Program Requirements

Degree Program and Requirements

MSE Ph.D. students are expected to:

  • demonstrate competency at the Undergraduate level in all core courses by the end of their 1st year.
  • take MSE 5801 (Fall) and MSE 5802 (Spring) in the first two semesters.
  • take 3 MSE core courses (6010, 6020, 6030, 6040, 6050, 6060) prior to the start of the seventh semester.
  • take additional electives as required by the special committee or based on a student's specific interests.
  • complete all academic milestones as found here: PhD Required Milestones & Timeline
  • register each funded summer for the Summer Research Credits: GRAD 9016


Core SubjectCross-ListingGraduate Level Course
Electronic Properties & Structures

MSE 5801 (FA) - Required for PhD

MSE 5850 (SP) - Strongly recommended if no B.S. in MSE

MSE 6050
Mechanical Properties & Structures

MSE 5802 (SP) - Required for PhD

MSE 5820 (SP) - Optional for MS & PhD

MSE 6020 
Chemistry of MaterialsMSE 5810 (FA) - Strongly recommended if no B.S. in MSEMSE 6010
Thermo/Stat Mech.MSE 5830 (FA) - Strongly recommended if no B.S. in MSEMSE 6030
KineticsMSE 5840 (SP) - Strongly recommended if no B.S. in MSEMSE 6040
Structures MSE 6060

Introductory Graduate Courses

First year PhD students are encouraged to take courses necessary to excel in the Q exam. The Q exam is given at the end of May.


MSE 5801 Materials Structure and Electronic Properties

Provides a Course is intended for first year graduate students in MSE needing a solid foundation in structural and electronic properties for advanced study/research in materials. Atomic and molecular structure of crystalline, molecular, semicrystalline, and amorphous materials including: crystallography and symmetry; reciprocal lattice; order and disorder; point defects. Diffraction techniques for structural characterization: Bragg's Law, structure factors, thin film and size broadening; Debye scattering; symmetry breaking. Use of tensors to describe macroscopic physical properties and connections between symmetry and properties. Electrical properties of materials including: mechanisms of conduction; band structure and correlation with crystallography; modification of electrical properties in materials; charge transport across interfaces and semiconductor junctions; interaction of materials with light; fundamental semiconductor electronic devides (e.g. diodes. MOSFETS). 

MSE 5810 Materials Chemistry

Provides a molecular understanding of materials properties: quantum chemistry, symmetry aspects of chemical bonding, solid state reactions, and electrochemistry. Materials include polymers, organic semiconductors, organic-inorganic hybrids, and biomaterials.

MSE 5820 Mechanical Property of Materials Processing & Design

Relationship between microscopic mechanisms and macroscopic mechanical behavior of engineering materials, how mechanical properties can be modified, and criteria for selection and use of materials in design. Stress, strain, and elastic constants as tensor quantities, viscoelasticity and damping, plastic deformation, creep deformation, fracture, and fatigue.

MSE 5830 Thermodynamics of Condensed Systems

Introduces the three laws of thermodynamics as the fundamental basis for thermal and chemical equilibrium, coupled with statistical mechanical interpretations for entropy and specific heat capacities. Applies these principles to understanding phase equilibria and phase diagrams, heterogeneous reactions, solutions, surfaces, and defects. Introduces electrochemistry and fuel/power cells.

MSE 5840 Kinetics, Diffusion & Phase Transfer

Phenomenological and atomistic theories of diffusion in metals, alloys, and non-metals, including polymers; diffusion in the presence of driving forces; fast diffusion paths; thermo - and electrotransport; interfaces and microstructure; nucleation and growth; growth of product layers (parabolic and linear kinetics); solidification of alloys; diffusional and diffusionless transformations in solids; glass transition.

MSE 5850 Electronic, Magnetic & Dielectric Properties of Materials

Electronic structure of materials and connection to transport, magnetic and dielectric properties. Wave and particle nature of electrons, wave packets, potential wells, barriers, tunneling. Valence electron behavior in crystals, density of states for metals, Fermi level, field and thermionic emission, Schottky barriers. Periodic potentials and band structure of crystals. Intrinsic and doped semiconductors, junction electronic and optical devices. Physical origin of magnetic behavior, ferromagnetic domains, magneto-resistance. Materials for data storage and manipulation. Polarization in dielectric materials; frequency dependence of dielectric constants and refractive indices. Ferroelectric domains. Dielectric components in devices. The close connection between fundamental concepts and current technology will be emphasized.

MSE 5860 - Atomic and Molecular Structure of Matter

This course covers the atomic and molecular structure of crystalline and non-crystalline materials as well as selected analytical techniques for structural interrogation. Selected topics include: basic elements of structure, order and disorder, crystals, semi-crystalline materials, amorphous materials, molecular materials, x-ray diffraction, and small angle x-ray scattering.

MSE 5861 - Mechanical Properties of Materials: From Nanodevices to Superstructures

This course examines the mechanical properties of materials (e.g., strength, stiffness, toughness, ductility) and their physical origins. Explores the relationship of the elastic, plastic, and fracture behavior to microscopic structure in metals, ceramics, polymers, and composite materials. Discusses effects of time and temperature on materials properties. Emphasizes considerations for design and optimal performance of materials and engineered objects.

MSE 5862 - Introduction to Electronic Materials

Examines the electrical and optical properties of materials. Topics include: the mechanism of electrical conduction in metals, semiconductors and insulators, tuning of electrical properties in semiconductors, charge transport across metal/semiconductor and semiconductor/semiconductor junctions, the interaction of materials with light, semiconductor electronic devices, and the materials science of device fabrication. Applications in microelectronics, solar cells, electronics, and display technologies are discussed. Students will complete and present a review of a current issues in semiconductor device evolution.

Advanced Graduate Courses

MS&E 6010 Chemistry of Materials

Course develops an understanding of materials properties from the perspective of sophisticated chemical concepts. Specific topics include: bonding and hybridization, HOMO/LUMO levels and band gaps, group theory and symmetry, redox chemistry and electrochemistry, inorganic chemistry, bio/organic chemistry (including simple organic reactions, the molecules of life, enzymes, the lock and key concept, etc), and interfacial chemistry.

MS&E 6020 Elasticity, Plastic Flow & Fracture

An advanced overview of mechanical properties of materials combining concepts from continuum mechanics, atomic structure, thermodynamics, and kinetics. Topics include: elastic properties of crystals, glasses, and polymers; mechanical damping; plastic deformation in metals and polymers; creep deformation; fracture in brittle and ductile materials; the effects of temperature, time, and thermomechanical history on properties; metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites; and models and scaling laws for mechanical behavior.

MS&E 6030 Thermodynamics of Materials

Topics include: basic statistical thermodynamics, partition functions and thermodynamic state functions, distributions, laws of thermodynamics, free-energy functions and conditions of equilibrium, chemical reactions, statistics of electrons in crystals, heat capacity, heterogeneous systems and phase transitions, and lattice models of 1-, 2-, and 3- dimensional interacting systems. Also covers: statistical thermodynamics of alloys, free-energy and phase diagrams, order-disorder phenomena, point defects in crystals, and statistical thermodynamics of interfaces.

MS&E 6040 Kinetics of Reactions in Condensed Matter

Phenomenology and microscopic aspects of diffusion in fluids, both simple and polymeric, and in metallic, ionic, semiconductor, and polymeric solids. Cartesian tensors are utilized for fields and properties. Covers phase stability and transformations; nucleation and growth, spinodal decomposition and displasive transformations; phase coarsening processes, recrystallization, and grain growth; diffusion-controlled growth, interfacial reactions, moving boundary problems; grain-boundary migration controlled kinetics; viscosity, anelasticity, and diffusional creep.

MS&E and Other Specialty Courses

In consultation with their special committee, PhD students will choose elective courses that support their research project.  The dynamic nature of education on Cornell's campus means that this list changes regularly. The list below is a sampling of the available courses.


Specialty Courses Offered by MS&E

Click to Open
  • MSE 5120 Mechanical Properties of Thin Films
  • MSE 5210 Properties of Solid Polymers
  • MSE 5230 Physics of Soft Matter
  • MSE 5240 Synthesis of Polymeric Materials
  • MSE 5250 Organic Opto-electronics
  • MSE 5310 Introduction to Ceramics
  • MSE 5330 Materials for Energy Production
  • MSE 5410 Nanofabrication of Semiconductor Devices
  • MSE 5420 Flexible Electronics
  • MSE 5430 Thin Film Materials Science
  • MSE 5450 Magnetic Materials
  • MSE 5550 Introduction to Composite Materials
  • MSE 5630 Nanobiotechnology
  • MSE 5710 Analytical Techniques for Materials Science
  • MSE 5720 Computational Materials Science
  • MSE 5870 Technology Management
  • MSE 6100 Physical Metallurgy and Applications
  • MSE 6210 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry
  • MSE 6220 Synthetic Polymer Chemistry
  • MSE 6310 Solid State Reactions
  • MSE 6320 Solid State Electrochemistry
  • MSE 6550 Advanced Composite Materials
  • MSE 6650 Principles of Tissue Engineering
  • MSE 6710 Principles of Diffraction
  • MSE 6810 Surfaces and Interfaces in Materials

Courses Associated with Research and Seminars

Click to Open
  • MSE 8000 Research in Materials Science
  • MSE 8010 MS&E Colloquium (attendance required)
  • MSE 8020 Materials Science Research Seminars

Applied and Engineering Physics

Click to Open
  • AEP 5500 Applied Solid-State Physics
  • AEP 6610 Microcharacterization
  • AEP 6620 Micro/Nanofabrication and Processing

Biomedical Engineering

Click to Open
  • BME 5500 Product Engineering and Design in Biomedical Engineering

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Click to Open
  • CHEME 6310 Engineering Principles of Drug Delivery
  • CHEME 6400 Polymeric Materials
  • CHEME 7450 Physical Polymer Science I

Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Click to Open
  • CHEM 6050-6070 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHEM 6250, 6270 Advanced Analytical Chemistry
  • CHEM 6290 Electrochemistry
  • CHEM 6650 Advanced Organic Chemistry
  • CHEM 6660 Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Click to Open
  • ECE 4570 Silicon Device Fundamentals
  • ECE 4820 Plasma Processing of Electronic Materials
  • ECE 5580 Compound Semiconductor Electronics


Click to Open
  • PHYS 4430 Intermediate Quantum Mechanics
  • PHYS 5100 Advanced Experimental Physics
  • PHYS 5620 Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS 5720 Quantum Mechanics l
  • PHYS 6350-6360 Solid-State Physics
  • PHYS 6530 Statistical Physics

Theoretical and Applied Mechanics

Click to Open
  • TAM 6630-6640 Solid Mechanics
  • TAM 7520 Nonlinear Elasticity
  • TAM 7530 Fracture
  • TAM 7570 Inelasticity