MSE Master’s Handbook

The MSE Master’s Student Handbook covers some pertinent College of Engineering policies as well as program requirements, policies, logistics and contacts.  Additional University and College of Engineering policies are listed in the College of Engineering Graduate Bulletin and elsewhere.

College of Engineering GPA Requirement for Awarding Master of Science, Master of Engineering & PhD degrees

Master’s students must earn a grade point average of at least 3.00 in the set of courses used to satisfy the program requirements for the degree.
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College of Engineering Graduate Student Academic Standards Policy

Academic Standards

The academic progress of every graduate student is reviewed at the end of each semester. Failure to make satisfactory progress and remain in Good Standing can result in Academic Probation, Suspension for a stated time or until stated conditions are met, or Dismissal, as detailed below.

Grades of C– or lower are not acceptable for master’s degrees.

Good Standing

Students maintain good academic standing when they: (1) earn a semester GPA of at least 3.00 (students enrolled only in Pass/Fail courses are exempt from the semester GPA standard); and (2) maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00.

Academic Probation

A student is put on Academic Probation when s/he earns a semester or cumulative GPA below 3.00. Students on Academic Probation may have their financial aid discontinued. In the event that the semester or cumulative GPA is below a 2.00, a student may be dismissed from the program.

Students are reviewed after one semester on Academic Probation. Those who earn a semester and cumulative GPA of 3.00 or above will return to Good Standing. Those students who do not achieve Good Standing (as defined above) after the probationary semester will be subject to Academic Suspension, Dismissal, or an additional semester of Academic Probation as determined by the College on a case-by-case basis.

Academic Suspension

A student on Academic Probation faces Academic Suspension or Dismissal when s/he has not achieved Good Standing (as defined above) after the most recent semester of Academic Probation. Specifics regarding Dismissal or the duration and terms of the Academic Suspension will be determined by the College on a case-by-case basis. Dismissal results in permanent separation from the University. Appeals of Dismissal or Suspension are directed to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs.

Reinstatement after Academic Suspension

Students who have fulfilled their period of Academic Suspension must meet with their academic advisor and must also reestablish their standing in the College by contacting the College of Engineering Graduate Programs Office.
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Academic Conduct Code

Boston University’s Academic Conduct Code is designed to assist in the development of a supportive and productive learning environment.  It is both a description of the University’s ethical expectations of students as well as a guarantee of students’ rights and responsibilities as members of a learning community. The Code provides clarity related to policy and procedure regarding academic conduct.  Click here for the full Academic Conduct Code.

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College of Engineering Master of Science and Master of Engineering degrees “with Engineering Practice”

The College of Engineering offers an Engineering Practice degree option to students in all of its Masters programs. Engineering Practice is a valuable opportunity for a student at the masters level to complete an approved internship integral to their program of study, thereby allowing them to develop additional technical and professional skills. Students interested in the Engineering Practice degree option must apply and meet the requirements outlined below. Students successfully completing the Engineering Practice degree option of their program will earn the accompanying degree designation (e.g., Master of Science in Electrical Engineering with Engineering Practice).

Requirements

Please contact the Graduate Programs Office for a “With Engineering Practice Approval Form.

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Summary of Course Requirements for MSE Master’s Students

MEng Degree Requirements

MEng students are required to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours applicable to the degree. No master’s thesis is required. A minimum of 28 credits must be applied toward graduate courses (500 level or above). A maximum of 4 credits can be applied toward a junior/senior-level undergraduate course, if it serves as a prerequisite for a graduate course taken by the student as part of the program.

Master of Engineering students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to remain in good academic standing and to graduate. All graduate courses are counted in the GPA. Only grades of C or better fulfill MEng curricular requirements.

Curriculum

The 32 credits must be selected as follows:

  • Two core MSE courses: see below (8 credits)
  • Two Structured MSE courses: courses listed below other than Engineering Management courses and courses with a 900 designation (8 credits)
  • One structured Engineering Management course: see below (4 credits)
  • One Practicum course: ENG MS 539, ENG MS 782, ENG MS 925, or ENG MS 951 (4 credits)
  • Electives: Any two engineering, science or engineering management courses not used to satisfy Core, Structured, or Engineering management requirements (8 credits)

Incoming students without a prior MSE degree are strongly encouraged to enroll in MS 539 – Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering at the first opportunity (counts as Practicum).

MEng Structured Course Requirements are detailed in the program planning sheet in the Handbook (pdf) and the College of Engineering Graduate Bulletin.

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MS Degree Requirements

Master of Science (MS) students must take 32 credits. Courses must be at the 500-level or higher. Only one 400-level course may be taken, with advisor approval, if needed as a prerequisite for another course in the program.

  • Four Core courses (16 credits)
  • Two Concentration Courses from one concentration area (8 credits)
  • One Practicum course: ENG MS 539, ENG MS 782, ENG MS 900 (PhD Only), ENG MS 925, ENG MS 951, or MS 954 Thesis (4 credits)
  • Electives, any engineering, science or engineering management course (4 credits)

Incoming students without a prior MSE degree are strongly encouraged to enroll in MS 539 – Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering at the first opportunity (counts as Practicum).

MS Structured Course Requirements are detailed in the program planning sheet in the Handbook (pdf) and the College of Engineering Graduate Bulletin.

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MS with Thesis Logistics

MS candidates choosing the thesis option must enroll in ENG MS 954 Thesis for at least 4, but no more than 8, credits. Thesis work is likely to entail several semesters of research; as a result, completion of the master’s degree usually requires more than one year. Students are therefore encouraged to discuss their research interests with faculty at the beginning of their master’s program and enroll in their second semester.

Before a student enrolls in ENG MS 954 Thesis, a Thesis Committee must be formed and the student should submit to the MSE Graduate Programs Manager a thesis plan signed by the members of the student’s committee. The Thesis Committee consists of a thesis advisor and at least one additional reader (at least one member of the MSE faculty). The student must submit a written thesis proposal (approved by the readers) at least one semester before the thesis presentation, and no later than the first semester of enrollment in ENG MS 954 Thesis. The MS Thesis Proposal and Committee Approval Form and the MS Final Thesis Presentation Form are online.

The thesis is publicly presented with the members of the student’s Thesis Committee present, and the final version must be approved by all readers. The deadline for submission of the thesis is one month prior to graduation.

Thesis Requirements – An MS thesis must be written and defended successfully and submitted to the Mugar Library to satisfy the requirements of the MS with Thesis degree. The thesis committee should have at least two members, one of which must be an MSE appointed faculty member.

Finding a Research Home

Research Opportunities in the Division – Most students choose to do their research with a faculty member from the MSE Department or affiliated research centers. To find out more about specific research programs, please visit the individual faculty member webpages via the MSE or faculty website.

Research Project – A major requirement for the MS with Thesis degree is a research-based thesis. Each student is responsible for finding a research project, conducting scientific studies under the guidance of an approved faculty member, presenting the proposal and results to the general scientific community in a public defense and finally turning in a thesis to be bound for the library and the MSE Division.

Academic vs. Research Advisors – Each new student is assigned an academic advisor when entering the program. The Graduate Programs Manager will notify incoming students about their advisor assignment prior to registration. The student’s academic advisor can provide general information/guidance and help the student to complete his/her course registration for the first year.

Research Rotations – Masters students may seek out laboratory rotations during the first year. This provides the students an opportunity to gain exposure to more than one research area and to help in identifying a good match with a research advisor. After finding a lab, the research advisor will be in charge of the student’s research project and will help coordinate the student’s schedule towards fulfilling all of the graduation requirements. MS with Thesis students are expected to choose a research advisor no later than the end of the second semester of matriculation (April 30).  When a student chooses his/her research advisor, that person automatically becomes the student’s academic advisor as well.

Who Can Be A Research Advisor – For MS with Thesis students, any full-time member of the MSE faculty, or any affiliated or adjunct faculty member who has an appointment with the Division, is eligible to serve as a research advisor.

Finding a Research Advisor and Project – Occasionally students enter the program with a specific research advisor in mind and may even plan to work on a specific project. The majority of students, however, will utilize the first two semesters to determine what their specific interests are in the field of materials science and engineering and identify the opportunities for funding in a professor’s lab. MS with Thesis students typically connect with their research advisors through (1) doing lab rotations and deciding upon a research area; (2) interacting with faculty through coursework and informal discussions. An easy way to find out what is available is to check the list of current Faculty Research Interests and MSE Laboratory and Research Center Descriptions, available on the MSE website.

Another valuable way of learning more about specific research opportunities is to speak with other graduate students who are currently working in the various MSE faculty labs. The best measure for learning about working in a specific lab is to make an appointment to speak with the faculty member in charge of a lab you are interested in. Some useful questions to ask him/her are:

  1. What projects are currently going on and what projects are planned for the near future?
  2. What background is required to work in the lab?
  3. How is the lab funded and is there the possibility of funds for a new graduate student?
  4. What expectations does the faculty member have of graduate students?
  5. If the potential advisor has been at BU for at least a few years, does he/she have a strong history of training students in a timely manner? Have his/her students generally been successful?

Once a student finds a research opportunity and has the consent of a faculty member to be his/her advisor, the process of developing a research project begins.

Patent Policy Agreement – Students who receive support from sponsored research programs or who make significant use of BU funds and facilities are required to sign the BU Patent Policy Agreement. Seek counsel with your faculty advisor about this policy pertaining to intellectual property. A signed form is required before a student can be paid. The Patent Policy Agreement form is on the Division website.

Thesis Topic – A research problem is selected after initial discussions between the research advisor and the student. The development of a thesis topic is typically a cooperative effort between the student and research advisor. Commonly, the advisor initially suggests a problem to be addressed, but the student is expected to contribute ideas and thought as to how to approach the problem.

Thesis Committee – By the end of the second semester following matriculation, MS with Thesis candidates are required to form a Thesis Committee with a minimum of two members. The student’s research advisor will be the chairman of the thesis committee.

If a researcher from outside the University serves on a student’s committee, a Special Service Appointment Form (available online) must be completed and submitted to the Division Graduate Programs Manager for division approval. The completed form and a copy of the person’s curriculum vitae, with the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies’ signature, will then be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office. The Thesis Committee is charged with assessing the appropriateness of the research problem and the student’s preparation, based on the written proposal and the oral presentation. The Thesis Committee must approve that the Thesis is at a stage appropriate for scheduling the final presentation via their signature on the Final Thesis Presentation form.

Written Thesis – Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent research and scholarship by completing a thesis in their field of study. The thesis will be primarily guided by the first reader (advisor), with the advice of the other member(s) of the Thesis Committee. The thesis should represent original scientific/engineering contributions that are appropriate for publication in a recognized peer-reviewed journal. The thesis is defended at a presentation open to the entire BU community.

Please refer to the Guide for Writers of Theses & Dissertations while preparing the thesis and its abstract.  These must conform to the requirements of the University Microfilms International.

Although students will have an opportunity to make final revisions to the thesis and abstract after their Final Thesis Presentation, they should not regard their Final Presentation version as a “rough draft”.

Final Thesis Presentation – The MS Final Thesis Presentation form is located on the MSE website under “Online Forms and Documents”. The Thesis Presentation is a public presentation of the candidate’s thesis. The presentation should clearly define the problem, describe the method(s) used to solve the problem, report results and establish significance of the results. The purpose of the Final Thesis Presentation is to ensure that the thesis constitutes a worthy contribution to knowledge in the candidate’s field and that the candidate has attained an expertise in his/her field of research specialization.

Scheduling the Final Thesis Presentation – It is the student’s responsibility for scheduling a date, location and time with all the Thesis Committee members for the examination. Conference room reservations can be requested via the MSE website.

At least two weeks prior to the Thesis Presentation date, the candidate must submit the MS Final Thesis Presentation form to the Division Graduate Programs Manager, including an electronic version of the abstract. Before submitting this form, the candidate must have provided a copy of the thesis document to all members of the Final Thesis Presentation committee and obtained their ORIGINAL signatures on this form indicating 1) that they have been provided a copy of the thesis and 2) agree that it is ready to be defended. This form must also contain the date, time, location and abstract.

Conduct and Length of the Final Thesis Presentation – The faculty research advisor or chair should introduce the candidate and include a brief academic background description. The candidate should restrict the length of the examination to approximately one-hour. During this period, either the Thesis Committee members or audience may ask questions of clarification. The chair should guard against digression and inappropriate questioning during the presentation. After the presentation, a reasonable period of questioning will follow, and then the audience will be dismissed. The Thesis Committee may wish at this time to ask additional questions of the candidate. Following this additional questioning, the candidate should be excused and the committee should complete its assessment of the examination.

Assessment – The Thesis Committee is charged with assessing completeness of the research, contribution to knowledge, and the candidate’s mastery of his/her research area, based on the written thesis and the oral presentation. Vote may be ballot or voice. A unanimous vote is required for a candidate to pass.

It is the chair’s responsibility to call the candidate back after the Thesis Committee has reached a decision. The chair will advise the student of the committee’s decision. At this time the candidate will be advised of any changes that must be made to the final title, abstract or thesis document, with a deadline provided by the Thesis Committee.

Reporting – The College’s MS Final Thesis Presentation Form must be completed at the examination, with specific indication of whether the title, abstract and thesis are acceptable as they stand. If ALL requirements are acceptable, the committee members should sign the signature pages of the thesis. If there is some rework to be done, this is to be noted on the Final Oral Exam form. Thesis Defense Committee members should sign off on the form but will refrain from signing the signatures page of the thesis until all conditions have been met UNLESS faculty will be traveling at the time of library submission in which case all but one (usually the advisor) Committee member may sign the signature pages.  The last signature will be added when all revisions are completed.

Thesis Approval and Library Submission – The signatures of the Thesis Defense Committee members on the thesis signatures page, if not given at the Final Oral Examination itself, will indicate final approval of the title, abstract and thesis. Once signatures have been obtained, the student must submit the following (minimum) unbound thesis copies to the Division Graduate Programs Manager for binding: one copy for the MSE Division and one personal copy for the advisor. Copies for the Thesis Committee are optional and to be submitted for binding at the candidate’s discretion. All copies must have original signatures pages.

The Associate Chair for Graduate Studies gives final approval on the Final Oral Examination form. The student will then follow the electronic submission guidelines provided by Mugar Library. The Division Graduate Programs Manager will provide departmental electronic approval for the student upon seeing the 1) original signatures page and 2) title page.

The Division Graduate Programs Manager will handle the binding of the additional thesis copies. The cost for hardbound copies is $10.00 per copy (subsidized by the MSE Division). Thesis to be hardbound are sent to an external bindery once a year (early fall). Students who submit a personal copy for binding should be sure to leave a correct forwarding address after graduation so that their hardbound copy of the thesis can be mailed.

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Graduation Deadlines

Click here for the College of Engineering Graduation Deadlines.

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Practicum Requirement for all Master’s Students

MS and MEng students are required to fulfill a practicum requirement through satisfactory completion of MS 539 Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering, MS 782 Advanced Materials Characterization, MS 900 Research (PhD Only), MS 925 Graduate Project, or MS 951 Directed Study. Alternatively, MS students may fulfill this requirement with MS 954 Thesis.

For students who wish to satisfy the practicum requirement with MS 954 Thesis, MS 900 Research (PhD Only), MS 925 Graduate Project, or MS 951 Directed Study, a suitable project must be identified and approved by the MSE Graduate Committee. This requirement may be satisfied by a mentored project supervised by a MSE primary faculty member. Top

Financial Information

Students receiving any form of financial support for graduate studies are not permitted additional employment without prior written approval from both the student’s advisor and the MSE Graduate Committee. These forms of financial support include BU Fellowships (Dean’s, GTF, Photonics, etc.), Training Grant Fellowships, Research Assistantships and other external Fellowships (NSF, NIH, foreign government fellowships or other foundations).

Stipend Paychecks – All students are expected to have a bank account in the U.S. Direct Deposit of payments to your bank account is the norm for most students. If you elect not to use direct deposit, paychecks can be picked up at the BU Payroll Office at 25 Buick Street on the last Friday of the month.

Students with one-academic-year BU fellowships (Dean’s, MSE, Photonics, etc.) should secure a funded Research Assistantship no later than the end of their first academic year (April 30).

Research Assistantships – Research Assistantships are offered by individual faculty members with

sponsored research grants. A Research Assistant is a member of a research group in a laboratory or center. The position offers close association with members of the faculty and is a very effective arrangement for graduate study. Work on the thesis project is normally part of an assistant’s assignments. RA’s are expected to work full-time, with time allowed for courses during the academic year.

College of Engineering policy on stipend levels:

  • All Masters students on a Research Assistantship or Fellowship will receive the same monthly stipend at the base rate.

Student Payroll-Related Deadlines

  • Summer Payroll
    All students must register for Fall by April 1. (PhD students graduating in September must register for 2 credits of research in SUM1.)
    First Year Students must have a research advisor and funding secured by April 1.
  • Fall Payroll
    Students typically have no deadline to consider.
  • Spring Payroll
    Students must register by December 1.

Payroll Set Up – The Division Graduate Programs Manager will coordinate with other department managers and Payroll Coordinators to make sure that student funding is set up each semester prior to the account settlement date. In order to be set up on Payroll, students must register according to the Student Payroll-Related Deadlines listed above. First Year PhD students must notify the Graduate Programs Manager when a research advisor and summer funding is confirmed.

  • Students must register according to the Student Payroll-Related Deadlines listed above
  • Setting-up the student on payroll; Coordinated by the MSE Graduate Programs Manager in conjunction with the Department Grant Administrator overseeing the grant that funds the student’s stipend
  • Settling the student’s tuition account by Isabel Tereso in the Graduate Programs Office
  • Settling the student’s health insurance payment by Isabel Tereso in the Graduate Programs Office

Tuition – RA’s supported full-time by a faculty’s sponsored research grant typically receive tuition coverage. Eligible RA’s receive 8 credits of tuition, applicable to their degree, each semester they serve as an RA during the academic year.

In order to be paid during the Summer – Students must register for EK 920S for the Summer I term (0 credits) prior to the start of the summer session. International students must also pre-register for the Fall semester, prior to the start of the Summer term.

The exception to registering for EK 920S are: If you plan to complete your thesis or thesis during the summer and graduate in September, then you are required to register for two credits of MS 900S (PhD only) or MS 954S.

Summer Stipends and Tax Withholding – Students funded on fellowships other than NIH will have FICA taxes withheld from their paychecks during the summer (May, June, July and August).

Employment Verification

Boston University now uses The Work Number® to provide automated employment and income verifications for student employees. The Work Number provides immediate access to information that is convenient, accurate and secure: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  This service is available to those student employees who currently have a social security number on file.

Students without a social security number must submit all employment verifications requests to the Student Payroll Office.  Prospective landlords and employers may submit requests for verification on your behalf (many have standardized forms for this), but they must include a signed release from you authorizing Boston University to share this information.  You may also submit a Student Verification Request to the Student Payroll Office for this information.

Upon receipt by the Student Employment Office, verification requests may take 3-5 business days for processing, depending volume.  We do our best to process requests as quickly as possible.  NOTE:  Peak processing times include September, January, May and June. Top

Logistical Information

Previous Master’s theses are available for review in the Division. Please see the Division Graduate Programs Manager for access.

Printing Facility – The MSE copy room has a color printer, black and white printer, scanner, and copy machine available. Students must request card access to EMB 120.

Email – MSE uses electronic mail as a medium for official communication. Please be sure to check your BU email account on a daily basis for important information, and make sure that your account is not filled up.

Mailing address – Division of Materials Science & Engineering, Boston University, 15 Saint Mary’s Street, Room 118, Brookline, MA 02446.

Graduate Student Concerns – Any matters concerning leave of absences, medical leave of absences or maternity leaves should be discussed with the Division Graduate Programs Manager and/or the Associate Division Head for Graduate Studies.

MSE Kitchenette – Masters students may request access to the EMB 120 kitchenette (including a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, toaster oven) that are available for faculty, graduate students and staff in EMB and EMA.

Room Access – Students who need access to Division space should request card access via Zaius.

    • Division Graduate Student Code – Division Grad Students Only (15 Saint Mary’s Street entrance, Rooms 118 and 120, 730 Commonwealth Avenue entrances)
    • EMB (15 St. Mary’s) 121A Kitchen

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Faculty and Staff Directory

MSE Graduate Programs Faculty and Staff

  • Professor Soumendra N. Basu, Associate Division Head for Graduate Programs, basu@bu.edu
  • Elizabeth Flagg, Division Graduate Programs Manager, eflagg@bu.edu, 617-358-0351

MSE Division Faculty and Staff

College of Engineering Faculty and Staff

  • Professor Kenneth Lutchen, Dean, klutch@bu.edu
  • Professor Solomon Eisenberg, Senior Associate Dean for ENG Academic Programs, sre@bu.edu
  • Professor Catherine Klapperich, Associate Dean for ENG Research and Technology Development, catherin@bu.edu
  • Domenic Lomanno, Director of Graduate Programs, dlomanno@bu.edu
  • Lisa Lho, Assistant Director, Financial Aid, lholh@bu.edu
  • Linda Hession, Graduate Records, hession@bu.edu

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