PhD in Materials Science & Engineering

The Division of Materials Science & Engineering offers post-bachelor’s and post-master’s PhDs. Doctoral studies may be pursued in areas actively researched by division faculty.

Students admitted to the post-bachelor’s PhD program must complete the course requirements for the MS in Materials Science & Engineering. They are required to take a minimum of 64 credits during their program of study. The remaining required PhD credit hours remain unstructured, provided they have some engineering, science, or engineering management content.

Post-bachelor’s doctoral students will be awarded the MS degree upon completion of MS degree requirements and the PhD Prospectus Exam.

There are no structured course requirements for post-master’s PhD students, but such students are required to complete 32 credits applicable to the degree, all of which must be at the 500 level or higher. It is, however, strongly suggested that the post-master’s PhD student take appropriate core courses to pass the PhD qualifying examination.

Post-bachelor’s PhD students are required to take four core and two concentration courses (see MSE master’s degree description for a list of these courses), and a minimum of 16 credits of ENG MS 900 PhD Research/ENG MS 991 PhD Dissertation coursework. Post-master’s PhD students are required to take a minimum of 8 credits of ENG MS 900 PhD Research/ENG MS 991 PhD Dissertation coursework.

Doctoral students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.00 to remain in good academic standing and to graduate. All graduate courses are counted in the GPA. Only grades of B− or better fulfill PhD curricular requirements. This requirement applies to post-bachelor’s or post-master’s PhD students.

Doctoral students must satisfy a residency requirement of at least two consecutive academic-year semesters of full-time graduate study at Boston University. For further information, email

Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the PhD in Materials Science & Engineering program will be able to:

  1. Apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering to identify, formulate, and solve materials science and engineering problems.
  2. Use modern engineering tools and techniques to successfully practice the engineering profession in a variety of settings.
  3. Use oral and written communication to convey technical concepts to engineers and non-engineers.
  4. Carry out independent research in the area of materials science and engineering, and effectively communicate the results.
  5. Lead technical innovation and train future generations of engineers.


Upon entry into the Materials Science & Engineering program, each student will be appointed an academic advisor from the MSE faculty. The advisor will act as the student’s primary academic advisor until the student selects a research advisor(s).

Finding a Research Home

Students are expected to find a research home by the end of their second semester. A student can either join a research group directly on their arrival, or can go through a rotation program through different laboratories. If a student does not find a research home after two rotations (at least three months each) by the end of the second semester, division support over the summer may be available on a case-by-case basis. A lack of adequate effort to secure a research home by the end of the second semester, or the inability to find a faculty research supervisor willing to support the student with RA funding by the end of 12 months, is interpreted as the student making insufficient progress toward the PhD and the student may be subject to removal from the program.

Subject Qualifying Examination

Doctoral students must pass the materials PhD qualifying examination to achieve PhD candidacy by the end of their second year. Students are limited to two attempts to pass this examination. The qualifying examination is derived from the courses listed in the core curriculum (see MS in Materials Science & Engineering for a description of the core curriculum), and has a written and an oral component.

Mathematics Requirement

Students must satisfy a mathematics requirement which is determined by the department/division and approved by the college. Students unable to satisfy this requirement are withdrawn from the PhD program. All PhD students must complete both the qualifying exam and the mathematics requirement by the end of their fifth semester.

Responsible Conduct of Research Requirement

All College of Engineering PhD students are required to complete the Advanced Responsible Conduct of Research program prior to completing the prospectus. The Advanced RCR program includes an online module and four live discussion workshops.

Dissertation Prospectus Defense

It is strongly suggested that students complete their prospectus defense within two years of advancing to PhD candidacy. This examination consists of an oral examination defending a research prospectus developed by the student. The student must also obtain approval for the written dissertation prospectus. The members of the Prospectus Defense Committee will typically also later serve on the PhD Dissertation Committee.

Post-Prospectus Progress Reports

Following the prospectus defense, the student must meet at least once every 12 months with the dissertation committee and provide a report that indicates progress since the last meeting, and the expected milestones for the next meeting. This allows the committee to assess progress in dissertation research.

Residency Requirement

Doctoral students must satisfy a residency requirement of at least two consecutive academic-year semesters of full-time graduate study at Boston University.


The PhD candidate is expected to carry out original research under the guidance of a research advisor(s), who will monitor progress toward the degree. Doctoral students must defend a written dissertation before a Dissertation Committee by the end of the fifth year of candidacy. A minimum of a one-year gap between the prospectus defense and final dissertation defense is strongly recommended. In any case, the prospectus defense and the final dissertation defense cannot be completed in the same semester. The Dissertation Committee must have a minimum of five members, including the chair. At least two members of the committee must be affiliated with the Division of Materials Science & Engineering, and at least two members must be affiliated with the College of Engineering.

Admission and Financial Aid

PhD graduate students may obtain financial aid in the form of competitive Dean’s Fellowships, teaching fellowships, or research assistantships available from grants or contracts held by faculty members. Other traineeship funding may also be available to US citizens and permanent residents.