Jul 20, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2019-2020 
Graduate Catalog | 2019-2020 Previous Edition

Nanoscale Science, Ph.D.

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The Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science is an interdisciplinary program that addresses the development, manipulation, and use of materials and devices on the scale of roughly 1-100 nanometers in length (larger for bio nanomaterials), and the study of phenomena that occur on this size scale.  The program prepares students to become scholarly, practicing scientists who possess the technical, critical thinking, and communication skills needed to advance and disseminate knowledge of fundamental and applied nanoscale science.

The many challenges and opportunities nanoscale science presents to society require collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to research.  Students enrolled in UNC Charlotte’s Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program learn about the exciting field of nanoscale science from the perspectives of faculty members trained in numerous types of disciplines, and they learn how to work effectively with scientists and engineers, from various fields, on cutting-edge research projects.

Students in the program acquire the knowledge, skills, and credentials needed to compete effectively for many types of positions by completing interdisciplinary nanoscale science courses and elective courses, participating in program colloquia and seminars, and by making research contributions independently and as part of a team. Graduates of our program are gainfully employed in academic, industrial, and government positions.

Admission Requirements

The following are general guidelines for successful admission into the Ph.D. program in Nanoscale Science:

  1. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in a science or engineering discipline relevant to nanoscale science is required for admission to full standing in the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program.
  2. A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or, if the applicant is currently enrolled in a graduate program or has earned a master’s degree, a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in a relevant science or engineering master’s program.
  3. Admission to the program will require strong scores on the verbal, quantitative, and analytical sections of the Graduate Record Examination. The Graduate Record Examination is a required part of the application package.
  4. Three strong, positive letters of recommendation, at least two of which should come from faculty in the applicant’s current or previous academic program. All letters should be written by individuals in a position capable of judging the applicant’s likely success in a Ph.D. level program. Letters should address the applicant’s suitability for a Ph.D. program and ability to complete the program in a timely manner.
  5. Admission of students who are not native English speakers will require strong scores on the TOEFL exam. The TOEFL exam is a required part of the application for non-native English speakers.

Documents To Be Submitted For Application For Admission

  1. Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (indicating completion of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant science or engineering discipline)
  2. Official GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical)
  3. The UNC Charlotte application for graduate admission form
  4. Three letters of reference from academics who have taught or worked directly with the applicant
  5. An essay that addresses professional goals and motivation for pursuing the degree, suitability for the program, and career goals following the program
  6. TOEFL scores (if the applicant is not a native English speaker)

Admissions Assessment

An admissions committee will review applications and recommend to the Program Director whether each applicant should be admitted and, if so, under what conditions.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science requires 72 credit hours. Core courses account for at least 27 credit hours, elective courses account for at least 6 credit hours, and dissertation research accounts for at least 18 credit hours. The remaining credit hours are fulfilled by enrolling in a combination of restricted elective courses. Students may count other courses towards meeting the 72 credit hour requirement with approval of the Graduate Program Director.

General Science Proficiency Exam (GSPE)

The purpose of the GSPE is to ensure that students possess a working knowledge of material needed to master concepts in nanoscale science. The exam covers introductory material in chemistry, physics, and mathematics (including calculus). The exam is administered three times per year - in August (during Orientation Week), January, and May.  After taking the GSPE, students meet with the GSPE Administrator to discuss exam results and how to address any deficiencies.  Students who do not pass the GSPE by the end of their first year of enrollment will be terminated from the program.


* Students must enroll in NANO 8681  during every semester in residence, except when enrolled in GRAD 9800  or GRAD 9999 , for a minimum of four semesters.
** Students must enroll in NANO 8682  during the three semesters immediately following enrollment in NANO 8001 .

Elective Courses (6 credit hours)

In addition to completing the Core Courses, students must complete a minimum of 6 credit hours of Elective Courses. Elective Courses are selected in consultation with the student’s advisor (normally the dissertation advisor) to best meet the student’s needs and interests. Any of the following courses may be used to meet elective requirements: 

  • BIOL 7000-8999
  • CHEM 7000-8999
  • ECGR 7000-8999
  • MEGR 7000-8999
  • NANO 8000-8999
  • OPTI 7000-8999
  • PHYS 7000-8999

Other courses may be used to satisfy elective requirements, provided that prior approval has been obtained from the Graduate Program Director. Students may count one 5000 level course towards meeting elective requirements if approved in advance by the Graduate Program Director.

Dissertation Research (18 credit hours)

Students must complete a minimum of 18 credit hours of the following:

Additional Coursework (21 credit hours)

The remaining 21 credit hours are fulfilled by enrolling in any combination of the following courses.  Students may count other courses towards meeting the 72 credit hour requirement with approval of the Graduate Program Director.

Degree Total = 72 Credit Hours

Grade Requirements

Graduate students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.2 to graduate from the program. Two grades of C or one grade of U will result in termination from the program.

Admission to Candidacy Requirements

The Graduate School requires doctoral students to pass a qualifying examination, and to advance to candidacy by successfully defending a dissertation topic proposal at a meeting of the student’s advisory/dissertation committee. Because of its emphasis on proposal writing and development, the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program links the qualifying examination with the dissertation topic proposal defense. Before the third semester in residence, each student (in consultation with his/her research advisor) chooses a preliminary dissertation committee that should normally include four faculty members (counting the student’s dissertation advisor) who the student expects will provide valuable scientific input based on their areas of expertise (Note: The Graduate Faculty Representative is not appointed at this stage, hence this is a preliminary dissertation committee). Members of the preliminary dissertation committee must have Graduate Faculty status and be affiliated with the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program. Students are encouraged to begin the qualifying exam / dissertation topic proposal process towards the end of their fourth semester in residence. The process begins when the student submits a written proposal for dissertation research that is distributed to the preliminary dissertation committee. Within two weeks after the proposal is submitted, the preliminary dissertation committee develops a written qualifying exam that is administered to the student. The exam questions should be related to the student’s proposal, and they may also be related to the student’s coursework as it applies to areas associated with the proposed dissertation project or the student’s research group. The student is given one week to complete the exam. Once the student has passed the exam, an oral defense of the dissertation topic proposal is conducted in a meeting with the student’s full dissertation committee (including the Graduate School Representative). A student who does not pass the qualifying exam may take it one more time; likewise, a student who does not pass the dissertation topic proposal defense may have a second chance to succeed. Students are encouraged to complete the qualifying exam and dissertation topic proposal defense before the fifth semester in residence; under normal circumstances they must complete both requirements before the beginning of the sixth semester in residence.            


The Graduate Program Director serves as the student’s academic advisor until a research advisor is chosen (normally before the beginning of the second semester in residence). Once selected, the research advisor will serve as the student’s academic advisor. The Graduate Program Director is responsible for monitoring student progress. Students must obtain the Graduate Program Director’s permission to enroll in any courses. Students are encouraged to form a dissertation committee (minus the Graduate School representative), as soon as possible after selecting a research advisor, and to consult regularly with the committee members on research and academic progress. The aforementioned committee will administer the Qualifying Exam to the student. Once the student passes the Qualifying Exam, the Graduate School Representative will be appointed to complete the dissertation committee.

Application for Degree

Each student should make application for his/her degree by completing the online Application for Degree through Banner Self Service no later than the filing date specified in the University Academic Calendar. After successful defense of the dissertation, a student will be conferred with the doctoral degree.

Residency Requirement

Students must satisfy the residency requirement for the program by completing 21 credit hours of continuous enrollment, such as coursework or dissertation credits.  Residence is considered continuous if the student is enrolled in one or more courses in successive semesters until 21 credit hours are earned. 

Time Limits for Completion

The student must achieve admission to candidacy within six years after admission to the program. All requirements for the degree must be completed within nine years after initial registration as a doctoral student. These time limits are considered to be maxima; full-time students are typically expected to complete their degree requirements within 4-5 years of initial registration as a Nanoscale Science Ph.D. student.

Transfer Credit

Students who have completed graduate coursework but have not earned a graduate degree may transfer up to 6 credit hours of coursework.  Students who have earned a Master’s degree may transfer up to 30 credit hours of coursework. Students who wish use transfer coursework credits towards meeting degree requirements for the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. should consult with the Graduate Program Director as soon as possible.

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