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DEGREE Chemical Engineering, PhD

Doctoral degree in chemical engineering

As a PhD student in our outstanding, collaborative department, you’ll engage in original problem-solving. You’ll be able to specialize in either traditional or emerging areas of research in chemical and biological engineering, including energy-related science and technology, soft and hard materials science and engineering, systems engineering and optimization, catalysis, process control and design, nanotechnology, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, complex fluids, colloid and interfacial phenomena, atomic, molecular, and multiscale modeling, polymers (synthesis and processing), micro- and nano-electronics, environmental engineering and sustainability, reactor design, and atomic-scale design of surface reactivity.

At a glance

Chemical and biological engineering department

of our faculty have received early-career or young-investigator awards
undergraduate ranking among public universities
graduate ranking among public universities

Learn more about what information you need to apply.


Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline September 1
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy:
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applicants with a strong background in chemical engineering or related disciplines and a serious interest in research are encouraged to apply for admission. Applications are accepted for both Fall (September) and Spring (January) admission, although historically most students start in the Fall and admission is seldom offered for the Spring semester. The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering does not consider applications for a terminal MS degree; the department admits only to the PhD. An MS degree can be awarded post admission as an alternative to the PhD degree. The MS degree is not a prerequisite for the PhD degree.

Applications for Fall admission must be received by noon (CST) on the deadline. Admissions decisions are made by a committee of faculty with research expertise spanning the four research areas of the department. Individual faculty do not recommend admissions decisions and advisors are not determined at the time of application. Instead, students will match with advisors after meeting with all faculty during the fall semester. Additional information about the application process, detailed information on required application materials, advice for preparing a competitive application, information on application fee waivers, and frequently asked questions are available here.


Tuition and segregated fee rates are always listed per semester (not for Fall and Spring combined).

View tuition rates


Students admitted to the graduate program are guaranteed financial support from the department in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships and fellowships. Support will continue as long as the student maintains satisfactory progress toward their degree. 

Additional information on funding and financial resources is available here.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Research in CBE is highly collaborative and often involves diverse teams from within the department, across campus, at other campuses, and in industry. CBE researchers address the most pressing challenges facing society by developing approaches to sustainably produce new fuels and chemicals, combat the plastic pollution crisis, create new therapeutic molecules and materials, optimize energy infrastructure, computationally design new materials and chemical processes, understand transport in complex environments, engineer bacteria to produce biofuels, and more.

View our research

Minimum graduate school requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 26 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy:
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy:
Other Grade Requirements At least two of the core Chemical and Biological Engineering graduate classes must be taken in the first semester of residence in the graduate program, and at least four core graduate classes must be completed with grades of B or better, preferably by the end of the second semester of residence. A student who receives one grade of BC or lower in a core graduate class but who wishes to remains in the PhD program must take the fifth core course or re-take the low graded core course, preferably in the third semester, and the student must receive a B or better.

A student who receives more than one grade of BC or lower in core graduate classes will be placed in the MS program. Upon successful completion of the MS program, the student may petition the full faculty for to return to the PhD program.

A student who receives an average of 3.0 or higher on their preliminary exam becomes a candidate for the PhD program. A student who does not receive an average score of 3.0 or higher in the qualifying process is placed in the MS program. Upon successful completion of the MS program, the student may petition the full faculty to return to the PhD program.
Assessments and Examinations A doctoral student who has met the grade requirements must complete a preliminary exam in the second semester of their second year. The preliminary exam consists of a written report and oral examination.

During the first semester of the fourth year of the program, PhD Candidates will participate in a mandatory research progress meeting with their thesis committee.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. Refer to the Graduate School: Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training policy:

Required Courses

General Requirements
Research Credits (CBE 790, 890, 990)at least 21
Coursework, including:at least 30
4 out of 5 CBE Core Courses12
Intermediate Transport Phenomena
Intermediate Problems in Chemical Engineering
Advanced Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
Kinetics and Catalysis
Biological Engineering: Molecules, Cells & Systems
2 CBE Electives6
1 PhD Elective3
Breadth Requirementat least 9
Total Credits51
  • Grades of B or better are required in all Chemical and Biological Engineering courses used towards degree requirements.
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering Elective courses shall be in the range numbered 500-899 and will not be laboratory courses, Independent Studies or Research.
  • The requirement of four core Chemical and Biological Engineering graduate courses shall not be met by substitution of other courses. 

Students taking advanced courses outside the department in excess of breadth requirements may, with department approval, use up to two of these courses toward the requirement of two Chemical and Biological Engineering Elective courses. Seminar courses may not be used to satisfy Chemical and Biological Engineering Elective course requirements.

PhD Elective Course Requirement

Students must complete at least one course from another program outside Chemical and Biological Engineering totaling at least three credits. Courses must be numbered 300 and above. A B average is required. Pass/fail or audit courses may not be used for the elective course requirement. Courses used to satisfy the breadth program may not be used for the PhD Elective course requirement. Advisor approval is required and secured through submission of the PhD Elective Course Approval Form. PhD Elective courses can be foreign language courses.

Breadth Requirement

The breadth requirement is designed to represent a coherent body of work and should not be simply an after-the-fact ratification of a number of courses taken outside the major department. To ensure coherence, the student must consult with his or her advisor. The minor/certificate should be submitted for approval at an early date, before the student is halfway through the proposed course sequence.

Teaching Assistantship

Each student in the PhD program is required to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for two semesters. Under normal circumstances, each student should serve as a teaching assistant one semester of the second year and one semester of the third year. Requests for alternate arrangements, partial or full waiver of the requirement, should be submitted in writing to the Graduate Program Committee.

Kate Fanis, Graduate Advisor

Sean Palecek, Director of Graduate Studies

View the Graduate Guide for program-specific information on admission, coursework, policies, rules and regulations.
Grad student at lab

How to Apply to the PhD Program

If you are a student with a strong background in chemical engineering or a related discipline, and a serious interest in research, apply to our graduate program.

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