Ph. D. Degree

The requirements of the Graduate School for the Ph.D. degree may be found under the Graduate School website

If a student is admitted to the Ph.D. program with only a B.S. degree, at least 30 credits of coursework are required. If the student has a M.S. degree, the minimum requirement is 15 credits. However, if the M.S. degree is in a field other than Environmental Engineering, the ENVE Graduate Admissions committee will determine the minimum number of credits required for coursework. All Ph.D. students are required to take or demonstrate proficiency in the following courses prior to taking the General Exam:

  • ENVE 5310 Environmental Transport Phenomena
  • ENVE 5320 Quantitative Methods for Engineers
  • ENVE 5210 Environmental Engineering Chemistry
  • ENVE 5810 Hydrometeorology

The advisory committee may substitute the above with equivalent courses. The remaining credits may be taken in one of the three areas of concentration described previously. No more than 6 credits of 3000 or 4000 level courses may be used towards the degree. When the student has completed 18 credits of course work a Plan of Study has to be filed with the Graduate School (download from and choose Plan of Study for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy).

General Examination

The General Exam is taken after a minimum of two and a maximum of four semesters after admission into the Ph.D. program. The ENVE program administers the exam twice a year, in January and in May. An approved Plan of Study must be filed with the Graduate School before the general exam can be taken. The Environmental Engineering Program administers the General Exam as an oral examination, which is administered twice a year, in December or January and in May. The purpose of the oral examination is to test student mastery of core environmental engineering concepts and student ability to integrate concepts across disciplinary areas.

Examination Requirements:

  1. Students have 72 hours to develop a conceptual approach to a problem statement that is provided in a written format. The problem is typically an integrative environmental engineering problem that entails aspects and concepts presented in the four required courses.
  2. The conceptual approach must include all major processes of importance in this problem.
  3. Students are expected to be able to:
  • explain all of the processes in their approach
  • rationalize/justify/explain all assumptions made
  • describe governing equations
  • provide order of magnitude estimates of parameters
  1. Students will summarize the main points of their conceptual approach in a 5-page typed document and submit within 72 hours. This written solution will be used as a reference note by the exam committee.
  2. Students will present their conceptual approach to this problem orally to a 5-member examination committee. The committee is comprised of core and affiliated ENVE faculty and does not necessarily coincide with the advisory committee that oversees the research. The major advisor cannot be a member of the examination committee.
  • Students may use chalk or white boards as aids in their presentation.
  • Students may bring a copy of their 5-page document as their own reference during the examination.

Assessment:  Students will be assessed on the thoroughness of their conceptual approach, the clarity of their explanation, the accuracy of their answers to examiners’ questions, the depth of knowledge of core environmental engineering concepts and the ability to interconnect concepts across environmental engineering including potential water management implications. The written and oral parts of the examination hold equal weights. The minimum overall passing grade is 70%, with a minimum of 50% in each of the written and oral parts.

A student can take the General Exam twice, if the examination committee allows for a re-take. If a student scored less than 30% on both parts of the exam they are deemed unqualified to pursue a Ph.D. and are dismissed from the program. If the student fails the exam a second time, they are dismissed from the Ph.D. program. Students dismissed may acquire an M.S. degree, upon fulfillment of the appropriate requirements.

Dissertation Research and Thesis Requirements

A doctoral student, in conjunction with his/her major advisor, forms an advisory committee consisting of the major advisor and at least two (but in most cases four) associate advisors with suitable academic or scientific credentials. This committee oversees and mentors the student throughout the duration of the student’s degree track. Members of the committee must be active participants in each milestone event and their original signatures of approval are required on all Graduate School necessary documents.

The topic of the dissertation research is agreed upon by the major advisor and the Ph.D. student. If the student is funded by a Research Assistantship, the topic of the research project and the dissertation may, but not necessarily, overlap. The research should be original and eventually published in peer-review journals. As a requirement for graduation, a Ph.D. student must have three journal papers: one published or accepted for publication, one under review and one in the final stages of preparation. However, it is important that the three papers address a larger, coherent research question (as outlined in the Dissertation Proposal below) and they are not isolated bodies of work.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal is a document that outlines the proposed research for the dissertation and has to be compiled and approved before the research is well underway. It is recommended that the dissertation proposal is submitted for approval in the following semester after a student passes their General Exam, but the maximum time is one year after the General Exam. The proposal consists of the submission of a written document to the advisory committee and an oral presentation to the committee. The written proposal and the appropriate form have to be submitted to the Graduate School for approval. The Dissertation Proposal form is signed by the advisory committee and the ENVE Program Director. Instructions for the preparation of the proposal are provided in the form.

Additional information on the Dissertation Proposal content and formatting may be found in the Graduate Handbook AY 2018-19.

Candidacy, Dissertation Preparation, and Final Oral Defense

There are three typical requirements for a student to become a formal candidate for the Ph.D. degree:

  • Approval of Plan of Study
  • Passing the General Exam
  • Approval of Dissertation Proposal by Graduate Faculty Council

Information on the dissertation preparation and scheduling of the oral defense is provided at

Dissertation Preparation

The dissertation may conform to one of two general formats:

  1. Traditional outline, with chapters that may include
  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Materials and Methods
  4. Results and Discussion
  5. Conclusions and Recommendations
  6. References
  1. Compilation of journal paper manuscripts

In this case, each journal paper is a separate chapter, with its contents presented as sub-chapters. An introductory chapter and a conclusions chapter should be prepared in addition to the manuscripts. These will explain the common thread between the papers, in terms of rationale and methodology (introductory chapter) and big-picture conclusions and recommendations (conclusion chapter).

The graduation requirement of the ENVE program to produce three journal papers (one accepted/published, one in review and one in final preparation) renders option B more attractive. However, the format of the dissertation results from the agreement between the major advisor and the Ph.D. candidate.

An electronic and one printed copy of the dissertation have to be submitted to the Graduate School. Information is supplied in the Dissertation Submission Checklist form and in the Digital Commons website

Formatting guidelines are provided in

Oral Defense

Before you can schedule the oral defense, you have to obtain tentative dissertation approval from all members of the advisory committee. It is advised that you circulate the working draft of the dissertation at least one month prior to the desired defense date, as at least two weeks are required to announce the defense and another to weeks should be extended to the committee for review.

The oral defense of the dissertation must be announced publically by means of the University’s online Events Calendar at least two (2) weeks prior to the date of the defense.  For announcements, contact Althea Lozefski. You should be book CAST 306 well in advance to insure availability. Provide Althea with the title, date and time, advisory committee member list and abstract for the defense. For the UConn Events Calendar, directions are provided in the Dissertation Information link provided above.

At this time, electronic tentative approval of the dissertation and an electronic working copy of the entire dissertation must be filed with The Graduate School.

Not fewer than five (5) members of the faculty, including all members of the candidate’s advisory committee, must participate in the final examination.

The oral defense entails three sections:

  • Oral presentation of the dissertation contents (~45 min)
  • Questions from the general public attending (~15 min)
  • Questions from the advisory committee in closed session (~30 min).

Following the last section, the candidate is excused and the committee convenes to decide on the outcome of the defense. The decision to pass the oral defense must be unanimous. The successful candidate should have ready the following documents to obtain signatures from all committee members:

  • Two copies of the cover page of the dissertation, printed on white 25% cotton 20 or 24 lb paper.
  • Two copies of the Report on the final Examination Report. One copy will be submitted to the Graduate School and one will be retained by your major advisor.