Mar 03, 2024  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Materials Science and Engineering, PhD

Cullen College of Engineering  > Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering  > Materials Science and Engineering, PhD

In addition to continued study of a broad range of engineering fundamentals, candidates for the doctoral degree enjoy intensive exposure to a specific field of engineering research. Individual research is the major focal point for these students, who are expected to expand the frontiers of knowledge in their area of endeavor. Moreover, candidates learn and experience the general philosophy, methods, and concepts of research and scholarly inquiry, so that they may contribute after graduation to substantive issues completely unrelated to their doctoral research.

For more information, please visit the Materials Science and Engineering Program page.

Admission Requirements

The graduate programs are open to all qualified individuals with a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Masters of Science (MS) in Engineering, Materials Science, Metallurgy, Physics, Chemistry, Geology or related field. Selection of an advisor is critical to completing the degree and therefore should be done as soon as possible. If a student is admitted to the PhD program without an advisor, an advisor will not be assigned to them.

Students must meet or exceed these requirements in order for their application to be reviewed:

  • BS Degree: Materials Engineering or related field
  • GPA: 3.00/4.00 on last 60 hours or Graduate hours if hold MS degree
  • Recommended GRE*: (Current scale) Q-159, V-150 (Prior scale) Q-750, V-450
  • (International Applicants) TOEFL: PBT- 580, CBT- 236, IBT- 92
  • (International Applicants) IELTS: 7.0

*These scores reflect those of a competitive applicant but admission into our program is based on a holistic review of your application.

Course Requirements

Upon admission, students with degrees in related fields will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and may be required to take additional leveling courses. These leveling courses do not count towards the graduate degree. Generally, every graduate student should have taken:

  • 2 years of Calculus (through differential equations)
  • 1 year of Engineering Physics (calculus based physics)
  • 1 year of Biology
  • 1 year of Chemistry

Acceptance into the program is based on a competitive combination of academic background, GRE scores, recommendation letters, resume, and the statement of purpose. The checklist below list all requirements for the Application Submission:

Applicant Checklist

  • UH Graduate School Application
  • Application Fee (cannot be waived) ($25 domestic; $75 international)
  • Official Transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended (Scanned copies of official transcripts can be uploaded as PDF files and may be used to make admission decisions. If admitted, however, you will not be able to enroll without the official transcript(s) showing undergraduate degree conferral on file.)
  • GRE scores (University code is 6870)
  • Statement of Purpose (Upload into Application)
  • Resume/CV (Upload into Application)
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation (Submit emails within the Application and forms will be sent to Recommenders)
  • International applications have additional documentation requirements, including fulfilling English language proficiency requirements with either degree completion or submitted test scores. For more information, visit

Note: When preparing your Resume/CV and Personal Statement for submission, please be sure to highlight your past research, current research interests, and UH Biomedical Engineering faculty that you are interested in working with. There is no prompt or length requirement for the statement of purpose.

For more information about the Graduate School Admissions, please visit:

Degree Requirements

Credit hours required for this degree: 57.0 or 66.0

Doctor of Philosophy in Material Science Engineering (with prior MS Degree)

The elective courses must be relevant to the student’s research and approved by their advisor.

The program requires a minimum of 57 credit hours of approved graduate work distributed as follows:

  • Six (6) hours of core course:
    • Three (3) hours in each of the two categories:
      • Thermodynamics and
      • Introduction to Materials
  • Nine (9) hours of concentration
  • Six (6) hours of additional coursework
  • Twenty-four (24) hours of research credits
  • Twelve (12) dissertation credits

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Engineering (directly from Undergraduate)

The program requires a minimum of 66 credit hours of approved graduate work distributed as follows:

  • Six (6) hours of core course:
    • Three (3) hours in each of the two categories:
      • Thermodynamics and
      • Introduction to Materials
  • Nine (9) hours of concentration
  • Fifteen (15) hours of additional coursework offered by the College of Engineering
  • Twenty-four (24) research credits
  • Twelve (12) dissertation credits

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Engineering (MS earned outside of UH)

Students are required to complete coursework requirements for MS students with a thesis (21 hours of coursework).

The elective courses must be relevant to the student’s research and approved by their advisor.

Three hours of the nine elective courses must be taken within the College of Engineering. Courses taken outside of the department for elective credit must have previously been approved by the department.

Additional Requirements


  • The Seminar Course (MTLS 6111) is not a traditional lecture/lab course.
  • MTLS 6111 is a professional development opportunity aimed at engaging students outside of the classroom by bringing in professionals within the field as well as an opportunity for students to present their research endeavors.
  • Students are required to register for ONE Seminar course per SEMESTER as they are enrolled in research hours.
  • MTLS 6111 is a one credit course, but the credit does not count towards the overall credit hours. For example, if a student is completing their Masters and doing a thesis, their credit hour total is 30. In adding MTLS 6111, at least once a semester during their academic program, they will roughly have taken 32 credit hours. The additional 2 are from the Seminar courses and do not count towards the 30 credits needed to complete the degree but do count towards the overall semester credit count.
  • Adding this One Credit Course to the Semester Course Schedule can cause the student to register for 10 credits instead of the traditional 9. In this case, students can reduce their research credits by 1, so the total credit hours equal 9 or simply take an extra credit.

Qualifying Exam

  • Eligibility
    • Doctoral students are eligible to sit for the Qualifying Exam after the second semester of graduate studies. Doctoral students MUST complete the Qualifying Exam by the end of their fourth semester, but traditionally complete it by the end of their third semester.
    • Students must confirm with the Graduate Advisor that they plan to complete their Qualifying Exam in a given semester.
  • Components of Exam
    • The Qualifying Exam is administered orally and students must submit two abstracts (1) current research and (2) future research, one week prior to the exam.
    • Notes, PowerPoint slides or electronic displays are prohibited.
  • Committee
    • The Graduate Advisor will create the Qualifying Exam committee based on faculty availability and the student’s schedule.
    • The committee will consist of at least three (3) members: candidate’s Research Advisor, at least one Materials Science and Engineering faculty member(s), at most one non-Materials Science and Engineering faculty member (with expertise in relevant materials research). Additional faculty should represent the candidate’s research focus area and are primarily responsible for the examination of the candidate.
    • The Research Advisor may ask questions but is expected to fulfill the advocate role for the candidate as he/she prepares for the examination. The Chair’s primary function is to ensure that there is consistency across all candidate qualifying examinations.
  • Overview
    • Qualifying Exam Committees are coordinated by the Graduate Advisor. Students will be notified of the date and time of their Exam via email.
    • Examinations are expected to span about 1 hour but may vary between 1 to 1.5 hours.
    • The oral component will start with a general overview provided by the candidate on their research thrust area and prospective research project.
    • Committee members will be given hard copies of the two abstracts (supplied by the Doctoral student).
    • The Exam Committee will then ask questions and engage in discussions with the student for the remainder of the session. The following is the goal and scope of the oral exam:
      • Determine student’s depth of understanding of the Biomedical Engineering graduate core.
      • Assess student’s capacity to think critically and apply engineering tools to solve problems.
      • Assess student’s capacity to integrate skills in an area of research in biology and/or biomedical engineering.
      • A successful student will be knowledgeable, able to think critically, and demonstrate the ability to integrate and/or apply course information to topics pertinent to their research area.
    • Immediately following the oral examination session, the Exam Committee will meet in a closed session to discuss the student’s performance and determine the results of the exam. The following results are possible:
      • Pass: the candidate may continue in the PhD program, complete coursework, and prepare to defend a prospectus.
      • Fail: the candidate will be removed from the PhD program. A contingent plan may be developed to enter the Master’s program, either thesis or non-thesis. The candidate may petition to retake the qualifying exam during which time he/she may be retained in the PhD program until the petition is resolved. If the petition is not accepted, he/she will be removed from the PhD program. If the petition is accepted, a continuation in the PhD program will be contingent upon results of a re-examination.
    • The Qualifying Exam Score Sheet will be filled out and turned into the Graduate Advisor, so the results can be put into the students file.

Formation of Dissertation Committee

  • The Dissertation Committee members are determined by the student and their Advisor.
    • A Dissertation Committee must consist of at least five members, with
      • the advisor as chair,
      • at least three additional faculty members from the Materials Science and Engineering Department, and
      • at least one additional member shall be from outside of the Materials Science and Engineering program;
      • In total, you need a minimum of five tenure-track faculty members from the University of Houston. The fifth committee member may be from UH, or from an external institution.
  • The Committee members must fill out the Committee Appointment Form with their acknowledgement that they will participate. The form must be submitted well before the proposal defense is scheduled since the committee must be approved by the Department and Dean’s Office prior to the defense. A student need not be enrolled while requesting to form a committee but must be enrolled when the defense takes place.
  • If a Committee member is outside of the University of Houston, that member’s CV must be sent to the Graduate Advisor. 
  • Doctoral Dissertation Committee Formation Deadline:
    • The Committee must be formed at least two weeks prior to the Prospectus.


Doctoral students must complete their Prospectus at least one semester before Graduation.

  • Components
    • A rough draft of a research proposal should be shown to the student’s research advisor for approval of content prior to scheduling the oral presentation.
    • The oral presentation of the dissertation prospectus is made to the student’s Dissertation committee. Other interested members of the faculty are invited to attend the presentation but are encouraged to leave prior to the questioning by the dissertation committee.
  • Overview
    • The student’s presentation should take advantage of appropriate audio and visual aids and should be limited to no more than 50 minutes.
    • Copies of the written dissertation prospectus must be distributed to all members of the student’s dissertation committee no later than one week prior to the oral presentation. In the oral examination, the student is expected to defend their prospectus and justify that the proposed research is of the acceptable quality and magnitude consistent with quality doctoral education.
    • Following the oral presentation of the research proposition, questions are welcomed from members of the departmental faculty. Following general questions, departmental faculty members other than those on the student’s dissertation committee are excused and the student’s dissertation committee and interested faculty from the student’s major will remain to ask questions of the candidate regarding his proposed research. Generally, the oral discussion of the dissertation prospectus is limited to three hours.
    • After questioning, the candidate is excused from the room while the dissertation committee conducts its deliberations.
  • Committee
    • The Prospectus Committee is comprised of the Dissertation Committee members that were listed on the approved Committee form.
    • The decision regarding whether or not the dissertation prospectus is acceptable is the decision of the dissertation committee alone.
    • The student’s dissertation committee conveys its evaluation of the acceptability of the dissertation prospectus to the chair of the departmental graduate committee by signing the Prospectus Approval Form.
    • If the student’s dissertation prospectus is considered acceptable, the chair of the departmental graduate committee will recommend to the Graduate College that the student be advanced to PhD candidacy status.
    • If the student’s dissertation prospectus is unacceptable, the chair of the dissertation committee formulates recommendations for future action and submits them to the chair of the departmental graduate committee and the chair of the department. Either of two recommendations is possible:
      • A re-examination may be scheduled and the entire process repeated, or
      • The student may be removed from the doctoral program. The results of the dissertation prospectus presentation are conveyed to the student by the chair of the departmental graduate committee.

Dissertation Defense

  • The student will coordinate their Defense date with their committee and Advisor.
  • If a room needs to be reserved, the student can contact the Graduate Advisor.
  • Results should be reported to the Graduate Advisor, either via email or in person.
  • Dissertation/Thesis Defense Deadline:
    • The Graduate School and Cullen College of Engineering has set a deadline for defending. All students must defend by the given date or they will not be able to graduate that semester. The deadline changes each semester; the Academic Calendar will note the date.
      • For example, in Fall 2014, all students planning to defend, had to have their defense completed by Friday, December 05.
  • All information necessary for submission can be found here:

Academic Policies

  • University of Houston Academic Policies  
  • Graduate Academic Policies: Cullen College of Engineering  
  • Department Policies
    • CORE Coursework must be completed before your Qualifying Exams.
    • The Qualifying Exam must be completed at the end of the 3rd semester, unless an exception has been approved by the Department Chair and Graduate Director.
    • MTLS 6111 - Seminar is required every semester for all PhD students enrolled in research hours, unless the student has received an exception from their PI, due to interference with their confirmed graduation date.
    • Once you enroll in research and dissertation, respectively, you have to remain continuously enrolled in research and dissertation.
    • Students who started in and after Fall 2016: Only 25% of your courses may be taken outside of the department. If the course has not previously been approved by the department as an elective, a petition for the course must be submitted and approved prior to the start of the semester of intended enrollment. The petition must be approved by your PI and should include an explanation of why the course is relevant to your research. Petitions can be turned in to the Graduate Advisor.
    • Students who started prior to Fall 2016: Please check with the Graduate Advisor regarding elective courses outside of the department. If the course has not previously been approved by the department as an elective, a petition for the course must be submitted and approved prior to the start of the semester of intended enrollment. The petition must be approved by your PI and should include an explanation of why the course is relevant to your research. Petitions can be turned in to the Graduate Advisor.