The Institute of Materials Science & Engineering (IMSE) at Washington University in St. Louis offers a truly interdisciplinary PhD in Materials Science & Engineering. Materials science and engineering is the interdisciplinary field focused on the development and application of new materials with desirable properties and microstructures. Disciplines in the physical sciences (chemistry, physics, etc.) and engineering fields (mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, etc.) frequently play a central role in developing the fundamental knowledge that is needed for materials studies. The discipline of materials science and engineering integrates this knowledge and uses it to design and develop new materials and to match these with appropriate technological needs.

The IMSE is well positioned to address the needs of a student seeking a truly interdisciplinary experience. Established in 2013, the IMSE brings together a diverse group of faculty from Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and the School of Medical. The IMSE works to integrate and expand the existing materials interests at Washington University by establishing and overseeing shared research and instrument facilities, creating partnerships with industry and national facilities, and setting up outreach activities.

Current focused areas of research and advanced graduate education within the IMSE include:

Materials for Energy Generation, Harvesting, and Storage

Materials for Environmental Technologies

Materials for Biotechnology

Interface Science and Engineering

Computational Materials Science

Contact:Beth Gartin

Interdisciplinary PhD in Materials Science & Engineering

To earn a PhD degree, students must complete the Graduate School requirements, along with specific program requirements. Courses include: 

  • Four IMSE Core Courses (12 academic credits)
MEMS 5608Introduction to Polymer Science and Engineering3
Physics 537Kinetics of Materials3
EECE 502Advanced Thermodynamics in EECE3
Chem 465Solid-State and Materials Chemistry3
or Physics 472 Solid State Physics
Total Units12
  • IMSE 500 First-Year Research Rotation (3 academic credits)
  • IMSE 501 IMSE Graduate Seminar (1 academic credit; 2 required, 3 allowed for credit)
  • Three courses (9 credits) from a preapproved list of Materials Science & Engineering electives
  • Additional free electives from participating departments to reach 36 academic credits (~9 academic credits, ~3 courses)
    • A maximum of 3 credits of IMSE 502 Independent Study will be permitted toward the free electives requirement.
  • A maximum of 12 credits of 400-level courses may be applied to the required 36 academic credits.
    • 400-level courses not included on the preapproved list of Materials Science & Engineering electives must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Students must maintain an average grade of B (GPA 3.0) for all 72 credits. Additionally, the required courses must be completed with no more than one grade below a B-. Up to 24 graduate credits may be transferred with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee.

In addition to fulfilling the course and research credit requirements, the student must:

  • Complete a Research Rotation
  • Identify an IMSE faculty member willing and able to support the student's thesis research on a materials-related topic
  • Fulfill the Teaching Requirement
    • Attend 2+ Teaching Center Workshops
    • 15 units of teaching experience (basic and advanced levels)
  • Successfully complete the Qualifying Examination (oral and written)
  • Maintain satisfactory research progress, as determined by the student's thesis adviser and mentoring committee
  • Successfully complete the Thesis Proposal and Presentation
  • Successfully complete and defend a dissertation

Failure to meet these requirements will result in dismissal from the program.

Course Plan

Year 1

Fall Semester (13 credits) 

  • Solid-State and Materials Chemistry (Chem 465) or Elective
  • Advanced Thermodynamics in EECE (EECE 502) 
  • Introduction to Polymer Science and Engineering (MEMS 5608)  
  • Elective
  • IMSE Graduate Seminar (IMSE 501) 

Spring Semester (13 credits) 


  • Begin thesis research
  • Prepare for Qualifying Exam (August)
    • Written document and oral presentation on research rotation
    • Oral exam on fundamentals from core courses

Years 2 and beyond

  • 3 electives (discuss with PhD adviser)
  • IMSE Graduate Seminar (once more for credit)
  • IMSE PhD Research
  • Teaching Requirement
    • Attend 2+ Teaching Center Workshops
    • 15 units of teaching experience (basic and advanced levels)
  • Annual (or more frequent) meetings with Faculty Mentoring Committee
  • Thesis proposal and presentation (fifth semester)
  • Dissertation and oral defense