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Graduate Program

Doctor of Philosophy

Sequence of Events

This section contains an overview of each requirement as they appear in a temporal progression toward the doctoral degree.

At the start of a Ph.D. the department is responsible for the students' welfare and the quality of the Ph.D. experience. The student and the advisor are matched following an interview (this can be done by telephone) and a careful scrutiny of interests. Another important consideration for the matching of students and advisors is the availability of funding. Doctoral students are not typically admitted without support.

Within twelve months of starting the Ph.D. a student must attempt to pass the qualifying exam. Qualifying exams will be offered at the beginning of the fall semester (i.e., it is anticipated that students will take the exam at the start of their second year as a Ph.D. student), and administered by a qualifying exam committee appointed by the program. The qualifying exam will include written and oral components. Potential outcomes include failure, conditional pass, and pass. The student will be informed of the outcome in a meeting with the advisor and in writing by the Department Chair. An outcome of pass will promote the Ph.D. Student to a Ph.D. Candidate. The terms of any conditional pass must be clearly delineated and agreed upon by the examining committee. Students who do not pass the exam are eligible to petition the faculty for permission to re-take the exam. Such petitions can only be made once, and are reviewed and accepted/declined by vote of the program faculty. Students who fail the qualifying exam and do not petition (or who petition and are declined a second opportunity) will be dismissed from the program.

An individualized curriculum plan must be discussed and approved by the student's dissertation committee within twelve months of starting the Ph.D. Formation of the dissertation committee is the responsibility of the student, with the understanding that the committee must comprise at least 4 members, half of which are to be members of the faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University. At least one member must be from outside the Department. It is also required that the majority of the committee members be Graduate faculty. Members of the graduate faculty include any full-time faculty member having a doctoral degree. At a minimum, seven credits are required beyond a master's degree.

A dissertation proposal must be presented and approved at least twelve months before the dissertation defense. The proposal should be prepared in consultation with the dissertation committee. The Ph.D. proposal should be of a quality suitable for submission to a competitive funding agency. It is very desirable that candidates and advisors actually submit this proposal to a national funding agency. The outcome of the proposal defense is decided by the dissertation committee. Potential outcomes include failure, conditional pass, and pass. Failure of the proposal defense constitutes grounds for dismissal of the candidate. A conditional pass requires that a candidate reconsider the proposal and re-take the proposal defense within six months. Successful completion of the dissertation proposal defense (i.e., an outcome of pass) is a significant milestone towards completion of the Ph.D. degree. In all cases the candidate will be informed of the outcome in a meeting with the advisor and in writing by the Department Chair.

The dissertation defense will occur after completing the committee's requirements. The candidate should seek regular meetings with the committee, approximately every six months. It is expected that the Ph.D. dissertation will lead to published journal articles. The number of publishable articles will be decided by the candidate and the advisor in consultation with the dissertation committee, but at least one article must be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for review prior to scheduling a Ph.D. dissertation defense. Doctoral defenses are open to the public. Candidates are required to submit the details (date, time, location) of the meeting, a dissertation abstract, and a listing of all committee members to the administrative staff two-weeks prior to the scheduled defense. Potential outcomes include failure and a pass, and are decided by majority vote of the committee. Failure of the thesis defense requires that a student substantially rework the dissertation and defend the modified dissertation within twelve months. Candidates passing the dissertation defense are typically required to modify the dissertation as directed by the committee. In either case the candidate will be informed of the outcome in a meeting with the advisor and in writing by the Department Chair.

The final dissertation must be submitted in accordance with university regulations. Tufts University has established requirements and deadlines for submission of the final dissertation. See the Arts, Sciences and Engineering Graduate Student Handbook for more information.