Jul 22, 2024  
Graduate Record 2020-2021 
Graduate Record 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Chemical Engineering

Return to: School of Graduate Engineering and Applied Science: Departments/Programs  

Overview of Graduate Programs

The Department of Chemical Engineering offers graduate programs leading to these degrees:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Master of Engineering (M.E.)*
  • Master of Science (M.S.)**

*With the exception of an M.E. degree program offered using a distance-learning format, (VEO program), all graduate study in the Department requires full-time attendance.

**New Masters students are typically only admitted to the M.E. program. In cases where a Chemical Engineering faculty member is willing to serve as thesis advisor, it may be possible for M.E. students to transition to a thesis-based M.S. degree.

Doctor of Philosophy

The major elements of the doctoral program are:

  1. Research Examination and Admission to Doctoral Study
  2. Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy
  3. Teaching assistant experience
  4. Research
  5. Dissertation and Final Defense

It is expected that the Ph.D. program will be completed in five years beyond the B.S. degree or three years beyond the Master’s degree.

Master of Engineering and Master of Science

The Master of Engineering (M.E) degree can be completed through coursework alone. Students will take five core graduate courses dealing with the fundamental aspects of chemical engineering.  These courses comprise half (15 credits) of the minimum 30-credit requirement for the Master’s degree. The M.E. requires three to five elective graduate courses, depending on whether a student enrolls in a research credit course (for a maximum of 6 credits).

In cases where a Chemical Engineering faculty member is willing to serve as thesis advisor, it may also be possible for M.E. students to transition to the thesis-based Master of Science (M.S.) degree. The Master of Science degree requires an independent research effort culminating in a written thesis that must be defended before an examining committee. The M.S. degree requires three elective graduate courses, in addition to the five core graduate courses.


Doctoral Program

Possessors of the doctorate are understood to have mastered in depth a segment of human knowledge and to have contributed significantly to that body of knowledge. The doctoral program includes advanced course work but emphasizes the conduct of original research.

In assessing prospective candidates for the doctorate, the faculty will consider the student’s overall academic record, prior performance in research, and the evaluations of appropriate references. Formal requirements for admission to doctoral candidacy include, in addition to advanced course work, satisfactory performance on the Research Examination, and the preparation of an acceptable dissertation proposal. In all of these, the student will be expected to demonstrate familiarity with the fundamental concepts and techniques of chemical engineering and, above all, to be able to apply these concepts and techniques to original and ill-defined situations.

Program Structure and Duration

The major elements of the doctoral program, described in detail below are:

  1. Research Examination and Admission to Doctoral Study
  2. Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy
  3. Teaching assistant experience
  4. Research
  5. Dissertation and final examination

Residency requirements for the degree are set by SEAS.

The Ph.D. candidacy procedureculminates with Admission to Candidacy and consists of two parts: (1) the oral and written Research Examination and Admission to Doctoral Study; and (2) the Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy.  Students apply to undertake the Research Exam.


Residency requirements for the degree are set by SEAS.


Financial Support and Satisfactory Progress

As detailed in their offer letter of admission, students admitted to the University of Virginia Department of Chemical Engineering Ph.D. program receive a stipend and all tuition and fees will be paid by the Department as long as the student maintains satisfactory progress. The University also pays for health insurance for all full time graduate students who choose to accept the University’s health plan.

Satisfactory progress in the University of Virginia Chemical Engineering Ph.D. program requires:

  1. A graduate student to successfully find a suitable research advisor approved by the Department of Chemical Engineering in their first academic year.
  2. Passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam
  3. A grade of “satisfactory” assigned for research credit hours.
  4. A cumulative GPA of 3.0*
  5. Since students are expected to complete the Ph.D. program in 5 years beyond the B.S. degree, financial aid is not guaranteed beyond 5 years after matriculation at UVA. Continued funding past 5 years is at the descretion of the advisor and approval of the department. Four years beyond matriculation will be the expectation for students entering with a Masters degree in chemical engineering.

*Although there are no specific elective departmental course requirements for the doctoral degree, students should work closely with their advisors on how to structure their electives. Their coures should ensure both depth in the specific research area and breadth in the chemical engineering and related sciences. 

I. Research Examination and Admission To Doctoral Study

All Ph.D. students must pass a Ph.D. research examination in the beginning of their second year. After passing the Ph.D. research examination, the student may elect to complete an M.S. degree, but is not required to do so (unless specifically deemed necessary by the faculty or research advisor.) The Research Examination is to be taken within one month after completing the first summer of research. The student is to describe, in both written and oral forms, his/her research progress to that time as well as plans for further work. Although the motivation, background and technical originality of the research are important components, the overall goal is to assess the student’s aptitude for research. The written document and oral presentation will be limited in length. Following the oral presentation to the faculty exam committee, faculty serving on the committee will ask the student questions on their research will include a focus on connections to core chemical engineering principles, e.g., Thermodynamics, Transport, Fluid Dynamics, Heat Transfer, etc. The outcomes of this exam are pass, pass with conditions, or fail. Students failing the exam taken in September will have an opportunity to retake the exam at the end of the fall semester. Students must indicate in writing their intention to take the Research Exam when it is announced.  Admission to Doctoral Study is a formal action of the departmental faculty. It indicates acceptance of the student into the ultimate research phase of the doctoral program. In order to be admitted to doctoral study the student must have:

      1. Completed a program of advanced course work, here or elsewhere, equivalent to the department course requirements for the Master’s degree.

      2. Passed the  Research Examination

      3.  Demonstrated to the faculty’s satisfaction, a capability for independent research of the quality expected for the doctorate

II. Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy

Doctoral students are required to prepare a written Dissertation Proposal.  The proposal should indicate the purpose and objectives of the work to be undertaken, the current state of the art with bibliography, and the strategy to be followed and techniques to be employed in the research. Preliminary data, calculations, and/or theoretical developments may be included in support of the proposed work.The proposal document should also include a one-page outline summarizing career planning activities prior to the proposal and the career planning trajectory moving forward. The proposal will be presented orally and discussed publicly. 

The Doctoral Advisory Committee must include a minimum of 3 ChE faculty, one additional UVA faculty member from outside the student’s home department, and a minimum of 4 total members. The outside member must be UVA faculty. The commitee should be chaired by a CHE faculty member other than the research advisor. 

The purposes of the dissertation proposal are:

  1. to determine if the student’s knowledge of the area chosen for research and the pertinent literature is adequate.
  2. to determine whether the proposed work, if completed, would provide the basis for an acceptable dissertation
  3. to advise the student on general approaches and specific techniques that may be helpful in the proposed research.

If, in the judgement of the advisory committee, the student’s proposal is not satisfactory, the student may be required to submit a revised proposal for further discussion with the Advisory Committee.

The dissertation proposal should be completed within two years of completing the research exam (doctoral qualifying exam). Upon successful defense of the Dissertation Proposal, the student will be admitted to candidacy for the doctorate. PhD students are encouraged to consult with their thesis committee not later than six months prior to the thesis defense to briefly discuss progress since the thesis proposal and plans for work to complete prior to the defense.

III. Teaching Experience

To contribute to the educational and professional development, each doctoral student must serve as a graduate teaching assistant for a minimum of one semester. A grade of “S” is required for at least one semester of teaching assistantship in order to graduate.

IV. Research

Research begins as soon as the student has chosen a research advisor. Research remains a primary focus of the student throughout enrollment in the graduate program.

VI. Dissertation and Final Examination

Finally, the candidate must present and publicly defend a dissertation based on his/her independent original research to a committee that includes the Doctoral Advisory Committee and one additional member for a total of 5 faculty members. Dissertations should be submitted to committee members two weeks prior to the defense date.


Master’s Programs

The Department of Chemical Engineering offers graduate programs leading to Master of Engineering (M.E) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees.  Basic (“core”) course requirements (see below) are identical. The M.S. degree requires an independent research effort culminating in a written thesis while the M.E. degree can be completed with only coursework.


A master’s degree, either M.E. or M.S., fulfills several roles in the overall scheme of engineering education.  Its first – and surely its most important – function is to enable students to solidify and enhance the knowledge and skills developed in the ever more demanding undergraduate curriculum.  Another purpose is to provide students with an opportunity to carry out significant research or project work independently, with the advice and guidance of a faculty member.

Finally, a master’s degree program permits students to undertake some specialization.  Virginia’s graduate chemical engineering program offers such opportunities in a number of fundamental areas of chemical engineering (fluid mechanics, mass transfer, thermodynamics, reaction engineering, molecular simulation) and in various aspects of applied chemistry and chemical technology, biotechnology, biochemical engineering, catalysis, electrochemistry, environmental engineering, materials, rheology and surface science.

Program duration

The master’s program is ordinarily begun in the fall semester, with the required course work being taken during the fall and spring semesters. If a student transfer to M.S., thesis research or project work, begun during the academic year, is then carried out on a full-time basis during the following summer and academic year.

Students must complete all requirements for the M.S. degree within five (5) years after admission to the graduate program and must complete all the requirements for the M.E. degree within seven (7) years after admission.

Degree requirements

A minimum of thirty (30) credits – or “semester hours” – of graduate level courses are required for a master’s degree, either M.E. or M.S. in chemical engineering. Degree candidates must complete an approved plan of studies incorporating the following:

For the M.E. degree:

  1. A minimum of 30 credits of graduate course work including the five core chemical engineering courses.
  2. Of the 30 required credits, a maximum of 6 may come through enrollment in CHE 7995.

For the M.S. degree:

  1. A minimum of 24 credits of graduate course work including the five chemical engineering core courses.
  2. A minimum of 6 credit hours of research carried out under thesis course, CHE 8998.
  3. Presentation of an acceptable thesis based on research conducted under CHE 8998.

All candidates for master’s degrees should regularly attend the graduate seminar (CHE 7796).

Transfer credit may be approved for inclusion in the plan of studies for the master’s degree.  Only graduate courses completed at another institution of recognized standing will be considered. Candidates for the M.S. degree may include a maximum of six (6) semester hours of transfer credit; candidates for the M.E. may include a maximum of twelve (12).  Application for transfer credit is made on the Request Approval of Transfer Credits form located at:  http://www.seas.virginia.edu/advising/allforms.php

Chemical Engineering Core Courses

The five “core graduate chemical engineering” courses are:

  • CHE 6625 - Transport processes
  • CHE 6665 - Techniques for chemical engineering analysis & design
  • CHE 6615 - Advanced thermodynamics
  • CHE 6618 - Chemical reaction engineering
  • CHE 6630 - Mass transfer.

Persons who have completed equivalent work elsewhere before entering the program will not be required to take the corresponding course at UVa.


Newly enrolled graduate students will be advised by the Graduate Program Coordinator. Soon after the start of the fall semester, new graduate students will receive a list of current research topics being offered and will select a topic for their thesis dissertation.  The faculty member with whom the student will work then becomes his or her advisor. 

Plan of study

Each candidate for the master’s degree must submit a Plan of Study (available in the department office), approved by the advisor and the department.  It is most appropriate to prepare this during pre-enrollment at end of the first semester of graduate study.

The recommended course load for master’s degree candidates is four 3-credit graduate courses per semester.  Students who wish to carry more than four courses in a semester must secure the recommendation of their advisor and the approval of the departmental faculty.

Application for degree

Candidates for the master’s degree must make formal application on the Application for Graduate Degree form (http://www.seas.virginia.edu/advising/allforms.php) as well as through SIS.  Deadlines for application are:

October 1 for January graduation

February 1 for May graduation

June 1 for August graduation

M.S. thesis and examination

After the student’s MS thesis has been approved by his/her advisor, an examining committee will be appointed.  This committee consists of at least three UVA  faculty members; two faculty members must be from Chemical Engineering.  The Final Examination Committee form (http://www.seas.virginia.edu/advising/allforms.php) is used to request appointment of the examining committee.  Copies of the thesis should be given to the committee members at least one week before the date of examination.

After the thesis has been approved by the examining committee, the Report on Final Examination will be sent to the Dean from the department.  The student is responsible for submitting the thesis electronically through LIBRA.  (http://libra.virginia.edu/)


Quality of work

Graduate students are expected to maintain high standards of quality in their graduate courses and in their thesis research or project work.  Any graduate student whose grade-point average (GPA) in graduate level courses falls below B (GPA = 3.0) will be placed on probation.  Such students will be subject to dismissal if the cumulative GPA is not raised to 3.0 within one semester.