PhD Program

Degree Requirements

At the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), you will customize your PhD program experience, tailoring it to your own interests and aspirations. At the same time, you will receive training and an education grounded in a common understanding of functional systems on a molecular scale. 

Course Requirements

We provide every student with a rigorous curriculum and meaningful research experiences. On top of that, you will develop core competencies in communication, knowledge synthesis, engaged scholarship, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Your Pritzker Molecular Engineering coursework, teaching activities, and other co-curricular programs will empower you to master these skills. 

In the PME PhD program, you are expected to fulfill the following course requirements: 

  • Three core courses
    Core courses, designed specifically for PME students, teach you fundamental principles, methodologies, and/or systems that serve multiple engineering fields within the school. These courses foster interdisciplinary understanding and collaboration.
  • Four in-depth courses
    In-depth courses, which must be at the graduate level, give you specialized knowledge in the research field of your choice. In-depth courses include any PME course, or, with your research advisor's approval, graduate courses offered in the Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences Divisions.
  • Two broad elective courses
    The broad electives can help you develop skills in leadership, communication, technology development, and product design. Such courses are often offered in other divisions such as public policy, business, or the humanities. Broad electives can also be used to acquire or renew basic understanding in STEM subject areas. 

Courses used to meet program requirements must be completed with grades of B or higher.

In consultation with your faculty adviser, you will select your core and in-depth courses from a portfolio of graduate-level courses. Though we only require nine courses for the PhD program, we encourage you to take additional relevant courses in areas across the University.

Interested in learning more about the PhD program at PME? Fill out this form to request more information.


As a graduate student at the school, you must meet the residency requirements of the University of Chicago. See the section on Registration for Students in PhD Programs and Degrees in the latest version of student manual.

First-year graduate students must register for and attend the first-year graduate seminar, MENG 40000. Consisting of weekly presentations by PME faculty and staff, this seminar provides an overview of the types of competencies and non-academic knowledge associated with successful research. Grades for this course are pass/fail and are based on participation and attendance. Students who miss more than two classes and/or who do not complete the Responsible Conduct of Research training receive a failing grade.

In addition, first-year graduate students are required to:

  • attend the monthly PME Distinguished Colloquium Series, exposing you to a variety of scientific topics
  • attend the First-Year Colloquium Series

Second-year requirements

In your second year, you must submit a candidacy research proposal by the end of the winter quarter. This should include objectives, approaches, and expected outcomes. You will also give an oral presentation of the written proposal to a faculty review committee for approval. Students must complete seven of their nine required courses, including all core courses, prior to candidacy. Your proposal must be approved before you can move forward as a PhD candidate.

Pedagogical training is a component of our doctoral education. PME requires that all graduate students engage in meaningful teaching experiences. Most students will satisfy this requirement by serving as a teaching assistant (TA). For more information, please see the PME Student Manual.

Doctoral dissertations are original contributions to scholarship.  Every student in the PME PhD program is required to prepare, submit and defend an original dissertation thesis project.