The Ph.D. program has no formal course requirements. We generally expect students to complete a minimum of 16 graduate courses, including courses taken elsewhere and courses taken for the M.S. degree. The appropriate courses to complete are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and supervising committee, and should include some coursework in a supporting area outside of geotechnical engineering. Successful candidates must demonstrate proficiency in written English and pass three examinations:

(1) English Proficiency
The objective of the English proficiency requirement is to ensure that all PhD candidates possess the writing skills necessary for effective technical communication before embarking on the dissertation writing process. English proficiency should be demonstrated in one of three ways:

    • By submitting a GRE analytical writing score of 4.0 or greater at the time of application;
    • By retaking the GRE and achieving an analytical writing score of 4.0 or greater; or
    • By passing an approved technical writing course.

Students who cannot demonstrate proficiency on the basis of their GRE analytical writing score must either retake the GRE, or enroll in an approved technical writing course in their first semester as a Ph.D. student. CE397 Advanced Communication Skill for International Students; CE389C Advanced Engineering Communication; or an acceptable Graduate School (GRS) course are the only technical writing courses approved at this time.

 (2) Qualifying Examination
This oral examination is administered by a committee of three faculty members, including one from outside of geotechnical engineering. The Qualifying Exam is used to evaluate capabilities and to help the student select appropriate courses. This exam also serves to identify those few students who clearly are not qualified to complete our degree requirements. The qualifying exam should be taken in the first semester of Ph.D. study.

(3) Comprehensive Examination
This second examination involves an extensive discussion of the proposed dissertation work, but also tests the candidate's knowledge in geotechnical engineering. The exam typically includes a written description of the proposed dissertation research with an oral presentation to the student's supervising committee. This serves to define the dissertation topic in a public forum. The Comprehensive Exam is typically taken about one to two years into the program, when most of the course work has been completed, but before completing the bulk of the dissertation research.

(4) Dissertation Defense
The third and final exam is the defense of the dissertation presented to the student's supervising committee. The defense is held at the end of the program.

The doctoral supervising committee consists of at least five professors, including the student's advisor and at least one professor from outside of Civil Engineering.