Selecting a Research Advisor, Teaching, and Oral Qualifying Exam

Graduate Program in Chemical Engineering
1st year | 2nd year | 3rd year | 4th year | 5th year | Seminars

Selecting a Research Advisor

During the first term, the faculty meets with the first-year grad students to propose topics for Ph.D. research.

Following these meetings, the students are expected to meet individually with the various faculty members to discuss proposed research and generally obtain information for choosing a research adviser.

At the end of the first term, each student is required to submit three faculty names, listed in order of preference. Every possible effort will be made to accommodate the student's first choice, subject to an opening in the desired research group, avail- ability of necessary funding, etc.

The final decision will be made by the chemical engineering faculty in consultation with the students. 

The Caltech counseling center offers this guidance in choosing an advisor.

Advisor Selection Form

Oral Qualifying Examination

Each student is required to take a subject oral qualifying examination at the beginning of the second term of the first year in residence, the purpose of which is to examine expertise in kinetics, thermodynamics and transport phenomena. The intended level of the exam is approximately that of the corresponding undergraduate courses at Caltech.

Three types of decisions will be possible: pass, provisional pass, fail. A student with a pass or provisional pass is permitted to begin his/her PhD research. However, a student with a provisional pass will usually be required to satisfy some additional requirements, such as successful completion of specified coursework.

The intended level of the exam is approximately that of the corresponding undergraduate courses at Caltech. Students who fail one or more of the three subjects may be permitted, by approval of the chemical engineering faculty, to repeat the examination on the failed subject immediately after the spring term.

See "Ph.D. Qualifying Exams" on page 6 of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Studies Guide (PDF) for details.

Teaching Assistantships

All PhD students are required to perform a minimum of 24 term-hours of GTA duties during their studies.  The GTA duties will normally be assigned after the first year in residence.  Most students find the teaching assistantships a valuable experience for their future careers.  TA'ing classes outside ChE may be allowed at the discretion of the ChE Option Representative.