Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering — Qualifying Examination

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Procedures for Civil Engineering PhD Qualifying Examination

  1. The primary intent of the Civil Engineering PhD Qualifying Examination is to identify potential weaknesses in a PhD candidate’s background.
  2. This exam is for students pursuing the PhD Degree in Civil Engineering and is monitored and administered by the Civil Engineering Graduate Program Director.  Separate qualifying exam procedures apply to PhD candidates pursuing degrees in Environmental or Geosensing Engineering.
  3. All Civil Engineering PhD candidates who have already completed at least five graduate courses will be recommended to take the written PhD Qualifying Exam before the beginning of their third semester in the UH graduate program.  The written exam will be closed-book and offered twice a year:  on the first Friday after the spring commencement and two Fridays before the beginning of the spring semester.
  4. Students going directly from the BS degree to the PhD degree are recommended to take the written qualifying exam by the semester after they complete five courses in their graduate programs.
  5. Passing criteria:
    • Score ≥ 80%: pass (may be accompanied by the requirement of additional coursework in specific areas).
    • Score ≥ 70% but < 80%:  oral exam required.  After administration of the oral exam the student may  receive a  grade of  pass  (may  be  accompanied by  the  requirement of
      additional coursework in specific areas) or a grade of unacceptable.  If an unacceptable grade is assigned, the student will be allowed a second attempt at the written exam in the regularly scheduled qualifying exam period of the following semester.
    • Score < 70%: unacceptable.  Student will be allowed a second attempt at the written exam in the regularly scheduled qualifying exam period of the following semester.
    • If an oral exam is required it will be administered by a committee of at least three civil engineering faculty members.  The oral exam committee must be submitted to the Civil Graduate Program Director at least 24 hours before the oral exam. The Chair of the Oral Exam Committee will be selected by the Civil Graduate Program Director.
    • After the exam(s) a memo from the Civil Graduate Program Director documenting the student’s performance (pass or fail, with any additional requirements or recommendations) will be placed in the student’s Departmental file.

 

Core Area​s and Exam For​mat for PhD Candidates in Structural/Mechanics Area

The exam will consist of two questions in each of the four core areas below. Students will answer four questions from at least three core areas.

Core Areas Topics
Structural Analysis and Mechanics Classical methods of structural analysis, matrix structural analysis(stiffness and flexibility methods), structural dynamics, structural stability
Design Structural concrete design, steel design, composite design
Engineering Mathematics Ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, linear algebra, vector calculus
Mechanics of Materials Stress-strain relationships (2D and 3D) and transformations, beam theory, shear and torsion, elasticity, plasticity

 

Core Areas and Exam Format for PhD Candidates in Hydro-systems and Water Resources

Students will select three of the four core areas listed below to be tested on. The exam will consist of four to six questions from the select three core areas. All exam questions must be solved.

Core Areas Topics
Fluid Mechanics Basic governing equations, pipe flow, laminar flow solutions, turbulent channel flow, scalar transport
Open Channel Hydraulics Energy and momentum principles, uniform flow and resistance, gradually varied flow, dam break flows, sediment transport, basic fluvial geomorphology
Coastal Mechanics Wave properties, linear and nonlinear waves, random waves, wave forces
Hydrology Rain fall, infiltration, hydrographs, flood water routing, water resources

 

Core Areas and Exam Format for PhD Candidates in Geotechnical Engineering

Students will be tested on four of five core areas listed. The exam will consist of four to six questions from the core areas. All exam questions must be attempted.

Core Areas Topics
Geotechnical-Theory Soil Classification, Effective Stress, Consolidation, Compaction, Permeability, Geology
Geotechnical-Laboratory Triaxial, Consolidation, Permeability, Specific gravity, Index Properties, Swelling, Shear
Foundations Bearing Capacity, Settlement, Design of Spread Footing, Deep Foundations, Retaining Wall
Materials Elastic behavior, Inelastic behavior, Stress-Strain relationship, Yielding, Testing, Anisotropic Materials, Grouts, Coatings, Nanomaterials, piezoresistive materials
Environmental Contaminated soils, Adsorption, Biodegradation, Leaching, Surfactants, Solubility, Treatment Methods, Testing