The PhD degree program through SDC is flexible in both methodology and topic area. Access to Stanford University's broad base of academic resources and professional networks, the degree can perfectly position graduates for careers in formal research in academia or for unique technical roles in the AEC industry.
Historically, the PhD degree was the optimal path for a career in university education and research. This remains true — our PhD graduates are highly sought-after for faculty positions by the top universities in our field worldwide. More recently however, partially due to SDC's focus on project partnerships and the practical applications of its research, leading-edge companies and government agencies have been recruiting our PhD graduates to serve as eminent leaders in the adoption of new technologies and management approaches across the industry. Some of these research topics can be furthere explored on our Research page.
The PhD degree requires 90 units beyond the MS degree (or 45 units beyond the degree of Engineer), including a dissertation that is judged by the student’s dissertation advisor and committee to make an original contribution to knowledge.
It is theoretically possible to complete the PhD Degree in six quarters of full-time study after the MS degree. A handful of our students have enrolled full-time with support from their own funds, or from an external or internal fellowship, and completed all of the requirements for the PhD in two years. However, most of our PhD students receive 50-percent-time research assistantships and can thus enroll for up to 10 units per quarter, so the PhD degree takes a minimum of 9 quarters after the MS degree to complete, and more typically requires from 12 to 16 quarters of enrollment. History shows that few students complete the PhD within the minimum unit requirements, and prospective doctoral students should plan for about four years. The combined faculty of the Construction Program must approve the program of study.
See the Doctor of Philosophy CEE Department page for more information.
Major Degree Milestones
1. Admission to the PhD degree program.
An SDC faculty member must agree to admit the student to the PhD program and start to serve as the principal research advisor for the student. Admission usually requires that the student get to know the faculty member and vice versa. So the Construction program almost never admits students from other universities directly to PhD candidacy without the student enrolling in the MS or Engineer degree at Stanford or a peer institution, and/or one or more visits to Stanford by the student to get acquainted.
2. A problem analysis and a theory paper that demonstrate the student's ability to do both practical and theoretical work.
This requirement has two components:
a. Perform a short problem analysis exercise or “charrette” of approximately one week, in which they observe a design, engineering or construction management project in practice, or they interview multiple parties involved in some area of construction industry practice and then demonstrate their ability to describe a real engineering or business problem and use modern analysis methods to address the problem. Students must submit a written summary of up to 5,000 words that describes the problem, the student’s response to the problem, and the student’s assessment of the appropriateness of the response to the problem.
b. Conduct a critical literature review that describes and analyzes prior approaches in the theoretical literature that relate to their observed problem and comment on the strengths and limits of different aspects of the theoretical literature. The written literature review should be approximately 5,000 words.
The two deliverables will be submitted together and must be reviewed and accepted by a committee consisting of the principal advisor plus at least two other faculty members proposed by the student and approved by the CEM-DCI-SDC program coordinator. The problem analysis may become part of the practical motivating test case for the dissertation, and the literature review may become part of the theoretical point of departure for the dissertation, but there is no requirement that they should do so. Students have a maximum of two opportunities to get the problem analysis and paper approved by the committee. PhD students will not be allowed to continue studies beyond 60 post-MS units without completing this requirement.
3. Qualification examination for advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree.
The qualification examination normally includes a written proposal for the doctoral dissertation and an oral presentation and defense of the integrity of the proposed research. The proposal should not be longer than 10,000 words. The student should again propose the examination committee for approval by the program coordinator, and must comply with departmental and university guidelines for committee composition. In completing this milestone, the student and committee establish a consensus that the proposed work, if completed successfully, will lead to a contribution to knowledge in the area of CEM, DCI or SDC that satisfies the fundamental requirement for a doctorate. In addition, the committee certifies that it finds that the student is intellectually, technically and personally qualified to complete the doctorate. Students may take the qualification examination up to two times before completing 90 units of post-MS coursework and independent study (ideally, the qualification exam is passed well before reaching 90 units).
The candidacy is valid for four calendar years from the time of advancement to candidacy (through the end of the quarter in which candidacy expires), unless terminated by the department for unsatisfactory progress. Ideally, though, the dissertation defense and acceptance by the reading committee of the written dissertation should occur around the end of the fourth year of doctoral program studies.