PhD Requirements & Courses

Degree Requirements for the Ph.D in Civil and Environmental

The Ph.D. Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering has two sub-tracks: Civil Engineering (CE) and Environmental Engineering and Sciences (EES). In both cases, to earn a Ph.D. degree, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete 90 credit hours of approved courses at the 500-level and above past BS (60 credit hours past MS degree) with high standing, including core course requirements stipulated below.
  • Complete at least 6 core courses required by the department, specific to the relevant track. A minimum grade of B- must be achieved for each of these core courses, as well as a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Spend at least four semesters in full-time study at Rice and successfully accomplish the following:
    • Pass a preliminary examination.
    • Pass a qualifying examination on coursework, proposed research, and related topics.
    • Complete dissertation indicating an ability to do original and scholarly research.
    • Pass a formal public oral examination on the thesis and related topics.

Core Coursework

Course requirements are stipulated to prepare and train students for rigorous and high-quality education, research, and practice. These courses, usually completed within the first two years of graduate school, are designed to train and test the student's aptitude for higher-level thinking, problem-solving, and independent research. Core courses also contribute breadth beyond minimum competency as civil and environmental engineers. The students are expected to strive for breadth and depth in core course selection, by working with their advisor and preliminary examination committee, to ensure that minimum core competency expectations are met. Reasonable replacements to core courses will be considered and permitted by the CEE graduate committee when requested by the student with approval of the advisor. For example, students may choose core courses from across the tracks when it strengthens their degree program.

Civil Engineering Track

Students should take at least 6 of the following 13 courses:

CEVE 500 (S) Advanced Mechanics of Materials
CEVE 503 (F) Nonlinear Finite Element Analysis
CEVE 514 (F) Coastal Hazards in a Changing Climate
CEVE 524 (F) Time-Dependent System Reliability Methods and Applications *
CEVE 525 (S) Sustainable Infrastructure Materials
CEVE 527 (F) Physics Guided Machine Learning & Data Driven Modeling FEM *
CEVE 531 (F) Reinforced Concrete Buildings
CEVE 539 (S) Advanced Structural Analysis
CEVE 541 (S) Structural Steel Buildings *
CEVE 543 (S) Data-Driven Climate Hazard
CEVE 545 (F) Origami Engineering
CEVE 560 (F) Bridge Engineering & Extreme Events *
CEVE 562 (F) Infrastructure Resilience to Multiple Hazards *
CEVE 576 (S) Structural Dynamic Systems *
CEVE 578 (F) Earthquake Engineering *
CEVE 592 (F) Modeling and Analysis of Networked Systems *
CEVE 596 (S) System Identification of Dynamic Systems with Machine Learning*
CEVE 678 (F) Applied Stochastic Mechanics *
CEVE 679 (F) Applied Monte Carlo Analysis *
*Offered every two years

Environmental Engineering Track

Students should take at least 6 of the following 9 courses:

Students should take at least 6 of the following 9 courses:
CEVE 501 (F) Environmental Chemistry
CEVE 504 (S) Atmospheric Particular Matter
CEVE 509 (S) Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering
CEVE 511 (F) Atmospheric Chem & Climate
CEVE 514 (F) Coastal Hazards in a Changing Climate
CEVE 518 (S) Environmental Hydrogeology
CEVE 521 (S) Climate Risk Management
CEVE 526 (F) Smart Materials for the Environment
CEVE 534 (F) Fate and Transport of Contaminants in the Environment
CEVE 535 (S) Physical Chemical Processes for Water Quality Control
CEVE 536 (S) Environmental Biotechnology and Bioremediation
CEVE 543 (F) Data-Driven Climate Hazard
CEVE 544 (F) Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology
CEVE 550 (S) Environmental Organic Chemistry

Substitutions will be considered when a core course is not offered, or under special circumstances related to the professional goals of the student. Substitutions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require approval by the faculty. Potential substitute courses include:

CEVE 518 (S) Contaminant Hydrogeology
CEVE 520 (F) Environmental Remediation Restoration
CEVE 562 (S) Infrastructure Resilience
CEVE 592 (F) Modeling and Analysis of Networked Systems *
* Offered every two years

Seminar Requirement
Students must successfully complete CEVE 601 (fall) and CEVE 602 (spring) every semester while at Rice.
The departmental homepage shows all scheduled seminars in the current events section.

Preliminary Examination
Ph.D. students in civil and environmental engineering, are scheduled to take the preliminary examination no later than after two semesters of coursework at Rice. A student who passes the written and oral part of the preliminary exam becomes eligible for taking the qualifying examination.

Learn more about the Preliminary Examination.

Qualifying Examination (Thesis Proposal)

The qualifying examination is administered by the doctoral thesis committee after students develop a written research proposal (with reasonably detailed preliminary work and proposed research approach). The committee will evaluate the student’s preparation for the proposed research and identify any areas requiring additional coursework or study. The qualifying exam must be scheduled at least six months before the final defense. Students who fail the qualifying examination will not be granted Ph.D. candidacy. Petitions to retake the exam will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the department chair, who will consider the advice of both the Qualifying Exam and Graduate Studies committees.

Ph.D. Defense

Candidates who pass the qualifying exam are required to write a detailed Ph.D. thesis and schedule the Ph.D. defense under the guidance of their advisor and doctoral committee. The Ph.D. thesis must be submitted to the doctoral committee and the department at least two weeks prior to the defense.

Defense announcements should be submitted by completing the Graduate and Postdoctoral Thesis Defense form.

The Ph.D. defense will typically last two hours. The candidate will make a detailed presentation for approximately an hour; the presentation will be open to the public. This will be followed by a question-and-answer session by the general audience and a closed-door question-and-answer session by the doctoral committee. The candidates who successfully defend their Ph.D. will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.