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Doctoral Program (PhD)

The PhD in Civil Engineering degree provides an opportunity for students to pursue a program of research in a specialized area and to develop a dissertation that embodies the results of original research and gives evidence of high scholarship.

On this page:

Graduate Program Highlights

  • Curriculum:  Tailor your studies to match your interests and career objectives with the department’s broad selection of graduate courses.
  • World-Class Faculty:  Be taught and mentored by faculty members who are outstanding teachers and recognized internationally for their research.
  • Successful Alumni:  Join the department’s network of accomplished alumni who have gone on to highly successful careers in academia at universities such as Cornell University, Penn State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rice University, Texas A&M, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington. Many alumni have also pursued careers in industry at top-tier companies including AECOM, Arup, Ecology and Environment, Energo, Exxon Mobil, HDR, KPFF, Mueser Rutledge, Parsons, Som, Southern Company, Thornton Tomasetti, and Weidlinger Associates.
  • Affordability:  Spend less on tuition. UB has a worldwide reputation for academic excellence, but the cost of attending is much less than many other comparable public and private universities.

Technical Concentrations

PhD in Civil Engineering students may choose one of the following technical concentrations:


Research in computational engineering mechanics involves the application of the fundamental principles of solid and fluid mechanics to a variety of emerging engineering problems, using state-of-the-science numerical algorithms and high-performance computing technology.


Research in environmental engineering seeks to better understand the physical, chemical, and biological processes that influence the health of our environment and to pursue innovative solutions for its protection.


Research in geotechnical engineering addresses computational geomechanics, deep foundations, ground improvement, seismic response of soils, liquefaction, and retrofit of foundations, dams, slopes, and retaining walls.


The goal of research in earthquake engineering is to enhance the seismic resiliency of communities through improved engineering and management tools for critical infrastructure systems.


Research in transportation systems engineering focuses on improving the efficiency, safety, sustainability, and resiliency of surface transportation systems.

Degree Requirements

While all PhD programs in civil engineering are highly individualized, they all consist of these three basic elements:

  • a program of graduate coursework
  • qualifying examinations (written and oral)
  • defense and approval of a doctoral dissertation

More specifically, a PhD program must consist of a minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree. A maximum of 30 credit hours from the MS degree can be credited towards the PhD degree. At least 42 credit hours beyond the MS degree are normally required for the PhD degree, which will include from 12 to 24 credit hours for dissertation and at least 18 hours of coursework. However, no matter how many credit hours are allocated for the dissertation on a student's transcript, the quality of a dissertation is the crucial consideration. The dissertation must represent a significant contribution to the field of study.

The program of coursework is formulated by the student and his/her advisor in the first or second semester after admission to the PhD program. Core course requirements, as specified below, must be satisfied either through courses taken within the doctoral program or previously as part of an MS program. Individual program areas may require a minor concentration or specific grouping of courses.

Please note that proposed PhD programs in pure science or mathematics devoid of applied elements are not generally acceptable within CSEE, nor are programs in technology that are deficient in scientific or mathematical background.

Additional detail concerning the PhD program requirements can be found in the Graduate Studies Manual (PDF).

Doctoral Research and Coursework

As indicated above, PhD programs are tailored for the needs of each doctoral student. Research topics are highly dependent upon the research interests of the faculty advisor. Please explore CSEE Research for more information on our current research.

For more detail on the coursework component of the program, please see CSEE Graduate Courses for descriptions of individual courses available within the department. Note, however, that doctoral students are also encouraged to enroll in courses offered outside CSEE.

Core Curriculum

CSEE maintains a basic core requirement for civil engineering MS and PhD degree candidates consisting of one of two courses in mathematics and one of two courses in mechanics, either fluids or solids.

The courses comprising the core are selected to ensure that advanced degree recipients from the department have knowledge in the basic mechanics and mathematics that are the "fundamental language" of civil engineering.

The only exception to this rule is when a student can demonstrate that he/she has already taken an equivalent course before coming to UB. In this case the student should take an alternative course, as specified by the Graduate Studies Committee.

While high performance in all graduate work is important, excellent grades in core courses are particularly significant in the faculty's assessment of a student's potential to pursue a PhD.

The current core program is as follows:

Choose one of the following in Mechanics:

Choose one of the following in Mathematics: