PhD Requirements & Courses

Our PhD program in CEE has two sub-tracks:

  • Civil Engineering (CE)
  • Environmental Engineering and Sciences (EES)

In both case, to earn a degree, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete 90 credit hours of approved credits past BS (60 credit hours past MS) with high standing, including core course requirements stipulated below
  • Complete core courses required by the department
  • Pass a preliminary written examination
  • Pass a qualifying examination on coursework, proposed research, and related topics
  • Complete a dissertation indicating an ability to do original and scholarly research
  • Pass a formal public oral examination on the thesis and related topics

Core Courses

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, and ensure that minimum core competency expectations are met. For students focusing on civil, structural engineering, and mechanics, coursework must include one course in each of the following areas: structural mechanics and FEM, structural dynamic systems, earthquake engineering, probabilistic mechanics and applied mathematics.

Comparable course work completed previously may be substituted for these core courses. A minimum grade of B- must be achieved for each of these core courses, as well as a minimum average GPA of 3.0.

Civil Engineering

For the CE sub-track, students should take at least six of the following 14 courses:

  • CEVE 500 Advanced Mechanics of Materials
  • CEVE 503 Nonlinear Finite Element Analysis* 
  • CEVE 519 Elasticity, Plasticity and Damage Mechanics*
  • CEVE 524 System Reliability Methods*
  • CEVE 527 Computational Structural Mechanics and FEM*
  • CEVE 531 Reinforced Concrete Buildings
  • CEVE 541 Structural Steel Buildings *
  • CEVE 560 Bridge Engineering & Extreme Events *
  • CEVE 576 Structural Dynamic Systems *
  • CEVE 578 Earthquake Engineering *
  • CEVE 592 Modeling and Analysis of Networked Systems *
  • CEVE 596 System Identification with Machine Learning*
  • CEVE 678 Applied Stochastic Mechanics *
  • CEVE 679 Applied Monte Carlo Analysis

* Offered every two years

Environmental Engineering and Sciences

For the EES sub-track, students should take at least six of the following 10 courses:

  • CEVE 501 Environmental Chemistry
  • CEVE 509 Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering
  • CEVE 511 Atmospheric Processes
  • CEVE 512 Advanced Hydrology and Hydraulics
  • CEVE 518 Environmental Hydropgeology
  • CEVE 534 Fate and Transport of Contaminants in the Environment
  • CEVE 535 Physical Chemical Processes for Water Quality
  • CEVE 536 Environmental Biotechnology and Bioremediation
  • CEVE 544 Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology
  • CEVE 550 Environmental Organic Chemistry

Additional requirements

All PhD students are required to enroll in Seminar, CEVE 601 (fall) and CEVE 602 (spring) each semester while at Rice.

Preliminary Exam

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

Learn more about the Preliminary Exam.

Qualifying Examination

PhD students who pass the preliminary exam are required to form a doctoral committee as soon as possible. The qualifying examination, administered by the doctoral committee after students develop a written research proposal (with reasonably detailed preliminary work and proposed research approach), evaluates their preparation for the proposed research and identifies 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. Petition to re-take 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.

PhD 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 adviser and doctoral committee. The Ph.D. thesis must be submitted to the committee and department at least two weeks prior to the defense. The Ph.D. defense must be scheduled according to the Rice University graduate school requirements (at least fourteen days prior to the date of the defense).

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

The PhD 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.