Dartmouth Engineering PhD Degree Program
Dartmouth engineering PhD students acquire technical depth in their chosen focus area while also gaining breadth of knowledge in related fields. Graduates are skilled not only in engineering, but also in problem-solving, communications, risk-taking, leadership and innovation that generates human-centered impact.
Areas & Options
Dartmouth offers a diversity of concentrations with collaborative synergies between engineering disciplines. Graduate students are expected to propose a plan of study that supports their interests on a path unconstrained by disciplinary boundaries. Both faculty and students draw from these multiple areas of expertise for maximum human-centered impact:
PhD Industry Research Option
The industry research option is for:
- people working in industry who wish to conduct research at their company while pursuing a Dartmouth Engineering PhD with a faculty advisor; or
- students performing their dissertation research in industry after completing residency requirements at Dartmouth.
“Students in our Innovation Program take classes at Tuck School of Business. They learn about contracts and patents. They attend conferences for entrepreneurs. They start building a professional network while they’re still students.”
—Doug Van Citters, Associate Professor Engineering
Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Students interested in entrepreneurship can augment their PhD in engineering with the PhD Innovation Program (PhD-I), which adds courses in technology business practices and taking research discoveries to market. Students in this program meet all PhD requirements, including passing an oral qualifying exam and defending a thesis proposal, along with additional PhD-I requirements.
Engineering in Medicine
The PhD+MD combines a PhD in engineering sciences with an MD from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Students must apply to the Geisel School as well as to Thayer School, indicating their specific interests.
The Medical Physics Education Program is available to PhD students in engineering and the physical sciences. This program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP) and prepares graduates for a career in clinical medical physics.
PhD students interested in administration and management may obtain an Engineering Management Certificate by completing any 3 of the following courses:
- ENGM 179: Accounting
- ENGM 180: Corporate Finance
- ENGM 181: Marketing
- ENGM 183: Operations Management
- ENGM 185: Topics in Manufacturing Design and Processes
- ENGM 186: Technology Project Management
- ENGM 188: Law for Technology and Entrepreneurship
- ENGM 190: Platform Design, Management, and Strategy
- ENGM 191: Product Design and Development
Candidates may enroll in other engineering management courses or, for additional tuition, courses offered by Tuck School of Business.
As part of the Dartmouth ecosystem, engineering students can take advantage of Tuck School of Business, Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship, and thought leaders and industry contacts within Dartmouth’s extraordinary alumni network.
Engineering Design & Development
PhD students interested in engineering design and development may elect a 2-term course sequence in design methodology and/or an individual project course.
Design projects are developed from specifications submitted by industry and other organizations and are pursued over the course of two quarters as a team project.
Interested PhD students may serve as teaching assistants for courses that have a problem session, tutorial, or laboratory component. In special cases, a student may participate in the design and development of a special topics course or a laboratory exercises for a lecture course.
Students become eligible for these positions following completion of the oral qualifying exam.
More formalized teacher training, offered through the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, is also available to engineering PhD students.
Meet our PhD Students
Graduate Research: Cancer Diagnostics Sensor
Largest Arctic Research Expedition of All Time Concludes
Autonomous Polar Robot Helps with Airplane Safety
Prerequisites & Requirements
After the first year, students work with their advisory committee to ensure all degree requirements are met.
The foundation for doctoral engineering degree work is undergraduate preparation in science, mathematics, and engineering principles. Applicants must hold a bachelor's or master's degree to be considered for the program.
Students admitted with engineering deficiencies must complete required undergraduate engineering courses. Students who need more than three courses will enroll initially as a special student. Students with insufficient engineering background may want to apply to the Bachelor of Engineering (BE) program.
Students who have prior graduate training may be considered for advancement to candidacy after completing 1 or 2 terms of the first-year doctoral engineering program.
The PhD program of study is developed based on each student's background and professional interests in consultation with the advisor and first year advisory committee. Students are required to take 8–10 courses, reflecting the distribution shown below. Students with prior graduate credits may transfer up to 5 courses to count toward this requirement.
- Applied mathematics (2–3 courses)
- Engineering sciences breadth of knowledge (2–3 courses)
- Engineering sciences specialization (4 courses)
Professional Skills Development
In addition to engineering and applied mathematics courses, PhD students participate in the following seminars and workshops:
- ENGG 195: Seminar on Science, Technology and Society (4 terms)
- ENGG 197: PhD Professional Workshops (1 term)
- ENGG 198: Research-in-Progress Workshop* (annually)
The PhD program can also be undertaken part-time: students interested in this option should contact the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education.
PhD Professional Workshops
The candidate demonstrates professional competence by completing ENGG 197: PhD Professional Workshops, which is offered each winter term by the faculty and outside experts. The workshop emphasizes skills in completing competitive proposals, business funding, patenting, research team organization, teaching, résumé and CV creation, and job search techniques. The candidate generally completes the workshop in one of the latter years in residence.
Each candidate completes a competitive research proposal or a business plan for critique by 2 expert referees selected from among faculty, outside experts, and/or corporate representatives.
Candidates who have submitted a competitive research proposal to a funding agency or a business plan to a venture capitalist or financial institution prior to completing the workshop may petition to have the proposal or business plan fulfill this requirement.
The faculty advisor helps the candidate plan a demonstration of technical breadth, which is approved by the Graduate Program Committee. The plan details one of the following options:
- A set of courses, taken for credit, outside or secondary to the candidate's principal area of specialization
- A focused set of courses, taken for credit, which creates a secondary emphasis in specialization and may involve independent study or research
- Presentation of a research proposal OR an oral examination in an area outside the main area of specialization. The candidate might present a research seminar on the topic with an examination committee of 3 faculty members probing the candidate's depth of knowledge of the secondary area. This option may be combined with the ENGG 197: PhD Professional Workshops. Students who do not pass may be permitted to take the oral examination—one time only—within the following 3 months.
- A creative design project, completed within a time limit of approximately 30 days, in an area outside the main area of specialization. The project is defined and the candidate's performance is evaluated by a committee of 3 faculty members appointed by the program director. The committee gives the student a statement of need, and the student proposes a means of satisfying that need in an effective, elegant, and economic manner. The project should display the candidate's ability to conceive and evaluate alternative solutions; carry out analytical evaluations at levels of approximation suited to the problem and the time limit; and recognize situations in which experimental work is needed. If the time limit prohibits experimentation, the candidate should devise the appropriate experiments and demonstrate how the expected results would aid in the design. Within the 30-day time limit, the candidate submits a written report plus an executive summary. Following an oral presentation of the project, the committee examines and evaluates the candidate's performance in the project. Students who do not pass may be permitted to revise and resubmit the report—one time only—within the following 3 months.
The oral qualifying exam (ENGG 194), a set of questions put forward by an oral examination committee to the candidate, normally takes place before or during the 5th term of the student's program, or in exceptional circumstances early in the 6th term. The exam is open to the faculty, but not to the general public.
The committee tests the candidate's knowledge of principles and methods underlying the field in which advanced work is to be performed. The exam covers material selected by the candidate's advisor in consultation with the examining committee and includes coverage of mathematical techniques appropriate to the research area. The structure of the preparation for the exam is flexible.
The student prepares a description of the planned exam, obtains signatures of the advisor, committee members, and the director of the MS and PhD programs, and submits this to the Registrar (103 MacLean or firstname.lastname@example.org) at least 1 month prior to the exam date.
The examination committee consists of 4 members — the Chair plus 3 Dartmouth faculty examiners, with at least 2 of the examiners from Thayer School. A Thayer faculty member other than the student's advisor chairs the committee. This chair is assigned by the director of the MS and PhD programs.
The examination committee gives the student a pass, fail, or conditional pass result. Students who fail may retake the oral examination — one time only — within the following 3 months. Upon passage of the exam or fulfillment of the conditions of the conditional pass (before the assigned deadline) and with a letter of support from the advisor, the student is admitted to PhD candidacy pending vote by the Thayer School faculty.
The candidate demonstrates mastery of an area of specialization by writing and defending a thesis proposal within the first 18 months of candidacy. A thesis committee, approved by the director of the PhD program, advises the candidate on the proposed thesis research and administers the defense of the thesis proposal.
The PhD examination committee consists of a minimum of 3 full-time Dartmouth faculty members of which a minimum of 2 must be from Thayer School (including the dissertation advisor) and an external member with a faculty equivalent research appointment outside of Dartmouth is optional, but not required. The external member may participate in meetings in person or via video conference.
The candidate's proposal—a presentation of the proposed thesis research—explains the scope and importance of the proposed research and plans for its completion. The defense presentation should be understandable, at least in a general way, to students and faculty not in the subject area.
Two weeks before the defense, candidates must:
- submit the thesis proposal in writing to their committee
- submit an electronic copy of the thesis proposal notice to the Thayer registrar for distribution to the faculty and for posting
Students who do not pass may be permitted to present the proposal—one time only—within the following 3 months.
Candidates demonstrate their significant contribution to engineering knowledge and professional expertise in the chosen area of study by performing original research. The PhD examination committee consists of a minimum of 3 full-time Dartmouth faculty members of which a minimum of 2 must be from Thayer School (including the dissertation advisor) and an external member with a faculty equivalent research appointment outside of Dartmouth. The external member may participate in meetings in person or via video conference.
The research is reviewed through all of the following means:
- Presentation: Elements of the research presented at a professional meeting with the candidate as first author
- Dissertation: Written abstract followed by detailed explanation of the research, approved and signed by the PhD thesis committee. A hard copy and a PDF version of the final dissertation must be submitted to the Registrar for archiving. Copyright to the dissertation is held by the Trustees of Dartmouth College.
- Oral defense: Presentation of the dissertation in a forum open to the public. The candidate is responsible for giving final, signature-ready copies of the thesis to each committee member to review at least two weeks prior to the defense. Also, the candidate must submit an electronic notice of the defense to the Registrar two weeks in advance for distribution to the faculty and for posting.
- Paper: Elements of the research accepted for publication with the candidate as first author.
All PhD students, upon matriculation, are required to attend a series of workshops in ethics and sign a statement that they agree to abide by the honor principles established by Dartmouth. See Graduate Academic and Conduct Regulations for a full statement of academic honor.
Students in the engineering PhD program are expected to spend at least 6 terms in residence, 3 of which will take place after successfully completing the oral qualifying examination.
Students typically take about 4 to 5 years to complete the requirements for the PhD.
Additional Requirements for the Innovation Program
See PhD Innovation Program Requirements for details.
Funding & Expenses
PhD students typically enter with full support from either a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) or an external fellowship.
Tuition for the 2021–2022 academic year, is covered by the GRA, which includes instruction, insurance coverage, use of instructional facilities, and healthcare service through the College infirmary. Books, room, board, and incidentals are the responsibility of the student.
Students who obtain an external fellowship that fully funds their PhD—such as from NSF, DOD, NASA, or DOE—will receive an additional $3000 per year stipend from Thayer for the duration of their PhD.
Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)
GRAs, funded by contract research, are available to well-qualified candidates enrolled in degree programs with thesis requirements. Most PhD funding includes full tuition cost coverage plus a monthly stipend. GRAs also include health care coverage for those who opt for college insurance.
- First-year PhD candidate GRA: full tuition plus $2,603 per month
- At admission to PhD candidacy GRA: full tuition plus $2,670 per month
Graduate research assistants may enroll in no more than two non-research courses in fall, winter, and spring terms. With the permission of the faculty advisor, enrollment in one non-research course is permitted in the summer term.
GRA Responsibilities & Requirements
Graduate research assistants are expected to devote 20 hours per week to research when enrolled in two non-research courses, 30 hours per week when enrolled in one, and essentially full time between terms and when enrolled only for research. They are expected to be in residence full time, including between terms.
Since graduate research assistants are not regular employees of Dartmouth, they do not earn vacation time per se. However, College holidays apply to them. In addition, they may anticipate one-half week of time off for each academic term of appointment, to be arranged with their faculty advisor.
Although responsibilities are defined in terms of hours per week, the emphasis is on the quality of the student's performance. Continuation of any appointment into succeeding terms is conditional upon satisfactory performance and progress toward degree requirements.
Students who accept GRAs may not engage in any additional employment without prior approval of the director of the MS and PhD programs. Such employment is usually limited to 10–12 hours per week.
Fellowships & Grants
There are a number of scholarship, fellowship & grant programs offering financial awards that are available to PhD graduate students. Visit our "Scholarship, Fellowship & Grant Programs" webpage to learn more.
Only complete applications will be considered for admission. (See application instructions for full details).
A complete application includes:
- the online application form
- a $50 application fee
- three letters of recommendation
- the essay(s)
- a transcript from each college and/or university attended
- TOEFL or IELTS scores for those applicants whose native language is not English.
- Note: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for PhD applicants will NOT be required nor considered during the 2021–2022 admissions cycle.
The engineering PhD program deadline to receive all application materials is January 1.
In most cases, the Admissions Committee will render decisions by April 30.
Students admitted with engineering deficiencies must complete required undergraduate engineering courses.
Students who need more than three courses will enroll initially as a special student.
Students with insufficient engineering background may want to apply to the Bachelor of Engineering (BE) program.
Tips for a Successful Application
Engineering PhD students typically are funded through a professor’s sponsored research or a fellowship. Students interested in applying to the PhD program are encouraged to reach out to individual faculty members to discuss potential projects.
During the application process, applicants should indicate all areas of interest in order to be considered for the widest possible range of opportunities.
Interviews are encouraged but not required. To schedule an appointment contact: email@example.com.
Interviews are encouraged but not required. To schedule an appointment contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part-Time & Special Students
Part-time studies are available for local residents who can meet the requirements for admission.