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Master’s Program

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The master’s program provides training in solid-state fundamentals and materials engineering through advanced lecture courses and laboratory classes.

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Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

The university’s basic requirements for the MS degree are discussed in the Graduate Degrees section of the Stanford Bulletin. The following are specific departmental requirements.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering requires a minimum of 45 units for a master’s degree to be taken in residence at Stanford. A Master’s Program Proposal form (PDF) should be filled out, signed by the student’s academic adviser and submitted to the department’s student services manager by the end of the student’s first quarter of study. Final revisions to the master’s program proposal must be submitted no later than one academic quarter prior to the quarter of expected degree conferral. Stanford Materials Science undergraduates who are pursuing or who plan to pursue a coterminal MS degree may have more flexibility in their programs and should consult with their academic advisers regarding appropriate core course and elective choices.

Degree requirements are as follows:

  1. A minimum of 21 units of Materials Science and Engineering (MATSCI) course work, including core and lab courses specified below, all taken for a letter grade. Research units, one-unit seminars, MATSCI 299 Practical Training and courses in other departments (i.e., where students cannot enroll in a class with a MATSCI subject code) cannot be counted for this requirement.
  2. Of these 21 units of Materials Science requirements, students must include either options.
    1. Option One: Three classes from MATSCI 211-215 core courses and four MATSCI 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, and 176 laboratory courses. One laboratory requirement may be fulfilled by taking a lab course from another engineering department*.
    2. Option Two: Four classes from MATSCI 211-215 core courses and three MATSCI 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, and 176 laboratory courses. One laboratory requirement may be fulfilled by taking a lab course from another engineering department*.
  3. 24 units of approved course electives to result in a technically cohesive program. Of the 24 units of elective courses:
    1. MatSci Electives: 12 of the 24 units must be taken for a letter grade 
    2. Other Approved Electives: 12 of the 24 units must be taken for a letter grade (except for those submitting an MS thesis report).


  1. A maximum of three units may be seminars.
  2. If writing a master’s thesis report, a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 15 units of MATSCI 200 Master’s Research may be counted. Master’s research units may be counted only if writing an MS thesis report. The final version of the thesis report must be signed off by two faculty and submitted to the student services office by the last day of classes of the graduation quarter. See the student services office for details and approval.
  3. A maximum of three units may be undergraduate units, but not courses below the 100-level offering.
  4. The combination of research, seminar, and undergraduate units may not exceed 15 units total.
  5. Activity units may not be counted toward an MS degree.
  6. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 for degree course work.

*Officially approved lab courses:  Appphys 208, Appphys 232BioE 301CCHEM 274, ChemEng 185A, ChemEng 185B, EE 312, ENGR 241, ME 348, CHEM 176, ENGR 210, ME 367.

All proposed degree programs are subject to approval by the student’s academic adviser and the department’s student services manager, who is responsible for assuring that each proposal is a technically cohesive program. The MS degree is expected to be completed within two years during the university’s candidacy period for completion of a master’s degree.

Master’s thesis report

Students wishing to take this option must consult with a MATSCI faculty member initially. Out of the 45 units of MS degree requirements, 9-15 units may be taken in Materials Science master’s research by enrolling in MATSCI 200. Students using 15 units of research toward the degree must participate in a more complex and demanding research project than those using lesser units.

The MS thesis report must be approved and signed off by two faculty members. In general, one is student’s research adviser, if adviser is a non MATSCI faculty member, a second MATSCI faculty is required to sign off on the thesis report. Consult with student services manager about faculty criteria and requirements. Three copies of the MS thesis report in final format should be submitted to two faculty advisers and to the department. The report is not an official university thesis but is intended to demonstrate to the department and faculty student’s ability to conduct and report a directed research project.

As a general guideline, 9 to 12 units of master’s research is a normal load for most students. The report should reflect the number of units taken. For instance, three to four laboratory reports are required for a 3-unit laboratory course. Accordingly, the level expected for 9 units of research would be at least equivalent to three such courses.

Students are advised to submit their thesis draft to faculty adviser readers by the end of fifth week of the quarter in which the units are to be assigned to allow time for faculty comments and revisions. A collated final version of the thesis report should be submitted to the faculty and student services office by the last day of classes of the student’s graduation quarter. The appropriate grade for satisfactory progress in the research project prior to submission of the final report is ‘N’ (continuing); the ‘S’ (Satisfactory) final grade is given only when the report is fully approved and signed off by both faculty members.

In cases where students decide to pursue research after the initial program submission deadline, they should submit a revised MS Program Proposal at least two quarters before the degree is granted. The total combined units of Materials Science research units, seminars, language courses and undergraduate courses cannot exceed 15. If a master’s thesis report is not submitted, units in MATSCI 200 Master’s Research cannot be applied to the department’s requirement of 45 units for the conferral of the master’s degree.

Summer Quarter

Newly-admitted MatSci MS students (as well as other admitted or current students) are invited to take their first Stanford classes online during the Summer quarter prior to arrival on campus.  Summer classes begin in late June, are offered 100% online, and can be accessed worldwide.  Taking classes during Summer gives students the opportunity to complete graduate classes while off campus, and may allow students to graduate earlier.  A list of classes offered in Summer can be found on the SCPD webpage, and may be eligible for elective/core units.

Petition process for transfer from MS to PhD program

Students admitted to graduate programs are admitted specifically into either the terminal MS or the PhD program. A student admitted to the terminal MS program should not assume admission to the PhD program. Admission to the PhD program is required for a student to be eligible to work toward the PhD degree.

A student in the terminal MS program may petition to be admitted to the PhD program by filing an MS to PhD petition form. Petition must include a one-page statement of purpose explaining why the student wishes to transfer to the PhD program, most recent unofficial transcript and two letters of recommendation from members of the Stanford faculty, including one from the student’s prospective research adviser and at least one from a Materials Science faculty member belonging to the Academic Council. Students, who wish to submit a petition for the Ph.D. degree, should plan to complete the below MATSCI core courses during their first year of admission.

  • MATSCI 211 Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria
  • MATSCI 212 Rate Processes in Materials
  • MATSCI 213 Defects and Disorder in Materials
  • MATSCI 214 Structure and Symmetry
  • MATSCI 215 Quantum Mechanics for Materials Science

A grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or better in the core courses is requirement. The MS to PhD petition to transfer should be submitted to the student services manager by the second week of spring quarter of the first year in the MS program.

Transferring to the PhD program is a competitive process and only highly qualified MS students may be admitted. Student’s original application to the graduate program as well as the materials provided for the transfer petition are reviewed. Students must adhere to requirements for the terminal MS degree, and plan to confer the MS degree in the event that the PhD petition to transfer is not approved.