PhD Innovation Program

Dartmouth's PhD Innovation Program addresses the nation's vital need for engineers with both technical and entrepreneurial expertise and is the nation’s first engineering PhD Innovation Program.

As a student in this highly selective program, you will complete all the regular PhD requirements along with additional studies that prepare you for the opportunity to build an enterprise based on technical innovation.

"The program provides the opportunity to take risks, possibly fail, and ultimately learn from the experience in a structured environment." —excerpt from 2012 ASEE Northeast Section Conference, Reviewed Paper (PDF)

Since 2000, Thayer School PhD candidates have filed over 100 patent applications.

Acceptance into the PhD Innovation Program comes with up to 5 years of full financial support. The first 2 years you will be supported as a graduate research assistant by your dissertation research advisor. Following satisfactory performance, you will receive up to 3 years of unrestricted program funding to allow you to follow your ideas independent of your advisor’s funded research program and to build the skill necessary to build an enterprise — such as a start-up company, a new division of an established company, or a government or non-profit enterprise. See Requirements for the PhD Innovation Program for more details.

The Program also offers the option of a surgical training track for students wanting to focus on innovations that improve the safety and outcomes of surgical procedures.

Learn More

Hear from program director Eric Fossum, Professor of Engineering, Associate Provost of Dartmouth's Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, Queen Elizabeth Prize Laureate, and inventor of the CMOS active pixel image sensor used in almost all cell-phone cameras:

Admissions Eligibility

New applicants to the PhD program as well as current students in the PhD and MD/PhD programs are eligible to apply.

Admissions Process

Applications are due each year on or before January 1st and should be submitted to

Entering students should follow instructions for application to graduate studies programs and check the box indicating Innovation interest in the online application. Then, they should send a single PDF file containing the application materials (specified below) to Current students should submit the PDF file only, as well as a letter or email of approval from their thesis advisor, to

Applicants to the program should submit the following documents as a single PDF file titled with the applicant's name, initials, and designation of the innovation program (e.g., DoeJQ-INNOV.pdf):

Admission to this program will be determined by a committee consisting of the Dean of Thayer School or the Director of the Program (Professor Eric Fossum), and members of the faculty, drawn from those serving on the program Advisory Board. Finalists will be interviewed, either in person or by videoconference, by the selection committee.

Anticipated timeline:

Email questions about the admission process to

Program Questions?

Holly Wilkinson

Contact Holly Wilkinson, Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs at or call toll-free from U.S. or Canada: 1-888-THAYER6 (1-888-842-9376); all others call 1-603-646-3483.

Meet Our Students

Browse the PhD Innovation Program video playlist or see our student testimonials page...