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Swanson School of Engineering—Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

Contact Information

Joseph J. McCarthy, W.K. Whiteford Professor and Vice Chair for Education
940 Benedum Engineering Hall
Fax: 412-624-9639

Graduate Degree Programs

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering awards Master of Science degrees in chemical and petroleum engineering and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in chemical engineering; offers several dual degree programs; and participates in joint degree programs with the Katz Graduate School of Business and the School of Medicine. The general objective of all programs is to develop the ability of the chemical or petroleum engineer to carry out original research at advanced levels. The aim of the doctoral program is to develop individuals for careers in academic and industrial research. The program is flexible. Its primary emphasis is on innovative and distinctive research on the cutting edge of engineering science. Students wishing to pursue the PhD should have an outstanding academic background and a desire and ability to carry out original research. PhD students here are given independence and responsibility. They are not only encouraged but are expected to develop research ideas, which they propose and defend. They work closely with their faculty research advisors and often participate in a research group attacking relevant engineering problems. To supplement their research, students take advanced courses in areas related to their research work. Candidates for the PhD achieve a high level of proficiency through this advanced course work and individual study in their research area and related areas.

The graduate program offers MS and PhD students the opportunity to pursue independent research in five research focus areas in which the department has developed national and international reputations: biotechnology, catalysis, multi-scale modeling, materials, and environment and energy. Additional research areas exist in programs that have exploited opportunities at the interface between disciplines. The department’s recognized research activities impact the following boundaries between established disciplines: biotechnology/environment; biology/engineering; energy/environment; polymer chemistry/physics; catalysis/chemistry/materials; catalysis/energy; and catalysis/environment.


Chemical Engineering: For admission to full graduate status, students should have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering with high academic standing in an ABET-accredited curriculum.

Petroleum Engineering: For admission to full graduate status, students should have an undergraduate degree in engineering or geology, and high academic standing.

Students from chemistry or from another engineering discipline who desire to pursue a graduate degree in chemical engineering must have a high grade point average and prepare for graduate course work by taking selected undergraduate courses in chemical engineering. See MS and PhD Requirements for Students with Non-Chemical Engineering BS Degree. Each case for admission will be evaluated individually, and applications are encouraged.

Interested students may apply online (preferred method) or, if necessary, interested students may request a complete application package in one of the three following ways:

  1. Send e-mail to Be sure to include your name and complete mailing address.
  2. Send surface mail to:
    University of Pittsburgh
    Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
    Graduate Coordinator
    1249 Benedum Hall
    Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Financial Assistance

While admission to the graduate program does not imply the granting of financial aid, most full-time graduate students are supported. All students who qualify for financial assistance are awarded departmental fellowships. In addition, a select few top students receive supplementary dean’s fellowships. An applicant interested in obtaining financial aid should request information directly from the department. Applications for admission and financial aid should be submitted by January 15 for the following fall term.

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (Research-Oriented Program)

The candidate for the Master of Science degree must demonstrate proficiency in basic chemical engineering subjects by successfully taking the following required 3-credit courses:

CHE 2101 Fundamentals of Thermodynamics
CHE 2201 Fundamentals of Reaction Processes
CHE 2301 Fundamentals of Transport Processes
CHE 2410 Mathematical Methods in Chemical Engineering
CHE 2982 Issues in Research and Teaching

In addition to these 15 credits, the student must satisfactorily complete the following courses:

  • At least 9 additional credits of graduate-level course work, at least 3 of which must be in chemical engineering. Approved courses can be taken outside the department.
  • Six credits of thesis must also be taken.
  • Three credits for Research Methodology (see below).
  • A full-time student will normally take 33 credits.

    Full-time students are required to register each term for Research Methodology, a 1-credit course. In Research Methodology, a letter grade will be given each term based upon the student's research performance. Full-time students are also required to attend the graduate seminar during the fall and spring terms. It should be emphasized that the preceding course requirements are minimum requirements, and additional work may be necessary for an individual student, especially if the student's undergraduate degree is not in chemical engineering.

    A student who does not maintain a B (3.00 GPA) average in all MS-level courses or obtain a B or better in the five required courses is put on academic probation. The graduate faculty of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering will review all cases of probation each term and determine whether the student will be permitted to continue to pursue graduate study. Should a student receive a B- grade or lower in a required MS course, the student will be required to repeat that course and receive a B grade or better before being permitted to graduate.

    A student with full-time status should discuss possible thesis topics with at least three members of the departmental faculty and then submit a written request to the faculty for assignment of a thesis advisor. After the faculty assigns an advisor, the student can begin the thesis. The MS thesis oral examination is given at the completion of the thesis. All full-time master's students must participate in teaching a course during one term as a master's student.

    Students wishing to continue into the PhD program after the MS degree should take the oral qualifying examination during the summer of their first year. Failure to do so will forfeit one of two opportunities to pass this examination.

    Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (Professional Engineer Program)

    Engineers working full-time outside the University who wish to continue advanced study in chemical engineering may apply for admission to the Professional Engineer Program. It differs from the regular MS program in two important respects:

    1. Admission to the program is limited to engineers working full-time outside the University in chemical engineering or a related area.
    2. Course work replaces the MS thesis requirement.
    3. The student completes a 3-credit special project course, ChE 2910, during their last term in the program. This course could be satisfied, for example by a project with a faculty member, or a project based on their professional work for which a faculty member agrees to serve as advisor. Submission of a term paper, which is completed under the advisement of a member of the faculty, is required.

    A minimum of 31 credit hours of course work is required. These must include the five core courses and elective courses listed below. 

    ChE 2301             Fundamentals of Transport Processes I     

    ChE 2101             Fundamentals of Thermodynamics            

    ChE 2201             Fundamentals of Reaction Processes         

    ChE 2410             ChE Math Course             

    ChE 2910             Special Project    

    ChE 2XXX            Chemical Engineering Elective (Graduate Level)     

    ENGR 2/3XXX        Engineering Elective (Graduate Level)       

    ENGR 2/3XXX        Engineering Elective (Graduate Level)       

    XX 2/3XXX           Elective (Graduate Level)             

    XX 2/3XXX           Elective (Graduate Level)


    Up to 6 credit hours may be elected in approved graduate course offerings outside the department. Students who wish to enter this program should first apply for admission to graduate study in chemical engineering. Once admitted, students can then request admission to the Professional Engineering Program.

    Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering

    The candidate for the degree of non-thesis Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering must
    demonstrate proficiency in petroleum engineering by passing the following:

    Mandatory Courses:


    PETE 2160 Petroleum Reservoir Engineering 3 cr
    PETE 2201 Recovery of Oil by Waterflooding 3 cr
    PETE 2204 Enhanced oil Recovery Processes 3 cr
    PETE 2205 Petroleum Production Engineering 3 cr
    PETE 2207 Petroleum and Natural Gas Processing 3 cr
    PETE 2208 Petroleum Drilling and Well Completion Design 3cr
    ChE 2410 Mathematical Methods in Chemical Engineering 3 cr
    One Geology or Civil Engineering course from the accepted electives list     3 cr


    In addition to these 24 credits, the student must satisfactorily complete two other courses from the accepted electives list in order to fulfill the 30 credits required for the MS degree.

    Accepted Electives:


    GEOL 1100 Structural Geology 4 cr
    GEOL 1410 Exploration Geophysics 3 cr
    ME 2055 Computer Aided Analysis in Transport Phenomena 3 cr
    ME 2060 Numerical Methods 3 cr
    CEE 2405 Groundwater Hydrology 3 cr
    CEE 2801 Advanced Soil Mechanics 3 cr
    CEE 2717 Components, Properties, and Design of Portland Cement 3 cr
    CEE 2800 Engineering Geology 3 cr
    ENGR 2633 Mineral Industry Risk Management 3 cr


    No single course (e.g. Geol 1100) can be used to satisfy both a core requirement and elective requirement.

    Students without a BS degree in engineering must take, in addition, either the online "bridging course" offered in Jan (1st class) and May (2nd class) by Michigan State University (See for details about the bridging courses CHE 804 and 805) or CHE 0100 (sophomore-level) "Foundations of Chemical Engineering" class offered during the Fall term. Neither of these classes can serve as an elective nor core course substitute in the MS in Petroleum Engineering required classes.

    Dual Master's Degree

    A program of study is available in which a student may pursue a dual degree between chemical engineering and petroleum engineering. In general, 42 credits are required, including the fundamental courses in the two areas. Both thesis and non-thesis options are possible. The required chemical engineering courses are:

    CHE 2101, 2201, 2301, 2410,

    and the required petroleum engineering courses are:

    PETE 2201, 2204, 2205, 2207, 2208, GEOL 1413; one course from GEOL or CEE, as specified above in the Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering

    The remaining 9 credits may be taken from graduate offerings in engineering or geology (see the accepted electives list for recommended courses). All other departmental regulations listed previously apply to the Master of Science dual-degree program.

    MD/PhD Program

    The MD/PhD program in chemical engineering is administered through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). This physician-scientist training program is tailored to a student's specific research interests. Intended for students who have a clearly defined interest in biomedical research, the MSTP links various PhD programs with the School of Medicine.

    Doctor of Philosophy

    The following special regulations pertain to the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. For additional requirements, review the school-wide information in the Doctor of Philosophy Programs section as well as the Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees.

    Entry to the PhD Program

    In order to enter the PhD program, a student must have completed an MS degree and passed the PhD oral qualifying preliminary examination. Especially well-prepared students may petition the department faculty, in writing, for permission to obtain the PhD degree directly without obtaining an MS degree. This eliminates the required completion of the MS thesis. All MS-level course work is still required.

    During the summer of the first year as a graduate student in the department, the student wishing to continue into the PhD program must take the oral preliminary examination. Failure to take this examination at this time will forfeit one of two opportunities to pass this examination. The structure and content of the PhD oral qualifying examination is subject to change in order to meet the requirements of the faculty and PhD program.

    PhD Course Requirements

    A student's course series will be designed by the student and his thesis advisor, approved by the PhD committee, and signed off by the graduate coordinator. This sequence should include courses in the student's research area as well as courses not related to his research area. Forty-two credits beyond the MS degree are required and must include the following courses:

    XX 2/3XXX Electives (Science, Math, or Engineering) 12 credits
    CHE 2982 Issues in Research and Teaching (if not taken at MS level)
    CHE 3990 Advanced Graduate Projects, 6 credits (minimum)
    CHE 3999 PhD Dissertation (taken after PhD proposal defense), 12 credits (minimum)

    Additional course requirements may include the following, if the student has not previously completed courses in these areas at the master's level:

    CHE 2101 Fundamentals of Thermodynamics
    CHE 2201 Fundamentals of Reaction Processes
    CHE 2301 Fundamentals of Transport Processes
    CHE 2410 Mathematical Methods in Chemical Engineering

    Students must also register for one credit in PhD research methodology each term. A minimum of 72 graduate credit hours, including MS courses and thesis credits, are required. All full-time students must fulfill a two-term teaching requirement during their course of study and attend the departmental graduate seminar series during the fall and spring terms.

    Dissertation Requirement

    A dissertation topic should be selected after passing the PhD oral qualifying examination. This is done by submitting a formal request in writing to the departmental graduate faculty for appointment of a faculty advisor (or advisors). Preliminary work can be done on the dissertation by registering for CHE 3990. After being admitted to PhD candidacy, the student should concentrate on the dissertation, registering for CHE 3999. Eighteen credits of these two courses are required with at least 12 of these 18 being in CHE 3999. Most students complete more than 18 credits of these courses.

    PhD Comprehensive Examination and Proposal Conference

    This is an oral examination covering chemical engineering at the PhD level and is based upon a written dissertation proposal. If this examination is passed, a doctoral committee will be officially appointed. This exam should be taken at least 18 months before completion of the dissertation and preferably within the first year beyond the MS.

    PhD Final Oral Examination

    A final review (defense) of the thesis must be conducted by the dissertation committee in order to determine the acceptability of the dissertation.

    Off-Campus Research

    Occasionally, a research program can be conducted at a government or industrial site. In those situations the student should submit a proposal for such research to the graduate coordinator for approval by the faculty. The faculty advisor must be actively involved in the research.

    Graduate Chemical Engineering Courses

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