The Ph.D. degree in MS&E is intended for students primarily interested in a career of research and teaching, or high-level technical work in universities, industry, or government. The program requires three years of full-time graduate study, at least two years of which must be at Stanford. Typically, however, students take four to five years after entering the program to complete all Ph.D. requirements. The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 135 units, up to 45 units of which may be transferred from another graduate program. The Ph.D. is organized around the expectation that the students acquire a certain breadth across all areas of the department, and depth in one of them. The current areas are:

  • Computational Social Science

  • Decision and Risk Analysis

  • Energy and Environment

  • Health Systems Modeling and Policy

  • National Security Policy

  • Operations Research

  • Organizations

  • Quantitative Finance

  • Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Doctoral students are required to take course, our breadth requirement, and a number of specified courses in one of the areas of the department. All courses used to satisfy depth requirements must be taken for a letter grade, if the letter graded option is available. Prior to candidacy, at least 3 units of work must be taken with each of four Stanford faculty members.

Each student admitted to the Ph.D. program must pass an area qualification procedure. The purpose of the qualification procedure is to assess the student’s command of the field and to evaluate his or her potential to complete a high-quality dissertation, based on research which must make an original contribution to knowledge, in a timely manner.

Finally, the student must complete a Ph.D. dissertation, and pass a University oral examination, which is a defense of the dissertation. During the course of the Ph.D. program, students who do not have a master’s degree are strongly encouraged to complete one, either in MS&E or in another Stanford department.

Breadth Requirement

All first year students are required to attend and participate in course Fundamental Concepts in Management Science and Engineering, which meets in the Autumn Quarter.

Each course session is devoted to a specific MS&E Ph.D. research area. At a given session several advanced Ph.D. students in that area make carefully prepared presentations designed for first-year doctoral students regardless of area. The presentations are devoted to: (a) illuminating how people in the area being explored that day think about and approach problems, and (b) illustrating what can and cannot be done when addressing problems by deploying the knowledge, perspectives, and skills acquired by those who specialize in the area in question. Faculty in the focal area of the week comment on the weekly student presentations. The rest of the session is devoted to questions posed and comments made by the first year Ph.D. students.

During the last two weeks of the quarter, groups of first year students make presentations on how they would approach a problem drawing on two or more of the perspectives to which they have been exposed earlier in the class.

Attendance is mandatory and performance is assessed on the basis of the quality of the students’ presentations and class participation

Qualification Procedure Requirements

The qualification procedure is based on depth in an area of the student’s choice and preparation for dissertation research. The qualification process must be completed by the end of the month of May of the student’s second year of graduate study in the department.

The Ph.D. qualification requirements comprise these elements:

  1. Courses and GPA: Students must complete the depth requirements of one of the areas of the MS&E department. (The Ph.D. area course requirements are below). All courses used to satisfy depth requirements must be taken for a letter grade, if the letter graded option is available. Course substitutions may be approved by the doctoral program adviser or the MS&E dissertation adviser on the candidacy form or on a request for graduate course waiver/substitution form. A student must maintain a GPA of at least 3.4 in the set of all courses taken by the student within the department. The GPA is computed on the basis of the nominal number of units for which each course is offered.

  2. Paper(s): A student may choose between two options. The first option involves one paper supervised by a primary faculty adviser and a second faculty reader. This paper should be written in two quarters. The second option involves two shorter sequential tutorials, with two different faculty advisers. Each tutorial should be completed in one quarter. In both options, the student chooses the faculty adviser(s)/reader with the faculty members’ consent. There must be two faculty members, at least one of whom must be an MS&E faculty member, supervising and evaluating this requirement for advancement to candidacy. The paper/tutorials must be completed before the Spring Quarter of the student’s second year of graduate study in the department if the student's qualifying exam is during the Spring Quarter, and before the end of May of that year otherwise.

  3. Area Qualification: In addition, during the second year, a student must pass an examination in one of the areas of the MS&E department, or defense of the written paper(s). The student chooses the area/program in which to take the examination. This area examination is written, oral, or both, at the discretion of the area faculty administering the exam. Most areas offer the qualifying exam only once per year, which may be early in the second year.

The qualification decision is based on the student’s course work and grade point average (GPA), on the one or two preliminary papers prepared by the student with close guidance from two faculty members, at least one of whom must be an MS&E faculty member, the student’s performance in an area examination or defense of the written paper(s), and an overall assessment by the faculty of the student's ability to conduct high-quality research. Considering this evidence, the department faculty vote on advancing the student to candidacy in the department at large.

Degree Progress and Student Responsibility

Each doctoral student’s progress is reviewed annually by the MS&E faculty. Typically, this occurs at a faculty meeting at the end of Spring Quarter, and an appropriate email notification is sent over the summer to the student and their adviser. It shall be the responsibility of the student to initiate each required step in completing the Ph.D. program.

To maintain good standing in the degree program, first-year students must:

  1. complete 30 units, including course and doctoral courses taught by faculty in their research area;

  2. develop relationships with faculty members who can potentially serve as dissertation adviser or reading committee member. A faculty member is more likely to accept the responsibility of supervising the research of a student whom he or she knows fairly well than a student whose abilities, initiative, and originality the faculty member knows less well. It is recommended that students participate in research rotations with MS&E and related faculty to facilitate the development of these relationships.

To maintain good standing in the degree program second-year students must:

  1. submit a candidacy form signed by at least one MS&E faculty member with whom they have or will complete research rotations, tutorials, or papers, and listing the course requirements agreed upon by both the student and the program adviser;

  2. complete at least two one-quarter research rotations or tutorials, or one two-quarter research rotation, tutorial, or research paper, continuing to develop relationships with faculty members who might serve as dissertation adviser or reading committee member;

  3. complete 30 units, including most, if not all, of the required courses listed on the candidacy form;

  4. pass an area qualifying exam, or defense of the written paper(s);

  5. be advanced to candidacy by the faculty.

To maintain good standing in the degree program, third-year students must:

  1. submit a progress form listing the dissertation topic and signed by the dissertation adviser (if the dissertation adviser is not an MS&E faculty member, the form must also be signed by an MS&E faculty member who agrees to be on the student's reading committee, as well as the student's point of contact within the department);

  2. complete 30 units, including any remaining depth courses.

To maintain good standing in the degree program, fourth-year students must:

  1. select a reading committee (a dissertation adviser and two readers) with at least one member from the student's major department, and submit the reading committee form signed by each member on the reading committee;

  2. make satisfactory progress on their dissertation as determined by their dissertation adviser;

  3. if the student has not transferred any previous graduate units to Stanford, complete 30 dissertation units.

To maintain good standing in the degree program beyond the fourth year, students must make satisfactory progress on their dissertation as determined by their dissertation adviser and approved by the faculty. Indeed, the dissertation adviser will have to present the case to (and seek approval for good standing of the student from) the faculty in the annual faculty meeting for student review. It should be noted that each student inherently has to pass the oral examination (see below) and submit their dissertation before their candidacy expires.

Additionally, to remain in good standing, and to remain eligible for funding, students must perform well in all assistantship positions.

Any special cases, for a student to remain in good standing based on extenuating circumstances, must be presented to and approved by the whole faculty.

Oral Examination

As administered in this department, the University oral examination is a defense of the dissertation; however, the candidate should be prepared to answer any question raised by any members of the Academic Council who choose to be present. The examining committee consists of the three members of the reading committee as well as a fourth faculty member and an orals chair. The chair must be an Academic Council member and may not be affiliated with either the Department of Management Science and Engineering nor any department in which the student's adviser has a regular appointment; emeriti professors are eligible to serve as an orals chair. It is the responsibility of the student's adviser to find an appropriate orals chair. The University oral examination may be scheduled after the dissertation reading committee has given tentative approval to the dissertation.

The student must be enrolled in the quarter of their oral examination. Students should schedule three hours for the oral examination, which usually consists of a 45-minute public presentation, followed by closed-session questioning of the examinee by the committee, and committee deliberation. The student needs to reserve a room, and meet with the student services manager to complete the oral examination schedule and pick up other paper work. This paperwork, along with an abstract, needs to be delivered to the orals chair at least one week prior to the oral examination.