Jul 25, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2023-2024 
Graduate Catalog | 2023-2024 Previous Edition

Infrastructure and Environmental Systems, Ph.D.

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The Ph.D. in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems (INES) is an interdisciplinary program emphasizing: (a) innovations in design, analysis, construction and operation of urban, energy, and environmental infrastructures; (b) scientific analysis of environmental systems and contemporary sustainability issues; and (c) exploration of sustainable and renewable resources.  The interplay between the environment and infrastructure is thoroughly studied by students as they confront the challenges facing urbanizing regions.  INES engages a diverse group of talented faculty from the science, engineering and management disciplines.  INES students are required to conduct interdisciplinary and original research that contributes new knowledge to the profession, as evidenced by scholarly publications in refereed journals.  The program is intended to:

  1. Provide students with educational opportunities in science, engineering, and management, culminating in an interdisciplinary research-based Ph.D. in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems
  2. Involve students in emerging issues pertaining to infrastructure and the environment for promoting regional and national economic and social development, as well as policy implications
  3. Prepare students for careers as research scientists, resources and systems managers, professional engineers and educators who are capable of advancing knowledge in sciences, technology, and management relevant to infrastructure and environmental systems

INES students can participate in multidisciplinary activities provided by the UNC Charlotte research centers such as the Infrastructure, Design, Environment, and Sustainability (IDEAS) Center; the Center for Applied Geographic Information Science (CAGIS); the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC); the Center for Advanced Multimodal Mobility Solutions and Education; the Center for Transportation Policy Studies; the NSF I/UCRC Sustainably Integrated Buildings and Sites; the Integrated Design Research Lab and the Urban Institute.  Current areas of INES research can be categorized as follows:

  • Architecture and landscape
  • Building and infrastructure security
  • Climate change and atmospheric dynamics
  • Civil infrastructure and materials
  • Earth and geo-environmental systems
  • Ecological valuation and stream restorations
  • Energy analytics
  • Environmental science and technology
  • Integrated building design and BIM
  • Natural hazards and geophysics
  • Quaternary geology and landform evolution
  • Renewable energy and environmental economics
  • Systems optimization and management
  • Transportation systems analysis and operation
  • Urban and regional planning
  • Integrated watershed management

Program Learning Outcomes

Doctoral students engage in coursework that develops their competency for research.  Students generate knowledge through research and become competent scientists and engineers.  During this process, students acquire knowledge of foundation subjects and specialty areas within their focus of research and, as a result, they develop into professionals.

Specific outcomes of the INES program are that students completing the Ph.D. degree will demonstrate abilities to analyze and evaluate advanced topics in engineering and/or science, to communicate technical information effectively, to discover and create new knowledge, and to understand interactions among advanced topics in science, engineering, and management.

Admission Requirements

The following are general guidelines for successful admissions into the Ph.D. in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems program:

  • The equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate and a master’s degree, from a college or university accredited by an accepted accrediting body, in architecture, construction, engineering, earth sciences, energy, environmental studies, geology, management, resources economics, transportation, or a related field with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.20 and a minimum graduate GPA of 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale) in all graduate work.  Applicants meeting these requirements will be admitted to the Advanced Standing Track (see Degree Requirements for details).
  • Applicants holding only baccalaureate degrees with an undergraduate GPA of 3.75 or above may be considered for admission into the regular track (see Degree Requirements for details).
  • Applicants working toward a master’s degree or holding a master’s degree in an unrelated field with a minimum GPA of 3.50 will be admitted into the regular track (see Degree Requirements for details).
  • An acceptable TOEFL or IELTS score as required by the Graduate School for international students.
  • Three letters of reference, two of which must be from faculty members.
  • An essay of less than 500 words to address the applicant’s motivation and research issues of interest.
  • Students entering the program are expected to remediate any coursework deficiencies identified by their advisory committee in the first semester after enrolling in the program.  The required coursework depends on the background of the student and is established by the INES Program Director and the student’s research advisor.

Documents Required for Application of Admission

The Office of the Graduate School at UNC Charlotte requires the following documents be submitted in the application package for each student:

  • One official transcript from all colleges and universities attended
  • Official TOEFL or IELTS scores if the student’s native language is not English
  • UNC Charlotte graduate online application
  • Three letters of reference
  • An essay which addresses the applicant’s motivation and research issues of interest
  • A current curriculum vitae

Note: Standardized test scores (e.g., GRE, GMAT, MAT) are not required.

Admission Assessment

  • The INES Program Committee reviews applications and recommends to the Program Director whether each applicant should be admitted or not and, if so, under what conditions.
  • For each entering student, a member of the INES faculty is selected to serve as the student’s interim advisor for the first year of study.

Student Responsibility

Students entering the program must present evidence that they are capable of undertaking the coursework required of them. Such evidence must include familiarity, background, and/or interest in infrastructure and environmental issues. 

Students may have completed equivalent courses elsewhere.  Normally, transcripts provide the evidence required by the Program Committee.  However, if the student’s previous experience is offered as evidence, the student must provide all the documentation necessary to specify such experience.  Visit ines.uncc.edu for other details.

Degree Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems is awarded for completion of scholarly research that advances the knowledge base in the field of that research. Evidence of this is demonstrated by a successful dissertation defense.  In addition, recipients of the degree should demonstrate a mastery of relevant subject matter and a potential for success in research and teaching.

The regular track of the INES Ph.D. program requires a minimum of 72 post-baccalaureate credit hours including 12 hours of Common Core Courses, 12 hours of Specialized Electives, 18 hours of dissertation research, 30 hours of Directed Studies, and the completion of GRAD 8302  and GRAD 8990 .  A master’s degree in an appropriate field consistent with the admission requirements may count up to 30 credit hours of transfer credit to fulfill a portion or all of the Directed Studies requirement, upon recommendation of the Program Director and upon approval by the Graduate School.

For students admitted to the Advanced Standing Track, the minimum requirement of credit hours is reduced to 42 credit hours by completing Core Courses (12 credit hours), Specialized Electives (12 credit hours), Dissertation Research (18 credit hours), and GRAD 8302  and GRAD 8990 .  The requirement of Directed Studies (30 credit hours) will be waived.

All doctoral students are required to complete GRAD 8302  and GRAD 8990  for responsible conduct of research and academic integrity, respectively.

For Students with a Master’s Degree (Advanced Standing Track):

Common Core Courses (12 credit hours)

Advanced Infrastructure Systems Course (3 credit hours)

Seminar Course (3 credit hours)

Repeat the following seminar course each Fall semester for a total of 3 credit hours:

Specialized Elective Courses (12 credit hours)

Select four doctoral-level courses from the following:

Note: Non-INES doctoral-level courses may be substituted with approval of the Program Director. 

Dissertation Research (18 credit hours)

Degree Total beyond Master’s Degree = 42 credit hours

For Students with a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree Admitted to the Regular Track:

Common Core Courses (12 credit hours)

Advanced Infrastructure Systems Course (3 credit hours)

Seminar Course (3 credit hours)

Repeat the following seminar course each Fall semester for a total of 3 credit hours:

Specialized Elective Courses (12 credit hours)

Select four doctoral-level courses from the following:

Note: Non-INES doctoral-level courses may be substituted with approval of the Program Director. 

Directed Studies Courses (0-30 credit hours)

Select from the following:

Dissertation Research (18 credit hours)

Degree Total beyond Bachelor’s Degree = 72 credit hours

Graduate Course Requirements

All courses taken for credit in the INES Ph.D. program shall be graduate level courses (6000/7000-level and 8000-level: graduate students only), and the majority shall be at the Ph.D. level (8000-level: Ph.D. students only). All designated INES 8000-level courses are open only to Ph.D. students.  No credit is given in the INES program for graduate coursework completed at the combined undergraduate-graduate level (5000-level at UNC Charlotte), except for Directed Studies. 

Common Core Courses

INES Ph.D. students participate in interdisciplinary activities throughout their program of study.  Students begin with a set of four common core courses that teach them about key aspects of infrastructure and environmental systems present in all applications of INES.  These common aspects are reflected in four course offerings (two core courses, one interdisciplinary elective, and one continuous seminar). Students must complete INES 8104  in their first year of study and, throughout the program, students participate in interdisciplinary seminars.

Specialized Elective Courses

It is recognized that doctoral degree study requires advanced knowledge of issues, the breadth of which depends on the context and objectives of the academic program. Both the infrastructure and the environment involve broad and multi-faceted issues.  Beyond the core, a student needs to support doctoral research with enrollment in particular courses related to their research.  For this reason, a minimum of 12 credit hours have been reserved for specialized electives.  The objective of these specialized electives is to provide an opportunity for students, their advisors, and their doctoral committee to select a complementary set of specialized courses intended to support the student’s area of interest and research.

Specialized Elective courses come from many fields and sub-fields of various academic disciplines to address the program’s focus of INES design, technology, science, and management.  Many acceptable courses are offered in various departments at the master’s level and Ph.D. levels.  Selected courses must be approved by each student’s advisor and doctoral committee. 

Directed Studies

In recognition of varying backgrounds, preparation, interests, and goals, each student may complete additional graduate credits through directed studies (transfer credit, courses, research, or individual study), with the consent of their advisor and doctoral committee.  This category may include courses within a student’s specialized area as well as courses outside the specialized area.  Within the directed studies category, a student may complete a maximum of 9 credit hours of independent study toward the Ph.D. degree.

Dissertation Requirement

The INES doctoral program includes a maximum of 18 credit hours of dissertation credit (INES 8999 ).  The number of research credits taken each semester must be approved by the student’s advisor and doctoral committee.  If more than 18 credit hours of dissertation credit are needed, students should register for INES 8998.

Each student must complete and defend a dissertation based on a research program approved by the student’s doctoral committee.  The dissertation must be of high quality and represent an original piece of research that advances the body of knowledge in infrastructure and environmental systems.  Oral presentation and successful defense of the dissertation before the student’s doctoral committee in a forum open to the public is required.

A copy of the student’s dissertation is made available to the graduate faculty of the program at least two weeks prior to the public defense.  The dissertation must be written in a format acceptable to the Graduate School and shall satisfy all requirements and deadlines specified by the Graduate School.  Students are strongly encouraged to publish in a refereed journal before graduation.


Upon acceptance into the INES Ph.D. program, a student is assigned an interim advisor by the Program Director.  Within the first year in the program, each student selects a permanent doctoral research advisor.  This selection is approved by the Program Director and Dean of the Graduate School.  At any time, a student may request a change of initial supervisor or research advisor.  These requests are submitted to the Program Director for consideration and action.

Plan of Study

Students who enter the Ph.D. Program must prepare a plan of study before the end of their second semester in the Program.  The plan of study proposes a schedule for completion of all coursework by the student.  Each plan is approved by the student’s doctoral committee and the Program Director. Students are encouraged to monitor their study progress through DegreeWorks.

Qualifying Examination

Each student must complete a pre-qualifying examination, a qualifying examination and an oral defense of their research proposal.  The written pre-qualifying examination is based solely on INES 8104 .  The written qualifying examination includes specialized elective courses and research areas selected by the student’s advisor and the doctoral committee.  This qualifying examination is administered by the student’s doctoral committee.  The oral defense of the research proposal is also administered by the student’s doctoral committee and requires a presentation and defense by the student of their proposed research topic. 

Students who enter the Ph.D. program directly from a baccalaureate program generally sit for the two written examinations before the end of their third post-baccalaureate year in the program; students who enter from a master’s degree program must sit for the written examinations before the end of their second year in the program.  To sit for these examinations, a student must have at least a 3.00 GPA and must have removed all deficiencies upon admission.

A student may attempt to pass each of these examinations and the oral defense no more than twice. Failure of any of these examinations and the oral defense a second time results in termination of enrollment in the Ph.D. program.

Doctoral Committee

Each student’s Doctoral Committee comprises five members including a UNC Charlotte Graduate Faculty who acts as the Doctoral Research Advisor, three regular faculty members, and a Graduate Faculty Representative.  The Doctoral Research Advisor shall chair the Doctoral Committee and works with the student to recommend the appointment of three regular members and may suggest another faculty to be the Graduate Faculty Representative or they may let the Graduate School to select the Representative. The entire committee shall be approved by the Program Director, with subsequent concurrence by the Dean of the Graduate School. Faculty serving as regular members should have expertise in the student’s area of research. The Graduate Faculty Representative may or may not have expertise in the student’s area of research. 

The Doctoral Committee must be formed no later than the third semester of enrollment into the INES program.  At least three of the Doctoral Committee members must be INES Program Faculty members. At least one of the four members must come from a different academic discipline, in order to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the program.  The inclusion of one member from outside UNC Charlotte is strongly encouraged, and this person must be eligible for appointment as an affiliated member of the UNC Charlotte Graduate Faculty. 

Admission to Candidacy

After passing the qualifying examination, a student can propose a dissertation topic.  A student advances to candidacy after the dissertation topic has been approved by the student’s doctoral committee.  Candidacy must be achieved at least 6 months before the degree is conferred.  Students are encouraged to track their study progress toward degree requirements through DegreeWorks.

Application for Degree

Each student should make application for their degree by completing the online Application for Degree through Banner Self Service no later than the filing date specified in the University Academic Calendar.

Research Opportunities

INES faculty members reside in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geography and Earth Sciences, Construction Management and Engineering Technology, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Economics, Finance, and Industrial and Systems Engineering, as well as the School of Architecture.  INES faculty members in these departments (and school) currently conduct research in their specialized areas of interest as well as in interdisciplinary areas (see current areas of research listed at the beginning of this catalog section).  Several international universities collaborate with INES to implement joint supervision of doctoral research.

Other Requirements

Requirements for grades, transfer credits, residency, and time limits for completion match those described generally for the University. Various forms must be submitted to the Graduate School at various times by each INES student. Those forms include: Application for Transfer of Credit into a Graduate Degree Program, Appointment of Doctoral Committee, Qualifying Examination Report, Application for Candidacy, Application for Degree, Dissertation Defense Report for Doctoral Candidates, and Dissertation Submission and ETD Form. Refer to the appropriate sections of this Catalog and to the INES and Graduate School websites for details.

Financial Support

The INES program offers financial support in the form of assistantships and tuition grants as described below.


Research and teaching assistantships are available from the INES program on a competitive basis to qualified applicants/students.

Tuition Grants

The Graduate School provides some tuition support via a plan called GASP. Visit graduateschool.uncc.edu/faculty-and-staff-resources/policies for details.

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