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PhD Admissions

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PhD Application Timeline & Deadline

The Department of Chemical Engineering accepts applications to our graduate programs once per year for Autumn quarter entry only.

The application deadline for Autumn 2024 entry is December 1, 2023, at 11:59pm (PST). All applications completed and received by this date will receive full consideration. No late applications will be accepted.

All components of a graduate application must be received by the department no later than the appropriate deadline - including letters of recommendation. Once submitted, applications are considered final, and no further updates are accepted. Application review begins immediately so on-time submission of all materials is critical. 

A complete application consists of a completed application form, a statement of purpose (a summary of research experience for PhD applications), the application fee, three letters of recommendation, and TOEFL examination results (scores and percentages) if applicable.

The PhD application season is late-September through mid-December each year. The application is closed. No late applications will be accepted.

PhD Admissions Overview

Our Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program is open to all applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree or will have completed one before matriculating as a graduate student at Stanford. 

What We Look For
ChemE PhD students come from a wide variety of personal, educational, and professional backgrounds. We welcome applicants with undergraduate degrees in diverse STEM disciplines including Bioengineering, Biophysics, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biochemistry, Physics, and Chemistry. There are no specific course requirements for applicants, but a competitive candidate will have strong quantitative training in mathematics and the physical sciences, along with a background in biology acquired through coursework or prior research. All admitted graduate students should be prepared to take the core courses in the first year.

We welcome students entering directly from undergraduate programs, as well as applicants with MS degrees and/or substantial work experience in areas ranging from biotechnology to robotics. Our admissions committee will look for evidence that an applicant has demonstrated qualities of successful PhD students such as creativity, self-initiative, dedication, and perseverance. We also aim to admit Chemical Engineering students who can thrive at Stanford because their specific interests and aspirations are well-matched with the research of our faculty and the educational environment of our department.

Individual Chemical Engineering faculty members do not admit applicants directly to their research groups. Please do not send individual faculty members or staff informal documents and appeals for informal evaluations and/or admission to a research group. We are unable to provide informal recommendations / evaluations on the basis of partial information such as a CV, test scores or a transcript. Inquiries and materials sent to individual professors may or may not be redirected to administrative staff. We encourage potential applicants to consider discussing their issues with faculty recommenders who know them well and could give better, individualized academic advice.

Applications are reviewed by a committee of faculty that hold appointments in ChemE and represent diverse research expertise. Each application is read in full and evaluated by at least two separate committee members. The applicants who are considered most competitive are then discussed by the entire admissions committee who attempt to balance the research interests, perspectives, and backgrounds & experiences in the final cohort of students who are offered admission.

The Department of Chemical Engineering considers the following in offering admission to our program:

  • Academic preparation - applicant seeks and excels in coursework relevant to chemical engineering
  • Quality of prior research experience - applicant takes advantage of available research opportunities, has made meaningful contributions in their research, and has engaged in depth in experimental or theoretical work
  • Demonstrated resilience - applicant demonstrates an ability to overcome obstacles that present challenges in educational and training experiences
  • Curiosity, creativity - for example, as demonstrated by applicant’s chosen engagement in research opportunities and coursework
  • Motivation - applicant clearly describes personal motivation for graduate training and engagement in PhD research, demonstrated work ethic, and/or track record of pursuing available research and training opportunities
  • Maturity and preparedness - e.g. as demonstrated by applicant’s past engagement in activities and classes, ability to work in teams, leadership roles, and/or demonstrated commitment to scholarly work
  • Potential contribution to Stanford Chemical Engineering community

PhD Admissions Requirements

IMPORTANT: These departmental instructions and requirements are SUPPLEMENTAL to the university-wide requirements for each and every application for admission to any advanced degree program at Stanford University.

Application Materials

A degree in chemical engineering is not required but applicants should be familiar with key concepts and their applications. This typically means applicants have degrees in other science and engineering disciplines such as bioengineering, biology, chemistry, materials science, mathematics, mechanical engineering and physics. We are looking for coursework or other experiences demonstrating use of higher-level mathematics (e.g. linear algebra, partial differential equations) and recommend completion of core chemical engineering courses (e.g. fluid mechanics, heat and mass transport phenomena, chemical reaction kinetics, thermodynamics). An MS degree is not a prerequisite for admission to our PhD program or for PhD degree conferral. 

We invite excellent students from all backgrounds, including those from historically underrepresented groups in engineering, to consider Stanford University for their graduate studies. In making admissions decisions, the Department of Chemical Engineering will comply with the requirements of the law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, evaluating each applicant based on their “experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race.” We continue to value a diverse student body that benefits the educational experience of our students and our mission of generating knowledge at Stanford University.

1.Completed Online Application

Access online application

2. Enriching the Learning Community

Stanford University welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of experiences, interests, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars. We invite you to share the lived experiences, demonstrated values, perspectives, and/or activities that shape you as a scholar and would help you to make a distinctive contribution to Stanford University.

3. Transcripts/Education History

Applicants are required to upload copies of their transcripts/academic records (including any legends/keys) directly into the online application. Please ensure that your scans are legible since the Admissions Committee will use them in their review process. Official transcripts will only be required for applicants who are admitted and accept the offer of graduate admission. Please do not arrange for any official transcripts to be sent to the department or Stanford graduate admissions until that time.

When completing the “Educational History 1” section of the application, you will be asked to list every college and university you have attended for a year or more, and any degree program in which you are currently enrolled. Please list the highest undergraduate degree awarded (e.g. Bachelor’s, Diploma, Maitrise, etc.) in the “Post-Secondary Institution 1” section.

4. Statement of Purpose (2 pages maximum)

In your statement of purpose, you should succinctly describe your reasons for applying to the Chemical Engineering PhD program, which may include:

Preparation and motivation for graduate study in Chemical Engineering

  • Aspects of your background and interests outside of research that are directly relevant to thriving in graduate school, such as obstacles overcome and experience in service and leadership
  • Motivation for pursuing a PhD drawing from specific examples of research , relevant work experience, and/or personal interests
  • Possible general areas of research you might pursue
  • Possible general areas of Chemical Engineering that you might pursue in your career
  • Any faculty member’s research that is of specific interest to you
  • Many experience obstacles in your education, especially during this past year. Please also feel free to provide further explanation about any challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your academic preparation

The maximum length is two pages (single-spaced). Your statement of purpose should be a well-structured essay that effectively communicates the information above while demonstrating your expository writing ability; it is often effective to open with a summary paragraph.

5. Three letters of recommendation

Recommenders should know you well and be able to comment on your strengths and your potential for graduate study. Our faculty strongly prefer letters of recommendation from academic (or professional) references who can speak to your academic and/or research background (e.g. professors who have acted as research supervisors, or instructors who have had extensive individual interactions with you). Letters must be submitted by the stated deadline as application review begins immediately. Late letters will not be reviewed. Additionally, our faculty find it helpful to hear from references who can comment on your personal qualities that would enable you to succeed in our graduate programs (such as your work ethic, commitment to goals, passion for learning and teaching, and capacity to overcome adversity), even if these references are from outside of STEM fields (e.g. coaches, academic advisors, and university leaders). Additional recommenders beyond the 3 required Letters of Recommendation are not requested.  

The Department of Chemical Engineering does not accept letters of recommendation submitted through Interfolio.

6. List of Research Experience (CV/Resume format) - 1 page limit

Your Research Experience provides the admissions committee with additional information to better evaluate your preparation and fit for our program. This is an opportunity to summarize your qualifications, honors, educational accomplishments (including publications and presentations) and interests. It should be a bulleted list, and can be structured similarly to a CV or resume and include relevant experience. Please note: The application portal labels this the "Resume/CV" in the Experience section of the application and incorrectly states the page length is 3 pages. Please adhere to 1 page and upload your "List of Research Experience" where the application portal shows the "Resume/CV". 

7. TOEFL scores

Applicants whose first spoken language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), unless they qualify for an exemption or waiver. Applicants whose scores fall below Stanford’s minimum TOEFL requirements will still be considered for admission; if admitted, Stanford may require these students to take a placement exam and/or classes to satisfy the University’s English proficiency requirement.

TOEFL scores are retained for 20 months. For questions about the validity of TOEFL scores, please contact ETS. If ETS is able to send your TOEFL scores, we will accept them. Stanford currently does not accept scores from the IELTS exam.

8. Application Fee

Applicants who need assistance with the application fee are encouraged to apply for a fee waiver. Preference is given to low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

For applicants who are not receiving a waiver, a nonrefundable application fee of $125 is required for each application submitted to a graduate program at Stanford University. The fee must be paid through the payment section of the online application. The only accepted method of payment is by credit/debit card (Visa or MasterCard only).

Graduate Fee Waiver

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

Join dozens of Stanford Engineering students who gain valuable leadership skills in a multidisciplinary, multicultural community as Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS).

KHS admits up to 100 select applicants each year from across Stanford’s seven graduate schools, and delivers engaging experiences that prepare them to be visionary, courageous, and collaborative leaders ready to address complex global challenges. As a scholar, you join a distinguished cohort, participate in up to three years of leadership programming, and receive full funding for up to three years of your PhD studies at Stanford.

Candidates of any country may apply. KHS applicants must have earned their first undergraduate degree within the last seven years, and must apply to both a Stanford graduate program and to KHS. Stanford PhD students may also apply to KHS during their first year of PhD enrollment.

If you aspire to be a leader in your field, we invite you to apply. The KHS application deadline is October 11, 2023. Learn more about KHS admission

PhD Frequently Asked Questions

My official test scores will not arrive by the application deadline! Can I still apply?

Yes, you may still apply. You should take your ETS tests and request that scores be submitted to Stanford as well. Your application will not be considered complete until your official transcripts and test scores arrive. We will contact otherwise competitive applicants with incomplete applications for follow-up. Be sure your e-email address and telephone number are correct.

Are TOEFL scores required for admission?

In general, yes, if your first language is not English. On your application, self-report both your ETS scores and percentages. The Graduate Admissions website has further details about the university-wide test requirements and exceptions. Any request for a TOEFL waiver must to directed to central Graduate Admissions. Individual academic departments may not approve requests for waivers.  In general, there is a high expectation for English language fluency in both formal use and informal interactions, in written and oral situations. One of the key goals of our educational programs is the further development of communication skills in English and ongoing opportunities are built into the curriculum.

Is there a TOEFL exemption process if I received a degree from an institution whose primary instruction was in English?

TOEFL scores are required of all applicants whose first language is not English. Exemptions are granted to applicants who have earned a US bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association in the United States, or the international equivalent degree from a university of recognized standing in a country in which all instruction is provide in English (Australia, Canada except Quebec, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK. Stanford does not accept IELTS scores. More information can be found on the Graduate Admissions website.

Do I need to select an advisor before starting the program?

Each first-year PhD student rotates with two different faculty research groups before choosing an advisor and lab in which to develop his or her own research projects. The rotations enable students to gain a better understanding of a given faculty member’s research program and to determine if that lab is a good fit for their future research. Furthermore, during the first six months, there are multiple opportunities to talk with a wide range of faculty members about their research.

I’m applying to the Knight-Hennessy Program. What’s my deadline? Do I need to do both applications?

You should submit two independent applications if you are applying to the Knight-Hennessy Program - one to the Chemical Engineering department by Dec 1 and one to Knight-Hennessy by their deadline. You should be sure to complete both your Knight-Hennessy application by their deadline of October 11, 2023. These applications are independent and separate. Be sure you complete each set of requirements for each separate application. Please visit the Knight-Hennessy Website for more information regarding the Knight Hennessy Scholars program.

Can I visit the department?

Admitted PhD applicants will be invited to visit the department and meet with our students and faculty.

May I apply to start graduate work in other times of the year than Autumn Quarter?

For programmatic and curricular reasons, admitted students should plan to commence studies at the beginning of the academic year, in September.

Are GRE scores required for admission?

GRE scores are no longer required or accepted as part of an applicant’s application materials.

What kinds of financial aid are available?

Fellowship awards, assistantship jobs and loans through the university. The department is the first point of contact for the administration of most external fellowships (NSF, NDSEG, DOD, DOE, NIH, Hughes, Bell/Lucent and various foundations,), university fellowships (Stanford Graduate Fellowship), School of Engineering and departmental fellowships, and research and teaching assistantships. The university's Financial Aid Office helps graduate students obtain loans.

What are my chances of getting financial aid?

We offer financial aid at the time of admission to approximately the top 5-10 percent of the PhD applicants, and virtually all the first-year PhD students in Chemical Engineering receive aid. Faculty hold workshops to help PhD students write research proposals and apply for external fellowships. Once PhD students join a research group, normally they are supported either by fellowship awards or assistantship jobs from their research advisors or a combination of these two sources of funds.

What is the usual size of the incoming chemical engineering PhD Class?

Recently, the incoming PhD classes have numbered in the mid-20s.

When will I find out about the decision on my application?

All applicants must maintain current and correct email addresses so we can communicate with you via email. PhD applicants can expect to hear from us in January/February. The final PhD decisions are made after the December PhD deadline so the entire pool may be considered. PhD decisions will be communicated to all applicants, in writing, via email.

Further questions can be directed to