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Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

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Ph.D. Admission Requirements

Admitted students usually complete the M.S. in chemical or petroleum engineering before they pursue the Ph.D. Students with a completed M.S. degree take the graduate core courses and/or corresponding qualifying examinations based on their previous course work and training, as specified by the graduate standards committee.

An M.S. student in the thesis option (Option A) may apply for a change of status to Ph.D. aspirant if the student

  1. Has achieved a grade-point average of 3.6 or higher in the graduate core,
  2. Has earned no C grades in the graduate core, and
  3. Has passed the preliminary examination of research.

These criteria are evaluated during the third semester of residence by the department’s Graduate Faculty on recommendation of the graduate standards committee. Students who do not meet these criteria must complete the M.S. degree before applying to the Ph.D. program.

In some cases, a student may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program without an M.S. degree. Such admission normally is granted only when the applicant has clearly demonstrated exceptional performance in an undergraduate program and in any graduate work. Students who are admitted to the Ph.D. degree program and who do not complete an M.S. degree in chemical and petroleum engineering generally must satisfy the same grade-point average and preliminary examination requirements for Ph.D. aspirant status as students admitted to the M.S. program, or they complete the M.S. degree before readmission to the Ph.D. program.

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Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Preliminary Examination of Research

The preliminary examination is administered to students requesting admission to the Ph.D. program without earning the M.S. degree. Students taking this examination must have

  1. Completed the graduate core courses at KU (5 in chemical engineering, 4 in petroleum engineering) with a grade-point average of 3.6 or higher and no C grades and
  2. Worked with a C&PE adviser at least 2 semesters on a single research project.

Successful completion of the preliminary examination admits the student into the Ph.D. program with Ph.D. aspirant status. The examination determines the student’s aptitudes for

  • (a) Independent, original, critical thinking;
  • (b) Planning and organizing a research program;
  • (c) Use of previous work and background literature to demonstrate understanding of the planned research within the scope of the larger project and ability to conduct that research;
  • (d) Application of fundamental theory (e.g., equations) to the proposed work;
  • (e) Effective communication of technical work.

The preliminary examination consists of a written report (5 pages maximum), oral presentation (15 minutes maximum), and questions by the examining committee (25 minutes maximum). The written and oral portions are prepared by the student only, with no review or editing by the research adviser or any other person. The written report is submitted to the committee one week before the oral examination. Questions are directed toward determining the 5 aptitudes listed above. Because this is not a mandated activity of the university or the school, the student’s graduate adviser is responsible for its execution.

The examining committee consists of the members of the student’s thesis committee plus a member of the C&PE faculty not already on the student’s research committee. There are 3 possible outcomes: Pass, Pass with Restriction (1 aptitude of the 5 is deficient), and Fail (2 or more aptitudes are deficient). Pass with Restriction status must be corrected by actions set and documented by the examining committee within the same academic semester. Fail status requires the student to retake the preliminary examination within 4 months of the initial examination. The examination can be repeated once. A second failure automatically transfers the student to the M.S. program. Students who do not pass the preliminary examination are not eligible to take qualifying examinations until they have passed the M.S. thesis defense.

Qualifying Examinations

Students entering the Ph.D. program with the M.S. degree must show competence in the areas of the graduate core: computation, transport phenomena, thermodynamics, and kinetics (chemical engineering option); and computation, transport phenomena, reservoir engineering, and enhanced resource recovery (petroleum engineering option). Students take a qualifying examination over each graduate core course the first time it is offered after they complete the course, or within the first year of Ph.D. study, as appropriate. Qualifying examinations are only open to students who already hold the M.S. degree.

Each qualifying examination normally is written and graded by the instructor who last taught the course and is of equivalent difficulty to the final examination for that course. A qualifying examination is waived for a student who completes the graduate core course in that subject at KU with a grade of A or with a grade of B and a B+ on the final examination. Other waivers may be made at the discretion of the graduate standards committee.

The graduate standards committee evaluates competence, taking into account student performance in courses and qualifying examinations. Possible decisions are

  • (a) A student becomes a Ph.D. aspirant and continues in the program.
  • (b) A student who does not pass a portion of the qualifying examination must retake that particular area of the examination at the end of the following semester.
  • (c) At the committee’s discretion, a student showing a lack of competence a second time may be dismissed from the program.
  • (d) A student is dismissed from the program due to a clear lack of competence in multiple subject areas.

Based on the decision, the committee makes a recommendation to the departmental faculty about the student’s status.

  • (a) If performance has been satisfactory, the committee recommends that the student be designated a Ph.D. aspirant.
  • (b) If performance has been clearly unsatisfactory, the committee recommends that the student be dropped from the program.

Once a student has been designated a Ph.D. aspirant, it is the responsibility of the Ph.D. advisory committee to monitor progress.

Ph.D. Advisory Committee

An advisory committee of four or more faculty members is formed for each student when the student is designated a Ph.D. aspirant. The research director normally serves as the committee chair. The committee works with the aspirant to develop an appropriate overall Plan of Study and monitors the progress of the student throughout the remainder of the Ph.D. program.

Plan of Study and Foreign Language or Other Research Skills Requirement

Candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfy the university’s general requirements for the degree. A Plan of Study must be approved by the student’s major professor and examining committee and the departmental graduate studies committee.

Before being admitted to the comprehensive examination, the aspirant must satisfy the department’s basic research skills and responsible scholarship requirements. The research skill requirement provides the aspirant with a research skill distinct from, but strongly supportive of, the dissertation research. One research skill is required. Possible research skills include foreign language, computer science, mathematics, statistics, specific laboratory skills, and specific skills in the physical or biological sciences. The foreign language skill can be obtained by taking a 2-course sequence in the selected language or demonstrated by passing an examination. The selected research skill must be listed on the Plan of Study form. A separate statement attached to the Plan of Study must list the work to be completed to obtain the research skill. The responsible scholarship requirement serves to ensure that students are trained in responsible research practices.

Note: Contact your department or program for more information about research skills and responsible scholarship, and the current requirements for doctoral students. Current Lawrence and Edwards Campus policies on Doctoral Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship are listed in the KU Policy Library.

Credit hours for the Ph.D. degree normally consist of 15 hours of course work beyond the graduate core and 30 to 34 hours of research work as specified in the following table:

Ph.D. Courses in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (15-18 credit hours)

C&PE 800 Seminar
C&PE electives 9
Outside electives 6
C&PE 902 Preparation for the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination 3

C&PE Research (30-34 credit hours)

C&PE 825 Graduate Problems in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (optional) 2-4
C&PE 904 Research 30

The following guidelines apply in selection of course work.

  1. Enrollment in the C&PE seminar (C&PE 800) every semester in residence, usually for 1 credit hour. Students who are required to attend another seminar to satisfy a fellowship or research program requirement may enroll in both seminars for 0.5 credit hour each. Any schedule conflicts should be discussed with both seminar coordinators.
  2. Enrollment in at least 3 graduate-level C&PE courses. These do not include C&PE 902 Preparation for the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination or any graduate seminars. All courses in the C&PE department that count toward the Ph.D. degree must be numbered 700 or above.
  3. Enrollment in at least 2 courses (normally 6 hours) numbered 700 or above outside the department.
  4. For non-KU students, the KU equivalents of courses that have already been counted toward another degree do not count toward the Ph.D. degree.
  5. Normally C&PE 825 Graduate Problems in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is connected in some way to thesis research and counted as research credit. However, if C&PE 825 is used to broaden and diversify the student’s knowledge, a maximum of 3 hours is allowed as course credit.

These guidelines aid in preparing the program for most Ph.D. students. However, there may be exceptions, arising from the student’s academic background and the type of research, when the selection of courses may not adhere to these guidelines. In such exceptional cases, the student’s Ph.D. program must have the approval of the graduate standards committee.

Students must complete a Foreign Language or Other Research Skills (FLORS) requirement based on the research specialization chosen. Work done to fulfill this requirement should involve study in an area complementary to the selected research and should enhance the student’s ability to carry out the research. The FLORS requirement may be satisfied by completing course work in the Plan of Study and/or by demonstrating proficiency in the specialization area. The committee specifically designates those components of the Plan of Study that are to fulfill the FLORS requirement.

Comprehensive Examination

The aspirant takes the comprehensive examination after completion of a majority of the course work for the Ph.D. and all department, school, and general requirements prerequisite to this examination, including the Research Skills requirement. The examination consists of 2 parts: a written proposal for research and an oral examination based on, but not limited to, the research proposal.

For the research proposal, the student is assigned a topic of current interest to the chemical and/or petroleum engineering profession. This assignment is made by an examining committee of at least 5 persons, including the advisory committee and at least 1 person from outside the department. The aspirant identifies a research problem in the assigned topic area and prepares a written proposal for research on this problem. Normally, the written proposal must be prepared over a specified time period of 30 consecutive days. Except in unusual circumstances, the problem must be distinctly different from the dissertation problem.

The examining committee evaluates the research proposal upon completion. If the committee judges it satisfactory, the oral examination part of the comprehensive examination is held. The oral examination is based on the research proposal but also may cover areas peripheral to the proposal.

A student must pass both parts of the examination. Failure of either part constitutes an Unsatisfactory grade on the entire examination. An aspirant who receives a grade of Unsatisfactory may repeat the examination upon the recommendation of the examining committee, but under no circumstances may it be taken more than twice. The examination may not be repeated until at least 90 days have elapsed since the unsuccessful attempt.

To prepare the aspirant for the comprehensive examination, the advisory committee may require enrollment in C&PE 902 Preparation for the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination during the first year of the Ph.D. program.

On receipt of a grade of Honors or Satisfactory on the comprehensive examination, the aspirant is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Ph.D. Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

The doctoral dissertation, based on independent research conducted by the candidate, constitutes the final phase of the doctoral work and must be completed within the prescribed time constraints. Upon acceptance of the dissertation by the advisory committee, the candidate defends the dissertation in a final oral examination. The examining committee consists of at least five persons, including the advisory committee members and at least one person from outside the department.

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Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Undergraduate Courses

  • C&PE 111 Introduction to the Chemical Engineering Profession
  • C&PE 117 Energy in the Modern World
  • C&PE 121 Introduction to Computers in Engineering
  • C&PE 127 Introduction to Petroleum Engineering Profession
  • C&PE 211 Material and Energy Balances
  • C&PE 221 Basic Engineering Thermodynamics
  • C&PE 511 Momentum Transfer
  • C&PE 512 Process Engineering Thermodynamics
  • C&PE 517 Reservoir Engineering I
  • C&PE 521 Heat Transfer
  • C&PE 522 Economic Appraisal of Chemical and Petroleum Projects
  • C&PE 523 Mass Transfer
  • C&PE 524 Chemical Engineering Kinetics and Reactor Design
  • C&PE 527 Reservoir Engineering II
  • C&PE 528 Well Logging
  • C&PE 601 Undergraduate Topics in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
  • C&PE 613 Chemical Engineering Design I
  • C&PE 615 Introduction to Process Dynamics and Control
  • C&PE 616 Chemical Engineering Laboratory I
  • C&PE 617 Drilling and Well Completion
  • C&PE 618 Secondary Recovery
  • C&PE 619 Petroleum Engineering Laboratory I
  • C&PE 623 Chemical Engineering Design II
  • C&PE 624 Plant and Environmental Safety
  • C&PE 626 Chemical Engineering Laboratory II
  • C&PE 627 Petroleum Production
  • C&PE 628 Petroleum Engineering Design
  • C&PE 629 Petroleum Engineering Laboratory II
  • C&PE 651 Undergraduate Problems
  • C&PE 654 Biocatalysis
  • C&PE 655 Introduction to Semiconductor Processing
  • C&PE 656 Introduction to Biomedical Engineering
  • C&PE 657 Polymer Science and Technology
  • C&PE 678 Applied Optimization Methods
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