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PhD Program Requirements

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering is awarded after completing a minimum of 135 units of graduate work, satisfactory completion of any additional university requirements, and the following departmental requirements. Completion of an MS degree is not a prerequisite for beginning, pursuing, or completing doctoral work.

Unit and course requirements

A minimum of 135 completed units is required, including a minimum of 39 units, consisting of 36 coursework units and 3 colloquium units. These 36 units consist of 15 units of CHEMENG core courses listed below, 6 units of CHEMENG 400-level courses, 9 additional units of graduate-level science & engineering lecture elective courses, and 6 units of flexible elective courses consisting of any course that the student and their advisor feels will further their research. CHEMENG 699 should be taken each quarter; its units count toward the required 135 units. The research units for CHEMENG 399 are included in the 135 total, but may not be counted toward the 36 unit requirement. The following courses are required:

Class Description Units


Applied Mathematics in the Chemical and Biological Sciences






Chemical Kinetics and Reaction Engineering



Molecular Thermodynamics



Fundamentals and Applications of Spectroscopy
Advanced Biochemical Engineering



Graduate Research Rotation in Chemical Engineering





Plus two CHEMENG courses at the 400-course level. Example courses:



Principles and Practice of Heterogenous Catalysis



Advances in Biotechnology



Mechanics of Soft Matter: Rheology



Electrochemical Water Treatment: Materials and Processes


These courses are to be taken at Stanford. Any petition to substitute another graduate-level course for any of these core courses must be approved by the department chair. The remaining graduate-level science and engineering lecture courses may be chosen from any department. A student may petition the department chair for approval to include an upper-division undergraduate science or engineering lecture course. All proposals for PhD course work must be approved by the student’s adviser and the department chair or his/her designee. Students working with a research advisor should enroll each quarter in the 500 series, 600 and 699 as appropriate and as study list unit limits permit. Students with questions or issues should see departmental graduate student services.

Predoctoral students may petition to have an MS degree program added to their university record; see departmental student services and submit them in a Graduate Authorization petition in Axess. Once a petition is approved, the MS candidate must complete a Program Proposal for a Master’s Degree form and submit it to student services. Students may apply in Axess for MS degree conferral upon completion of the requirements for this degree. The MS degree must be awarded within the university’s candidacy period for completion of a master’s degree.

Minimum grade requirement

Any course intended to satisfy the PhD degree requirements must be taken for a letter grade if offered. A GPA of 3.0 or above is required at the end of the second quarter (or, potentially, a petition approved by the student's research advisor, any required co-advisor, and the department chair). In any case, a GPA of 3.0 or above is required at the end of the third quarter in order to continue in the PhD program. An overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 must be maintained.


To be advanced to PhD candidacy, students must secure a research dissertation adviser (and any required co-adviser) and complete a PhD candidacy examination. First, the research adviser and any required co-adviser must be established by the end of the second quarter in the PhD program. Failure to do so leads to termination of a student's study toward a PhD in Chemical Engineering; however, the student may continue to work toward an MS degree. Failure to obtain a doctoral adviser precludes any financial aid beyond that already awarded for which the student is still eligible. Second, the PhD candidacy examination before a faculty committee at the end of the fourth quarter consists of (a) a student’s oral presentation of their thinking about their research proposal and current progress; and (b) an examination by faculty members of the proposal specifics as well as the student’s understanding of the fundamental chemical, physical and biological concepts that govern the molecular behavior of the system being studied. Upon successful completion of this examination, candidates must submit an Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree form, approved by their research adviser(s), to departmental graduate student services within two months.

Teaching requirement

Teaching experience is considered an essential component of predoctoral training because it assists in further developing and refining candidates' skills in conveying what they know, think, and conclude, based on articulated assumptions and knowledge. All PhD candidates, regardless of the source of their financial support, are required to assist in teaching a minimum of two chemical engineering courses.

Reading committee requirement

Reading committee meetings are intended to be discussion sessions, which help to focus and guide the dissertation project; they are not examinations. By the end of the second year, all PhD candidates must assemble reading committees and submit Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee forms signed by research advisers to student services. By the beginning of their third year (or by the end of their ninth quarter), candidates should have had an initial meeting with the full reading committee. The faculty strongly encourage doctoral candidates to take advantage of the benefits of ongoing, yearly, full reading committee meetings. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule committee meetings and the faculty to respond in a timely manner to scheduling requests.  Students should assist in the maintenance of degree progress records by reporting the committee meeting dates to the student services manager.

Research poster requirement

Experience in analyzing and presenting one’s research to diverse audiences is also an essential component of predoctoral training. Faculty strongly encourage candidates to do so several times each year, starting in the second year. All candidates in their third year are required to prepare and present a research poster during the annual Mason Lecturers week in the spring quarter.

Dissertation and oral defense requirements

A dissertation based on a successful investigation of a fundamental problem in chemical engineering is required. A student is expected to have fulfilled all the requirements for this degree, including the completion of a dissertation approved by his or her research adviser(s) and reading committee members within approximately five calendar years after enrolling in the PhD program. Upon adviser approval(s), copies of the dissertation's final draft must be distributed to each reading committee member. No sooner than three weeks after this distribution, a student may schedule an oral examination. This examination is a dissertation defense, based on the candidate’s dissertation research, and is in the form of a public seminar followed by a private examination by the faculty members on the student’s oral examination committee. Satisfactory performance in the oral examination and acceptance of an approved dissertation by Graduate Degree Progress, Office of the University Registrar, leads to PhD degree conferral.

PhD minor in Chemical Engineering

An application for a PhD minor must be approved by both the major and minor departments. A student desiring a PhD minor in Chemical Engineering must work with a minor program adviser who has a faculty appointment in Chemical Engineering. This adviser must be included as a member of the student’s reading committee for the doctoral dissertation, and the entire reading committee must meet at least once and at least one year prior to the scheduling of the student’s oral examination. The department strongly prefers that regular meetings of the full reading committee start no later than the third year of graduate study or when the student is admitted to PhD candidacy. Besides, the Chemical Engineering faculty member who is the minor adviser must be a member of the student’s university oral examination committee.

The PhD minor program must include at least 20 units of graduate-level lecture courses (numbered at the 200 level or above) but may not include any 1- to 2-unit lecture courses in the 20-unit minimum. The list of courses must form a coherent program and must be approved by the minor program adviser and the chair of this department. All minor courses must be taken for a letter grade, and a GPA of at least 3.0 must be earned for these courses.