Graduate Program FAQs


Do you accept applications for Winter or Spring quarters?

No, applications are only accepted for Fall quarter.

How will P/NP grades received during terms influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic influence admissions decisions?

Our admissions committee recognizes that many students may have pass/fail (or pass/no pass) grading for one or more quarters/semesters as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and like many other universities, will take the unique nature of this situation into account when making admissions decisions. Our admissions process is a holistic review of the applicaiton, including grades, research experience, extracurricular activites, leadership, etc. It is not expected that a student receiving a P, rather than a letter grade, will influence our admissions decision. However, an NP mark would likely influence admissions decisions. 
International students are advised to read the COVID-19 FAQ from the Office of International Students & Scholars:

Should I contact faculty regarding openings in their research groups?

Please do not contact faculty prior to submitting an application with regards to your qualifications for their groups.  Your formal, completed application is the first mechanism by which this can be evaluated.  Please also know that, generally, it is difficult for faculty to predict specific funded positions a year or more in advance.  Moreover, graduate students are admitted to our department and not to specific research groups.   After being admitted, however, we strongly encourage prospective students to engage faculty to learn more about their research opportunities.

Is a preliminary application required?


Does your department have a rolling application process?

We only admit students entering at the start of Fall quarter.  We typically review applications and make offers of admission from late December through February of each year.

Are the GRE/TOEFL exams required and, if so, is a subject area required for the GRE?

The GRE is no longer required by our department. 

The TOEFL or IELTS exams are required for all International students whose native language is not English. The only exception is granted to those who have completed a degree program in the United States.

What is the minimum score for the GRE and TOEFL?

There is no minimum GRE test score requirement, and moreover, GREs are not required.

International students whose native language is not English must pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The minimum test scores required for admission to Chemical Engineering are:

TOEFL: 560 (paper), 83 (Internet)

IELTS: 7 (Overall Band Score)

What are the institution and department codes for ETS (Educational Testing Service) to send GRE/TOEFL scores?

UCSB’s Institution code is 4835. A department code is not required. Exam scores are sent electronically from ETS to the Graduate Division. Departments no longer receive test scores directly.

Can I get a fee waiver for the application?

Fee waivers are approved by the UCSB Graduate Division, or if ineligible for or denied a Graduate Division fee waiver, may be provided by the department to select qualifying students.  Please see details here.

Can I get financial support during my graduate studies?

All students admitted into our Ph.D. program are guaranteed financial support. This support is guaranteed for as long as they remain in good academic standing with the department and university and are making satisfactory progress towards completing their degree requirements. Financial support comes in the form of a stipend and/or a combination of teaching and researcher appointments, plus payment of fees, non-resident tuition (if applicable) and health insurance. NOTE: Non-resident tuition will be paid for US non-residents for one year. Residency for fee purposes must be established prior to the beginning of the second year of residence.

Is my GPA high enough to apply?

The graduate admissions committee makes decisions based on a holistic assessment of an applicant’s portfolio of grades, test scores, research experience, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. That being said, the admissions process is extremely competitive, and successful applicants typically have GPAs that are above 3.8 on a 4.0 scale. Applications with GPAs below 3.5 are usually not competitive, unless mediated by extensive research productivity or unusual circumstances.

My undergraduate degree is in an area other than chemical engineering.  Do  I have a chance of being admitted?

For students coming from non-chemical engineering backgrounds, we generally look for training that would overlap with the chemical engineering core subject areas of chemical kinetics, transport, thermodynamics, and applied math (including calculus through PDEs).  For interested students with good but not complete overlap in these areas, we still encourage them to apply.  Our PhD program includes a coursework pathway for non-ChE students that allows them to take one or two undergraduate ChE courses during their first year, in preparation for the corresponding graduate courses in their second. 

Do you accept applicants seeking a terminal M.S. degree?

Because our graduate program is focused on doctoral education, we do not admit students seeking a terminal M.S. degree.

What should I write in my statement of purpose?

Please elaborate on your educational and career ambitions, your technical preparation, any honors or distinctions, and your research interests as they relate to UCSB.  It is particularly useful to discuss research experiences; for each we encourage you to describe not only your contributions, but also the nature of the problem, its importance within the scientific community, and the interpretation and significance of your results.  We also are interested to hear about: research publications or manuscripts in preparation (include full references), research presentations (poster or oral), advanced coursework (especially graduate courses), major awards or scholarships, involvement in professional or scientific organizations, and involvement in educational or outreach activities.

Please AVOID autobiographic and creative writing, instead using a professional tone of the kind expected for a job application.  For example, statements that begin with your early childhood inspirations ("I have always loved science since I received my first Lego set"), that begin in medias res ("It was close to the end of the Chem-E Car competition, and we were certain we would fail."), or that pontificate ("I have always aspired to live by this quote from Einstein.") are generally frowned upon and will not help the admission committee's impression of your application.   Instead, begin your application with a direct statement of your interests and motivation for graduate study

From whom should I secure letters of reference?

We advise you to secure as many of your letters as possible from tenure-track faculty, either at your home institution or at other institutions in which you have been, e.g., a summer research intern.  Letters from supervisors at industrial internships or jobs are generally less informative, and you should include at most one, if any.   As a courtesy to your references, we encourage you to give them at least two weeks notice, if not more, given the high demands for letters during the graduate application period.

I want to be considered for a different department (e.g., Bioengineering) if I'm not accepted into...

Please fill out and upload the pdf document or word document into the application portal under "other".


How and when do I select a research advisor?

Our department does not admit students to individual groups, but rather has a general PhD admissions process that is reviewed by a diverse department committee.  This is because we encourage students to educate themselves about all of the research opportunities during their first quarter in residence.  First-year students must therefore participate in an extensive research advisor selection process during their initial Fall quarter designed to educate them of research opportunities.  They then submit their top choices in late November after meeting with prospective advisors of interest, and are assigned to an advisor by the end of Fall Quarter.   This focused exploration allows students to make an especially informed decision about which group to join, and to assess the project opportunities at that time (which are difficult to anticipate many months in advance due to funding cycles).  We generally do not allow students to commit to advisors or advisors to commit to students prior to this advisor selection process.  Occasionally students do participate in summer research rotations, which are arranged on an individual basis with faculty members after acceptance of our offer; however, such rotations cannot be considered a commitment or guarantee for a student to join that group.

What is the potential to be co-advised?  To work on a collaborative project?  To work on projects that involve international travel?

UCSB is world renown for it collaborative culture and multidisciplinary research environment that blurs department boundaries and innovates at the intersection of research fields.  A significant fraction of project opportunities available to first year students involve co-advising, and many further co-advising arrangements emerge out of the advisor selection process itself, often at student initiative.  About 40% of graduate students in the department are co-advised at any one time.  Moreover, a majority of offered projects link to multidisciplinary grants, centers, and institutes that involve multiple faculty not only from Chemical Engineering, but from other departments on campus (Materials, Physics, Chemistry, etc.) and from top research institutions domestically and abroad.  Thus, a significant number of our graduate students travel for project meetings, research activities, and conferences all across the globe during their Ph.D. work.

What kinds of professional and social activities are open to graduate students in the department?

Our Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association each year organizes a large number of opportunities and activities for our current students, including social events like our weekly coffee hour.  Please visit the website to learn more.  At the university level, the UCSB Graduate Division and other educational divisions sponsor an expansive set of events for graduate student professional and personal development.  Most of these appear in the central graduate-student news portal GradPost.