Graduate Program

Program of Study

The Materials Department offers programs leading to the Ph.D. degree with specializations in the following major areas: Electronic & Photonic Materials (compound semiconductors, quantum structures, advanced lasers, solid state lighting, microelectromechanical systems); Inorganic Materials (ferroelectrics, optical materials, zeolite molecular sieves and catalysts); Macromolecular and Biomolecular Materials (self-assembling polymers, complex fluids, biopolymers, biomembranes, conducting and photonic polymers), and Structural Materials (advanced alloys, ceramics, composites, coatings, structural polymers, multifunctional materials).

The curriculum in each area has the flexibility needed to provide multidisciplinary educational opportunities in the field of advanced materials, encompassing topics such as optoelectronic devices, composites, and micromechanics. Materials synthesis, processing and characterization feature prominently with courses in the processing of ceramics, alloys, composites, semiconductor materials, and polymers, as well as advanced topics in electron microscopy. Programs of study and research are individually tailored to accommodate research needs and student interest. Multidisciplinary education is strongly encouraged by means of joint faculty supervision of research and by the selection of courses. Students are also encouraged to cross over traditional boundaries into other campus departments (for example, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry and Physics) through collaboration and taking courses in those departments, as appropriate. There is no foreign language requirement.

Ph.D. Program

Incoming Ph.D. students are required to design a tentative study program suitable to their interests and research field with the assistance of their advisor and submit it for approval to the Academic Affairs Committee within the first two quarters of residence.

Students admitted with a Bachelor's degree are required to complete a minimum of 72 units of academic work structured in the following manner: 42 units of 200-level courses (excluding seminars and independent study), 15 units of seminars and/or independent studies, and 15 units of thesis research. Up to 8 units of upper division undergraduate courses may be taken for credit toward the 200 level course requirements with prior approval of the student's advisor. Students entering with a M.S. degree may petition to waive certain unit requirements for the Ph.D. (up to 15 units of 200-level courses and a possible six units of seminars) deemed to have been fulfilled by Master's studies elsewhere.

All Ph.D. students are required to complete the following series of core courses in the appropriate sequence:

Matrl 200A - Thermodynamic Foundation of Materials
Matrl 200B - Electronic & Atomic Structure of Materials (Prerequisite: Matrl 200A)
Matrl 200C - Structure Evolution (Prerequisite: Matrl 200A)

In preparation for more advanced and specialized courses within their area of specialization, students are strongly encouraged to complete this core course sequence during their first year of study. A minimum grade of B in each of these courses is required prior to taking the Qualifying Examination (described below).

Additionally, in developing an appropriate interdisciplinary course of study, Ph.D. students are expected to take both the available courses in their major area of interest as well as courses designed to broaden their knowledge of other materials. Individual students are required to develop their study plan in conjunction with their faculty advisor. Most courses will be selected from the main sequence of courses (offered every year) from one of the four principal areas of emphasis in the Department. Students should also not miss the opportunity to take any general or more specialized courses offered on a less frequent basis. The study plan must be approved by the faculty advisor and the department graduate advisor, although it may be modified during the course of the student's program.

Special Preparation for Teaching

All Ph.D. students are required to act as Teaching Assistants for at least one quarter while in residence at UCSB (usually during the first or second year), in either Materials courses or within departments providing courses consistent with the student's undergraduate background.

Students are also required to present research seminars, thereby ensuring that experience be gained in organizing and presenting lectures. Seminars are required at the group level (about one per quarter), the program level (one per year) and at conferences. Such activities enable students to improve the skills necessary for the subsequent pursuit of teaching opportunities.

Advising and Academic Affairs

Decisions regarding the M.S./Ph.D. program and graduate student affairs reside with the Academic Affairs Committee. This committee consists of four faculty, including the Department Chair. The committee is responsible for approving examination and dissertation committees upon consultation with the student and research advisors. It is also the focus for discussions and recommendations concerning improvements in the graduate curriculum and examination procedures.

Each student must select a research advisor within the first quarter of enrollment, preferably earlier, based on mutual research interests and availability of research assistantships. Joint research advising by two faculty members is strongly encouraged to ensure that research programs have a strong multidisciplinary character.

Monitoring Student Progress

The Materials Department has the following system of annual assessments to monitor the student's progress through the Ph.D. program.

Year 1 Preliminary Examination
Year 2 Qualifying Examination (Advancement to Candidacy)
Years 3, 4, ... Progress Assessments
End of Program   Dissertation defense

With the exception of the Dissertation defense, all assessments are performed by a faculty committee within ±2 months of each anniversary of the student's entrance into the department. All assessments are to include a written document (described below for each case), an oral presentation and a period of questions and discussion, after which the committee will render its assessment of the student's progress and make recommendations for future actions. Students must consult with the Graduate Program Assistant regarding the filing of necessary paperwork for each stage.

Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination is administered 10-14 months after the student's entrance into the program. Students who do not meet this deadline may be put on academic probation and may become ineligible for financial support.

The examination committee consists of three faculty members from the student's major field, including the student's advisor. At least two of the members must be ladder faculty with a non-zero percent appointment in Materials, and preferably at least one should be a majority appointment. The committee members are selected by the student in consultation with his/her advisor.

Students with a GPA of 3.5 or better in the graduate program at UCSB are automatically eligible to take the examination. Students with a GPA above 3.2 may petition for a waiver of the 3.5 GPA requirement. The petition is filed with the Graduate Program Assistant and is evaluated by the Department's Graduate Advisor in consultation with the student's advisor. These students shall have two opportunities to pass the Preliminary Examination. Students with a GPA less than 3.2 are ineligible but will have one opportunity to take the Preliminary Examination in the following academic quarter, provided they can increase their GPA to 3.2 and gain the consent of the Graduate Advisor and their research advisor.

The Preliminary examination is intended to assess whether the student has the fundamental knowledge, intellectual maturity and degree of understanding of his/her major field and prospective research topic to be able to write a dissertation proposal successfully over the course of the following year. At least 3 months prior to the examination date the committee will assign the student a specific topic relevant to his/her intended research project. The student will research the literature on the assigned topic, identify key outstanding issues and/or research opportunities, propose ideas on how to address these issues and/or exploit the opportunities, and outline a tentative research plan. The student is expected to prepare a short document (10 pages maximum including a minimum number of figures and suitable references) summarizing his/her findings and ideas. The document must be submitted to the committee at least one week before the examination date. At the examination, the student will present a 30-40 min seminar outlining his/her findings, ideas and prospective research plan. After the presentation, the committee will probe the student's understanding of the subject, his/her knowledge of the fundamentals of materials science relevant to the problem, and his/her ability to think soundly and creatively. It is also expected that by this point in time the student should have had some initial research experiences and be able to relate those to the literature he/she has researched. After the examination the committee may render one of the following decisions, with recommendations for future action or corrective measures as appropriate:

  1. Advance to the Qualifying Examination without reservations.
  2. Advance to the Qualifying Examination with a warning of deficiencies in the student's background or understanding that need to be corrected (e.g. by taking additional courses, independent reading, etc.) by the time of the Qualifying Examination.
  3. Requirement that the student takes the Preliminary Examination again before he/she is allowed to advance to the Qualifying Examination. This second exam must take place within a 2-4 month period following the first one. Failure to advance after the second exam requires the student to leave the program, with the option of completing an MS degree.
  4. Recommendation that the student finishes at the MS level, with an allowance of one year to finish the requirements for that degree.

Qualifying Examination (Advancement to Candidacy)

The Qualifying Examination is administered 22-26 months after the student's entrance into the program. Students who do not meet this deadline may be put on academic probation and may become ineligible for financial support.

The examination committee consists of at least four faculty: three having more than a 0% appointment in the Materials Department (at least one of them preferably with a majority appointment in Materials) and one with no more than a 0% appointment in the Materials Department. One member of the committee, other than the advisor, will serve as Chair of the Qualifying Examination committee. Members of the examination committee are nominated by the student and research advisor and must be approved by the Academic Affairs Committee. The examination committee typically becomes the dissertation committee.

Pre-requisites for the Qualifying Examination include: (i) successful completion of the Preliminary Examination; (ii) completion of the Materials Department core courses (200A, B, C) with a minimum of B in each one of them; and (iii) a minimum 3.5 GPA in the graduate program at UCSB. Students with a GPA above 3.2 may petition the Academic Affairs Committee for a waiver of the 3.5 GPA requirement.

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to assess whether the individual has acquired the requisite understanding of his intended research topic and critical thinking ability to elaborate and execute a sound research plan for his/her dissertation. Some preliminary research is required to elaborate the dissertation proposal, but the exam is not intended to evaluate a project that is well past the planning point.

The examinee must submit a formal dissertation proposal (maximum 10 pages of text plus a sensible number of figures and a substantial list of references) that summarizes the intended research problem, the research approach, results to date, and future directions. This proposal should be submitted to the examination committee at least two weeks before the examination. (Failure to deliver the thesis proposal to the committee on time may result in postponement of the examination.) The format of the examination includes a 40-45 min presentation of the dissertation proposal by the student, during which time only questions of clarification will be allowed. The presentation will be followed by questions from the committee for a period of approximately 60-80 min. A decision will be rendered by the committee at the end of the examination, with one of the following recommendations:

  1. Advance to Candidacy without reservations.
  2. Advance to Candidacy with reservations, which should be re-evaluated in the subsequent annual assessment.
  3. Requirement that the student takes the examination again before he/she is allowed to advance to Candidacy. This second exam must take place within a 6 month period following the first one. Failure to advance to candidacy after the second exam requires the student to leave the program, with the option of completing an MS degree.

Annual Progress Assessments

After advancement to candidacy, each student is required to report his/her progress to the dissertation committee at least once a year on a formal basis (i.e. 36±2, 48±2 and, if needed, 60±2 months after the student's entrance into the program). Students who do not meet this deadline may be put on academic probation and may become ineligible for financial support.

The student is expected to prepare a short written progress report for the committee, deliver it to the members and meet with them for an oral presentation of the progress report and discussion of his/her progress, research findings and ideas for the remaining work. The committee will assess the progress and provide advice to the student on problems that may hinder the completion of the dissertation on a timely basis. If the student is not progressing satisfactorily toward completing his/her degree, the committee may recommend that the student be put on probation (e.g. by giving incomplete or unsatisfactory grades in the thesis units) and, if the problem is not corrected, recommend that the student finishes with an MS degree after completing the appropriate requirements.

Dissertation Defense

The purpose of the dissertation defense is to ascertain that the student has completed a coherent, original body of research on his/her chosen topic and is able to defend the results and conclusions in front of a knowledgeable public. Students prepare and submit the final draft of the dissertation to the dissertation committee (as constituted for the Qualifying Examination) and the Department four weeks prior to the intended date of the dissertation defense. (Failure to deliver the dissertation draft to the committee and the Department on time may result in postponement of the defense.) The Department copy is made available for general inspection. The committee ascertains the suitability of the draft and provides comments and recommendations for amendments to the dissertation. The candidate is responsible for addressing any issues raised by the committee and for submitting a corrected version of the dissertation at least one week prior to the date of the defense. Once approved by the committee, permission is granted for the candidate to present a formal defense of the dissertation, which should be done in a public seminar.

The seminar must be attended by the dissertation committee, which will be chaired by the student's advisor. Any attendee at the defense can question the candidate. However, the committee chair has the authority to terminate inappropriate questioning. After public discussion is concluded, the audience will be asked to leave the room and the committee will continue the examination of the candidate in private. After the examination, the committee will deliberate and render a decision on whether the candidate has earned the Ph.D. degree.

Once the candidate has passed his/her dissertation defense, the last requirement is to file the dissertation with the Davidson library via the Graduate Division. A Guide to Filing Theses and Dissertations is available on the Graduate Division web page. In addition to the two copies that are filed in the Davidson library, the student should submit two copies of the final version of the dissertation to the Department to be bound. One copy will be kept in the departmental collection and the other will be returned to the student after binding.