Before the end of the first semester in the doctoral program, the student and her/his advisor will set up an advisory committee of 2 or 3 faculty members. This committee will meet at least once a semester to assess academic and research progress of the student and to recommend corrective action in case of emerging or existing deficiencies.

Doctoral students are required to pass a qualifying exam soon after the completion of their first year into the program (May or December). They will submit and defend their research proposal before the fourth semester in the program. Submission of the dissertation and thesis defense will follow general university rules.

The qualifying examination will be an oral exam administered by four faculty members. The advisor of the student will be a member of the exam committee but may not be the chair. The students will be examined in their understanding of fundamentals as they apply in the four general areas of research of the department: water resources, materials processing, energy, and chemical and biochemical processes. It is expected that each question period will last about 20 minutes of which 15 minutes will be led by the faculty member from the area and the remaining 5 minutes will be open for questions by all faculty present at the exam. There will be a final period of 20 minutes for general questions.

All graduate students are expected to have a background equivalent to the required core of our undergraduate program . They have, of course, an opportunity to make up for any deficiency in their Master's program. In order to prepare students for the exam, they will be required to take at least one course in each core areas during their first two semesters at Columbia. Below are listed courses representative of each specific area.

In case the student declares an explicit minor in another department, the qualifying exam requirements will be modified in consultation with the graduate committee. The minor has to be approved by both departments.

"Energy sources and conversion" (MECE E4211)
"Alternative energy sources"(EAEE E4002)

"Management and development of water systems" (EEAE W4100)
"Physical hydrology" (EAEE E6240)
"Quantitative environmental risk analysis" (EAEE E6210)

"Sampling and valuation for exploration and environmental assessment"(EAEE E4256)
"Production of inorganic materials" (EAEE E4200)
"Industrial and environmental electrochemistry"(CHEE E4050)

"Introduction to surface and colloid chemistry" (CHEE E4252)
"Environmental microbiology" (EAEE E4901)
"Corrosion of metals" (CHEE E4530)
"Air Pollution Prevention and Control" (EAEE4150)