Master's Degree Program

The graduate program in Materials Science and Engineering is an in-depth, hands-on approach to graduate study, centering on the research areas of computational materials, electronic, optical and magnetic materials, microscopies and scattering, materials for energy, materials for health science, structural materials, polymers and soft matter.

Graduate programs at Penn are organized around Graduate Groups rather than traditional departmental divisions. The MSE Graduate Group is a vibrant, multi-disciplinary group and consists of faculty from several departments in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Perelman School of Medicine, and the School of Arts and Sciences. This structure provides an ideal environment for interdisciplinary research and an education tailored to meet the complex technological challenges of this millennium.

The research activities in MSE allow the theses of our students to be co-advised by faculty drawn from diverse disciplines. After graduation, many of our students have assumed leadership roles in industry and academia.

Master of Science in Engineering Degree (M.S.E. degree)

Master’s Degree Requirements
The Master of Science in Engineering (M.S.E.) degree in Materials Science and Engineering requires students to complete ten credits in graduate courses at the 500 level or higher. Students may choose to earn the degree by pursuing a non-thesis or a thesis option.

  1. Non-thesis course-based option: Students successfully complete ten credits of courses at the 500 or higher level. All ten courses must carry a letter grade (A, B, C or D).
  2. Non-thesis option with independent study: Students take eight courses credits at the 500 or higher level earning letter grades and complete two Masters Independent Study (MSE 599) credits. Students receive a letter grade (A, B, C, D or F) in MSE 599. Independent Study requires a faculty advisor; see detail below about selecting an advisor.
  3. Thesis option: Students take seven course credits at the 500 or higher level earning letter grades and complete three credits of research with a faculty member by registering for two research credits (MSE 597 Masters Thesis Research) and one Independent Study (MSE 599). Students receive a letter grade (A, B, C, D or F) in both MSE 597 and MSE 599. Students must have their thesis approved by their thesis advisor and the Graduate Group Chair, as well as submit their thesis to the Graduate Group Coordinator. The thesis option requires a faculty advisor; see details below about selecting an advisor.


Students must complete 10 credits, following the requirements below.

1. Students must secure written approval for all course selections from the Masters Program Advisor. Furthermore, all changes to these course selection must be approved in writing by the Masters Program Advisor. Students wishing to take courses not listed below should get written approval from the Masters Program Advisor. All nonelective courses should have technical/scientific content relevant to the student’s M.S.E. degree program.

2. Five MSE courses (500 level or higher) requiring a letter grade are compulsory. Up to seven MSE courses are highly recommended for obtaining a solid background in materials science. Three MSE courses are compulsory in the first semester of study. Sample MSE courses include:

MSE 500 Experimental Methods in Materials Science
MSE 505 Mechanical Properties
MSE 507 Fundamentals of Materials
MSE 515 Math for Materials Science
MSE 520 Structure of Materials
MSE 525 Nanoscale Science and Engineering
MSE 530 Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria
MSE 536 Electronic Properties of Materials
MSE 537 Nanotribology
MSE 540 Phase Transformations
MSE 545 Materials for Energy and Environmental Susceptibility
MSE 550 Elasticity & Micromechanics
MSE 555 Electrochemical Engineering of Materials
MSE 561 Atomistic Modeling in Materials Science
MSE 565 Fabrication & Characterization of Micro & Nanostructured Materials
MSE 570 Physics of Solids I
MSE 575 Statistical Mechanics
MSE 580 Polymers and Biomaterials
MSE 610 TEM and Crystalline Imperfections
MSE 640 Optical Materials
MSE 650 Mechanics of Soft and Biomaterials
MSE 790 Special topics

3. A maximum of two SEAS courses relevant to materials science are permitted. Note that only one Engineering Entrepreneurship course will count as a MSE related SEAS-course. A second entrepreneurship course will be counted as a free elective in addition. Sample courses include:

CBE 535 Interfacial Phenomena
CIT 590 Programming Lang. & Tech.
EAS 510 Tech. Comm. & Acad. Writing
EAS 545 Engineering Entrepreneurship I
EAS 546 Engineering Entrepreneurship II
ENM 511 Foundations of Eng. Math
ESE 521 Semiconductor Devices
ESE 536 Nanofabrication and Nanocharacterization
In addition, PHYS 518 Condensed Matter Physics is allowed.

4. A maximum of two free electives (500 level or higher) are permitted. Free electives can be selected from across the university, including SEAS, SAS and Wharton. Also, free electives are not permitted for students pursuing a dual degree at Penn.

5. During the first semester, Masters degree students are not permitted to take Independent Study and are required to enroll in only MSE courses.

6. All Masters degree students must maintain a GPA of 2.7 or higher to be in good standing and for graduation. Students are required to attend weekly MSE seminars organized by the department as part of their education and exposure to latest scientific advances.

7. Transfer of credits:

  • A maximum of two graduate-level course units may be transferred from another school to apply toward the M.S.E. degree if approved by the Masters Program Advisor. These two courses cannot have been used in the fulfillment of an undergraduate degree.
  • Sub-matriculants may count up to three 500 or higher level courses for both degrees

Required Courses


  1. Thesis Option ‐ Students who would like to complete a thesis may take two (2) units of MSE 597(Thesis Research).
  2. A maximum of two course units of Independent Study (MSE 599) is allowed.
  3. A maximum of two graduate‐level course units may be transferred from another school to apply toward the M.S.E. degree if approved by the Masters Program Advisor. These two courses should not have been used in the fulfillment of an undergraduate degree. Sub-matriculants can count up to three 500 or higher level courses for both degrees.

Advisor Selection and Independent Study

Process for Selecting Advisors for Research and Independent Study
Students interested in pursuing the non-thesis option with independent study or the thesis option are encouraged to attend Faculty Research Presentations in the late August and September . Students can also meet with individual faculty and the Master’s Program Advisor to discuss their research interests.

Master's Scholar Program

A selected number of awards designated “Master’s Scholars” will be made each year to deserving students to promote and enhance their research experience at Penn. The awards will enable highly motivated students (with a GPA of 3.25 or higher) to pursue a well-designed research project with a faculty member for one or two semesters and obtain valuable training in experimental and computational research. The award carries no financial benefit to the students; award funds are used solely to defray the costs of facility user fees, chemicals, computer resources, etc. Research proposals submitted by students will be evaluated and awards will be made on a competitive basis. A call for proposals occurs near the start of the fall and spring semesters.

Graduation Audit

At the end of the first academic year, the Masters Program Advisor will conduct a graduation audit for each student. The courses already completed and the courses needed to fulfill graduation requirement will be reviewed.

Additional Information
For additional details about M.S.E. degree procedures, see “Procedures for Advanced Degrees” and for general SEAS rules see the Graduate Student Handbook.

The following individuals can also be contacted for more information:
Master’s Program Advisor: Mahadevan Khantha, 221 LRSM (
Graduate Group Chair: I-Wei Chen, 424 LRSM (
Graduate Group Coordinator: Irene Clements, 201 LRSM (

See Also:

Applying to Graduate Program FAQ

Graduate Student Handbook

Graduate Group Faculty

Groups + Resources

Forms for Graduate Students

Diversity and Inclusion

MSE Newsletter Archive


Dr. I-Wei Chen
Professor and Graduate Group Chair

Dr. Mahadevan Khantha
Senior Lecturer, Faculty Advisor and Master’s Program Advisor
Office: 221 LRSM

Ms. Irene Clements
Graduate Program Coordinator
Office: Room 201, LRSM
Phone: 215-898-8337