Doctor of Philosophy in Transportation Planning and Engineering
The PhD in Transportation is a research-oriented degree intended for those whose goal is a career in basic transportation research and/or teaching at the Institute level or in private research organizations.
Goals and Objectives
The fundamental goal of the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering is to develop professionals with strong research skills capable of advancing the profession of transportation planning and engineering through their work. Specific objectives of the program are to provide the skills necessary to:
- develop a strong and deep fundamental knowledge about the profession of transportation planning and engineering;
- develop the knowledge and skills to perform independent fundamental research in transportation planning and engineering;
- produce fundamental research that meaningfully advances the state-of-the-art of the profession of transportation planning and engineering.
Students pursuing the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering generally specialize in one of the following subject areas:
- Transportation planning
- Traffic engineering
- Intelligent transportation systems
- Transportation safety
Other focus areas are possible and can be developed with the help of faculty advisers. All subject areas, of course, must be relevant to the degree sought and have a faculty member willing and able to guide the student’s research.
All graduate applications are processed through the civil engineering departmental office, which distributes applications to the graduate coordinator. Graduate program coordinators formally implement admission decisions, in accordance with departmental regulations. Coordinators consult with other department faculty as needed. They are also responsible for keeping records for all graduate students in their program areas, and for processing graduation audits for students in their program areas.
The graduate coordinators form the departmental Graduate Committee. All PhD applications are reviewed by the committee, and admissions decisions are made by the committee and implemented by the graduate coordinator.
For each registration, the student’s program must be approved by the academic adviser and signed by the transportation program coordinator.
Admission Criteria to PhD Program
Admission to the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering requires an MS in Transportation Planning and Engineering or equivalent, with a GPA of 3.5 or better (on a 0-4 scale).
Foreign applicants must take the TOEFL examination and submit the results for consideration.
The “equivalent” of the MS degree can be achieved in several ways. The candidate may have an MS degree with a different title that covers substantially the same material. More generally, applicants must demonstrate that they have the equivalent of all undergraduate and master’s level course work in order to pursue doctoral level work in the major area. Further, “equivalence” is evaluated based on the totality of the student’s undergraduate and graduate record, not course-by-course.
Because admission to a PhD program requires a related MS (or equivalent), those applicants who have not yet achieved a master’s degree would normally be admitted as MS students. They are expected to earn an MS degree while completing their major and minor course requirements. In rare cases, an applicant with only a BS degree may be directly admitted into the PhD program with the written approval of the department head.
Upon admission, every PhD student is assigned an academic adviser, who is selected by the department head. Any member of the civil engineering faculty can be an academic adviser to a graduate student. In cases where a student is supported on a research contract, the principal investigator of the contract would normally be appointed as the academic adviser for the student. Where a student has a particular research interest and is working with a particular faculty member, the student may request that the faculty member be appointed as academic adviser. In rare cases where a PhD student enters the program without a prior selection of a major area of study, the initial academic adviser will be the Graduate Coordinator of the transportation program.
In fulfilling their academic requirements, PhD candidates will deal with two advisory committees:
Academic Advisory Committee: The student’s academic adviser works out a program of courses to fulfill major and minor requirements for the PhD. The Academic Advisory Committee generally will comprise the academic adviser and one faculty member for each minor area of study. The Academic Advisory Committee guides the PhD student’s work through the successful completion of a qualifying examination. A letter signed by the academic adviser and approved by the department head is placed in the student’s file, indicating the composition of the Academic Advisory Committee.
Dissertation Committee: The Dissertation Committee is formed immediately after the student passes the qualifying examination. It comprises a major adviser, a dissertation adviser and a minor adviser for each minor the student has pursued. Additional faculty members may also be on the Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee may be the same as the Academic Advisory Committee, or may be different. The Dissertation Committee guides the student’s course and research work after the student has passed the qualifying examination. The Dissertation Committee must be formally assigned and approved by the department head and filed with the Office of Graduate Academics. The major adviser must be a fulltime faculty member of the Department of Civil Engineering. The major and dissertation advisers may be the same individual.
Doctoral Degree Requirements
To earn a PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering, the following requirements must be met:
- Fifty-one credits of graduate work (not including the PhD dissertation) in relevant major and minor areas of study beyond the bachelor’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 scale).
- Completion and successful defense of a 24-credit dissertation related to the major area of study. Dissertations must consist of original research that meaningfully advances the state-of-art in the subject area of the research and should result in the publication of at least one paper in a strictly peerreviewed technical journal related to the subject. A grade of B or better must be achieved for the dissertation.
- Completion of two minor areas of study, each consisting of between 9 and 12 credits of graduate work. At least one minor area must be outside the transportation area.
- Residency requirements for the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering include the 24-credit dissertation plus a minimum of 9 credits of applicable graduate course work taken at Polytechnic.
In satisfying the 51-credit course requirement, the student must satisfy all requirements for the major and minor areas selected, or their equivalent.
In satisfying these basic PhD requirements, students must also satisfy one of the two following conditions:
- Thirty-nine credits of approved graduate course work, not including individual guided studies (readings, projects, theses, etc.) beyond the bachelor’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 scale).
- Twenty-one credits of related graduate course work beyond the master’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 scale).
Satisfying condition 2 requires that the department accept the student’s MS degree in toto without regard to its specific content. This requires a recommendation from the department’s Graduate Committee and the approval of the department head.
Transfer credits for PhD students can be awarded course by course. Alternatively, a MS degree from another institution may be accepted for transfer in toto. In the former case, a maximum of 42 credits of approved graduate work may be transferred. The latter requires a recommendation from the department’s Graduate Committee and the approval of the department head. Transfer credits are awarded generally at the time of admission and must be approved by the academic adviser, the transportation graduate coordinator and the department head.
Departmental qualifying examinations for the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering are given once a year (usually in June or July) and are coordinated with other qualifying examinations in the department. If sufficient demand exists, a second qualifying examination may be scheduled in December or January. Every PhD student must pass a qualifying examination in the major area of study and in any in-department minor areas of study before becoming a candidate for the PhD. Further:
- No student may register for dissertation credits until the Qualifying Examination is passed.
- A Dissertation Committee cannot be formed until the student passes the Qualifying Examination.
- A student may take the Qualifying Examination twice. A third attempt is permitted only with the written recommendation of the Academic Advisory Committee and the approval of department head. In no case may a student take the examination more than three times.
- Students normally take the Qualifying Examination (for the first time) after successfully completing most of their course requirements in the major and indepartment minor areas of study.
The Qualifying Examination consists of a five-hour written portion and an oral portion of approximately one hour. Both written and oral portions of the examination focus on the student’s major and in-department minor. The oral portion may also explore higher-level skill areas required to successfully conduct independent research. Students are deemedto have passed the examination based upon an overall evaluation of the written and oral results. While some students may not be invited to the oral examination if they have done poorly in the written portion, invitation to the orals does not imply that the student has “passed” the written portion of the exam.
The Qualifying Examination is either “passed” or “failed.” A letter indicating the result of each examination is placed in the student’s graduate file. In rare cases, a student may be deemed to have “conditionally passed” the Qualifying Examination. This conditional status occurs in cases where the student does extremely well in all areas except for a single subject area in which weakness has been noted. Such students must follow a prescribed plan to strengthen their knowledge and skills in the area of weakness and must pass a special examination on the area of weakness within one calendar year. A student who has “conditionally passed” the Qualifying Examination may register for dissertation credits and may form a Dissertation Committee.
All transportation faculty members participate in submitting written problems for the qualifying examination, and in the grading process and in the oral examination. All departmental faculty members are welcome to observe any oral examination and to ask pertinent questions. Each student’s Academic Advisory Committee will have the opportunity to review the entire exam before it is administered and may suggest changes if it deems that the examination as presented is an inequitable test of the student’s abilities. Recommendations on the results of the examination are submitted by each student’s Academic Advisory Committee, augmented by any departmental faculty in the subdisciplines tested. The departmental faculty, acting as a whole, votes to accept or reject such recommendations at a meeting scheduled for this purpose.
Following passage of the Qualifying Examination and the appointment of a Dissertation Committee, the PhD candidate must submit a written Dissertation Proposal, outlining the subject of the proposed research. This proposal should be between 15 and 20 pages long and should address the following specific items:
- Description of the topic
- Literature review sufficient to insure that the work contemplated is original
- Research methodology(ies) to be used
- Data and/or laboratory needs and their availability to the student
- Anticipated outcomes
The Dissertation Proposal must be submitted within one semester of full-time study, or before 9 credits of dissertation credit are completed.
The Dissertation Proposal is orally presented and defended before the Dissertation Committee and other interested departmental faculty. The date of the oral defense and copies of the draft Dissertation Proposal must be made available to department faculty at least two weeks (14 calendar days) before the defense.
When the Dissertation Proposal is formally accepted, the Dissertation Adviser enters a letter into the student’s graduate file, indicating this acceptance, with a copy of the proposal. While the Dissertation Committee has reasonable flexibility to modify the proposal during the research, any significant change in focus area or methodology requires that an amended Dissertation Proposal be written and formally accepted following the same procedure noted herein.
The culmination of the student’s PhD work is the oral presentation and defense of the final draft dissertation. A defense is generally scheduled after the Dissertation Committee has reviewed the draft dissertation and determined that it is complete and of sufficient quality to be presented and defended.
The defense is organized and scheduled by the Dissertation Committee. All Institute faculty members are invited to observe and ask questions at all Polytechnic dissertation defenses. Therefore, the date of the defense must be announced Institute-wide at least one month before the event, and copies of the draft dissertation must be available to any faculty member requesting one in a timely fashion and in no case less than two weeks before the defense.