Environmental and Sustainable Engineering Doctoral Degree Program

Environmental and Sustainable Engineering (ESE) is a discipline that builds on knowledge, discovery, and information from mathematics and basic sciences to solve critical environmental problems at the local, national, and global scales. The Ph.D. ESE program aims to prepare a highly skilled workforce with advanced knowledge to embark on the mission of protecting human health and the environment. This workforce will be equipped with deep understanding of the ESE field and state-of-the-art technologies and tools through well-designed coursework and research. The research component of the Ph.D. ESE program focuses on four concentration areas: 1) water and wastewater; 2) air quality monitoring and control; 3) human health and the environment; and 4) sustainability engineering.

The course work for each area of concentration consists of a set of required core courses, a set of elective courses in the concentration areas, and elective courses related to the four areas but offered by other units on campus.

Admissions Requirements

For students entering the Ph.D. program without engineering degrees, but from quantitative science backgrounds such as chemistry, physics, meteorology, etc., they would need to take at least three (3) 400-level ESE courses specifically related to their research projects or chosen concentration areas. A grade of B or above for each course is required in order to be fully admitted to the Ph.D. program. For students entering the Ph.D. program without engineering degrees, but from less quantitative backgrounds such as biology, public health etc., they would need to take two (2) 300 level ESE courses and three (3) 400-level ESE courses specifically related to their research projects or chosen concentration areas. A grade of B or above for each course is required in order to be fully admitted to the Ph.D. program.

Applicants are expected to have a master's degree or an ABET accredited bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering or a closely related field. Applicants from other areas will be considered on a case by case basis. The Ph.D. ESE program admission policies and procedures will verify and enforce the requirement that each entering student to the program has completed a set of post-secondary educational and professional experiences which satisfy student attainment outcomes defined in the general ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) criteria for baccalaureate level engineering programs, and the curriculum requirements. If the student has graduated from an EAC of ABET - accredited baccalaureate program, the presumption is that both criteria have been satisfied.

Program of Study (75 credits, minimum)

  • Depth – Core courses for all Concentration Areas (12 credits):
    1. Ese 501 Environmental Physical and Chemical Processes (3)
    2. Ese 515 Biological Treatment Processes (3)
    3. Ese 533 Sustainable Air Pollution Management (3)
    4. Ese 552 Nonpoint Source Pollution Engineering (3)
  • Breadth – Elective courses in the selected Concentration Area (9 credits)
  • Math/Science (12 credits)
  • Electives outside of the concentration (6 credits)
  • Doctoral Research (36 credits minimum)

The course categories are:

  • Depth: 12 credit hours (4 courses) in core courses for all concentration areas. 
  • Breadth: 9 credit hours (3 courses) from the list of concentration areas chosen from the student’s concentration area.
  • Math/Science: 12 credit hours (4 courses) of courses in mathematics (Mat) and/or basic science programs.
  • Electives outside of the concentration: 6 credit hours (2 courses) taken in any college. Prior approval by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator are required for these courses. These credit hours can be used to gain additional breadth outside of ESE courses. It is expected that the courses will be relevant to or complement the student’s area of study.
  • Doctoral Research: 36 credit hours (minimum) of doctoral research

The course requirements for the Ph.D. degree shown above will be adjusted for those who enter the program with a Master’s degree. For students with a Master's degree in ESE from UAlbany, the courses taken as part of the MS program will be directly applied to the course requirements for the Ph.D. Note that additional credit hours may be required for students who change concentration area between their Master’s and doctoral programs.

Admission to Candidacy

A student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:

  1. Achievement of a satisfactory record in course study, 66 credits minimum;
  2. Satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement;
  3. Completion of the University residency requirements;
  4. Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination.


The student must submit an acceptable dissertation which represents a significant and original research contribution to environment and sustainable engineering.

The student must select a dissertation advisor who is willing to assume primary responsibility for supervising the student's research. The dissertation topic is selected in consultation with the student's dissertation advisor, and then a dissertation committee for the student is formed. The committee will decide on review procedures, such as design reviews or oral presentations, appropriate to the topic.

Departmental Examinations

The student must pass a written and oral doctoral comprehensive/qualifying exam (DQE) in the field of the student’s research interest. The DQE can be taken in any semesters. Students are eligible to take the qualifying examination when the following requirements are met:

  • Course Requirements: The student has completed all core courses and at least 18 total course credits.
  • Academic Standing: The student is in good academic standing with a minimum of 3.0 average GPA.

For students holding a Bachelor’s degree, the DQE should be taken within the first three years of study. If the student already holds a master’s degree, it must be taken within the first two years. Students will be allowed to take the exam a maximum of two times.

The final examination is an oral defense of the dissertation.

Research Tool Requirement

The student must demonstrate proficiency in a research skill appropriate to the student's field of research. Examples of approved research skills include experimental design, operating certain instrument, data analysis, statistical analysis, using existing models, writing codes and developing new models, etc.

Full Time Study in Residence

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose, a student will enroll in full-time study (9 credits) taken in each of two sessions, or in a regular session and a summer session, not necessarily consecutive, which must be completed satisfactorily.