Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How big is the department?
A. There are 23 faculty, over 80 graduate students, over 15 postdocs, and around 70 undergraduates per class.
Q. How big will my incoming graduate student class be?
A. We typically enroll about 15 - 20 students each year.
Q. Do Ph.D. students get their Masters too?
A. Most do get an M.S. on their way to a Ph.D. after meeting the departmental requirements.
Q. How do I apply?
A. Applications are all done online. Click here to begin!
Q. Can I be admitted to the department if I don't have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering?
A. Yes. In fact, we have students with B.S. degrees in the sciences (usually chemistry, physics or materials science) and other areas of engineering. Depending on your background, you may need to take some undergraduate courses your first year in residence to ensure adequate preparation for graduate courses. Your individual course requirements are worked on between you and the Director of Graduate Studies.
Q. How do I pick my advisor?
A. In late September you will have the opportunity to listen to the faculty describe the research projects they are offering. Once you have a better idea of the professors you might like to work with, you can meet in depth with the professor(s) that interest you as well as their students. After this, you submit a list of your top three choices to the Chair, who matches students and faculty according to mutual interest.
Q. Can I be guaranteed that I will get my first choice of advisor?
A. The vast majority get their first choice. In some cases, students may end up with their second or third choice if too many people prefer one project, but we make every effort to make sure students are happy with their choice.
Q. Why wouldn't everybody get their first choice?
A. At Notre Dame, all graduate students are fully funded; TA duties are the same for all students. At some schools, faculty take students without full funding, and the student earns their stipend by serving as a TA every semester. Because we don't do this, it means we only assign students to projects that are funded. If too many students pick the same project for their first choice, then obviously something has to give.
Q. What kind of exams are there and when do they take place?
A. Comprehensive Exam - This takes place during the beginning of the third semester in residence. The purpose of the exam is to judge whether a student is prepared to perform research at a level consistent with their degree objectives. It involves both written and oral components as well as an evaluation of student performance in course work and as a TA. Complete details can be found in the Guide for Graduate Students.
Ph.D. Candidacy Exam - After passing the Comprehensive Exam, Ph.D. students take the Candidacy Exam by the end of the fifth semester. The student writes a 10-12 page document describing their research progress and outlining their plans for the remainder of their thesis work. A faculty panel consisting of a chair from outside the department and a panel of three departmental faculty evaluate the document and conduct an oral examination. Again, full details are provided in the Graduate Guide.
Ph.D. Defense - Once all the departmental requirements for the Ph.D. degree are satisfied, including submission of a thesis, the student defends the thesis during an oral examination before a panel of faculty.
Q. What's the vacation policy?
A. The basic departmental vacation policy for graduate students is that each graduate student is eligible to take two weeks vacation during each twelve-month period, in addition to the following holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas through New Year Celebration, Good Friday, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. Students should consult with their advisor before scheduling vacation.
Q. Health Insurance?
A. All students must show proof of insurance, or be enrolled in the University insurance program called MEGA. You may contact Charlotte Bostic at 574-631-5011 for information.
Q. Cost of living expenses?
A. The cost of living is very low in the South Bend area, so your stipend dollars go a long way. According to Salary.com, the cost of living in South Bend is about 15% lower than the cost of living in Chicago, Atlanta, Ann Arbor and Minneapolis, and over 30% lower than the cost of living in Boston or Los Angeles.
Q. Notre Dame is a Catholic school, so are all the students Catholic?
A. Notre Dame welcomes students and faculty of all religious backgrounds and beliefs. Our graduate students come from all over the U.S. as well as from around the world, and have a wide range of creedal affiliations. The mission of Notre Dame is to advance knowledge and pursue the truth. This is best done in a climate that supports diverse views and freedom of inquiry.
Q. How many students live off campus?
A. Most students end up living off campus in apartments or rental houses. A few students even purchase their own homes (see cost of living question!). Some students, especially in their first few years of graduate school, choose to live on campus in graduate housing. Single students can live in the Fischer or O'Hara-Grace residences, while married students or students with children can live in the Cripe Street apartments or University Village. Details on these housing options, along with information on meal plans, can be found on the university web site.
Q. Are many students married and/or do many have children?
A. Perhaps 20% of the graduate students are either married when they enter graduate school, or get married during graduate school. Of these, a fair number also have children.
Q. What is the ratio of male to female students?
A. About 25% of our current graduate students are female.
Q. What is the ratio of international to domestic students?
A. The ratio of domestic to international students varies, but currently almost 45% of the graduate students are international and come from 15 different countries.
Q. How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?
A. The range is typically 4-5 years.
Q. How many students stop at Masters degree?
A. Almost all of our students complete their Ph.D. degree. Less than 10% stop at an M.S.
Q. How many classes do I have to take, and are there core classes?
A. There is a 5-course (15 credit) minimum for a the M.S. degree, and an 8-course (24 credit) requirement for the Ph.D. Students entering with an M.S. degree may transfer up to 24 credits upon approval of the Graduate Studies Director. There are core required courses all students must take in mathematics, transport phenomena, thermodynamics and kinetics. Complete details are provided in the Graduate Guide.
Q. How much does it cost for athletic facilities?
A. Graduate students have free use of all facilities on campus with student ID. Also, various grad, faculty, and staff sport leagues are available.
Q. Can I get football, basketball or other sporting event tickets?
A. Yes, you may purchase season tickets for any sport. Football is very popular at Notre Dame. Graduate students may purchase football tickets during the beginning of the fall semester at a discounted price and through a lottery. Information will be given to you soon after your arrive on campus.
Q. When do I need to arrive on campus?
A. Non-US citizens need to arrive on campus in time for the mandatory International Student Orientation, which is usually during the week prior to the start of classes. US citizens should arrive in time for the departmental orientation, which is usually the Friday before the start of classes. You will receive more detailed information and exact dates via email as soon as they are available.