum of two from CEE; committee members will be chosen by the student’s adviser in consultation with the student and must be approved by the Department Chair.
  3. The CEE examination committee will define the scope and nature of the comprehensive examination. The examination committee will agree to the subject areas of the comprehensive examination, determine the details of examination administration, and provide questions for the examination. The committee will communicate the necessary details to the student at least three months before the examination. The student will then complete the Comprehensive Exam Prospectus in consultation with his/her adviser, and submit it for approval by the committee using the Department's Comprehensive Exam Prospectus Approval form. The Comprehensive Examination Prospectus will include the student's program of study, resume, and the major and minor areas for the examination. Copies of the approved prospectus should be given to the student, adviser, Department Chair, CEE Office, and Office of Graduate Studies.
  4. The examination committee may pass the student, pass him/her with qualifications, fail him/her with the option of retaking the exam, or fail him/her without option of retaking the exam. The committee will provide the examination results in the form of a memo to the student and submit to OGS the Department’s Comprehensive Exam Approval form. Per PSU policy: If the student fails the entire comprehensive exam or any section thereof, the doctoral program may dismiss the student from the degree program or permit the student to repeat the entire examination, or the section that was failed, after a minimum of three months. The results of the second examinations are final (2012-2013 PSU Bulletin, p. 72). In accordance with this policy, if a student is given the option of repeating the entire examination or the section that was failed, he/she must coordinate with his/her adviser to schedule a new examination date. The committee will provide feedback to the student on the first examination in the memo providing the examination results.

Dissertation Prospectus Defense

  1. After the comprehensive exams have been passed, and after identification of the dissertation proposal, the student will work with his/her adviser to choose the dissertation committee.
  2. The adviser will submit the “Appointment of Final Oral Examination Committee” form (GO-16D) to OGS. Formation of the committee must follow OGS rules. The committee must be approved by OGS before the dissertation proposal defense is scheduled. The committee should communicate with the student about expectations and format for the written dissertation proposal.
  3. The student will submit the written dissertation proposal to the dissertation committee for discussion, evaluation, modification and final approval.
  4. An oral defense of the dissertation proposal will be scheduled with the student and dissertation committee. All members of the student’s dissertation committee must be present at the defense.
  5. The dissertation committee may pass the candidate, pass with qualifications, or fail the candidate. If the dissertation committee passes the candidate, it will recommend the student to OGS for advancement to candidacy, using the "Request for Advancement to Candidacy" form (GO-23).
  6. When the student has been advanced to candidacy by OGS, he/she can proceed with his/her Ph.D. research (a minimum four-month to maximum five-year timeline before the dissertation defense).

Final Dissertation Defense

  1. At the conclusion of his/her research, and under guidance of the dissertation committee, the candidate will prepare a preliminary draft of his/her written dissertation in acceptable form setting forth the results of his/her original investigation. The draft is revised and corrected until it meets the approval of the research adviser.
  2. The candidate files an “Application for the Degree” during the first week of the anticipated term of graduation.
  3. At least two weeks prior to the final oral dissertation defense, the chair of the dissertation committee submits copies of the final draft to each committee member.
  4. The final dissertation defense is scheduled and may be open to the public.
  5. The dissertation committee may pass, pass with qualifications, or fail the student.
  6. If the candidate passes, the Department will complete a “Recommendation for the Degree” form (GO-17D) and forward it to OGS no later than last week of the term of graduation.

Additional Degree Requirements

  1. The final dissertation must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies not later than three weeks prior to the close of the term of application for graduation. For details about formatting, submission, and specific deadlines, see the Office of Graduate Studies website (2012-2013 PSU Bulletin, p. 73).
  2. Candidates must be continuously enrolled after advancement to candidacy.
  3. The final oral exam must be passed, degree requirements met, and student graduated no later than five calendar years after advancement to candidacy.
  4. The National Research Council Survey of Earned Doctorates must be completed by student and returned to OGS.

Note: Students should thoroughly read the Doctoral Degree requirements in the PSU Bulletin as well as the “Summary of Procedures for Doctoral Degrees” and the “Graduate Candidate Deadlines” on the Office of Graduate Studies website: