Dec 07, 2021  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
    
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Civil Engineering, PhD


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Cullen College of Engineering  > Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering  > Civil Engineering, PhD


The Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering requires 24 hours of coursework beyond the Master’s Degree. The student first registers as a post-MS student until they pass the Qualifying Examination, they are then Ph.D. students. Once the student passes the Candidacy Exam, they are considered Ph.D. Candidates. During the period of study, the students are expected to carry out original research, which must be written up in a dissertation and defended before a committee.

Generally, Ph.D. students are offered financial aid in the form of teaching and/or research assistantship. Financial support includes medical insurance and qualifies the student for the lower, Texas-Resident Tuition. A tuition scholarship may also be awarded that covers up to nine hours of tuition per term.

For more information, please visit the Civil & Environmental Engineering website.

Admission Requirements


  • The applicant must have B.S. and M.S. (with thesis generally) degrees in Civil Engineering from an accredited college or university. Students with degrees in fields closely related to Civil Engineering may be admitted with certain prerequisite courses specified to make their backgrounds equivalent, in general, to the Civil Engineering graduates. All prerequisite courses should be completed prior to starting the Ph.D. program.
  • The applicant must have a minimum GPA of 3.5/4.0 on all graduate work attempted and a satisfactory undergraduate record (at least 3.0/4.0 over the last 60 hours attempted).
  • Satisfactory scores on the Quantitative and Verbal tests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
  • The applicant must meet English language proficiency requirements, either via degree completion in the U.S. or another certified English-speaking nation, or via submission of TOEFL/IELTS scores.  Full details are found on the International Graduate Students page.
  • Favorable recommendation for admission to the Ph.D. program is required from the student’s M.S. thesis advisor and two of his/her graduate professors. The consent of a Civil Engineering Faculty member to act as the student’s Ph.D. Major Advisor is recommended.
  • Complete application & payment of application fee ($25 domestic/$75 international) must be completed via the online application found on the How to Apply to UH Graduate School page

Admission to the Ph.D. program is highly selective. Satisfying the minimum admission requirements does not guarantee admission. All applicants must be approved by the Civil Engineering Admissions Committee and the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Programs. Since a research dissertation is required of all Ph.D. candidates, it is highly recommended that a prospective Ph.D. student’s contact individual faculty members whose research programs are of interest and a match to the student’s skill sets to discuss the possibilities of performing research under their guidance.

Degree Requirements


Credit hours required for this degree: 54.0

The following are minimum requirements that may be exceeded in any case:

  • A total of at least 24-credit hours of course work beyond the M.S. (excluding prerequisites and remedial courses) is required for the Ph.D. degree in the following way:
    • A minimum of 12 hours of credit in Civil Engineering courses (6000 level or above-numbered courses) in the student’s major and supporting areas.
    • A minimum of 9-credit hours in related fields of study outside Civil Engineering. At least 6 hours of these should constitute a coherent minor field.
  • At least 30-credit hours in research and dissertation; this includes Ph.D. research (any combination of CIVE 8198  through CIVE 8598 ) and a minimum of 12 hours of dissertation (Ph.D. Thesis) (CIVE 8399 , CIVE 8399 , or CIVE 8999 ). Registration in the dissertation must be continuous after the first registration in the 8399 series of the program.
  • The courses must be in accordance with a preliminary degree plan, approved by the student’s Major Advisor, two other Civil Engineering Faculty members in the student’s major or supporting areas, and the Director of Graduate Studies. The degree plan shall be kept in the student’s file, with copies distributed to all concerned. The final degree plan should be approved by the Comprehensive examination and Dissertation Committees and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Normally, no more than 6 graduate credit hours may be transferred into a Ph.D. program from another institution (transferred graduate courses grade must be “B” or better).
  • The student is required to take CIVE 6111  (Graduate Seminar) during his/her registration in the dissertation and research courses (this is in addition to the course load described above).
  • No Civil Engineering courses with a grade of less than “B” shall count within the degree program. No grade of less than “C+” is acceptable within degree requirements; a maximum of 6 hours of courses outside Civil Engineering with a grade of “C+” may be counted within the degree program. A grade of “C+” or less in three courses attempted during the program may result in dismissal from Ph.D. studies. A grade of “C+” or less in four courses attempted during the UH graduate program shall result in dismissal from graduate studies. A GPA of at least 3.5/4.0 overall work attempted in the Ph.D. program is generally required or graduation.
  • Technology courses will not count within the requirements of the Ph.D. degree program.

Academic Policies


  • A student intending to pursue a Ph.D. must arrange, in writing, a relationship with a faculty member as Major Advisor for the student’s research project. The arrangement shall be approved by the Departmental Chairman and Director for Graduate Studies. The Major Advisor shall counsel the student for the remainder of their study program and supervise their dissertation. Being without a Major Advisor after the first term will subject the student to transfer to the non-degree objective (NDO) program. By agreement of all concerned, the initial relationship may be dissolved and a new one established, but the student must have a Major Advisor at all times.
  • Prior to completion of the first term, the student and the Major Advisor shall recommend to the Director of Graduate Studies the student’s preliminary degree plan. This plan will list the specific courses that must be completed to obtain the Ph.D. degree. Changes in the degree plan, if required, shall be recommended in writing by the Major Advisor to the Director of Graduate Studies. Only those studies undertaken in accordance with this approved degree plan shall count towards the degree.
  • Prior to the beginning of the last term, the student and the Major Advisor must submit the final degree plan to the Director of Graduate Studies to be certified for graduation. This plan must show the dates the comprehensive and candidacy exams were passed and the expected date of dissertation defense and completion. The student must also contact the department’s Graduate Analyst or the Engineering Dean’s Office for graduation information.
  • The student must enroll in any term in which they intend to use University facilities and/or seek the advice of the advisor. Registration in dissertation must be continuous after the first registration in dissertation courses (8399, 8699 or 8999). Full-time students must enroll in 9 hours or more per term and 6 hours per summer session.
  • The doctoral student who fails to complete their dissertation within 5 years after completion of the comprehensive examination may then be required to retake the examination.
  • The primary intent of the Civil Engineering Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is to identify potential weaknesses in a Ph.D. candidate’s background.
  • This exam is for students pursuing the Ph.D. Degree in Civil Engineering and is monitored and administered by the Civil Engineering Graduate Program Director. Separate qualifying exam procedures apply to Ph.D. candidates pursuing degrees in Environmental or Geosensing Engineering.
  • All Civil Engineering Ph.D. candidates who have already completed at least five graduate courses will be recommended to take the written Ph.D. Qualifying Exam before the beginning of their third term in the UH graduate program. The written exam will be closed-book and offered twice a year: on the first Friday after the spring commencement and two Fridays before the beginning of the spring semester.
  • Students going directly from the BS degree to the Ph.D. degree are recommended to take the written qualifying exam by the term after they complete five courses in their graduate programs.
  • Passing criteria:
    • Score ≥ 80%: pass (may be accompanied by the requirement of additional coursework in specific areas).
    • Score ≥ 70% but < 80%: oral exam required. After administration of the oral exam, the student may receive a  grade of pass (may be accompanied by the requirement of additional coursework in specific areas) or a grade of unacceptable.  If an unacceptable grade is assigned, the student will be allowed a second attempt at the written exam in the regularly scheduled qualifying exam period of the following term.
    • Score < 70%: unacceptable. The student will be allowed a second attempt at the written exam in the regularly scheduled qualifying exam period of the following term.
  • If an oral exam is required it will be administered by a committee of at least three civil engineering faculty members. The oral exam committee must be submitted to the Civil Graduate Program Director at least 24 hours before the oral exam. The Chair of the Oral Exam Committee will be selected by the Civil Graduate Program Director.
  • After the exam(s) a memo from the Civil Graduate Program Director documenting the student’s performance (pass or fail, with any additional requirements or recommendations) will be placed in the student’s Departmental file.
  • The student must prepare and defend a research proposal for their dissertation research as the candidacy exam. The objectives of the examination are to ensure that the research topic is appropriate and manageable, the student is capable and prepared to undertake the proposed research, they have investigated the research point thoroughly and that they are proposing a reasonable approach. The candidacy examination should be taken after the student passes the comprehensive examination.
    • The student will prepare a written dissertation proposal and submit it to the dissertation committee (see below) in advance of the oral examination. During the examination, the student should present his/her proposal to the committee orally, and answer their questions. The proposal should include:
    • tentative title, objectives, and scope of the proposed research;
    • the results of a literature search on the subject (with a selected bibliography) indicating the present status of related work;
    • a discussion of the proposed problem;
    • preliminary data collected to date;
    • plans for completing the research; and
    • requirements of any computer work that is included.
  • As soon as the student passes the examination (which implies the committee’s approval of their proposal), the student can formally proceed with the research plan and enroll in the dissertation (CIVE 8399, 8699, or 8999). Upon successful completion of the Candidacy Examination the student is formally considered a Ph.D. candidate.
  • The candidacy examination is administered by the student’s dissertation committee. This committee consists of at least three civil engineering faculty members from the student’s major and supporting (if needed) areas, including the major advisor as committee chairman, and two faculty members from outside the department. The advisor will ask the Departmental Chairman (through the Director of Graduate Studies) to appoint the dissertation committee. The advisor’s request should propose the committee’s membership, which should include those faculty members with the most expertise in the proposed research topic (that enables them to contribute effectively and to judge adequately). This request should be submitted as early as possible after the student passes their comprehensive examination and selects their research topic (form). The Departmental Chairman, after consulting faculty members in the major area, will appoint the committee (with any appropriate changes in the proposed membership judged necessary).
  • The major advisor is responsible for arranging the candidacy examination and transmitting its results (i.e., the committee’s decisions) in writing, to the student, to the members of the committee, and to the Department Chairman and Director of Graduate Studies.
  • The dissertation committee has the responsibility of passing final judgment on the student’s degree plan (and imposing additional courses, if necessary), administering and grading the candidacy examination, supervising the dissertation research, passing judgment on the student’s defense of their dissertation, and approving and signing the completed final copy of the dissertation document.
  • The Dissertation Committee shall pass judgment on the adequacy of the Ph.D. research and the oral defense of the dissertation by the student. The committee’s approval of the final copy of the written dissertation is required to ascertain satisfactory performance of the research.
  • Combined registration in the Ph.D. research courses (CIVE 8198 through 8598) and the dissertation courses (CIVE 8399, 8699, or 8999) shall be limited to 9 hours in any one term or 6 hours for a combined summer session. Registration in the dissertation courses shall be normally limited to 6 hours during these periods.
  • Each Ph.D. candidate shall be required to spend one continuous calendar year in full-time residence while enroll in the research and dissertation courses.
  • Full-time residence is defined as enrollment in 9 semester credit hours for a fall or spring semester or 6 hours for a twelve-week summer session, and no substantial off-campus employment.
  • The College of Engineering requires that all full-time Ph.D. graduate students receiving support from the University enroll in at least 9-credit hours per term and 6 hours during the summer. Only full-time graduate students receive support from the University.
  • Registration in the Ph.D. research and dissertation courses will normally be limited to three calendar years from the time the student passes the Candidacy Examination. At the end of the final year, the candidate may be dropped from the Ph.D. program, or, be granted additional time for registration in their research, with the approval of their committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • The doctoral research must constitute a contribution to the field of knowledge in an area of Civil Engineering, worthy of publication. Each candidate is required to present and successfully defend their completed dissertation at a public meeting before the committee. The dissertation committee shall pass final judgment as to the acceptance or rejection of the dissertation. This meeting should be publicized in advance by a memorandum distributed to all Civil Engineering and interested Engineering Faculty indicating the title and abstract of the dissertation and the date, time and place of the meeting.

Department Academic Policies

Graduate Academic Policies: Cullen College of Engineering  

University of Houston Academic Policies  

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