For your convenience information regarding the PhD Qualifying Exams and Candidacy are noted on this page. This information and more is available in the Chemical Engineering Graduate Studies Guide (PDF).

PhD Qualifying Exams

Oral Qualifying Exam

Each student is required to take a subject oral qualifying examination at the beginning of the second term of the first year in residence, the purpose of which is to examine expertise in kinetics, thermodynamics and transport phenomena. The intended level of the exam is approximately that of the corresponding undergraduate courses at Caltech.

Three types of decisions will be possible: pass, provisional pass, fail. A student with a pass or provisional pass is permitted to begin his/her PhD research. However, a student with a provisional pass will usually be required to satisfy some additional requirements, such as successful completion of specified coursework.

Students who fail the oral subject exam may be permitted to repeat the exam (or part of the exam) once at the end of the spring term upon recommendation of the faculty.

See "Ph.D. Qualifying Exams" on page 6 of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Studies Guide (PDF) for details.


Candidacy Exam and Approval of Research Progress Report

A student will be eligible for admission to candidacy upon satisfactory completion of the requirements described in this section.

Prior to admission to candidacy for the PhD degree, a student is required to pass the candidacy examination. This exam consists of two parts: a research progress report and an oral examination based primarily upon the content of the report. A student who fails to pass the candidacy exam according to the timetable and procedures described below will not be permitted to register in any subsequent terms, except for the purpose of completing work toward the MS degree, with the permission of the graduate studies committee and the research advisor.

The written research progress report required for admission to candidacy must be submitted to the faculty before the end of the second term of the second year in residence. The report is to be based upon the PhD research project and is expected to exhibit a professional quality of exposition and should outline the research problem, the progress of the student at the time of writing, and the areas proposed for future study. It is also important that the report provide clear evidence of the student's understanding of the motivation for the research problem and its relevance to the general research area, as well as an appreciation of relevant techniques and methodology. The student should strive for a precise and concise format. Normally, the text itself should not exceed 20 double-spaced, typewritten pages.

The research progress report needs to be approved by an oral examination committee consisting of no less than three faculty members, including the research advisor, and at least one additional member of the Chemical Engineering faculty.

The choice of the oral exam committee will be made by the student and his/her research advisor, and must be approved by the Option Representative.It is the responsibility of the student to obtain approval from each proposed committee member for the date and time of the oral exam. The list of the recommended committee members must be submitted at the same time as the research progress report, and the exam is normally scheduled within two weeks of submitting the report. However, reports submitted within the last week prior to final course exams will normally be examined within the first two weeks of the subsequent quarter. The exam committee may require revision of the report, and possibly a reexamination. In any case, an approved report, including any revisions, modifications etc., must be submitted to the graduate studies secretary before May 15th of the second year in residence, and the reexamination, if required, must be scheduled no later than June 15th. Exceptions to the rule may be granted by the faculty in unusual circumstances such as extended illness or a change of research advisors, but only upon written petition by the student to the graduate studies committee prior to the end of the first term of the second year in residence.

See Procedures for Approval of Research Progress Report and Application for Candidacy for details in our guide to the "Chemical Engineering Graduate Studies Guide," page 8. Please open the Acrobat PDF file for viewing or printing.