University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering

Graduate program

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The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering offers a graduate program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in chemical engineering. The doctorate is a research degree emphasizing extensive and original approaches to problem solving.


Incoming students are assigned a temporary advisor to help plan their programs until they are matched with a major professor. The matching of students and major professors takes place early in the first semester of study based on the mutual wishes and best interests of students and professors.


Doctor of Philosophy Degree


The PhD is a research degree for exceptional students. PhD candidates must complete 51 credit hours of graduate level courses.  Six advanced chemical engineering courses (18 credits) are required, including four selected from the following set of core graduate classes:


CBE 620: Intermediate Transport Phenomena
CBE 660: Intermediate Problems in Chemical Engineering
CBE 710: Advanced Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
CBE 735: Kinetics and Catalysis
CBE 781: Biological Engineering: Molecules, Cells & Systems


Additional graduate-level courses are offered in areas such as fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, polymer science, colloid science, biochemical engineering, nanoscience, process design, process dynamics and control, and chemical reactor design. Students complete a minor of 9 to 12 credits, designed as a coherent body of work to support their research program and interests. In addition, there is an elective course requirement of 3 credits.


Doctoral students submit a written preliminary report describing their proposed dissertation research. This proposal is defended in an oral preliminary examination, in which the student is expected to demonstrate initiative, imagination and a high level of professional ability.


To qualify for the PhD program, a graduate student’s GPA in four core chemical engineering classes and grade on the preliminary examination must meet a minimum standard.


Each student in the PhD program is required to serve as a teaching assistant for two semesters.


Finally, the PhD thesis is defended in an oral exam. Students are expected to complete their PhD degree in five years or less.