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Graduate Curricula

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at UVa offers the following graduate degrees:

The MS and PhD degrees involve extensive research, leading to a thesis or dissertation, respectively. The MMSE degree does not include a thesis and is often achieved by off-grounds graduate students enrolled in the SEAS distance-learning program (CGEP: Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program). The program of study for each of these degrees has been developed consistent with the principles of academic excellence as a foundation for cutting-edge research and cross-disciplinary learning. The starting point for each of the three degree programs is the MSE core curriculum.

The MSE Graduate Student Coordinator will distribute this policy statement to all entering graduate students and will assist each student in understanding the departmental requirements.  In all instances a graduate program of study is governed by SEAS policies and guidelines presented in the Graduate Record, unless a more restrictive MSE policy is presented below.

Students are admitted to the MSE Department on either the MS or PhD track. The stipend for PhD students is based upon successful completion of the core courses and the qualifying examination. An MS candidate may apply to switch to PhD status, or a PhD candidate may switch to MS status, at any time, with approval of the advisor and the MSE Graduate Director.

Core Courses

All MSE graduate students must complete a four-course core comprised of[top]

Electronic and Crystal Structure of Materials MSE 6010
Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria of Materials MSE 6230
Kinetics of Transport and Transformation in Materials MSE 6240
Defects and Microstructure in Materials MSE 6020

 

MS Degree

The MS degree in MSE intends for the successful student to demonstrate the ability to do independent research in engineering or applied science with close faculty guidance. In addition to research, this degree program requires that the student achieve an overall grade point average of at least 3.0 in the 25 course credits beyond the BS level to be distributed as follows:

  Credits
4 MSE core courses 12

4 elective courses from MSE, SEAS or UVa Science/Math*

12
Graduate Seminar (MSE 7820)
1
TOTAL:
25

*Maximum of 2 courses at 5xxx level in MSE
*Maximum of 3 courses at 5xxx level in total
*Minimum of 2 courses in MSE beyond core

  • The program of study includes four electives beyond the MSE core. These electives are at the 5xxx, 6xxx and 7xxx levels, are approved by the graduate student's advisor, and are selected from SEAS-course offerings or other UVa Science/Mathematics courses. Up to six credits of 5xxx-level MSE courses, with a maximum of nine credits of 5xxx-level SEAS courses are permitted. No more than six elective credits may be earned in faculty-supervised independent study courses.
  • MSE 6050 and MSE 6060 may be taken for elective credit only by those students who do not have an undergraduate degree in MSE, or upon petition to the MSE Graduate Director by the graduate student's advisor.
  • Students who have earned graduate course credits at UVa or at another institution may transfer up to six credits into the MSE-MS program of study provided those courses were not used to earn another degree. Transferred courses may be used to satisfy part of the MSE core requirement, if deemed equivalent by the faculty member teaching the course, or to satisfy the elective requirement, subject to approval by the MSE Graduate Director and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. The student must document the syllabus content of a transferred MSE core course, and the 6xxx or 7xxx level of a transferred elective course. Transferred courses may have been taken in MSE or in another field of engineering or science, but may not have been applied to achieve any other earned degree.
  • The sequence in which core elective classes are taken is defined by the student and advisor, considering that core courses provide an important foundation for many of the elective courses and research.
  • The MS degree requires at least six credits of research, under the supervision of a faculty advisor, and culminates in a written thesis, that is presented and defended in a public forum.
  • The four core courses, written thesis, and public defense of the thesis are departmental requirements for the MS degree and cannot be waived.
  • The MS candidate must write and defend publicly his/her thesis at least four weeks prior to the Libra upload date published by SEAS in order to graduate within a given semester. The MS defense will conclude with a faculty evaluation and decision on thesis acceptability and additional requirements, if any.
  • All members of the thesis defense committee must receive the completed thesis at least seven calendar days prior to the defense date. Faculty members may request additional time when the defense date is being set.
  • After public defense of the MS thesis, each MS student will be assessed by faculty based on his or her ability to perform graduate-level engineering research, proficiency at technical writing, and oral presentation skills.
MMSE Degree

The MMSE degree in MSE emphasizes classroom learning and requires that the student achieve satisfactorily 30 course credits beyond the BS level.

The courses requirements are as follows:

Credits
12
6 elective courses from MSE, SEAS or UVa Sci/Math*
18
TOTAL:
30

*Minimum of 2 courses in MSE beyond core
*Maximum of 2 courses at 5xxx level in MSE
*Maximum of 3 courses at 5xxx level in total

  • MSE 6050 and MSE 6060 may taken for elective credit only by those students who do not have an undergraduate degree in MSE or upon petition to the MSE Graduate Director by the graduate student's advisor.
  • The program of study must be approved by either the MSE CGEP advisor.
  • Up to six credits of electives may be earned in faculty-supervised independent study or advanced topics courses. Such studies may include laboratory work.
  • Each MMSE student will be assessed by faculty based on his or her proficiency at technical writing, oral presentation skills, and engineering analysis.

The MMMS degree program of study must be approved by the MSE CGEP. The MSE faculty will review any appeal of this decision. Ideally, the MS degree program of study should be formalized and approved during the student's first year in the MS program. CGEP students are urged to work closely with the MSE CGEP advisor to ensure an appropriate plan of study.

PhD Degree

The PhD degree in MSE intends for the successful student to produce tangible-intellectual achievement(s) from independent at a frontier in the engineering or applied science of materials. As a foundation, the PhD degree in MSE requires that the student achieve satisfactorily at least 38 course credits beyond the BS level and that they be distributed as follows:

  Credits
4 MSE core courses 12
8 elective courses from MSE, SEAS or UVa Sci/Math* 24*
Graduate seminar
2
TOTAL:
38

*Minimum of 2 courses at 7xxx level in MSE
*Minimum of 4 courses in MSE beyond core
*Maximum of 2 courses at 5xxx level in MSE
*Maximum of 3 courses at 5xxx level in total

  • The program of study requires two semesters of MSE graduate seminar (MSE 7820 for a total of two credits).
  • At least six of the 24 elective credits must be earned in 7xxx-level MSE courses at UVa.
  • No more than six elective credits may be earned in faculty-supervised independent study courses. Independent study credits will not count towards the six credits of electives at the 7xxx level.
  • MSE 6050 and MSE 6060 credits may not be counted among the 24 credits of elective courses required for a PhD in MSE. Students entering the PhD program without a BS or MS in MSE are encouraged to consider taking MSE 6050 and MSE 6060 to reinforce core understanding of materials science. Students with a BS or MS in MSE should generally not take MSE 6050 or MSE 6060.
  • The program of study includes eight elective courses (24 credits) beyond the four MSE core courses. These electives are at the 5xxx, 6xxx and 7xxx levels, and are selected from SEAS-course offerings or other UVa Science/Mathematics courses.
  • Students entering the PhD program without an MS degree may transfer up to 12 credits of graduate course work to be applied to their plan of study, provided those courses were not used to earn another degree, subject to approval by the MSE Graduate Director and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.
  • Students entering the PhD program with an MS degree from another institution are required to complete the four-course MSE core or to demonstrate that they have taken the equivalent courses elsewhere. Students are also required to complete four courses for credit chosen from MSE, SEAS, or UVa-Science/Math courses at the 5xxx, 6xxx, or 7xxx level. At least two of these four courses must be in MSE at the 7xxx level.
  • The PhD student will work closely with their advisor to develop a program of study that both meets the department requirements and supports the academic needs of the student and their research goals.  This may be done in consultation with the MSE Graduate Director.
  • The performance of students in the core courses provides one indicator of a student’s preparation for the qualifying examination. A cumulative GPA of less than 3.3; i.e., a student has received one or more grades of B or below in a core course, indicates that there are likely one or more areas of weakness in core material that should be addressed prior to sitting for the qualifying examination at the end of the second year of study. The MSE department will make available past course information as appropriate, but this deeper exploration of knowledge missed or misunderstood is expected to be driven by the student’s own initiative, and will not take away from the student’s other research or academic commitments. In further examination of core knowledge, students may study independently or in groups, and may use material from their core courses, in addition to any other reference materials.
  • The PhD candidate must pass a qualifying examination consisting of both written and oral components and which includes both general and comprehensive elements. All students will take the qualifying examination by the beginning of their third year of graduate school. The qualifying examination is offered every August.
  • The PhD candidate must write and defend publicly the PhD dissertation proposal that is the foundation for his/her dissertation. The PhD dissertation proposal and the public defense of the PhD dissertation must occur in different semesters. It is expected that all students will have defended their PhD dissertation proposal by the end of their third year of graduate school, preferably in the semester following completion of the qualifying examination.
  • All members of the dissertation defense committee must receive the completed dissertation at least seven calendar days prior to the defense date. Faculty members may request additional time when the defense date is being set.
  • The PhD degree requires at least 25 satisfactorily graded credits of research, under the supervision of a faculty advisor, culminating in a written dissertation that is presented and defended in a public forum.
  • For all PhD students, the MSE core-course foundation, qualifying examination, research proposal, dissertation, and public defense of dissertation are departmental requirements that cannot be waived.
  • Recommendation: One of the eight elective courses should be math intensive, consistent with a list established by the MSE faculty and allowing for transfer of an equivalent course.
  • Recommendation: The PhD candidate’s advisory committee should tailor the program of courses to reflect the importance of both depth and breadth in MSE, and must include one faculty member appointed from within UVA, but external to the department. 

Each PhD candidate will be assessed by faculty after public defense of the dissertation with respect to the ability to form a research plan, ability to perform original research, proficiency at technical writing, and oral presentation skills.