Doctoral Studies

The Ph.D. program is intended to prepare students for a variety of careers in research, teaching and advanced professional practice in the broad sense of structural engineering, encompassing civil and aerospace structures, earthquake and geotechnical engineering, composites, and engineering mechanics. Depending on the student's background and ability, research is initiated as soon as possible. All students, in consultation with their advisors, develop course programs that will prepare them for the Departmental Comprehensive Examination and for their dissertation research. However, these programs of study and research must be planned to meet the time limits established to advance to candidacy and to complete the requirements for the degree. Doctoral students who have passed the Departmental Comprehensive Examination may take any course for an S/U grade, with the exception of any course that the student's Departmental Comprehensive or Ph.D. Candidacy Examination Committee stipulates must be taken in order to remove a deficiency. It is strongly recommended that all Structural Engineering graduate students take a minimum of two courses (other than research) per academic year after passing the Departmental Comprehensive Examination.

The department also offers a seminar course each quarter dealing with current research topics in Earthquake Engineering (SE 290). Students must take SE 290 every quarter in the first year of graduate study, and it is strongly recommended to take it for at least one quarter in every subsequent year.

All doctoral students will be required to take SE 200, Applied Mathematics in Structural Engineering, prior to taking the departmental comprehensive exam.

Doctoral Examinations: A Structural Engineering Ph.D. student is required to pass three examinations. The first is a Departmental Comprehensive Examination which should be taken within three to six quarters of full-time graduate study and requires a 3.5 GPA. This examination is intended to determine the student’s ability to successfully pursue a research project at a level appropriate for the doctoral degree. It is administered by at least four faculty, three of whom must be in Structural Engineering. The student is responsible for material pertaining to four focus areas. One focus area can be satisfied by course work, provided that all courses in that area have been taken at UCSD, the grade in each course is B or better, and the overall GPA in that area is at least 3.5. In order to insure appropriate breadth, the focus areas should consist of the following: (a) two focus areas within Structural Engineering which are closely related to the student's research interests, (b) one focus area within Structural Engineering that is not directly related to the student’s area of research, and (c) one minor focus area outside the Department of Structural Engineering. An update list of sample focus areas for Ph.D. students is available in the Structural Engineering Graduate Handbook. Minor areas too closely related to the major areas will not be approved by the SE Graduate Affairs Committee. The Solid Mechanics Focus Sequence, which is jointly taught by the Department of Structural Engineering and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, cannot be used to satisfy the outside Structural Engineering requirement. Students intending to specialize in the emerging areas of structural health monitoring, damage prognosis, and validated simulations are advised to take courses in the focus areas of Advanced Structural Behavior and elective courses MAE 283, MAE 261, ECE 251AN, ECE 251BN, ECE 254, and CSE 291 which can be used to satisfy the outside Structural Engineering requirement.

Since the examination areas must be approved by the Structural Engineering Graduate Affairs Committee, students are advised to seek such approval well before their expected examination date, preferably while planning their graduate studies. Although students are not required to take particular courses in preparation for the Departmental Comprehensive Examination, the scope of the examination in each area is associated with a set of three graduate courses, generally in focus areas offered or approved by the department. A list of focus areas is available in the Structural Engineering Graduate Handbook. A candidate can develop a sense of the level of knowledge expected to be demonstrated during the examination by studying the appropriate syllabi and/or discussing the course content with faculty experienced in teaching the courses involved. The Departmental Comprehensive Examination may be a written or an oral examination, at the discretion of the committee.

Teaching experience is required of all Structural Engineering Ph.D. students prior to taking the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination. Teaching experience is defined as lecturing one hour per week in either a problem-solving section or laboratory session, for one quarter in an undergraduate course designated by the department. The requirement can be fulfilled by serving as a teaching assistant or by taking SE 501  for academic credit. Students must contact the Student Affairs Office to plan for completion of this requirement.

The Ph.D. Candidacy Examination is the second examination required of Structural Engineering doctoral students. In preparation for the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination, students must have completed the Departmental Comprehensive Examination and the Departmental Teaching Experience requirement, obtained a faculty research advisor, have identified a topic for their dissertation research, and have made initial progress in that research. At the time of application for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral committee responsible for the remainder of the student's graduate program is appointed by the Graduate Council. In accordance with Academic Senate Regulations 715(D): “A doctoral committee of five or more members shall be appointed by the dean of Graduate Studies under the authority of the Graduate Council. The committee members shall be chosen from at least two departments, and at least two members shall represent academic specialties that differ from the student’s chosen specialty. In all cases, each committee must include one tenured UCSD faculty member from outside the student’s major department.” The committee conducts the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination, during which students must demonstrate the ability to engage in dissertation research. This involves the presentation of a plan for the dissertation research project. A short written document describing the research plan must be submitted to each member of the committee at least two weeks before the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination. The committee may ask questions directly or indirectly related to the research project and general questions that it determines to be relevant. Upon successful completion of this examination, students are advanced to candidacy and are awarded the Candidate of Philosophy degree. The Ph.D. Candidacy Examination is an oral examination.

The Dissertation Defense is the final Ph.D. examination. Upon completion of the dissertation research project, the student writes a dissertation that must then be successfully defended in an oral examination and public presentation conducted by the doctoral committee. A complete copy of the student's dissertation must be submitted to each member of the doctoral committee at least four weeks before the defense. While the copy of the dissertation handed to the committee is expected to be complete and in final form, it should be noted that students are expected to make changes in the text per direction of the committee as a result of the defense. This examination cannot be conducted earlier than three quarters after the date of advancement to doctoral candidacy. Acceptance of the dissertation by the Office of Graduate Studies and the university librarian represents the final step in completion of all requirements for the Ph.D.

Ph.D. Time Limit Policy. Pre-candidacy status is limited to four years. Doctoral students are eligible for university support for six years. The defense and submission of the doctoral dissertation must be within seven years.

Evaluations. In the spring of each year, the department faculty members evaluate each doctoral student's overall performance in course work, research, and prospects for financial support for future years. A written assessment is given to the student after the evaluation. If a student's work is found to be inadequate, the faculty may determine that the student cannot continue in the graduate program.