The Ph.D. program encourages students to initiate research work early in their graduate study. Students familiarize themselves with the faculty and research being conducted, attend research group seminars and colloquia to expose them to a range of topics and problems that may be chosen for research projects, and enroll in classes to fulfill the course requirements for the degree.
During the first two years students conduct a research initiation project under faculty supervision, which introduces students to research methodologies, the current state of the art in the area of concentration, and presentation of research results. By the end of the second year, students must also complete the breadth requirement, which can be fulfilled by passing a qualifying exam or receiving a grade of B+ or better in the corresponding course in four of six core areas of subject knowledge.
Having successfully completed the research initiation project, breadth requirement, and course requirement, a Ph.D. student continues independent research. The student attains candidacy by passing the preliminary examination in the third year of graduate study, and writes a thesis proposal. The Ph.D. candidate then conducts research that culminates in the doctoral dissertation defense.
Teaching is a vital part of the Ph.D. experience. Students are required to have at least one semester of teaching experience, most commonly in the form of a teaching assistantship. The Department awards Certificates of Distinction in Teaching for graduating PhD students who have demonstrated excellence in and commitment to teaching and mentoring. The anticipated time to earn the Doctor of Philosophy degree is five years.