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Prospective Students

Materials Science and Engineering is an exciting field at the interface of science and engineering that directly influences all modern technologies, from energy and the environment to space exploration to biomedical devices.

Due to its breadth of impact and complexity, materials science and engineering is inherently multidisciplinary. Our graduate degree program spans three colleges, over five academic units, and multiple campuses. Our students are affiliated with numerous collaborative institutes, including the Institute of Materials Research, Nuclear Science and Technology Institute, Advanced Grid Institute, Bioproducts Institute, Institute of Shock Physics, and Nuclear Science Center.

Our students receive training on state-of-the-art instrumentation from world-renowned faculty and scientists. Our faculty have affiliations with numerous international laboratories and institutes and industrial collaborations. Students who graduate from our program gain the intellectual and social training necessary to build successful research careers across the employment spectrum: academia, national laboratories, and industry. Our alumni hold prestigious ranks at institutes across the US and the globe.

What Does it Take to Earn a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering?

Students apply to the graduate program the fall of the year prior to entering. The details of the application process may be found here. Please note there is a difference between applying for the MSEP Ph.D. and the M.S. program, which is managed by the School of Mechanical Science and Materials Engineering (MME). The MSEP only offers a Ph.D., and the MME only offers an M.S.

In the early spring, the MSEP administration evaluates the applications and looks for pairings between applicants and faculty. It is MSEP policy to only admit students that have been paired with a faculty member who will act as the student’s dissertation advisor. If you are applying to our program, it is beneficial that you identify several faculty members with whom you would be interested in working. You may contact these faculty by email and arrange an online meeting or plan a trip to visit WSU in the early spring. If you are coming to campus, please let us know and we can arrange meetings and tours for your visit.

The student/faculty pairing is completed in mid-March and offer letters are sent to the students. For a student to accept the offer, committing to attending WSU, the letters must be signed and returned to the MSEP administration by April 15. Although most admissions are completed by April 15, there are occasionally offers made after this date. Once having accepted the offer students are required to arrive in Pullman in the fall the week before classes start to finalize their paperwork.

The offer letter not only acts as a formal agreement between the student and the MSEP for admission and attendance, but also details the students’ compensation. In most cases students, receive pay in the form of tuition, salary, and health insurance as compensation for research or teaching work. Carefully read the letter and ask questions if there are any elements that are unclear.

Once admitted, the average student takes between 4 and 5 years to complete their degree. Each semester they enroll in between 9 and 12 credits. Of these credits, it is extremely rare for any student to enroll in more than 2 classes involving lecture or coursework. The majority of the credits are research credits and a grade is assigned by the student dissertation advisor scoring their research performance for the semester. The details of the courses needed for graduation can be found in the student handbook. Annually, dissertation advisors evaluate their student’s progress, including an evaluation of the paid research work and grade related research.

In their first year, students will work with their dissertation advisors to determine the classes they will take during their time at WSU as well as their research topic. A committee of 3-4 faculty, with the dissertation advisor acting as chair, will be identified to act as the dissertation committee. This program of study is submitted by the student to the MSEP administration, which will evaluate and approve the program and pass it to the graduate school.

After completing their course work, students plan a preliminary exam. This is also known as the proposal exam. The student will present to their committee a written and an oral proposal in which they outline the subject they intend to study for their dissertation. If the student successfully passes this exam, they advance to become a Ph.D. candidate in the program.

The student will work on their dissertation with the guidance of their advisor, and when the two agree that sufficient work has been completed warranting a PhD a dissertation defense is arranged. The student presents their work to the general public and their dissertation committee. The committee examines the student’s research and overall understanding of their research area. If the committee agrees that the student’s work is worthy a PhD, the student finalizes their dissertation and submits it to their committee for final approval. Once the dissertation is approved and accepted by the graduate school, the student is graduated.