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Qualifying Exam


Purpose and Format
It is essential that Ph.D-degree bound graduate students have a sound background in chemical engineering and the creativity and judgment necessary to conduct independent research. The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to assess these qualities with an emphasis on evaluation of the student’s potential to conduct original research. To serve this purpose, the Exam will have two parts that are administered sequentially after the students have completed five core courses (CBE 8801, CBE 8808, CBE 8812, CBE 8815, and CBE 8781) with a minimum average GPA of 3.2 in these five core courses.  If a student has a Core GPA between 3.0 and 3.19, the student must petition, with approval of their advisor, to be able to take the Qualifying Examination.  If a student has a Core GPA below 3.0, they will not be allowed to proceed in the Ph.D. program.

The first part of the exam will test the student’s ability to comprehend and critique modern chemical engineering research literature. This examination should be taken immediately after the student has completed the five core courses. Part I will usually be administered immediately after the Final week of Spring Semester for students started in Autumn Semester. Part II of the exam will test the student’s ability to initiate original research and formulate a plan to conduct the research. This examination should be taken within one semester after the student has passed the first part of the exam or before the start of the second Spring Semester. Students with an average core course GPA of 3.45 or higher may be waived from the first part of the qualifying exam. The student's advisor must submit a letter requesting the waiver to the GSC, who will make the final decision. If this request is approved, these students may proceed directly to the second part of the exam. Since the core course GPA is calculated based only on grades received in OSU courses, students who wish to be considered for a waiver of the first part of the exam must take at least three of the five core courses at OSU. Transfer students who take fewer than three core courses at OSU will be required to take the first part of the exam. Details about each part of the examination are explained as follows:

Part I: Literature-Critiquing Exam
This exam will be based upon the student’s ability to critically evaluate a recently published research article in chemical engineering journals. Specifically, the student will be asked to:

  1. Identify the problems addressed in the paper
  2. Formulate a critical appraisal of the author’s contributions to the problems and the significance of the work
  3. Critically evaluate the technical soundness of the approach used and results obtained in the work
  4. Propose in concrete terms research work that might be done to extend and (if necessary) improve upon the study discussed in the article.

The student taking the exam will be given three research articles to consider. The student will have one week to choose one of those three articles to evaluate, and another week to submit a written report addressing the four points listed above. Within 6 working days after the submission of the report, the student will give an oral presentation to a three-member faculty panel. The oral presentation will be approximately 1 hour in length; the student will first give a 20-minute presentation, followed by a 40- minute question and answer session. The panel members for this examination will be selected by the Graduate Studies Committee. The student's advisor will not be a member of the panel. A majority vote from the faculty panel is required for the student to pass this exam. If the student fails the exam, he/she must take the exam again after one quarter before he/she can take the Research Proposition Exam.

Part II: Research Proposition Exam
This exam will test the student’s ability to initiate original research and formulate a plan to conduct the research. Immediately after having been waived from or having passed Part I, the student should consult with his/her advisor on the research topic and prepare a proposal outlining a research plan that may be conducted as a part of his/her dissertation research. The proposal should be prepared following the format and guidelines provided by the student’s advisor. Usually the proposal should contain statements about the research problems and approaches to be used, literature review, project goal and specific objectives, experimental methods, and expected results and significance of the work. It is highly advisable to follow the NSF proposal guidelines in preparing the proposal. The proposal should be submitted to a three-member committee with the student’s advisor as the chair of the committee. The student should then orally defend the proposal within two weeks of proposal submission. The oral defense should include a 30-minute presentation followed with questions and answers, for a total of 1.5 hours. A majority vote from the committee is required for the student to pass this examination. If the student fails the exam the first time, he/she may take the exam again after one quarter. If he/she should fail the exam twice, he/she will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program.