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DEGREE Materials Science and Engineering, PhD

Doctoral degree in materials science and engineering

Meeting many of the most critical challenges facing modern society requires advances in the materials that underpin new technologies—and the field of materials science and engineering is in the middle of a revolution in how we design and deploy new materials. As a PhD student in materials science and engineering, you’ll leverage advances in computational materials science; materials databases, data science, and machine learning; and high throughput materials synthesis and characterization to achieve true design of materials. And because materials research at UW-Madison crosses many departments, you’ll have the opportunity to work within a robust interdisciplinary community.

At a glance

Materials science and engineering department

active patents
undergraduate ranking among public universities
graduate ranking among public universities

Learn more about what information you need to apply.

Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline October 1
Summer Deadline December 15
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applicants normally are expected to have a B.S. in the physical sciences or engineering. Undergraduate studies normally would include mathematics through differential equations, at least one year each of general physics and chemistry, a course in physical chemistry or modern physics, and an elementary course in properties of materials. Applicants may be admitted with deficiencies. These must be made up as soon as possible after entering the program.

Admission to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Graduate School is a prerequisite for admission to study materials science. A minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0 is required. Graduate Record Examinations scores on the General Test are required. Admission is highly selective. Most admitted students have an undergraduate GPA above 3.5. Mean GRE scores in the most recent admission cycle were quantitative: 166, verbal: 163, and analytical writing: 3.5. However, full consideration will be given to all students meeting the UW–Madison graduate school requirements. Please use institution code: 1846; no department code is necessary.

Foreign students must submit satisfactory results on the TOEFL or another acceptable English Language Test. Please use institution code: 1846; no department code is necessary. Information about these exams can be obtained from the Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey 08540 or Berkeley, California 94704.

Please use the online application to begin your application. To be considered for fellowships, all application materials are due by January 1. If you have questions about the application or admissions process, please do not hesitate to send an email to

The graduate school offers a limited number of application fee grants (waivers of all or part of the application fee) that are available in a few specific circumstances.  Further information is available here.

Application deadlines:

Spring semester: October 1
Fall semester: December 15
Summer: December 15


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

View tuition rates

Program Resources

Financial assistance

Please note that most funding is available for Ph.D. students and there is limited resources for M.S. students. International students must prove one year of funding before requesting assistance. Financial assistance is not available for students enrolled in the named option M.S. in Nanomaterials and Nanoengineering.

Various types of financial assistance are available for entering graduate students, including research assistantships, teaching assistantships, fellowships and special grants. Decisions regarding financial support are made on the basis of letters of recommendation, grades, GRE general test scores, and, for research assistantships, the matching of the interests or experience of the applicant to the research programs of individual faculty members. December 15th is the deadline for receipt of fellowship applications. Foreign students are generally not eligible for university fellowships. Applications for other types of support are accepted until mid-February.

Research and teaching assistantships

Research assistantships (RAs) are available in any materials science area. These appointments are under the supervision of the major professor directing the research. Students interested in research assistantships in a particular area are encouraged to contact professors whose work is of special interest. The faculty’s research interests are given in the Department of Materials Science And Engineering faculty section. An RA permits the most rapid progress toward a degree. Research assistantships in materials science graduate students are comparable to similar stipends from other institutions. Information about stipends can be obtained from the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies,

Teaching assistantships involve teaching rather than research experience. They pay approximately the same as research assistantships. Teaching experience is especially desirable for students considering an academic career.  The Department of Materials Science and Engineering supports a limited number of teaching assistantships, which are allocated after admissions. Applications for teaching assistantship positions for the 2020-2021 academic year are available here.


Herb Fellowships in Materials Science are given out each year. The Herb Fellowship is a one-year full-ride fellowship for incoming graduate students. It is intended to provide especially strong students extra flexibility and independence in formulating their graduate research program.

Fellowships supporting graduate education are also offered on a competitive basis by organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Hertz Foundation, UW-Madison Graduate School, the U.S. Department of Defense and a number of industries and foundations. Because some of these fellowships have fall application deadlines, early application is necessary. GRE scores for the General Test are required for fellowship applications.

Other funding information

If you choose to attend UW–Madison and plan to pursue funding on your own, the following sites could be very helpful:

Materials define the major technological ages of humankind and are central to overcoming challenges in areas that include energy, the environment and human health. We are developing materials’ most impactful new capabilities, including atomic and nanoscale control, 3D printing, low-dimensional and quantum properties, and predictive simulation and machine learning. Our facilities include outstanding equipment for synthesis, processing and characterization, and some of the most advanced tools in the world, from nano-calorimetry to ultrafast electron microscopy.

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.

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university’s Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Students entering without a previous master’s degree:
  • Students must pass a qualifying exam in Materials Science and Engineering. The exam must be attempted within 13 months of the start of the student’s first semester enrolled. If the first attempt is not passed, a second attempt is required within four months.
  • Students must pass a preliminary exam / thesis proposal exam. This exam is typically undertaken by the end of the fourth semester enrolled and must be undertaken by the end of the fifth semester. If the first attempt is not passed, a second attempt is required within three months. Students may earn the M S & E Master’s degree the semester they pass their preliminary exam.
  • Students must prepare a doctoral dissertation, present it in a public seminar, defend it in closed examination by their doctoral committee, and deposit it with the Graduate School.

Students entering with a master’s degree:
  • Students on this track must pass the qualifying exam, thesis proposal exam, and thesis defense as described above, on the same schedule with respect to their matriculation date. Students who fail one of these exams will have the opportunity to earn a terminal Master’s degree in M S & E, even if they have been granted a course substitution.
Language Requirements None.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor. If students choose a distributed minor (Option B), they must select a topic or theme and three courses around that theme. At least one course must be graduate level (numbered 700 or above or has Graduate Course Attribute). There are no other restrictions on the course department or topic.

Courses for Students Starting from a Bachelor’s Degree and Enrolling Directly in the Ph.D. Program

The Graduate School requires that a Ph.D. student earn at least 51 total credits, at least half of which must be at the graduate level. Thus, M S & E graduate students are required to take at least 25 additional credits of research study (51 credits – 24 course credits – 2 credits for M S & E 900 Materials Research Seminar) beyond the required lecture or laboratory courses. These credits may be research credits, additional courses, or a combination of both. For research credits, students should register for the following courses:

  1. Before earning the Master’s degree, students should register for M S & E 790 Master’s Research or Thesis.
  2. After earning the Master’s degree, they should register for M S & E 890 Pre-Dissertator’s Research.
  3. Once they have achieved dissertator status, they should register for M S & E 990 Research and Thesis.

All course requirements are subject to modification or substitution to better serve the research needs of the student. To request a change, submit a letter to the department Graduate Coordinator signed by the student and advisor proposing a change and explaining how the change will better suit the student’s needs, especially as it pertains to their research. Course substitutions and other curriculum variances are decided by the department’s director of graduate studies, subject to appeal to the department’s Graduate Governance Committee and the grievance procedure.

Materials research seminar 12
M S & E 900 Materials Research Seminar1
Materials core courses 29
M S & E 521 Advanced Polymeric Materials3
M S & E 530 Thermodynamics of Solids3
M S & E 551 Structure of Materials3
M S & E 752 Advanced Materials Science: Phase Transformations3
Graduate level math course (students may only count one of the following as materials core course)3
Engineering Analysis I
Intermediate Problems in Chemical Engineering
Methods of Applied Mathematics 1
Methods of Applied Mathematics-2
Theoretical Physics-Electrodynamics
Materials electives courses 36

Materials Elective Courses

M S & E 401 Special Topics in Materials Science and Engineering1-3
M S & E/​CHEM  421 Polymeric Materials3
M S & E/​N E  423 Nuclear Engineering Materials3
M S & E/​N E  433 Principles of Corrosion3
M S & E 434 Introduction to Thin-Film Deposition Processes3
M S & E 441 Deformation of Solids3
M S & E 448 Crystallography and X-Ray Diffraction3
M S & E 451 Introduction to Ceramic Materials3
M S & E 456 Electronic, Optical, and Magnetic Properties of Materials3
M S & E 460 Introduction to Computational Materials Science and Engineering3
M S & E 461 Advanced Metal Casting3
M S & E/​M E  462 Welding Metallurgy3
M S & E 463 Materials for Elevated Temperature Service3
M S & E 465 Fundamentals of Heat Treatment3
M S & E/​CIV ENGR/​G L E/​GEOSCI  474 Rock Mechanics3
M S & E 521 Advanced Polymeric Materials3
M S & E 530 Thermodynamics of Solids3
M S & E/​E M A  541 Heterogeneous and Multiphase Materials3
M S & E 551 Structure of Materials3
M S & E 553 Nanomaterials & Nanotechnology3
M S & E 560 Fundamentals of Atomistic Modeling3
M S & E 570 Properties of Solid Surfaces3
M S & E 648 Advanced X-ray Scattering Methods in Materials Science and Engineering3
M S & E 660 Mesoscale Modeling of Materials3
M S & E 748 Structural Analysis of Materials3
M S & E 750 Imperfections and Mechanical Properties3
M S & E 752 Advanced Materials Science: Phase Transformations3
M S & E 756 Structure and Properties of Advanced Electronic Materials3
M S & E 760 Molecular Dynamics and Monte Carlo Simulations in Materials Science3
M S & E 803 Special Topics in Materials Science1-3
B M E/​PHM SCI  430 Biological Interactions with Materials3
B M E/​M E  615 Tissue Mechanics3
BIOCHEM/​CHEM  704 Chemical Biology3
CBE 540 Polymer Science and Technology3
CBE 747 Advanced Colloid and Interface Science3
CHEM 652 Chemistry of Inorganic Materials3
CHEM 653 Chemistry of Nanoscale Materials3
CHEM 654 Materials Chemistry of Polymers2-3
CHEM 664 Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules2-3
CHEM 721 Instrumental Analysis3-4
E C E 745 Solid State Electronics3
GEOSCI 765 Crystal Chemistry3
PHYSICS 415 Thermal Physics3
PHYSICS 551 Solid State Physics3
PHYSICS 715 Statistical Mechanics3
PHYSICS 751 Advanced Solid State Physics3

Additionally, the student’s research advisor must sign a form available from the department Graduate Coordinator approving the five courses taken to fulfill the materials core and materials electives requirements.

Courses for Students Starting from a Master’s Degree and Enrolling Directly in the Ph.D. Program

These requirements cover students who (1) have already earned a master’s degree in M S & E or a related field and (2) do not wish to earn an M S & E master’s from UW.

Students must enroll in the introductory seminar, M S & E 900 Materials Research Seminar, for their first two semesters of enrollment.

Students must satisfy all of the course requirements for the Ph.D. given in the preceding section. However, they may request that courses taken as part of a previous master’s degree at another institution serve to satisfy a portion of the requirements. Students will have one month after matriculation to identify that they wish to follow this track to their Ph.D. and to submit all their course substitution requests. Course substitutions will not be considered later in the student’s Ph.D. studies.

To make such a request, the student should submit a request to the department Graduate Coordinator describing (1) the course from a previous institution; (2) the UW course equivalent; (3) the M S & E course requirement that will be satisfied. The request must include sufficient information to determine if the courses are equivalent. Typically, a syllabus listing the course textbook and lecture topics is sufficient. A course catalog description is typically insufficient. Courses taken while enrolled as an undergraduate student at another institution will not be considered for substitution. This includes courses at the graduate level taken while the student is enrolled as an undergraduate.

If a request is not approved, the student must fulfill the corresponding requirement at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

If one or more course substitutions are accepted, the student will not earn a master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from UW–Madison as part of their Ph.D. studies.

M.S. and Ph.D. Program, Admissions Inquiries

Associate Chair of Graduate Studies
1509 University Ave
Madison, WI 53706

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

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