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Structural Engineering

Aerospace Biological Civil Geotechnical Mechanical

Graduate Program

Photo submitted by: Aneesh Keni (Site visit to The Diegan in downtown San Diego as part of class, SE 211 Advanced Structural Concrete)

Prospective Graduate Student Open House - 2023 Date TBA (more details to follow; by Invitation Only)

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The Department of Structural Engineering at UCSD offers instruction leading to the degrees of master of science (M.S.) and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in structural engineering (SE) that are typically found in civil engineering or aerospace engineering departments in other institutions.


The M.S. degree programs are intended to provide students with additional fundamental knowledge as well as specialized advanced knowledge in selected structural engineering aspects over and above the undergraduate degree course work. It is aimed at training skilled professionals in structural engineering with the academic and engineering credentials to assume leadership roles in industry and academia. Currently, the department has three MS programs:

  •  MS in Structural Engineering (SE 75)
  •  MS in Structural Engineering with Specialization in Structural Health Monitoring & Non-Destructive Evaluation (SE 81)
  •  MS in Geotechnical Engineering (SE 82)

The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program is intended to prepare students for careers in teaching, research, and/or in their chosen professional specialties. The Ph.D. program requires a departmental comprehensive examination, a Ph.D. candidacy examination, a Ph.D. dissertation based on new and unique research, and a dissertation defense. The student is required to closely work with a faculty advisor.

All of the degrees offer opportunities for training in one or more of the following primary research areas within our department:

  1. Earthquake Engineering (GAC contact: Prof. Georgios Tsampras) focuses on the analysis, numerical simulation, and design of structures subjected to seismic-induced loads. Courses available to graduate students provide the fundamental knowledge required to solve engineering problems from practice and research.
  2. Aerospace Structural Systems (GAC contact: Prof. Hyonny Kim) is focused on the engineering design, analysis, and evaluation of high performance lightweight structures which are made of composite materials and emerging advanced manufacturing methods. Research and teaching employs fundamental solid mechanics and structural engineering to address problems such as buckling, vibration, impact and dynamic response, damage tolerance, aeroelasticity, design optimization, joining and repair, and manufacturing defects effect on performance. 
  3. Geotechnical Engineering (GAC contact: Prof. Ingrid Tomac) focuses on fundamental and applied concepts of soil and rock behavior and relates to civil structures through foundations, retaining structures, soil improvement, tunneling, and earthen dam design. The program aims to advance earthen material constitutive models theory, laboratory assessment of soils and rocks, numerical approaches, and implementation of concepts to novel topics like energy geotechnics, bio-geotechnics, and sustainability. The goal is to equip students with knowledge of theories and design approaches that complement the placement of civil structures on earth and into the earth, making them resilient to earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, and other adverse climate change effects, as well as how to utilize geotechnical structures for renewable geothermal energy extraction.
  4. Structural Health Monitoring, Prognosis, and Validated Simulations (GAC contact: Francesco Lanza Di Scalea) is a multi-disciplinary degree program that integrates training across structural engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science to facilitate monitoring and life cycle management of systems. The goal is to assemble competencies across data acquisition/sensing, signal processing, and predictive modeling and apply them in a paradigm of assessing current and future structural performance.
  5. Computational and Data-Driven Structural Engineering (GAC contact: Prof. Shabnam Semnani) is at the intersection of engineering mechanics, applied mathematics, data science, and computational science, and it is aimed at developing new methods and algorithms for solving computationally-challenging problems in the design, analysis, and operation of structures. The goal is to teach students how to apply state-of-the-art computational approaches to analysis and design of structural systems, and apply scientific machine learning to various sources of data pertaining to those systems.
  6. Advanced Composites and Materials (GAC contact: Prof. Yu Qiao) is focused on structural composite materials and novel multifunctional materials. The goal is to teach students to understand the fundamentals of mechanics of composites, composites manufacturing and properties, and materials processing and characterization, and apply them in structural analysis, structural design, and development of advanced materials and systems.

Financial Support

All accepted PhD students will be offered a financial support package in accordance to the Graduate Funding Reform & Policy.  This policy currently states: "Effective winter quarter (2020), Doctoral and MFA students who were admitted with a guarantee of support must be supported at the minimum of the equivalent of a 50% Teaching Assistantship." For the Structural Engineering Department, this support will be for the duration of our PhD program, typically up to five years. 

Financial support may come in the forms of university fellowships, research assistantships, and Teaching Assistantships. The fellowships include the Department fellowships and those provided by the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Office of Graduate Studies. The fellowship award normally starts in October through the end of September. The Jacobs School of Engineering fellowships are reserved for first-year Ph.D. students only.

Incoming M.S. students in the Comprehensive Exam program Structural Engineering are not offered financial support when admitted into the program. M.S. students enrolled in the Thesis program may be supported by their research advisors and paid as a Graduate Student Researcher, but will not be offered financial support when admitted. Additionally, the funding may not start until after the M.S. student completes coursework and is ready to start the research. 

Teaching Assistantships are available on a quarterly basis to Ph.D. students. All graduate student TA’s & Reader’s employed at 25% time or more are eligible for Partial Tuition fee remission that will reduce their Registration fees quarterly. Non-resident tuition is usually paid by the student if they are only supported by a 25% time Teaching Assistantship.

Continuing and incoming Ph.D. students that are employed as Graduate Student Researchers will have the opportunity to receive pay increases after passing the Candidacy examination. The maximum stipend allowed by the department for students employed as Graduate Student Researcher is 49% rate at Step 7. The faculty research advisor in charge of the funded research project assigns the duties of a GSR. These appointments are subject to the availability of research funds each year.

FINANCIAL AID: http://students.ucsd.edu/finances/financial-ai
Graduate Financial Support Page: https://grad.ucsd.edu/financial/index.html 

Cost of Study

In 2022-2023 full-time students who are California Residents pay an estimated $5,969.33 per quarter in registration fees. Non-residents pay an estimated total of $11,003.33 per quarter for registration, supplement tuition, and incidental fees. There is a reduced-fee structure for students enrolled on a half-time basis. Costs are subject to change.  For more information, please review the Graduate Division Office's tuition and fees.

Residency Requirements

Non-residents of the state of California must establish residency immediately upon entering the State. If students do not establish residency by the end of their first year of study, out of state tuition WILL NOT BE COVERED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. This means that even if a student holds a TA or Graduate Student Researcher position, the out of state tuition will not be covered under these jobs.

Living and Housing

UCSD provides apartments for graduate students. There is also a variety of off-campus housing in the surrounding communities. Information in this regard may be obtained from the UCSD Housing Office.

On Campus Graduate Housing: https://hdhgradfamilyhousing.ucsd.edu/

Off Campus Housing: https://offcampushousing.ucsd.edu/

Department Facilities

The unique education and research opportunities are provided by faculty expertise across a range of specialties in materials and structural systems of different types and scales, and through the specially designed laboratories including the world-renowned Charles Lee Powell Structural Research Laboratories. This unique facility consists of a set of large-scale testing laboratories where full-scale structural systems ranging from bridges and buildings, ship hulls and deck structures, to aircraft wings and structural systems can be tested using state-of-the-art computer-controlled equipment.

The Structural Systems Laboratory houses a 15-m tall reaction wall and a 37-m long strong floor, while the Structural Components Laboratory has a 9-m tall by 19-m wide strong wall with a 14.3 -by 21.3-m strong floor, and the Composites Structures Laboratory has a 9-m tall by 5.5-m wide strong wall with a 14.3 -by 7.2-m strong floor. The facility also includes a high-capacity shake table and a geotechnical laboratory including a centrifuge and soil boxes. The research facilities also include state-of-the-art nano-materials characterization facilities, polymer and composite characterization and processing laboratories, composites and aerospace structures laboratories, non-destructive evaluation laboratories, structural dynamics laboratory, a unique 6-DOF seismic response modification device test facility, and other unique facilities.

The Englekirk Structural Engineering Center is equipped with the world's first outdoor shake table adjacent to the country's largest soil-structure interaction test facility, allowing researchers to perform dynamic earthquake safety tests on full-scale structural systems. It also houses a blast simulator, which is the world’s first facility designed to study structural response to, and damage caused by, bomb blasts without creating actual explosions. Besides enabling one-of-a-kind experiments, the laboratory facilities enable the validation of sophisticated design and analysis models, which are subsequently used for design, numerical prediction, and detailed parametric studies. Thus, a complete systems approach from materials development and large-scale experiments to implementation of sensor networks and development of design recommendations and nonlinear analytical models is typical for research projects in the Department.


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