The Ph.D. degree is achieved through an intensive program of coursework and independent research in any one of the following areas: (1) Chemical and Environmental Engineering, (2) Electrical and Computer Engineering, (3) Fluids and Thermal Sciences, (4) Materials Science, (5) Mechanics of Solids and Structures and (6) Biomedical Engineering. Each Ph.D. student must be affiliated with one of these research groups, and the faculty in that group will play a central role in defining this program and evaluating student progress.
New Ph.D. students are strongly encouraged to arrange meetings with individual faculty members in their groups during their first semester in residence and to select a research advisor shortly thereafter. At that point, the student, with the approval of his or her advisor, shall devise an appropriate program of study ensuring breadth of knowledge as well as depth of knowledge in a major area that supports the planned dissertation research. The normal residence requirement for the Ph.D. degree is the equivalent of three years of full-time study beyond the Bachelor's degree (i.e. 24 tuition units). At least two semesters beyond the Master's degree must be spent exclusively in full-time study at Brown, although most engineering Ph.D. students spend four to five years in residence at Brown.
The specific requirements for the Ph.D. vary between the different groups. However there are some general requirements that cover all Ph.D. candidates. These can be summarized as:
- Residency Requirement: (University Requirement). The student must complete three years full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree (i.e. 24 tuition units). Two semesters beyond the bachelor’s degree must be spent exclusively in full-time study at Brown University.
- Research Thesis: The student must write and present (“defend”) a Ph.D. dissertation. The thesis must embody the results of original research and significant creative thought and give evidence of high scholarship. The dissertation and the oral defense must be approved by the faculty advisor, one other member of the engineering faculty, and one additional reader outside the School, or within the School but outside the research group, as appointed by the Director of the Engineering Graduate Programs in consultation with their faculty advisor.
- Course Requirements: Students in the Ph.D. program typically take a comprehensive series of courses in the area of their expertise, as well as several other courses in mathematics, physics, engineering and other related disciplines. There is also ENGN 2980: “Reading, Research and Design”, which can be taken for course credit. The number and choice of courses is made in close consultation with the student's advisor who must approve the student's choice at the beginning of each semester. Each research group can define specific courses, which are considered essential for their Ph.D. students.
- Preliminary Examination: This is a comprehensive examination covering the student’s main area of expertise and must be taken no later than the sixth semester of graduate study for a student entering with an Sc.B., and no later than the fourth semester of graduate study for students entering with an Sc.M.The exact timing and format of the exam varies between the different research groups. The details are outlined in the sections below. The results of the examination are presented to the Graduate Committee, along with the student’s academic record, and the recommendations of both the group representative and the student’s Ph.D. advisor. The Graduate Committee then decides whether to certify the student as a Candidate for the degree of Ph.D. in Engineering. In the event of a failing grade, the Graduate Committee will decide whether to re-examine the student, require remedial action, or to request their withdrawal from the graduate program.
- Minor Study: Ph.D. candidates are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one area outside their main expertise. As with the preliminary examination, the number of minor areas of study, and the method by which proficiency is demonstrated is defined and administered by each of the research groups.
- Other requirements: Some of the research groups in the division have additional requirements including research proposals, progress summaries. These are outlined in the following section.