Environmental Engineering PhD

Major: Environmental Engineering
Degree Awarded: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Calendar Type: Quarter
Minimum Required Credits: 90.0
Co-op Option: None
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code: 14.1401
Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code: 17-2081

About the Program

Environmental Engineering is concerned with protecting human, animal, and plant populations from the effects of adverse environmental factors, including toxic chemicals and wastes, pathogenic bacteria, and global warming. Environmental Engineering PhD graduates may include students with expertise in one or more of the following sub-disciplines:

  • air pollution,
  • hazardous and solid waste,
  • subsurface contaminant hydrology,
  • water resources,
  • water and wastewater, and
  • sustainability treatment

Environmental engineers also try to minimize the effect of human activities on the physical and living environment so that we can all live more healthy and sustainable lives. This field builds on other branches of engineering, especially civil, chemical, and mechanical engineering. It also builds on information from many of the sciences, such as chemistry, physics, hydrology, geology, atmospheric science, and several specializations of biology (ecology, microbiology) and public health. Students who elect to study environmental engineering will become familiar with many of these areas because maintaining and improving the environment requires that problems be evaluated and solutions found using a multidisciplinary approach.

Additional Information

For more information, visit the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering webpage.

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the PhD in Environmental Engineering must have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree. The application package will include: 

  • undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • three letters of recommendation from faculty or professionals who can evaluate the applicant's promise as a graduate student
  • GRE scores (optional)
  • a written statement of career and educational goals.

Competitive applicants will possess an undergraduate GPA of 3.30 or higher and GRE scores above the 60th percentile.

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

Degree Requirements

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

  • Establishment of plan of study with PhD advisor
  • Completion of 90.0 quarter credit hours (or 45 credit hours post-MS), including taking certain qualifying courses
  • Passing of PhD candidacy exam
  • Approval of PhD dissertation proposal
  • Defense of PhD dissertation

Students entering the PhD program with an approved Master of Science (MS) degree must take 45 credit hours of coursework and research to be approved by their PhD advisor. Students entering the PhD program without an approved MS degree can either complete the 45-credit hour Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MSENE) degree followed by an additional 45 credit hours post MSENE, or they can choose not to obtain the MSENE and complete only the required “core” courses for the PhD degree within the completion of a total of 90 required credit hours. Students with previous graduate coursework, may transfer no more than 15 quarter credits (equivalent to 12 semester credits) from approved institutions if deemed equivalent to courses offered within the department.

All PhD students are required to meet all milestones of the program. The total credit amount, candidacy exam, and dissertation are University Requirements. Additional requirements are determined by the department offering the degree.

Qualifying Courses

To satisfy the qualifying requirements, students must earn a grade of B+ or better in the five required “core” courses taken at Drexel and must earn an overall GPA of 3.5 or better in these courses.

Undergraduate courses, independent studies, research credits, and courses from other departments cannot be counted toward the qualifying requirements. Student progress toward these requirements will be assessed by the PhD advisor following the student's first year in the PhD program. For more information visit the Environmental Engineering's PhD Program Requirements page.

Candidacy Exam

After approximately one year of study beyond the MS degree or completion of the required “core” courses, if their GPA is ≥ 3.5, PhD students can and must take a candidacy examination, consisting of written and oral parts. Successful completion of the candidacy exam enables a student to progress from the designation of PhD student to PhD candidate. The candidacy exam represents the first exam in a series of three that comprise the PhD curriculum.

The Environmental Engineering candidacy examination serves to define the student’s research domain and to evaluate the student’s knowledge and understanding of various fundamental and foundational results in that domain. The student is expected to be able to read, understand, analyze, and explain advanced technical results in a specialized area of Environmental Engineering at an adequate level of detail. The candidacy examination will evaluate those abilities by asking a student to summarize literature and/or undertake a small research project. The student will prepare a written summary of review and/or project results, present the outcome orally, and answer questions about the report or presentation. The candidacy examination committee will evaluate the written report, the oral presentation, and the student’s answers. The candidacy committee membership must follow the requirements of the Graduate College and must be approved by the Graduate College.

Students with a GPA < 3.5 do not meet eligibility requirements to sit for the candidacy exam. In this case, a student may petition the Graduate Advisor to take a Preliminary Written Exam (PWE). A committee will be formed consisting of three members selected from the pool of faculty in the field of research interest of the student and the pool of faculty who taught the courses taken by the student during the preceding terms. An exam will be developed consisting of a series of questions/problems prepared by the three written exam committee members. The written exam, while fixed in duration, may be composed of several different problem-solving assignments. Additionally, the exam may be closed book or open book or a combination thereof. The student will consult with the advisor to become acquainted with the specific rules of the exam. The exam will be graded by the PWE Committee to determine if the student may sit for the candidacy exam.

Dissertation Proposal

After successfully completing the candidacy examination, the PhD candidate must prepare a dissertation proposal that outlines, in detail, the specific problems that will be solved during the research that is conducted to complete the PhD dissertation. The quality of the dissertation proposal should be at the level of a peer-reviewed proposal to a federal funding agency, or a publishable scientific paper. The candidate is responsible for sending the dissertation proposal to the PhD committee no less than two weeks before the scheduled oral presentation. The PhD committee membership need not be the same as the candidacy exam committee, but it follows the same requirements and must be approved by the Graduate College. The oral presentation involves a presentation by the candidate followed by a period during which the committee will ask questions. The committee will then determine if the dissertation proposal has been accepted. The dissertation proposal can be repeated at most once if the proposal was not accepted.

A dissertation proposal must be approved within two years of becoming a PhD candidate. After approval of the dissertation proposal, the committee may meet to review the progress of the research.

Dissertation Defense

After successfully completing the dissertation proposal, the PhD candidate must conduct the necessary research and publish the results in a PhD dissertation. The dissertation must be submitted to the PhD committee no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled oral defense. The oral presentation by the candidate is open to the public, followed by an unspecified period during which the committee will ask questions. The question-and-answer period is not open to the public. The committee will then determine if the candidate has passed or failed the examination. If not passed, the candidate will be granted one more chance to pass the final defense.

The PhD degree is awarded for original research on a significant Environmental Engineering problem. Graduate students will work closely with individual faculty members to purse the PhD degree. PhD dissertation research is usually supported by a research grant from a government agency or an industrial contract. Many doctoral students take three to five years of full-time graduate study to complete their degrees.

Program Requirements

Post Bachelor of Science Degree
Required Core Courses
ENVE 660Chemical Kinetics in Environmental Engineering3.0
ENVS 501Chemistry of the Environment3.0
Required Statistics Course3.0-4.0
Biometry
Biomedical Statistics
Data-based Engineering Modeling
Biostatistics
or other courses as approved by the graduate advisor
Required Environmental Policy Course3.0
Sustainable Water Resource Engineering
Public Finance and Cost Benefit Analysis
Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis
Methods of Policy Analysis
or other courses as approved by the graduate advisor
Required Life Science Course3.0
Fundamentals of Environmental Biotechnology
Evolutionary Ecology
Aquatic Ecology
or other courses as approved by the graduate advisor
Technical Elective Requirements0.0-30.0
To be determined by the PhD faculty advisor and approved by the graduate advisor
500+ level courses in AE, CIVE, ENVE, ENVS, PLCY or other courses approved by the graduate advisor
Research Requirements74.0-140.0
Please note that the number of research credits may be reduced based on the number of Technical Electives that are required.
Research
Dissertation Requirements1.0-12.0
Ph.D. Dissertation
Total Credits90.0-198.0
Post Master of Science Degree
Technical Elective Requirements0.0-30.0
To be determined by the PhD faculty advisor and approved by the graduate advisor
500+ level courses in AE, CIVE, ENVE, ENVS, PLCY or other courses approved by the graduate advisor
Research Requirements44.0-100.0
Please note that the number of research credits may be reduced based on the number of Technical Electives that are required.
Research
Dissertation Requirements1.0-12.0
Ph.D. Dissertation
Total Credits45.0-142.0

Sample Plan of Study

Upon entering the PhD program, each student will be assigned an academic advisor, and with the help of the advisor will develop and file a plan of study (which can be brought up to date when necessary). The plan of study should be filed with the graduate advisor and uploaded to the E-Forms system no later than the end of the first term. The Eforms system will be used to track program progression and milestones. Sample Plans of Study are presented below:

Post Bachelor of Science Degree

First Year
FallCreditsWinterCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
ENVE 5163.0ENVE 6603.0CIVE 5643.0Vacation0.0
ENVE 7503.0Technical Electives6.0Technical Electives6.0 
ENVS 5013.0   
 9 9 9 0
Second Year
FallCreditsWinterCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
CIVE 9976.0CIVE 9976.0CIVE 9979.0Vacation0.0
Technical Electives3.0Technical Electives3.0  
 9 9 9 0
Third Year
FallCreditsWinterCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
CIVE 9979.0CIVE 9979.0CIVE 9979.0Vacation0.0
 9 9 9 0
Fourth Year
FallCredits   
CIVE 9976.0   
CIVE 9983.0   
 9   
Total Credits 90

Post Master of Science Degree

First Year
FallCreditsWinterCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
CIVE 9973.0CIVE 9973.0CIVE 9973.0Vacation0.0
Technical Electives6.0Technical Electives6.0Technical Electives6.0 
 9 9 9 0
Second Year
FallCreditsWinterCredits  
CIVE 9979.0CIVE 9976.0  
 CIVE 9983.0  
 9 9  
Total Credits 45

Facilities

The Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering is well equipped with state-of-the-art facilities:

  • Analytical instrumentation for measuring biological and chemical contaminants in air, water and land
  • Field sampling equipment for water and air measurements
  • Molecular biology capability
  • Computational facilities including access to multi-processor clusters, and advanced simulation and data analysis software

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Faculty

Abieyuwa Aghayere, PhD (University of Alberta). Professor. Structural design - concrete, steel and wood; structural failure analysis; retrofitting of existing structures; new structural systems and materials; engineering education.
Ivan Bartoli, PhD (University of California, San Diego). Associate Professor. Non-destructive evaluation and structural health monitoring; dynamic identification, stress wave propagation modeling.
Shannon Capps, PhD (Georgia Institute of Technology). Associate Professor. Atmospheric chemistry; data assimilation; advanced sensitivity analysis; inverse modeling.
S.C. Jonathan Cheng, PhD (West Virginia University). Associate Professor. Soil mechanics; geosynthetics; geotechnical engineering; probabilistic design; landfill containments; engineering education.
Yaghoob (Amir) Farnam, PhD (Purdue University). Associate Professor. Advanced and sustainable infrastructure materials; multifunctional, self-responsive and bioinspired construction materials; advanced multiscale manufacturing; characterization, and evaluation of construction materials; durability of cement-based materials.
Patricia Gallagher, PhD (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Professor. Geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering; soil improvement; soil improvement; recycled materials in geotechnics.
Patrick Gurian, PhD (Carnegie-Mellon University). Professor. Risk analysis of environmental and infrastructure systems; novel adsorbent materials; environmental standard setting; Bayesian statistical modeling; community outreach and environmental health.
Charles N. Haas, PhD (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) Program Head for Environmental Engineering; L. D. Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering. Water treatment; risk assessment; bioterrorism; environmental modeling and statistics; microbiology; environmental health.
Simi Hoque, PhD (University of California - Berkeley) Program Head for Architectural Engineering. Professor. Computational methods to reduce building energy and environmental impacts, urban metabolism, thermal comfort, climate resilience.
Y. Grace Hsuan, PhD (Imperial College). Professor. Durability of polymeric construction materials; advanced construction materials; and performance of geosynthetics.
Joseph B. Hughes, PhD (University of Iowa). Distinguished University Professor. Biological processes and applications of nanotechnology in environmental systems.
L. James Lo, PhD (University of Texas at Austin). Associate Professor. Architectural fluid mechanics; building automation and autonomy; implementation of natural and hybrid ventilation in buildings; airflow distribution in buildings; large-scale air movement in an urban built environment; building and urban informatics; data-enhanced sensing and control for optimal building operation and management; novel data gathering methods for building/urban problem solving; interdisciplinary research on occupant behaviors in the built environment.
Franco Montalto, PhD (Cornell University). Professor. Effects of built infrastructure on societal water needs, ecohydrologic patterns and processes, ecological restoration, green design, and water interventions.
Mira S. Olson, PhD (University of Virginia). Associate Professor. Peace engineering; source water quality protection and management; contaminant and bacterial fate and transport; community engagement.
Miguel A. Pando, PhD (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Associate Professor. Laboratory testing of geomaterials; geotechnical aspects of natural hazards; soil-structure-interaction; geotechnical engineering.
Matthew Reichenbach, PhD (University of Austin at Texas). Assistant Teaching Professor. Design and behavior of steel structures, bridge engineering, structural stability
Michael Ryan, PhD (Drexel University) Associate Department Head of Graduate Studies. Associate Teaching Professor. Microbial Source Tracking (MST); Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA); dynamic engineering systems modeling; molecular microbial biology; phylogenetics; metagenomics; bioinformatics; environmental statistics; engineering economics; microbiology; potable and wastewater quality; environmental management systems.
Christopher Sales, PhD (University of California, Berkeley). Associate Professor. Environmental microbiology and biotechnology; biodegradation of environmental contaminants; microbial processes for energy and resource recovery from waste; application of molecular biology, analytical chemistry and bioinformatic techniques to study environmental biological systems.
Robert Swan Teaching Professor. Geotechnical and geosynthetic engineering; soil/geosynthetic interaction and performance; laboratory and field geotechnical/geosynthetic testing.
Sharon Walker, PhD (Yale University) Dean, College of Engineering. Distinguished Professor. Water quality systems engineering
Michael Waring, PhD (University of Texas at Austin) Department Head, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering. Associate Professor. Indoor air quality and building sustainability; indoor particulate matter fate and transport; indoor chemistry and particle formation; secondary impacts of control technologies and strategies.
Jin Wen, PhD (University of Iowa). Professor. Architectural engineering; Building Energy Efficiency; Intelligent Building; Net-zero Building; and Indoor Air Quality.
Aspasia Zerva, PhD (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). Professor. Earthquake engineering; mechanics; seismology; structural reliability; system identification; advanced computational methods in structural analysis.

Emeritus Faculty

A. Emin Aktan, PhD (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). Professor Emeritus. Health monitoring and management of large infrastructures with emphasis on health monitoring.
Eugenia Ellis, PhD, AIA (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Professor Emerita. Natural and electrical light sources and effects on biological rhythms and health outcomes; ecological strategies for smart, sustainable buildings of the nexus of health, energy, and technology.
Ahmad Hamid, PhD (McMaster University). Professor Emeritus. Engineered masonry; seismic behavior, design and retrofit of masonry structures; development of new materials and building systems.
Harry G. Harris, PhD (Cornell University). Professor Emeritus. Structural models; dynamics of structures, plates and shells; industrialized building construction.
Joseph P. Martin, PhD (Colorado State University). Professor Emeritus. Geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering; hydrology; transportation; waste management.
James E. Mitchell, MArch (University of Pennsylvania). Professor Emeritus. Architectural engineering design; building systems; engineering education.
Joseph V. Mullin, PhD (Pennsylvania State University). Teaching Professor Emeritus. Structural engineering; failure analysis; experimental stress analysis; construction materials; marine structures.
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