For PhD students in the Department of Materials Science and Nanoengineering (MSNE) at Rice University, active research should begin in their first year.

For an in-depth version of the information below, please download our Graduate Handbook [PDF].


Visit General Announcements to review current degree requirements and coursework.

Annual Performance Review

PhD students in MSNE must complete an annual review in conjunction with their advisors.

Preliminary Candidacy Evaluation

Entering Ph.D. students will be subject to a Preliminary Candidacy Evaluation (PCE) for this degree program. The evaluation will be conducted by the end of the first year of enrollment and will be based on a review of the academic performance up to the time of evaluation, including performance in coursework, research progress, and other relevant information.

Students are responsible for working with their advisors in order to ensure that their PCE is conducted in a timely fashion. A panel of three MSNE faculty members selected by the adviser. Once the preliminary evaluation is completed, the reviewed material will be made available to the students. Students not progressing sufficiently within the first year will be dismissed from the program. 

Oral Qualifying Examination

By the end of the third year of enrollment in the graduate program in MSNE, the student must pass an oral qualifying examination. The purpose of this examination is to determine whether the student is qualified to conduct independent research at the technical level required for the Ph.D. thesis. The student’s grasp of fundamental concepts in his/her field and related fields of interest will be examined. A committee consisting of 3 faculty members (advisor, MSNE faculty, and non-MSNE faculty member within the university) will administer the examination. The result of this examination will be the principal factor in the department’s decision as to the student’s admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. program. Should the student fail in this examination, he/she may be allowed to repeat it once only with the recommendation of the examining committee. 

Petition for PhD Candidacy

Achieving candidacy for the Ph.D. implies that a graduate student has:

  1. Completed 45 hours of required courses and seminars
  2. Has a cumulative GPA of 3.0
  3. Passed required coursework exams to demonstrate their comprehensive grasp of the subject area.
  4. Demonstrated the ability for clear oral and written communication, and shown the ability to carry on scholarly work in their subject area.

The graduate student is highly recommended to talk to the graduate administrator for the qualification before he/she plans to file the petition. The Petition for Approval of Ph.D. Candidacy form is submitted to the graduate administrator with the current unofficial transcript and checklist of courses before the start of the fall semester of the fifth year.

Additionally, if a student plans to defend and submit a thesis for the next degree conferral, students must file their petitions for approval of Ph.D. candidacy at the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies before the deadline. Review the academic calendar for deadlines.

Oral Defense

Students may schedule to take the final oral examination in defense of their thesis only after the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies approves their candidacy. A committee consisting of at least three (3) members will conduct the defense. The committee includes the candidate's adviser (the committee chair), a faculty member from MSNE and one from another department within the university. The members of the committee will be announced early enough so that the candidate may discuss with them the nature of the thesis research and the contents of the thesis.

The thesis must be made available to the members of the examining committee at least two weeks before the examination date. Although the examination will be concerned primarily with the candidate's thesis, the questioning may also cover other areas. The oral defense may be scheduled at any time except during official examination periods. Public announcements of the oral examinations for the doctoral degree must be made at least two weeks in advance.


Students must observe the deadlines set by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for submission of the final thesis to receive their degree for either January or May conferral. Otherwise, students have six months from the date of defense to submit their final thesis to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.