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Doctoral Program

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering

The PhD program is designed to give students a broad and deep understanding of materials science and engineering so that they will have long and fruitful careers as researchers.

Students who graduate from our program will be among the world's leading experts in the areas of their dissertation research. They also will have the intellectual tools to move into new research areas as the field grows and develops.

During the first two years of the PhD program, students are required to take at least 10 courses from our core curriculum, attend the weekly colloquium lectures to learn about cutting-edge materials science research, locate a faculty research advisor and become involved in a research group.

Students are expected to find a research group to join by the start of spring quarter. During the summer after the first academic year, students typically work intensely on research under the guidance of a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department or a professor from another materials-related department.

In the second year, students continue to do research and typically take one or two courses per quarter. Between October and January, they take a qualifying examination, which they must pass to be formally admitted to candidacy for a PhD degree. In the first part of the exam, students give a 20-minute presentation on their proposed area of dissertation research. A committee of professors, which includes the student's advisor, then questions the student on the proposed topic for 20 minutes. Finally, the professors ask questions for 80 minutes on topics from the core curriculum. Students are expected to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of materials science and to show that they can think clearly on aspects that are important for their research. Students who do not pass the qualifying exam can attempt it one more time in the spring quarter. It is not uncommon to pass one part but not both parts on the first try.

Once students pass the qualifying exam, they continue to take classes and do their dissertation research. Students are required to take 48 technical and seminar units (approximately 16 quarter-long classes).

The final stage of the PhD program is to write a dissertation and pass the university oral examination, which involves giving a public seminar defending the dissertation and answering questions from a private panel of four professors. Most students complete the entire program in five years and receive several employment offers as they write their dissertation.

The university’s basic requirements for a PhD are outlined in the Graduate Degrees section of the Stanford Bulletin.

The PhD degree is awarded after the completion of a minimum of 135 units of graduate work as well as satisfactory completion of any additional university requirements. Degree requirements for the department are as follows:

Core Courses (30) 1 30
Applied Quantum Mechanics I  
Materials Chemistry  
Atomic Arrangements in Solids  
Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria  
Waves and Diffraction in Solids  
Defects in Crystalline Solids  
Rate Processes in Materials  
Mechanical Properties of Materials  
Electronic and Optical Properties of Solids  
Organic and Biological Materials  
Five Elective Graduate Technical Courses (15) 2 15
Materials Science Colloquia (3) 3 3
Materials Science Colloquium (Autumn)  
Materials Science Colloquium (Winter)  
Materials Science Colloquium (Spring)  
Research & Electives (87) 87
75 Units of MATSCI 300: PhD Research
12 Units of Electives 4

At least six of these courses must be taken during the first year (including MATSCI 203 Atomic Arrangements in Solids, MATSCI 204 Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria, and MATSCI 207 Rate Processes in Materials). All core courses must be completed for a letter grade and taken during the first two years in the program.


Elective technical courses must be in areas related directly to student's research interest in Materials Science and Engineering, and may not include MATSCI 230 Materials Science Colloquium, MATSCI 299 Practical Training, MATSCI 300 PhD Research or MATSCI 400 Participation in Materials Science Teaching. All courses must be completed for a letter grade.


Materials Science and Engineering PhD students are required to take MATSCI 230 Materials Science Colloquium during each quarter of their first year. Attendance is required, roll is taken and more than two absences results to an automatic "No Pass" grade.


May include other engineering courses, or MATSCI 400 Participation in Materials Science Teaching or a maximum of 3 units MATSCI 299 Practical Training

  • Students must consult with their academic adviser on PhD course selection planning. For students with a non-MATSCI research adviser, the MATSCI academic/co-adviser must also approve the list of proposed courses. Any proposed deviations from the requirements can be considered only by petition.
  • PhD students are required to apply for and have conferred a MATSCI MS degree normally by the end of their third year of studies. A Graduate Program Authorization Petition (in Axess) and an MS Program Proposal must be submitted after taking the PhD qualifying examination.
  • A departmental oral qualifying examination must be passed by the end of January of the second year. A grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in core courses MATSCI 201-210 is required for admission to the PhD qualifying examination. Students who have passed the PhD qualifying examination are required to complete the Application for Candidacy to the PhD degree by June of the second year after passing the qualifying examination. Final changes in the Application for Candidacy form must be submitted no later than one academic quarter prior to the TGR status.
  • Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all courses taken at Stanford.
  • Students must present the results of their research dissertation at the university PhD oral defense examination.
  • Current students subject to either this set of requirements or a prior set must obtain the approval of their adviser before filing a revised program sheet, and should as far as possible adhere to the intent of the new requirements.
  • Students may refer the list of "Advanced Specialty Courses and Cognate Courses" provided below as guidelines for their selection of technical elective units. As noted above, academic adviser approval is required.
  • At least 90 units must be taken in residence at Stanford. Students entering with an MS degree in Materials Science from another university may request to transfer up to 45 units of equivalent work toward the total of 135 PhD degree requirement units.
  • Students may propose a petition for exemption from a required core course if they have taken a similar course in the past. To petition, a student must consult and obtain academic and/or research adviser approval, and consent of the instructor of the proposed core course. To assess a student's level of knowledge, the instructor may provide an oral or written examination on the subject matter. The student must pass the examination in order to be exempt from core course requirement. If the petition is approved, the student is required to complete the waived number of units by taking other relevant upper-level MATSCI courses.

Advanced specialty courses

APPPHYS 292 (Offered previous years, may be counted)
Computational Structural Biology  
Polymer Science and Engineering  
Advanced Biochemical Engineering  
ME 284A (Offered previous years, may be counted)
ME 284B (Offered previous years, may be counted)
Orthopaedic Bioengineering  
Tissue Engineering Lab  
Fluid Flow in Microdevices  
Biomaterials in Regenerative Medicine  
Bio-chips, Imaging and Nanomedicine  
Electronic Materials Processing  
Integrated Circuit Fabrication Processes  
Principles and Models of Semiconductor Devices  
Advanced Integrated Circuits Technology  
Advanced VLSI Devices  
Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory  
New Methods in Thin Film Synthesis  
Materials Characterization  
X-Ray and VUV Physics  
Fundamentals and Applications of Spectroscopy  
EE 329 (Not offered in 2013-2014)
New Methods in Thin Film Synthesis  
Nanocharacterization of Materials  
Transmission Electron Microscopy  
Transmission Electron Microscopy Laboratory  
Thin Film and Interface Microanalysis  
MatSci 325 (Not offered in 2013-2014)
X-Ray Science and Techniques  
Mechanical Behavior of Solids  
Techniques of Failure Analysis  
Mechanics of Composites  
Microstructure and Mechanical Properties  
Mechanical Properties of Thin Films  
Fracture and Fatigue of Materials and Thin Film Structures  
Finite Element Analysis  
Finite Element Analysis  
Finite Element Analysis  
Theory and Applications of Elasticity  
ME 340A (Offered previous years, may be counted)
ME 340B (Offered previous years, may be counted)
Fatigue Design and Analysis  
Physics of Solids and Computation  
Solid State Physics  
Solid State Physics II  
Applied Quantum Mechanics I  
Applied Quantum Mechanics II  
Basic Physics for Solid State Electronics  
Properties of Semiconductor Materials  
Physics of Advanced Semiconductor Devices  
The Electronic Structure of Surfaces and Interfaces  
EE 335 (Offered previous years, may be counted)
Atom-based computational methods for materials  
Organic Semiconductors for Electronics and Photonics  
Introduction to Magnetism and Magnetic Nanostructures  
ME 344A (Offered previous years, may be counted)
ME 344B (Offered previous years, may be counted)
Soft Materials  
Polymer Science and Engineering  
CHEMENG 460 (Offered previous years, may be counted)
Organic Semiconductors for Electronics and Photonics  
Complex Fluids and Non-Newtonian Flows  

PhD minor in Materials Science and Engineering

The university’s basic requirements for the PhD minor are outlined in the Graduate Degrees section of the Stanford Bulletin. A minor requires 20 units of graduate work of quality and depth at the 200-level or higher in the Materials Science and Engineering course offering. Courses must be taken for a letter grade. The proposed list of courses must be approved by department's advanced degree committee. Individual programs must be submitted to the student services manager at least one quarter prior to the quarter of the degree conferral. None of the units taken for the PhD minor may overlap with any MS degree units.