Graduate Research Programme


Degree Requirements

The PhD is designed to be completed with four years of study. During the first two years, students take courses and complete one exploratory research projects in consultation with faculty advisor. They also generate a proposal for their PhD research. After completing a qualifying examination their second year, they focus on completing their doctoral project, working closely with a primary faculty advisor. Students from AY2020 Sem 1 intake onwards are required to complete 18 Academic Units of classes during their PhD, which roughly translates around six courses. Students with a Master’s degree in related fields may request for course exemption up to 1 course (3AUs) for similar courses that he/she has taken during MSc in their respective universities.


PhD Timeline

  • By the end of the first academic year (second semester): the student submits: (1) tentative titles of research proposals for review by the oral examination committee and (2), a list of courses planned to satisfy the PhD requirement, for review by the academic advisory committee.
  • By the end of the second academic year: (1) passage of oral exam; (2) satisfactory completion of course requirements; (3) submission of a tentative thesis topic and adviser, and thesis advisory committee; (4) admission to candidacy.
  • End of the subsequent academic years: satisfactory progress toward completion of thesis.
  • Completion of PhD thesis by the end of fourth year. If warranted, the student may request an extension of up to one year from the academic advisory committee.


Advising and Thesis Supervision

A supervisor will be assigned for each incoming student. This supervisor serves as a mentor with broad responsibility for a student's academic welfare throughout the graduate program. The supervisor is responsible for guiding students through the academic program, including course work, identifying thesis advisory committee, and completing ASE requirements and prerequisites. Supervisors are chosen from the student’s area of interest.

Coursework Requirements

During the first year, every graduate student will take ES 7002 and ES 7003. These courses should be completed during the first year. Throughout their graduate careers, students are expected to attend departmental seminars and seminar courses led by visiting scientists.


Exploratory Research Projects

Graduate student exploratory research projects are carried out during the first year of residence.  The purpose of the research project is for the student to demonstrate the ability to carry out scientific research on their chosen topics, to place it in the context of previous knowledge, and to recognize its implications.  Each research project should be a careful written and oral statement of what has been learned up to the time of the examination, together with a discussion of the implications of the research.  The research projects should be supported by evidence that may include maps, graphs, photographs, samples, etc.  These materials need not be in final form or represent the last word on the subject.

The student should demonstrate breadth in the selection of research project topic. The name of the faculty member most closely involved should appear on the written abstract of research project.

Project supervisor may read each abstract once and provide general comments.  Preparation for the oral exam should be independent from supervisors, faculty/lecturer and post docs (i.e. talk rehearsals).  However, students are encouraged to seek input from fellow students and research associates.


Qualifying Oral Examinations

The qualifying exam consists of the following items:
a)  One project described in a 5-page (including figures and references) report..
b)  A 15 minute talk presented to the QE committee.
Two weeks prior to the student's PhD QE’s date, the student will submit his/her abstract, one project described in a long (5-page including figures and references) report), iThenticate Report (not exceeding 10%), a summary of course work already completed, and a short CV (1-page) demonstrating experience prior to entering the PhD.
During the examination, the student will present a 15-minute summary describing objectives, results, conclusions and implications that follow from the research project. The presentation of research project summary will be followed by detailed and general questioning concerning the research project itself and the fundamental science underlying the research project and/or the student’s academic specialty. The chair of the PhD Qualifying Examination Committee will direct the discussion to ensure that all major aspects of each research topic and of the student’s major interests are aired.
Immediately after the examination, the committee chair will inform the student of the exam result.  Should the student fail the qualifying exam, he/she may, subject to approval of the PhD Qualifying Examination Committee, be allowed to make a second attempt within three months.
In all cases, the examining committee will prepare a written memo to the student and his or her adviser, which states the result of the exam and makes recommendations regarding the student's further preparation. The supervisor will review the response to recommendations when the student applies for admission to candidacy (see Section 4.5).
Students are not allowed to have any backup / extra slides for their QE talk (beyond the slides they will actually present). In addition, the advisor should only provide minimal inputs to the report and presentation. If the research is to be written up for publication prior to the QE, it is the student’s responsibility to save a version of the report for QE submission prior to getting detailed comments from the advisor and other collaborators.

Thesis Advisory Committee

The Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) must be declared by the end of the 1st year.
The TAC will comprise 3 or 4 members as follows:

  • 3 members consisting of the main supervisor (as coordinator of the TAC) and 2 committee members (for student who does not have a co-supervisor); or

  • 4 members consisting of the main supervisor (as coordinator of the TAC); the co-supervisor (for IGPA students this person must be from a different School within NTU) and 2 committee members.

The TAC will consist of a minimum 2 internal faculty from the School and at least 1 external member. The supervisor is responsible for assisting students to identify their research and training needs, plan their time and design the framework under which their research will progress. Committee members serve as mentors, providing academic and personal support to the PhD candidate and should be diverse enough to support all the research directions of the thesis. Staff from industry and research institutes who have suitable academic qualifications can be invited to be in the TAC. The TAC is also responsible for monitoring the student’s progress and completing the annual research progress report.

The Committee is approved by the Associate Chair (Research) in consultation with the candidate’s supervisors, and approved by the Chair, ASE.

Thesis Defense

The student must submit their thesis to the thesis committee at least one month in advance of the thesis defense. The thesis defense consists of a public presentation (45-50 minutes), with questions from the audience. Following the public presentation, the student will meet for private discussion with the thesis committee. In exceptional circumstances, an external committee chair may be appointed by the Assocciate Chair.

Revisions requested by the committee must be completed and submitted to the committee chair for final approval. If the student fails the thesis examination, subject to the recommendation of the thesis committee and the Academic Committee and the approval of the Associate Chair, the student may undergo another examination within six months.