Chemical Engineering PhD

Major: Chemical Engineering
Degree Awarded: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Calendar Type: Quarter
Minimum Required Credits:90.0
Co-op OptionNone
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code: 14.0701
Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code: 17-2041

About the Program

The graduate program in the Chemical and Biological Engineering department integrates current chemical engineering science with the growing fields of engineering applications and processes, emphasizing engineering design and scientific analysis. The department intends to develop broadly educated individuals who are knowledgeable in modern theories, cognizant of the behavior of engineering systems, and aware of current mathematical and engineering tools that are useful for the solution of problems in complex processes and systems, especially those in the fields of chemical, environmental, biochemical, and materials process engineering. Areas of particular strength include polymer science and engineering, energy and the environment, multiscale modeling and process systems engineering, and biological engineering.

Programs are arranged to meet the needs and interests of individual students. The plan of study is initially formulated in consultation with the departmental graduate advisor and subsequently guided by the thesis advisor.

Graduates have pursued a variety of careers ranging from faculty positions in academia to research and development in industry in the U.S. and overseas.

Additional Information

For more information about this program, visit Drexel University's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering webpage.

Admission Requirements

Students should fulfill Drexel University's general requirements for admission to graduate studies. The subjects normally included in an undergraduate program in chemical engineering provide a satisfactory background. Decisions regarding prerequisite qualifications for students who may be deficient in some areas are made after consultation with the departmental graduate advisor.

The core courses are designed for students with undergraduate training in chemical engineering; however, students with a background in biological sciences and engineering can also enroll in the core courses after completing the necessary basic engineering courses and disciplinary chemical engineering courses. Programs for such students are determined on an individual basis after consultation with the departmental graduate advisor.

Graduate study in Chemical Engineering is offered on a regular full-time basis and on a part-time basis. Details not covered in the following information may be obtained by contacting the departmental graduate advisor. The General (Aptitude) Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for applicants pursuing full-time study.

Financial Assistance

Financial aid in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowship grants is available to qualified full-time PhD students. Awards are made annually on a competitive basis.

Additional Information

For more information on how to apply, visit Drexel's Admissions page for Chemical Engineering.

Degree Requirements

Superior students with MS or BS degrees will be considered for the doctoral program in Chemical Engineering. Students joining with a master’s degree may satisfy up to 45.0 credit hours of the PhD course/research credit requirements depending on the courses taken and/or research carried out in their master’s programs, subject to approval by the graduate program advisor.

The following general requirements must be satisfied in order to complete the PhD in Chemical Engineering:

  • 90.0 credit hours total
  • 15.0 core credits
  • 12.0 credit hours of specialized plan of study
  • 63.0 credit hours of research (including a 3.0 credit research practice course)
  • Qualifying exam (2nd term)
  • Establishing a plan of study (2nd term)
  • Candidacy exam (5th term)
  • Dissertation/thesis
  • Defense of dissertation/thesis
  • GPA requirements: 3.0 overall; 3.0 graduate chemical engineering (CHE) courses; 3.0 core graduate chemical engineering (CHE) courses

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam is administered once a year in January at the start of the second term. The objective of the exam is to evaluate proficiency in core undergraduate chemical engineering material. The format is made up of four problems, each covering a core chemical engineering subject at the undergraduate level, including thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat/mass transfer, and kinetics and reactor design. Students must demonstrate mastery in all four subjects to pass the qualifying exam. A student can appeal to take a second-chance exam at the end of the second term if the qualifying exam was not satisfactory in the first instance; however, the appeal is not guaranteed and will depend on student's overall performance in coursework, research, and teaching assistant duties.

Program Requirements

Core Requirements
CHE 502Mathematical Methods in Chemical Engineering3.0
CHE 513Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics I3.0
CHE 525Transport Phenomena I3.0
CHE 543Kinetics & Catalysis I3.0
CHE 590Research Methods and Practices3.0
Specialized Plan of Study Courses12.0
12.0 credit hours of courses approved by research advisor. All students are expected to develop competence in their area(s) of specialization.
63.0 credit hours of research, which may include up to 6.0 credit hours of electives.
Ph.D. Dissertation
Total Credits90.0

Candidacy Exam

The components of the candidacy exam are as follows:

  • Proposal Document (written): The student is required to write a research proposal of about 15 pages including background, preliminary results, and a research plan (with their advisor's input). The proposal must be submitted to each member of the student’s thesis committee and to the graduate program advisor on the first day of the student's fifth term.
  • Proposal Defense (oral): The student provides a formal defense of their proposal to their thesis committee before the end of the student's fifth term.

Preliminary Exam

A preliminary exam is targeted at least six months prior to the thesis defense with this scheduling subject to the research advisor's discretion. This preliminary exam is to ensure that the student has made adequate progress in their project. The components of the preliminary exam include:

  • Exam Documents (written): The student is required to write an abstract of the preliminary defense talk, a one-page document describing the plan for completing the thesis, a tentative list of the thesis chapter titles, and a current list of publications/presentations. These must be submitted to each member of the student's thesis committee and to the graduate program advisor in advance of the oral exam date. 
  • Preliminary Defense (oral): The student provides a formal defense of the work to date and the anticipated work to be completed for the thesis to their thesis committee.
  • Publications: At a minimum, at least one manuscript (original article) must have been submitted to a refereed journal prior to the oral exam date.

Thesis/Dissertation and Defense

As the culmination of intensive study and independent research, the doctoral dissertation represents a major scholarly endeavor; accordingly, it is recognized as the most important requirement of the degree. All doctoral candidates must present an acceptable dissertation based on significant work. The dissertation must represent a unique contribution to chemical engineering or biochemical engineering knowledge. A final oral examination is conducted, in part, as a defense of the dissertation. The requirements of the thesis/dissertation and defense are:

  • Thesis (written): The student is required to write a thesis detailing the entire PhD project, including background, methods, results, discussion, conclusions, and bibliography.
  • Defense (oral): The student provides a formal defense of their PhD thesis in an oral examination to their thesis committee.
  • Publications: At a minimum, at least one original article must be published in a refereed journal (department's minimum requirement). At the discretion of the research advisor, further publication requirements may be imposed above this minimum.

Additional Information

For more information, visit the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department webpage.


Abrams Laboratory (Abrams)


Computational resources:

Alvarez Research Group (Alvarez)

  • Rheo Filament- VADER1000 - Filament Extensional Rheometer with forced convection oven
  • TA DHR3 – Controlled Stress Rheometer with Electronic Heated Platesx
  • TA ARES G2 – Controlled Strain Rheometer with Forced Convection Oven
  • Controlled Film Coater
  • Gel Spinning Apparatus for continuous filament and fiber formation
  • Microtensiometer for measurement of dynamic transport of surfactant to fluid-fluid interfaces, including dilatational rheology of equilibrated surfaces.
  • Supercritical Microtensiometer for measurement of surfactant transport to fluid-fluid interfaces at elevated pressures
  • Nikon TE microscope with 3MP camera and various objectives.
  • Fluigent - 4 port continuous pressure fluid pump    

Nanomaterials for Energy Applications and Technology Laboratory (Baxter)

  • Amplified Ti:Sapphire laser with time-resolved teraherterz spectroscopy and femtosecond UV/vis/NIR transient absorption spectroscopy (Bossone 106)
  • Solar simulator with monochromator and photovoltaic/photoelectrochemical test station
  • Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy
  • Layer-by-layer deposition robot
  • Dip coater
  • Spin coater
  • Electrodeposition station
  • Continuous flow microreactors

Biofuels Laboratory (Cairncross)

  • Bubble column biodiesel reactors
  • Recirculating heated oil baths
  • Quartz crystal microbalance / heat conduction calorimeter (Masscal G1)
  • Maxtek quartz crystal microbalance with phase lock oscillator
  • Parr reactor

Nanocrystal Solar Laboratory (Fafarman)

  • Two chamber fabrication glove box with separate air-purification for wet-chemical synthesis and dry-process fabrication steps, featuring HEPA filtered laminar flow air handling for class-1 cleanroom conditions in an inert atmosphere. In the wet-chemical fabrication chamber there are a spincoater, centrifuge, hot-plates and solid and liquid reagents. On the dry chamber side, there is an integrated thermal evaporator for depositing metal, and a UV-ozone cleaner.
  • Custom built Schlenk vacuum/gas manifold, all necessary glassware, J-Kem precision temperature controllers and heating mantles
  • Perkin Elmer Lambda 35 UV-vis spectrometer
  • ThermoFisher Nicolet iS50R Fourier-transform vis-NIR-MIR absorption spectrometer covering spectral ranges 13000 – 600 and 25000 – 8000 1/cm
  • Keithley dual-channel precision source-meter
  • Crystalaser Q-switch laser, 300 mW at 532 nm
  • Home-built 4-point probe station for thin film electrical conductivity
  • 80 MHz digital oscilloscope
  • Stanford Research Systems lock-in amplifier

Nanofibers for Energy Storage and Conversion Laboratory (Kalra)

  • Four Electrospinning Stations (with core-shell spinning capability)
  • Mbraun Dual User Glove Box
  • Carver Heat Press
  • Four Gamry Potentiostats (Ref 3000 and Interface 1000)
  • 32-channel Maccor Battery Cycler, three 8-channel NEWARE Battery Cyclers
  • Rotating Disc Electrode Test Station (Pine Instruments)
  • Tube Furnaces/Convection Ovens/Vacuum Ovens/Ultrasonicator/Hot Plates/Precision Balances
  • Environmental Chamber (Tenney) with high temperature/humidity control ranging from 25-200C and 5-95%RH and integrated with vapor permeation and EIS
  • Thermo Fisher Nicolet IS50 FTIR Spectrometer equipped with in-operando battery/supercapacitor cells

Thin Films and Devices Laboratory (Lau)

  • Chemical Vapor Deposition Thin Film Reactor System I
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition Thin Film Reactor System II
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition Rotating Bed Reactor System
  • Denton Desktop High Vacuum Sputtering System
  • Harrick RF Plasma Reactor
  • Gamry Reference 600 Electrochemical Testing Station
  • Gamry Interface 1000 Electrochemical Impedance Spectrometer
  • Agilent Electrochemical Impedance Analyzer 4294A
  • Solar Illuminator
  • Nicolet 6700 FTIR Spectrometer
  • Shimadzu UV-1800 UV-VIS Spectrophotometer
  • Laurell Technologies Spin Coater
  • Ramé-Hart 290 Goniometer
  • Meiji MT5310L Microscope
  • Vacuum Ovens/Hot Plates

Polymers and Composites Laboratory (Palmese)

  • TA Instruments TGA Q50 Thermogravimetric Analyzer
  • KSV Instruments CAM 200 Contact Angle and Surface Tension Meter
  • TA Instruments DSC Q2000 Differential Scanning Calorimeter
  • Instron 8872
  • Thermo Nicolet Nexus 870 FTIR
  • TA Instruments DMA Dynamic Mechanical Analysis
  • Perkin Elmer DSC7 Differential Scanning Calorimeter
  • Waters GPC/HPLC (RI, UV Detectors)
  • Electrospinning station
  • TA Instruments AR Rheometer
  • Thinky planetary centrifugal mixer ARE-250
  • Melt Press
  • Portable Near Infrared Spectrometer
  • Brookfield digital viscometer
  • Glove Box
  • Supercritical Dryer (2x)
  • Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) plasma reactor

Process Systems Engineering Laboratory (Soroush)

  • Shimadzu GPC
  • Mini-Reactors
  • Agilent GC/MS
  • Fluidized Sand Bath
  • IKA-RCT Stirred Hotplate Reactors
  • Olympus Microscope
  • Shimadzu UV-Vis Spectrophotometer (UV-1700)

Electrochemical Interfaces and Catalysis Laboratory (Snyder)

  • Millipore DI water system
  • 302N Autolab Potentiostats (x2)
  • Mettler Toledo Micro-Balance
  • Ultracentrifuge
  • 4 port Schlenk line
  • 4 kW Ambrell Radio Frequency Induction Furnace

Tang Laboratory (Tang)

  • Six-channel Bio-Logic SP-300 potentiostat with electrochemical impedance spectroscopy
  • LC Technology dual-user glovebox with argon atmosphere. Includes oxygen and water analyzers, electronic feedthroughs, and integrated vacuum oven
  • Coin cell crimper /decrimper for battery fabrication (TOB Battery)
  • Automatic electrode film coater (TOB Battery)
  • Tube furnace
  • Vacuum oven
  • Karl-Fischer titration apparatus (Mettler Toledo)
  • Two rotating disk electrode test station (Pine Instruments) with rotating ring-disk accessories
  • 32-channel battery cycler (Arbin)

Wrenn Laboratory (Wrenn)

  • PTI, Inc. C-71 Time-Resolved Fluorescence Spectrometer (pulsed nitrogen and dye lasers)
  • PTI, Inc. A-710 Steady State Fluorescence Spectrometer
  • Brookhaven 90Plus Dynamic Light Scattering Apparatus
  • Brookhaven Goniometer-based, Static Light Scattering Apparatus
  • Perkin-Elmer BUV40XW0 UV-Visible Absorbance Spectrometer
  • Zeiss Axioskop2 Fluorescence microscope
  • Zeiss Ultraviolet Digital Image Analysis System (contains Orca Camera, Sony 17” monitor, and Axiovision II software)
  • Beckman Coulter Allegra64 Centrifuge
  • Misonix, Inc. XL2020 Sonicator

Chemical Engineering Faculty

Cameron F. Abrams, PhD (University of California, Berkeley). Professor. Molecular simulations in biophysics and materials; receptors for insulin and growth factors; and HIV-1 envelope structure and function.
Nicolas Alvarez, PhD (Carnegie Mellon University). Assistant Professor. Phototonic crystal defect chromatography; extensional rheology of polymer/polymer composites; surfactant/polymer transport to fluid and solid interfaces; aqueous lubrication; interfacial instabilities.
Jason Baxter, PhD (University of California, Santa Barbara). Professor. Solar cells, semiconductor nanomaterials, ultrafast spectroscopy.
Richard A. Cairncross, PhD (University of Minnesota). Associate Professor. Effects of microstructure on transport and properties of polymers; moisture transport and degradation on biodegradation on biodegradable polymers; production of biofuel.
Aaron Fafarman, PhD (Stanford University). Associate Professor. Photovoltaic energy conversion; solution-based synthesis of semiconductor thin films; colloidal nanocrystals; electromodulation and photomodulation spectroscopy.
Vibha Kalra, PhD (Cornell University). Associate Professor. Electrodes for energy storage and conversion; supercapacitors; Li-S batteries; fuel cells; flow batteries; electrospinning for nanofibers; molecular dynamics simulations; Nanotechnology, polymer nanocomposites.
Kenneth K.S. Lau, PhD (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Associate Department Head. Professor. Surface science; nanotechnology; polymer thin films and coatings; chemical vapor deposition.
Raj Mutharasan, PhD (Drexel University) Frank A, Fletcher Professor. Biochemical engineering; cellular metabolism in bioreactors; biosensors.
Giuseppe R. Palmese, PhD (University of Delaware). George B Francis Professor. Reacting polymer systems; nanostructured polymers; radiation processing of materials; composites and interfaces.
Joshua Snyder, PhD (Johns Hopkins University). Assistant Professor. Electrocatalysis (energy conversion/storage); hetergeneous catalysis corrosion (dealloying nanoporous metals); interfacial electrochemical phenomena in nanostructured materials; colloidal synthesis.
Masoud Soroush, PhD (University of Michigan). Professor. Process systems engineering; polymer engineering.
John H. Speidel, BSHE, MCHE (University of Delaware; Illinois Institute of Technology). Teaching Professor. Chemical process safety; process design engineering.
Maureen Tang, PhD (University of California, Berkeley). Assistant Professor. Batteries and fuel cells; nonaqueous electrochemistry; charge transport at interfaces.
Michael Walters, PhD (Drexel University). Assistant Teaching Professor. Undergraduate laboratory.
Stephen P. Wrenn, PhD (University of Delaware). Professor. Biomedical engineering; biological colloids; membrane phase behavior and cholesterol transport.

Emeritus Faculty

Charles B. Weinberger, PhD (University of Michigan). Professor Emeritus. Suspension rheology; fluid mechanics of multi-phase systems.
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