Aims and Scope of the Graduate Program
The graduate program is designed to give students an understanding of general phenomena in synthesis–structure–property relationships in all materials, plus a detailed understanding of phenomena for at least one broad class of materials such as: physical materials science (solid state physics, quantum mechanics); mechanical materials science (micromechanics, continuum mechanics); soft materials (polymer chemistry/physics, chemical bonding); or oxide materials science (mineralogy/mineral physics). After completing the Ph.D. program, students have pursued careers in teaching and research at colleges and universities, in research for government and industry, in the operation and control of manufacturing processes, and in management and development positions in the materials industry.
Students may enter the graduate program in materials science with undergraduate preparation in physics, chemistry, engineering, or materials science. Students interested in terminating their graduate study at the master’s level are not normally admitted. Students in the Ph.D. program are required to complete a set of core courses, pass an oral candidacy examination, complete a thesis describing original research in materials science or a related field, and publicly defend their thesis work.
MS Preparation for the Graduate Program
Students who have not specialized in materials science as undergraduates, as well as those who have, may be admitted for graduate study. As preparation for advanced study and research, entering graduate students are expected to have a thorough background in undergraduate mathematics, physics, and engineering. An outstanding four-year undergraduate program in mathematics and sciences is also a suitable background. The qualifications of each applicant will be considered individually, and, after being enrolled, the student will arrange their course of study and research in consultation with members of the faculty and the materials science option representative.
MS Master’s Degree
The degree of Master of Science in materials science is only awarded to students who do not already have an M.S. degree in Materials Science. The degree will be awarded upon request by students who have fulfilled the requirements. Only in exceptional cases is there admission to the M.S. program as the final degree objective.
Each student is assigned to a member of the faculty who will serve as the student’s adviser. The adviser and option representative for materials science will approve the student’s course of study. Study for the degree of Master of Science in materials science will ordinarily require at least three terms of courses. The courses shall be chosen from the list of core courses below, although 27 units of research (MS 200 or equivalent) may be substituted for 27 units of lecture or laboratory courses. Completion of 111 units of these courses within two years with no grade less than a C constitutes the academic requirements for the M.S. degree.
- Materials Science Core – 27 units
- MS 131, MS 132, MS 133
- Thermodynamics – 27 units
- APh/MS 105abc or (ChE/Ch 164, ChE/Ch 165 + APh/MS 105c) or (Ae/ME 118 + APh/MS 105bc)
- General Electives – 36 units
Students are required to take at least 9 units on a) Specific Materials and at least 9 units on b) Fundamentals of Materials Behavior.
- Specific Materials
- Choose from: APh 114abc, Ch 120, Ch 121ab, Ch/ChE 147, ChE/Ch 148, Ge 114ab, ME/MS/Ae/AM 224, MS/APh 162
- Fundamentals of Materials Behavior
- Choose from: Ae/Ge/ME 160ab, Ae/AM/MS/ME 213, Ch 117, Ch 125ab, GE 214, ME/MS/AM 221, MS/ME/MedE 116, MS 121, MS/APh 122, MS 125, MS/APh 141, MS 142, MS/ME 161, MS/ME 166, MS/APh 171, MS/APh 256, Ph 125ab
- Specific Materials
- Mathematics – 18 units
- Choose from: ACM/IDS 104, ACM 100ab, ACM/IDS 101ab, ACM/EE 106ab, CMS/ACM/IDS 107, MS/APh 141, Ph 129ab
- Materials Research Lecture Seminar Series – 3 units
- MS 110abc
MS Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
The doctoral program in materials science consists of a series of preparatory classes, followed by an oral candidacy exam, a written thesis, and a final oral thesis defense. The goals of this program are to develop excellence in a chosen field of specialization; to develop tools with which to assess problems outside the student’s field of specialization; to develop sufficient strength in the physical sciences for self-education beyond formal training; and to cultivate the motivation and foresight to become a productive and influential leader. As such, the graduate program in materials science is designed to be a doctoral program and students are only admitted into the doctoral program. There is no separate master’s program in materials science.
The Ph.D. degree in materials science is focused on research. Study and research programs for the Ph.D. degree are individually planned to fit the interests and background of the student. A comprehensive research project resulting in an original contribution to the field documented by a dissertation is required.
A minimum of three academic years in residence as a graduate student are required by the Institute, and two or more additional years are usually needed for preparation of the thesis.
There is no language requirement for the Ph.D. degree.
No minor is required for the Ph.D. degree. Students are, however, encouraged to take advanced courses appropriate to their particular interests.
Advising and Thesis Supervision
An interim adviser is appointed for each student upon admission to a graduate degree in materials science (typically the materials science option representative). The interim adviser will serve as the primary mentor until the student finds a research adviser. In the first year (no later than the third term), each student must choose a research adviser who will have primary responsibility for supervising the student’s course program and research. The important adviser–advisee relationship requires effort from both parties, and some general expectations are outlined earlier in this section of the catalog. In consultation with their research adviser, the student should then form a Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee. This four-member committee should include: (i) the student’s adviser, and (ii) at least three members of the Caltech professorial faculty. The research adviser and the Thesis Advisory Committee provide the majority of mentoring to the student, offering advice on research, progress toward the Ph.D., future careers, and other aspects of life in graduate school and as a professional scientist.
Requirements for Candidacy for the Ph.D. Degree
To be recommended for candidacy for the Ph.D. degree in Materials Science, the student must, in addition to meeting the general Institute requirements, do the following:
- Courses. To continue in the graduate program, the student must maintain a B– average for each term. Advancement to candidacy requires the successful completion of the program listed under “Core Courses” above. Alternatively, if the student has taken equivalent courses elsewhere, they may prove competency to the instructor of the equivalent course at the Institute and request a waiver of the required course. With the Core Course requirements 1-5, students must complete a minimum of 111 units of courses, numbered 100 or above, before presenting themselves for Ph.D. candidacy. The coursework towards the Ph.D. degree in materials science is typically completed within the first two years of residency at Caltech.
- All courses must be passed with a grade of at least a C, except for courses taken on a pass/fail basis.
- Students must complete the degree progress report online.
- Alternate Subjects or Areas
- Students entering the program with advanced preparation may choose either to substitute more advanced courses in the topical areas shown or demonstrate competency to the course instructor.
- Students may petition the materials science option representative to accept alternative subjects or areas, but such petitions must be submitted before the student registers for the courses.
- Oral Candidacy Examination. This examination should be taken no later than the end of the student’s second year of residence. The student’s research adviser must be on the examining committee, but cannot serve as chair of the committee. The examination is based on the student’s coursework, and how it is related to the student’s planned research area. The student will be expected to deliver a half-hour oral presentation describing research to-date and will answer questions related to this work. This portion of the examination will be followed by more open-ended questions to test general proficiency in materials science. Students who fail the oral examination on their first attempt will be given additional guidelines for further study and an opportunity to retake the examination a second and final time if the committee so recommends. Students who fail the oral examination a second time cannot continue with doctoral studies leading to the Ph.D. Upon recommendation of the examining committee, however, a student may be granted a terminal master’s degree. The approval of the materials science option representative is necessary for registration beyond the third year of graduate residence without successfully completing the candidacy exam.
- Research Competence. The student must have a doctoral research adviser, and must have completed at least 18 units of MS 200. Students who fulfill the requirements above will be recommended for candidacy to the doctoral program and a master’s degree (if applicable) in materials science.
Ph.D. Thesis Requirements
The candidate is to provide a draft copy of the completed thesis to the members of the examining committee (typically the same as the Thesis Advisory Committee) at least two weeks before the final oral examination. The date of the examination and the composition of the examining committee will not be approved by the dean of graduate studies until the thesis is submitted in completed form, i.e., ready for review by the dean, the members of the thesis committee, and the Graduate Office proofreader. Registration is required for the term in which the thesis defense is undertaken, but is not normally allowed beyond the last date of the term. For more information, please see the section entitled “Information for Graduate Students” in the Caltech Catalog.
Ph.D. Final Examination
The candidate is required to take a final oral examination covering the doctoral thesis and its significance in and relation to materials science. It will consist of a public thesis seminar and an associated oral examination on the thesis and related fields. The examining committee must consist of the student’s adviser and three members of the Caltech professorial faculty. The chair of the examining committee must be a Caltech professorial faculty member distinct from the adviser. This examination will be held at least two weeks after the doctoral thesis has been presented in its final form, and prior to its approval.
Registration beyond the Sixth Year of Graduate Residence
The annual approval of the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee or option representative is necessary for registration beyond the eighteenth academic term of graduate residence at Caltech. A petition to continue work toward the Ph.D degree must also be approved by the dean of graduate studies.
MS Subject Minor
Graduate students majoring in another option at the Institute may elect a subject minor in materials science. They must obtain approval from the materials science option representative for a course of study containing at least 45 units of advanced courses with a grade of C or higher. Normally a member of the materials science faculty will participate in the candidacy examination in the student’s major department.
- Students cannot use courses required by their major option in fulfillment of this requirement.
- Students interested in a minor must receive prior approval from the option representative in materials science, who will review and approve the proposed course of study.
- It is recommended that this course of study include advanced courses spanning different subfields of materials science.