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PhD Program Requirements

General Graduate Policies of the University

Policies and requirements listed on this page apply in addition to general University graduate policies and requirements. Please consult the Office of Graduate Studies website for a complete listing of University graduate policies and requirements, including submission of University forms (D1 through D7, and the Thesis Approval and Completion Forms).

Coursework and GPA Requirements

  1. PhD Graduate Core (15-18 credits)
    1. REVISED 18-CREDIT CORE for students admitted on or after Fall 2010

    2.    CHE 502 Mathematical Methods
         CHE 513 Thermodynamics I
         CHE 525 Transport Phenomena I
         CHE 614 Thermodynamics II (listed temporarily as CHE 800)
         CHE 543 Kinetics and Catalysis I
         CHE 626 Transport Phenomena II
    3. ORIGINAL 15-CREDIT CORE for students admitted prior to Fall 2010

    4.    CHE 502 Mathematical Methods
         CHE 513 Thermodynamics I
         CHE 525 Transport Phenomena I
         CHE 543 Kinetcis and Catalysis I
         CHE 554 Process Systems Engineering
  2. Specialization (15 credits)

  3.    Graduate courses approved by research and graduate advisors
  4. Optional Graduate Free Electives (6 credits max)
  5. CHE 998 PhD Dissertation Research (credits sufficient to bring grand total to 90 credits)

  6. At the discretion of the Graduate Program Advisor, up to 45 credits may be transferred in for a student holding a non-Drexel Master's degree upon admission to the PhD program.

    The GPA requirements for graduate coursework are as follows:
    1. 3.0 overall;
    2. 3.0 over all graduate CHE courses; and
    3. 3.0 over all core graduate CHE courses.


    1. Qualifying Exam [Year 1]
      • Objective: to evaluate proficiency in core undergraduate chemical engineering material.
      • When offered: On or about Week 1 of the Winter term.
      • Format: Seven problems each covering a separate core topic from the undergraduate
          curriculum, including thermodynamics, heat transfer, mass transfer, fluid
          mechanics, kinetics, control, and separations.
      • Students must display mastery of five out of the seven topics to pass the qualifying exam.
      • Any student who does not pass the Qualifying exam may petition the Graduate Committee for a second-chance exam administered at the end of the Winter term in which the original exam was administered. Permission to take a second-chance qualifier is not guaranteed and will depend upon the student’s performance in coursework, TA assignments, and research.
    2. Candidacy Exam [Term 5]
      • Objective: to determine whether the student has the potential to carry out a successful Ph.D. project.
      • Components:
        1. Proposal Document (Written): The student is required to write a research proposal of about 15 pages, including background, preliminary results, and a research plan (with his/her advisor's input). The proposal must be submitted to each member of the student’s thesis committee and to the Graduate Program Advisor before 5:00 pm on the first day of Term 5.
        2. Proposal Defense (Oral): The student gives a formal defense of his/her proposal to his/her thesis committee before the end of Term 5.
    3. Preliminary Exam [Target: Term 12, subject to research advisor discretion]
      • Objective: to ensure that the student has made adequate progress in his/her project and that s/he has gained skills to write an independent research proposal.
      • Components:
        1. Proposal Document, a.k.a. “Second Proposal”: The student is required to write a research proposal of about 15 pages, including background, summary of results to date, and a plan for completion of the thesis work (with minimal advisor input). The proposal must be submitted to each member of the student’s thesis committee well in advance of the oral exam date.
        2. Preliminary Defense (Oral Examination): The student must defend the second proposal and the thesis work to-date in an oral examination by his/her thesis committee.
        3. Manuscript Submission: Before taking the preliminary exam, the student is required to submit at least one paper based on his/her Ph.D. research to a refereed journal. This must be an original article, not a review.
      • A copy of the written proposal, together with a copy of the submitted paper with acknowledgment of submission from the journal editor, must be submitted to the Graduate Program Advisor before the Preliminary Defense and at least 6 months before the Thesis Defense.
      • The student is responsible for scheduling the Preliminary Defense.
      • Students should submit a copy of the Preliminary Exam Reporting Form no later than three days after the exam.

    Thesis Committee

    • Purpose: The purpose of the PhD thesis committee is to provide an unbiased, independent assessment of the research achievements of the candidate as presented in the written dissertation and oral thesis defense. The committee is also called upon to assess ongoing research progress and completion plans at both the Candidacy and Preliminary Exams.
    • Reporting: The student reports the membership of the thesis committee to the Office of Graduate Studies via forms D3, D5, and D6, all of which are subject first to approval by the Departmental Graduate Committee.
    • Size and Composition:
      • The thesis committee must contain at a minimum five members.
      • The majority of the total committee must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in CBE.
      • At least one member must be from outside CBE, and may be from outside Drexel.
      • Non-faculty members (e.g., from industry, national labs, DoD labs, etc.) are allowed but are subject to approval (see policies for non-faculty members below).
    • Chairmanship: For each examination, including the final defense, a Committee Chair must be named from among the members of the CBE faculty on the committee. The chairman must not be the student’s research advisor. The chairman’s role is to moderate the exams and coordinate post-exam reporting.
    • Non-CBE, non-Drexel, and non-faculty members:
      • For outside members who are faculty with tenured/tenure-track appointments at other institutions of higher education, two copies of the member’s standard academic CV must be submitted to the Graduate Advisor when submitting any of forms D3, D5, or D6.
      • For the maximally one outside member who does not hold a faculty appointment, the following must be submitted to the Graduate Advisor when submitting any of forms D3, D5, or D6:
        • a CV that details the member’s research accomplishments and academic experience;
        • a letter from the student’s research advisor explaining the rationale supporting including this member on the committee.
      • Non-CBE, non-Drexel, and non-faculty members are subject to approval by the CBE Graduate Committee and the University Office of Graduate Studies.
    • Co-advising: A co-advisor from within CBE counts as one of the three in-department members, and a co-advisor from outside CBE but still within Drexel can count as one outside member. There is no requirement of additional committee members in cases of co-advising.

    Thesis and Defense

    • Objective: to ensure that the student has completed a Ph.D. project successfully and has made unique and independent contributions to engineering and science.
    • Components:
      • Thesis;
      • Oral Defense;
      • Publication of at least one Original Article in a refereed journal.
    • The Drexel library maintains a handbook on thesis format. You must also follow library guidelines for submission of your thesis.
    • The student is responsible for scheduling the Defense.
    • Note: Publication of at least one Original Article is a Departmental requirement. The student’s Ph.D. advisor may impose further publication requirements.

    Stipend and Tuition Remission

    Full-time PhD students in CBE are paid a stipend and their tuition is remitted.

    Apply online: drexel.edu/apply
    (Graduate Admissions, College of Engineering)


    Professor Vibha Kalra
    Graduate Admissions Advisor
    Office: CAT 479
    (215) 895-2233

    Professor Cameron Abrams
    Graduate Program Advisor
    (215) 895-2231

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