PhD in Chemical Engineering
The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering offers a graduate program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in chemical engineering. The doctorate is a research degree emphasizing extensive and original approaches to problem solving, which our students apply to address the most pressing challenges facing society. The department is consistently ranked among the top institutions in the world, earning the #12 ranking (#8 among US public institutions) in the 2022 US News and World Reports ranking of Chemical Engineering PhD programs. Our tradition of excellence has been maintained throughout the 106-year history of the department and is reflected in numerous recent accolades and impactful research. Graduate student life is enriched by living in Madison, Wisconsin, which is ranked as one of the best places to live in the country.
Students match with faculty advisors during the first semester of the program. Since 2017, 90% of students have matched with either their first- or second-choice advisors. Click here for a one-page summary of faculty and their research interests. Over 80% of our students graduate in under six years. Students proceed to a range of careers in academia, industry, the national laboratories, or other pursuits. Students who have opted for academia have started faculty positions at the University of California San Diego, University of Connecticut, Tufts University, and West Virginia University. Recent PhD recipients have obtained industry positions at Dow Chemical, 3M, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Du Pont, BASF, ExxonMobil, P&G, AbbVie, and a wide range of other top companies. Students with entrepreneurial interests have also founded or joined local start-up companies.
Applications for the Fall 2022 semester are accepted between September 8, 2021 and December 15, 2021 – click the buttons below for information on the program and application instructions.
Graduate students at UW-Madison perform research with world-class faculty on topics with substantial societal impact. Research activities are broadly categorized in four research focus areas as detailed on the Research page. CBE research is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary, with most faculty associated with multiple research focus areas. Faculty and students participate in collaborative projects in the department and with faculty in other departments at UW, which rank among the best in their fields. Research projects also benefit from close collaborations with partners in industry and in the national laboratories to provide students with perspectives on non-academic research.
CBE faculty are leaders and members of multiple interdisciplinary research centers, including the Center for the Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics, Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies, Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. Students benefit from a peer group that consistently receives accolades including NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, graduate student awards, best paper awards, and more. More information on department research areas, impact, facilities, and related information is available on the Research page.
A healthy work-life balance is important to graduate education. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is located in Madison, Wisconsin, which is consistently rated as one of the top cities to live in America. Madison offers a little something for everyone at a reasonable cost-of-living.
For those interested in outdoors activities, Madison is on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona enabling access to boating, fishing, watersports, and related activities. A favorite spot is the Memorial Union Terrace which offers food, drinks, and live music on Lake Mendota. Outdoors enthusiasts can access popular state parks, national parks, and hiking trails within an 1-2 hour drive, including the well-known Devil’s Lake state park and Ice Age Trail. Students often explore these activities on their own or as part of the Hoofers Club, which organizes outdoor activities and rents related equipment.
For athletes, Madison is also a top city for running and a platinum biking city with numerous paths and city parks. In the summer, the extensive Madison parks system facilitates basketball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, and ultimate frisbee games, while in the winter popular sports include cross-country and downhill skiing, pond hockey, or (for the brave) kite-sledding. Madison also hosts a range of special events, including the Crossfit games, Ironman triathlon, Crazylegs classic, and more. Students can enjoy a wide range of spectator sports by supporting the Division I sports teams at UW-Madison (and attending games at Camp Randall Stadium, located next to Engineering Hall) as well as local professional teams including Forward Madison FC (soccer), the Madison Radicals (ultimate frisbee), and the Madison Mallards (baseball).
For food enthusiasts, Madison features restaurants with diverse cuisines (American, Chinese, Ethiopian, French, Indian, Italian, Laotian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, and more) as well as numerous bakeries, chocolatiers, coffee shops, gastropubs, and fine-dining options with James Beard-award winning chefs. Reflecting Wisconsin’s Germanic background and its dairy industry, Madison offers one of the country’s largest selection of breweries, a large variety of cheese producers and specialty cheese shops, butchers, European bakeries, supper clubs, and ice cream shops (including the popular Babcock Hall ice cream which is produced on-campus). The square around the capital is the weekly home to the largest producers-only farmer’s market in the country, providing produce and other goods from over 275 vendors from April to November. Other major culinary events include the Taste of Madison (an annual food truck festival), Restaurant Week, and the Great Taste of the Midwest (an annual beer festival) among other events.
For those interested in the arts and entertainment, the Overture Center for the Arts is home to the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Ballet, Madison Opera, and touring Broadway productions. Fans of the arts can visit the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chazen Museum (on the UW campus), Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin studio, and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Notable venues for music and stand-up comedy include the Alliant Energy Center, which attracts large, popular touring acts, the historic Orpheum Theater, the Majestic Theater, the Sylvee, Comedy on State, Atlas Improv, and more. Film buffs can attend the annual Wisconsin Film Festival at UW-Madison which features a diverse set of independent films and documentaries. Finally, Madison also offers unique events including an annual Brat Fest and numerous other music festivals.
For those looking to travel, Madison is a 3-hour drive to Chicago, 1.5-hour drive to Milwaukee, and 4-hour drive to Minneapolis. Buses run from the UW campus to downtown Chicago and the Chicago airport daily. The Dane County Airport also offers service to several major cities (New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, etc.) which ensures that most destinations are only a flight away.
Beyond research, UW-Madison provides a large variety of resources to help students develop the skills necessary for successful careers in academia or industry.
For students interested in academia, the Delta Program promotes the development of future faculty by offering courses and workshops on effective teaching, outreach, and advising. Students can also take Delta-sponsored courses to count toward their minor requirement as part of the PhD program. Training for research mentors is also available from the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research. Students further hone their mentorship skills by supervising undergraduate researchers through a number of Research Experiences for Undergraduate programs or by supervising CBE undergraduate researchers.
For students interested in industry, Engineering Career Services provides workshops to assist in an effective job search and resume preparation. Staff will also schedule individual consultations with students to prepare effective resumes or practice interview preparation. Industry careers are also facilitated by numerous industry collaborations sought out by faculty, which can lead to summer internships. Recent PhD students have conducted internships at companies including Aldevron, Intrexon, Dupont, Dow Agrosciences, Cargill, Genencor, Benson-Hill Biosystems, Merck, and at Argonne and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.
Students who wish to build entrepreneurial skills have access to numerous programs, including programs offered by the Forward BIO institute, Discovery to Product, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund (and particularly the WARF Ambassador program), and the Morgridge Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. Students can also build skills to complement their research by enrolling in workshops through data science @ uw while meeting potential industry employers at annual events like the Computing in Engineering forum.
UW-Madison is also home to a large number of National Institutes of Health training programs. Training programs in which CBE faculty participate include the Biotechnology Training Program, the Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program, Biophysics, Computation and Information in Biology and Medicine Training Program, Genomic Sciences Training Program, Neuroscience Training Program, and Cellular and Molecular Pathology Training Program. Each program provides unique career development opportunities, including seminar series, research mentor training, responsible conduct of research training, and a summer internship.
Building a collegial, inclusive community is essential to a successful graduate education. The department promotes community through a series of activities starting from the beginning of the first semester, when students attend orientation events intended to both introduce themselves to campus, to current students, to faculty, and to each other. During their first semester on campus, graduate students get to know each other by sharing an office and take a series a core graduate classes that promote team collaborative problem solving. Traditionally, the fall semester also involves a department-wide hike at Devil’s Lake to help faculty and students (and, often, their pets) mingle in an informal setting.
The graduate student community is significantly strengthened through the efforts of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Students Association (ChEGS). ChEGS is a student-led organization that plans a series of events for students and faculty alike. Recent social activities planned by ChEGS include board game nights, barbeques, basketball and volleyball tournaments, paddle boarding, biking, or hiking outings, paint nights, brewery tours, and more. ChEGS also organizes an informal graduate student seminar series to highlight department research, provides advice to new students on navigating graduate school, organizes department participation at science outreach events, and publishes a newsletter to spotlight ongoing activities. Finally, ChEGS officers also attend faculty meetings to help communicate student perspectives as needed.
Outside of ChEGS, CBE students participate in a number of other organizations designed to foster community for students from historically excluded or underrepresented groups. The College of Engineering Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program is a fellowship program designed to offer underrepresented students a support network of peers and professional development opportunities. Other campus-wide organizations include the Black Graduate & Professional Student Association and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Students that participate in National Institutes of Health training programs further benefit from related social and professional development activities.
Research activities provide another means to interact within the department, with the greater UW-Madison campus, and with the local community. The weekly seminar series invites top scholars to share their research at UW-Madison and provides an opportunity for students to meet invited speakers. The seminar series also features two current CBE students to highlight exemplary research within the department. Focused seminars and group meetings provide further opportunities for students to meet external speakers and present their work; examples include the Computing Seminar series, Soft Matter group meetings, seminars through the Center for the Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics, and more. Numerous science outreach events provide opportunities to interact with the local Madison community and broader public, as do undergraduate mentorship opportunities like the Research Experiences for Undergraduate program.
Graduate Handbooks and Forms
Current and past Graduate Handbooks and related forms for current students are available here.
Graduate Program Office
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1607