Graduate Program

About the Program

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering was initially established at Colorado School of Mines in 1952. From its inception, the department has focused on education and basic and applied research aimed at problems of national interest. The graduate and research program in chemical engineering at Mines is extremely diverse and features programs in renewable energy, materials science, transport processes, theoretical and applied thermodynamics, computational methods and atomistic simulation.

At Mines, we believe that an important component of the graduate program is the personal relationship that develops between the faculty and students pursuing advanced degrees; hence, we strive to maintain a high-quality research and graduate education program. The department currently has 19 tenure-track faculty and approximately 60 full-time graduate students. This student-to-faculty ratio facilitates the development of strong mentoring and peer relationships that we believe is one of the strengths of our department.

Graduate Program FAQs

How long does it take to complete a graduate degree in CBE?

Doctoral: The average student completes the Ph.D. in 4 – 5 years. Actual time to degree will vary depending on individual progress and the demands of particular areas of research. Required coursework is typically completed in first the two to three years of the program. Generally speaking, the qualifying exam is taken in the first year of the program and a research proposal must be approved by the end of the second year.  The remainder of the time in the program is focused on research and the thesis.

Masters: The master of science without thesis can be completed in as little as one academic year. Some students elect to spread the courses over 3 – 4 semesters. The master of science with thesis typically takes 4 semesters; time to completion will vary depending on whether research credits are taken over the summer.

What financial support is available for graduate students?

Students admitted to the Ph.D. in chemical engineering are fully supported through research and teaching assistantships that include living stipend and fully paid tuition, fees, and health insurance for as long as they are making satisfactory progress towards their degree (including research, coursework, and assistantship responsibilities). Cost-of-living increases are often granted, though are not guaranteed.

Master’s degree students (both thesis and non-thesis) are typically admitted without departmental support. It is possible for students to enter unfunded and to later secure department support if funded projects have available openings. In recent years we have had several thesis master’s students funded through research assistantships. Master’s students are also eligible to hired into hourly positions on campus (e.g., serving as a grader for an undergraduate course). Unfortunately, we cannot provide any projections as to the likelihood of master’s degree students obtaining assistantship or hourly wage funding, as availability depends on many factors. Please see the financial aid website for additional aid options.

Do I need aN undergraduate degree in chemical engineering to apply?
The program assumes candidates will have a strong background in chemistry, math, physics, and engineering equivalent to that required for the B.S. degree in chemical engineering at Colorado School of Mines. Admitted students who have not completed foundational coursework in chemical engineering will be required to take prerequisite courses prior to enrollment in graduate courses. Please see the Mines graduate course catalog for a list of essential prerequisite undergraduate courses.

Generally speaking, it is more difficult to be accepted without a degree in chemical engineering (or closely related area). However, we have admitted successful candidates with degrees in other disciplines who were able to show in their applications the requisite foundation to succeed in rigorous graduate chemical engineering core courses.

Do I need a minimum GRE score or GPA to be accepted? What does the admissions committee look for in applications?
We do not enforce any arbitrary minimum cut-off scores on GPA or the GRE. Recent admitted students have had an average GPA of 3.78 and an average GRE score in the 84th percentile for the quantitative section and 69th percentile in verbal. Applications will be reviewed holistically, and it is possible for a perceived weakness in one area to be overcome in another part of the application.

When reviewing applications, we consider the overall GPA, major GPA (and performance in core chemical engineering and math courses), GRE, and letters of recommendation for evidence of potential to succeed in rigorous graduate courses. For the Ph.D., we additionally seek evidence of research potential through your previous research or work experience as documented in your resume, personal statement, letters of recommendation, or previous publications. We additionally will be looking for students with a diversity of research interests that are a fit for the strengths and contours of research being currently conducted in the department.

Due to time constraints, we are unfortunately unable to advance review documents or give students any individualized assessments of their prospects for admission.

Do I need to secure an advisor prior to starting the program?

No. All incoming doctoral and master’s students are advised by CBE’s chair of graduate affairs for their first semester in the program. During their first semester, doctoral students will hear presentations regarding the available funded research projects and will meet individually with several of these faculty advisors. At the end of the semester, students will submit their top three preferences for advisors and projects. The students will then be assigned to their research group after the qualifying exam taken at the beginning of their second semester.

Master’s with thesis students should plan to meet with faculty over the first two semesters and are required to secure an advisor prior to the beginning of their third semester.

What courses will I take?
Please visit the Graduate Course Catalog for the most recent curriculum information.
Do I need to have obtained a master’s degree to apply to the Ph.D. in chemical engineering?
No. Some of our admitted students do have some sort of post-baccalaureate coursework or degree, but many are admitted to the program directly from their bachelor’s degree.
Can I transfer previous graduate coursework in chemical engineering or a related area?

Yes, it is possible to transfer prior graduate coursework credits in chemical engineering (or closed related field), with the appropriate approvals. For Ph.D. candidates, up to 24 credits of coursework (or an entire master’s degree with thesis up to 36 credits) may transfer. For Master’s degree candidates, up to 9 credits may potentially transfer. All requests for transfer credit must be approved by your faculty advisor(s) and the department head after admission into the program. The core (non-elective) courses of the degree are typically required to be taken at Mines even if you have already taken them elsewhere.

Do your graduates get jobs?
Yes, they do! We have had 100% placement at graduation for both M.S. and Ph.D. graduates for three of the past four years (with a 3-year average placement of 95.3% at graduation overall). Graduates find work in a range of fields including industry, research, and academia. Examples of employers of recent alumni include:

– Oil and Gas: ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Haliburton

– Chemical: Pall, Dow, DuPont, Cargill

– Biotech: NovoNordisk, Cerus, Horiba

– Semiconductor: Intel, Motorola, Sun

– Beer: Mountain Toad, New Terrain, Coors

– National Laboratories: NREL, ORNL, LLNL

– Academia: Kansas State, Carnegie Mellon, University of Colorado, Stanford, Oregon Health & Sciences University

What are the research strengths of the department?
The department has a diverse and dynamic research portfolio, managing approximately $8 million annually in research awards. Current strengths include bioengineering, hydrates, renewable energy, simulation and modeling, soft materials, materials for energy applications, and electronic materials. Please visit individual faculty member pages for full detail (note: many faculty have full research websites linked from their biography pages).
What are the departmental application requirements?

Prospective students must apply online. You will be required to submit academic transcripts, the GRE (general test)*, a resume or C.V., contact information for three references, and a statement of purpose. 

*The GRE is waived for current CSM undergraduate students applying to the B.S./M.S. program.

What is your application deadline? Can I start in summer or spring semester?

The department only accepts students to start in fall semester.

For guaranteed full consideration, apply by December 15th for the Ph.D. and M.S. programs and be sure to follow up with your references to ensure your letters are submitted on the 15th or shortly thereafter, as review of applications begins relatively swiftly.

The B.S./M.S. program application deadline is June 1. Current Mines undergraduate students applying for the B.S./M.S. program and wishing to take graduate courses during their senior year should apply by this deadline. 

How long should my statement of purpose (aka personal statement/statement of goals) be?
Approximately one to two single spaced pages, maximum of three.
Do you accept part-time students?

The doctoral program is full-time only. Master’s students may choose full or part time enrollment unless they receive funding that specifies full-time enrollment or are an international student whose visa requires full time study.

Can I be admitted in one degree and switch to another?
Yes, this is possible, though not guaranteed. CBE M.S. thesis students can typically seamlessly switch to CBE M.S. non-thesis, if desired. M.S. non-thesis students who find a faculty member who is willing to advise their research may also switch to M.S. with thesis. With approval, CBE Ph.D. students may also switch to the CBE M.S. program, with or without thesis. Note that department funded students who are allowed to switch degree programs do not have a guarantee of continued financial support.

We have also had M.S. students who convert to Ph.D. students—this requires submitting a new application to the Office of Graduate Studies. M.S. students may apply for the Ph.D. program at any time. M.S. students who also completed their undergraduate degree at Mines are encouraged to seek guidance from the CBE graduate affairs committee prior to application to the Ph.D. students who wish to move to a degree program in a different department will need to work with that department and submit a new application through the Office of Graduate Studies.

May I visit campus to learn more?
For students interested in an in-person visit, the best time to come to campus will be after admissions decisions are announced. We will share information about campus visits in conjunction with letters of acceptance. Admission decisions are based on the materials provided with your application and a pre-interview is not required. The department is also happy to answer questions that you might have about the program via phone or email.

If you are in the area and would like to visit campus prior to being admitted, please contact the student services administrator for an appointment and we will do our best to accommodate you. We typically cannot guarantee meetings with specific faculty members, due to hectic teaching, research, and travel schedules.

Where can current students learn more about program requirements and policies?
Beyond the graduate catalog, the Office of Graduate Studies includes extensive, helpful information on deadlines, policies, and procedures on their website. A good place to start is their Quick Reference Guide.

If you have a department-specific question–or just can’t find an answer or aren’t sure where to go with your question, please don’t hesitate to visit student service administrator in Alderson Hall 261 for assistance.

Who can I contact for more information?
Please see the Graduate Course Catalog for curriculum and policy information and email student services administrator, Jennie Gambach, at jgambach@mines.edu or call at 303-273-3246 with questions.