University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
Katherine McMahon collecting water samples.

Associate Professor Katherine McMahon has worked among researchers on an international team to map the metagenome of Accumulibacter phosphatis — the organisms behind an environmentally friendly wastewater treatment process known as enhanced biological phosphorous removal.

The department offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in civil and environmental engineering. The MS program emphasizes the enhancement of professional knowledge and skills, including research techniques. The PhD is a research degree emphasizing more extensive and original approaches to problem solving. Students typically earn an MS first, but may work directly toward the PhD if admitted directly to the PhD program.

 

Incoming CEE graduate students are assigned a temporary academic advisor to help plan their programs until their major professor is determined. Major professors are assigned based on faculty and student interests, funding, and other commitments. Students are strongly encouraged to consult the current CEE Graduate Student Handbook for additional guidance on program requirements.

 

Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering

 

MS degree candidates choose from two options for their program of study: the thesis option (Option A), or the advanced independent study option (Option B). Students without a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, or from a recognized international institution, may pursue a third master’s degree option (Option C). Selection of an option and course plan is dependent upon the educational objectives of the candidate. Regardless of the option selected, the CEE Graduate Associate Chair and the student’s academic advisor (or major professor) must approve a list of proposed coursework during the student’s first semester in the program.

 

Option A — Thesis Option: This option requires a minimum of 30 credits of graduate work, including at least 18 credits of graduate-level coursework and a thesis (CEE 790) worth at least 6 credits. Students who wish to do advanced work and research in a well-defined area of specialization are encouraged to pursue this program. A faculty committee will conduct a final examination on the thesis research.

 

Option B — Advanced Independent Study Option: This option requires a minimum of 30 credits of graduate work, including at least 21 credits of graduate-level coursework and an advanced independent study project (CEE 999) worth at least 3 credits. The student’s written report based on his or her advanced independent study project does not have to meet the UW-Madison Graduate School requirements for a thesis, but has to show independent thinking by the student. Projects may include design, synthesis, engineering practice, or research elements and must result in an engineering report. A faculty committee will conduct a final examination on the advanced independent study.

 

Option C — Master’s Option for Students without Civil Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees: This option is designed for students without a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited institution. To initially become eligible for this program, applicants must meet these requirements, some of which may be completed as deficiencies after admission. As a general rule, students with more than 12 credits in deficiencies are not admitted to the program. Rather, they are encouraged to enroll as special students until more of their deficiencies are satisfied.

 

The exact number of deficiency courses and credits completed before and after admission will be determined by the faculty advisor. In addition to the total deficiency credit requirements, this option requires a minimum of at least 30 credits of graduate-work in CEE. Option C students will choose track Option A Thesis (CEE 790) or Option B (CEE 999) advanced independent study (see above descriptions for Option A and B). A faculty committee will conduct a final examination on the thesis research or advanced independent study. 

 

Doctor of Philosophy in Civil and Environmental Engineering

 

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is the highest degree conferred by the University. It is a research degree and is never conferred solely as a result of any prescribed period of study, no matter how faithful. The degree is only granted on evidence of general proficiency, distinctive attainment in a special field, and, particularly, the ability for independent investigation as demonstrated in a dissertation presenting original research or creative scholarship with a high degree of literary skill. Students should consult their faculty advisors and the members of their committees about improving technical writing and presentation abilities through formal courses or other methods.

 

Basic requirements for a Ph.D. degree in civil and environmental engineering include: (1) Ph.D. Major Coursework; (2) Qualifying Examination; (3) Ph.D. Minor Coursework; (4) Preliminary Examination; (5) Dissertation Research; and (6) Final Oral Examination.

 

Major Coursework: The academic program for each doctoral student is planned on an individual basis. In-depth, advanced coursework in a major departmental area is required.

 

Qualifying Examination: CEE faculty in a student’s area of research determines the coursework needed for a student to prepare for the qualifying examination. The qualifying exam is usually given after one year of graduate study beyond the M. S. degree. However, the student must consult with their advisor and/or the exam coordinator in the major area of study for the schedule and specific procedures. A signature form, verifying that a student has passed the qualifying exam, must be signed by the student’s advisor and returned to the staff in the CEE/ECE/GLE Student Services Office (2304a Engineering Hall).

 

Minor Coursework: The purpose of the minor is to add breadth to a Ph.D. major. Monitoring the course content and credit requirements for Ph.D. minors is the responsibility of the minor department/program. Students are responsible for indicating the expected minor (either Option A or B, see below) at the time of the preliminary warrant request. A Ph.D. Minor Requirements and PhD Major Course Proposal Form, available online, must be approved before, or by the time, the student has completed 6 of the total credits for the minor.

 

Option A (External): Requires a minimum of 9 credits in a single department/program. Selection of this option requires the approval of the minor department/program.

 

Option B (Distributed): Requires a minimum of 9 credits in one or more departments/programs and can include course work in the major department/program. Selection of this option requires the approval of the major department/program (that is, CEE). The CEE Graduate Associate Chair and the student’s academic advisor (or major professor) must review and approve the coursework plan. Department requirements for the Ph.D. minor include:

 

  • An average GPA of 3.00 on all minor course work.

  • Course work must be graduate level (the equivalent of UW-Madison courses 300 level or above; no audits or pass/fail).

  • Maximum 3 credits of independent study (for example, 699, 799, 899, 999).

  • Research and thesis cannot be used to satisfy the minor (for example, 790, 890, 990).

  • No more than 5 credits of course work completed more than five years prior to admission to the Ph.D.; course work taken ten years ago or more may not be used.

 

Preliminary Examination: The preliminary examination may be taken only after approval of the minor coursework plan (see above) and is generally taken at least two semesters prior to graduation. This oral examination is based upon a written proposal and a detailed plan to carry out the Ph.D. dissertation. Students must consult with their advisor for specific details of the requirements for the preliminary examination, and must also consult the current CEE Graduate Student Handbook for additional requirements and guidelines for committee composition. The preliminary examination committee typically becomes the student’s final oral examination committee.

 

The preliminary exam warrant must be requested at least three weeks before the proposed exam date. Exam warrants can be obtained and should be turned into the staff in the CEE/ECE/GLE Student Services Office (2258 Engineering Hall). An approval form is available where the student may check off the completion of the above requirements. The student must attach a current transcript (an unofficial transcript is acceptable) along with this approval form. Upon completing 32 weeks of residence (equivalent to four semesters with a minimum of eight credits taken in each semester), the preliminary examination, and the minor, a student is eligible to become a dissertator. Students must take their preliminary exam at least two semesters before their final defense.

 

Dissertation Research: Attainment of a Ph.D. degree requires the preparation of a dissertation on a research topic selected by common agreement between the student and the advisor. Once a research project is selected, the student must choose their final oral exam committee (typically their preliminary examination committee). The final oral exam committee consists of four faculty members (besides the student’s advisor) in the area of specialization of the student. At least one, but no more than two members of the committee shall be from outside the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Students must consult the current CEE Graduate Student Handbook for additional requirements and guidelines for committee composition.