May 20, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Bulletin 
2023-2024 Graduate Bulletin

Petroleum Engineering, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. degree represents the highest degree awarded by universities in the United States. The Ph.D. degree usually requires coursework beyond that required by a master’s degree program in the same discipline, but is primarily characterized by the Ph.D. dissertation requirement. The Ph.D. dissertation should contain significant original research and material suitable for publication as refereed manuscript or manuscripts, normally as a research journal article or articles. The recipient of a Ph.D. degree should possess a broad knowledge of his or her discipline and should be prepared for a lifetime of creative intellectual inquiry. The Ph.D. dissertation should establish the candidate’s ability to read and comprehend the literature, to independently formulate a significant intellectual problem, to formulate the solution to the problem utilizing state-of-the-art knowledge and creativity, and to communicate the findings in a lucid, professional document, the Ph.D. dissertation.

Learning Outcomes

Doctor of Philosophy graduates are expected to:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in the professional skills needed to become competent researchers, university professors, and scientists in petroleum industry and/or academia.
  • Synthesize, critique, apply, and extend major theories and methods and/or perform advanced engineering systems design in petroleum engineering or related area.
  • Demonstrate the ability to direct teams towards state-of-the-art in their research.
  • Demonstrate high standards of ethical, environmental, and societal awareness.
  • Demonstrate effective written and oral communication skills.


Requirements for admission to the Graduate School, including English proficiency, may be found in the Admission section of this Bulletin.

In addition, applicants to the doctoral program in petroleum engineering must have a baccalaureate degree in engineering, physics, or mathematics from an accredited institution. Applicants with a baccalaureate degree in a field other than petroleum engineering may be required to take additional deficiency classes in the areas of reservoir engineering, production engineering and drilling engineering.

Students with baccalaureate degrees may be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program provided that the student’s academic record satisfies the following conditions:

  • An undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.5 or greater;
  • A composite G.P.A. of 3.5 or greater in mathematics, science, engineering science, and engineering undergraduate courses taken as an undergraduate; and
  • A quantitative GRE score greater than or equal to 160.

The preceding requirements are considered minimal and do not guarantee direct admission to the Ph.D. program.

At the discretion of the graduate advisor, the requirements for international students regarding grade point average may be replaced by a rank in the top five percent of the student’s graduating class or the top ten percent of the student’s graduating class provided the student’s baccalaureate degree is from a university from which other students have been admitted into the Ph.D. program.

A student without a master’s degree who is admitted into the Ph.D. program must:

  • Maintain at least a 3.5 G.P.A. in the first 18 hours of graduate work at the 7000- or 8000-level, and
  • Complete the Ph.D. qualifying exams and attain a pass or repeat result within two years of his or her first enrollment.

Candidates who fail to meet the preceding two requirements will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program but have the option of transferring to the master’s program.

Any student who is admitted to the master’s degree program may apply to the Ph.D. program after completion of 18 hours of graduate coursework at the 7000-level or above provided the student’s G.P.A. in such coursework is at least 3.5.

All applicants must take the General Tests of the Graduate Record Examination prior to admission and have an official copy of the scores submitted to the Graduate School.

It is emphasized that the above requirements are minimum requirements. It is expected that the qualifications of students entering the program will substantially exceed the minimum requirements. A student who meets only the minimum requirements in each of the above areas will, normally, be denied admission.

The number of candidates in this program, both part-time and full-time, is limited. Normally, part-time students are not admitted to this program. Applicants must designate their major fields of research interest.

Applicants usually are selected for admission by February 1 and September 1, but will be considered throughout the year.

Applicants from non-English-speaking countries who have not received a degree from a U.S. university must satisfy English proficiency requirements of a minimum TOEFL score of 80 on the internet-based test or 550 on the paper test. A minimum score of 6.0 on the IELTS examination may be substituted for the TOEFL.

Curriculum Requirements

The Ph.D. program requires at least 78 approved credit hours of graduate credit above the baccalaureate level, generally distributed in the following manner:

  • At least 20 credit hours of research and dissertation including master’s degree thesis.
  • At least 42 hours of graduate credit in coursework, including a maximum of nine hours of approved 6000-level courses listed in this Bulletin for graduate credit. A maximum of six hours of independent study will be allowed. The core courses, PE 7013 , PE 7023 , and PE 7063 , must be included in the first 27 hours of graduate work.
  • At least 12 credit hours of coursework must be taken outside the discipline.

Students may be required to complete prerequisite undergraduate courses without graduate credit, resulting in a program of more than 78 credit hours. No more than 6 hours of transfer credit beyond the master’s degree from an accredited institution may be counted toward the course requirements if acceptable to the advisory committee.

These requirements are not variable except under special circumstances and with permission of the student’s advisory committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Graduate Seminar Requirement

Students must also enroll in PE 7220  their first two semesters, in addition to any other courses chosen with the graduate program advisor.

Language and Residence

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree in petroleum engineering must demonstrate competence in a computer language and/or in one foreign language through readings of material in his or her major field of study. Material for this requirement is selected with the approval of the candidate’s advisory committee. At least two consecutive semesters in residence at The University of Tulsa as a full-time student are required.

Qualifying Examinations

The Ph.D. qualifying exams are designed to indicate whether a student has the intellectual creativity necessary to do Ph.D. research. Problems on a Ph.D. qualifying exam should be different from problems that the students taking the exam have seen before.

Questions on Ph.D. qualifying exams presume background knowledge normally held by the holder of a B.S. degree in petroleum engineering who has also taken undergraduate courses in partial differential equations and either linear algebra or matrix theory. Questions may also assume that the examinee has taken the core courses PE 7013 , PE 7023 , and PE 7063 .

Students wishing to take Ph.D. qualifying exams must inform the department chair in writing four weeks prior to the exam week. The exams will normally be administered once a year; immediately preceding the first week of the fall semester.

The Ph.D. qualifying exams consist of three four-hour exams. Each of the three exams consists of six questions and the examinee is asked to solve exactly four questions on each exam. Each full-time petroleum engineering faculty member will prepare two or three questions upon the request of the Chair of the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering .

The Graduate Program Coordinator formulates the three exams at his discretion with the provision that no individual exam will contain more than one question prepared by an individual faculty member. Each question is graded on a zero to ten basis. Since each examinee is asked to solve a total of 12 problems, the maximum grade possible is 120.

  • A grade of 75/120 or more shall constitute a passing grade.
  • A grade less than 65/120 shall constitute a failing grade.

Any student who has scored less than 65/120 will be dismissed from the program at the end of the fall semester immediately following the August qualifying exams. The faculty shall consider two options for any student who receives a grade on the qualifying exams greater than or equal to 65/120 and less than 75/120, namely,

  1. the student shall be dismissed from the program at the end of the fall semester following the August qualifying exams which he or she failed;
  2. the student shall be awarded a passing grade.

Which of the preceding options will apply will be determined by a secret ballot of all full-time petroleum engineering graduate faculty members who attend the meeting at which the results of the Ph.D. qualifying exams are discussed. The selection of option (b) will require majority vote of the faculty. If option (b) is not selected by majority vote, the student will be dismissed from the program, i.e., option (a) shall prevail.

Each student shall be informed of the outcome by his or her advisor, or, in the absence of the advisor, by the Chair of the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering . The Chair shall notify the Dean of the Graduate School of all results.

A Ph.D. student entering with an M.S. degree in petroleum engineering must take the first available written qualifying exams after completing two semesters of enrollment. A student who has completed a master’s degree in petroleum engineering at TU and been admitted to the Ph.D. program may choose to take the first available Ph.D. qualifying exam. Students entering with no graduate coursework in petroleum engineering must take the first available written qualifying exams after completing four semesters of enrollment. Any exception to this policy must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the full-time faculty by a secret ballot.

Research Proposal

For a student who has passed his/her Ph.D. qualifying exams, the final step for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree requires that he/she prepare a typed research proposal five to fifteen pages in length which outlines the research proposed for the Ph.D. dissertation. The student’s advisor may provide general suggestions on the preparation of this proposal but should not write the proposal. The completed research proposal must be submitted to each full-time faculty member and members of the dissertation committee.

The advisor will convene a meeting with the student and the dissertation committee at which the student will present the research proposal. All faculty members are invited to this presentation. This meeting should take place at least a year before the student’s graduation. Subsequent to this meeting, the dissertation committee shall recommend one of the following:

  • The student shall be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.
  • The student shall make committee-recommended revisions to the proposal prior to being admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

The advisor will notify the department chair upon the student’s successful completion of all requirements.


A student cannot be admitted to candidacy until the language requirement has been fulfilled, qualifying examinations have been passed, and the research proposal has been approved.


Each candidate must write a dissertation on the results of his research. The dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to conduct independent research in the area of interest and must contribute to some field of science or engineering technology. The dissertation must follow the Graduate School’s recommended procedures for submission to the student’s advisory committee, and before final typing or reproduction, must be presented to the full advisory committee for examination and review. The dissertation is graded Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U).

Final Oral Examination

Each candidate must pass a final oral examination before the advisory committee. The examination will consist of a public defense of the dissertation and cover the general field of the dissertation as well as other parts of the program which may be chosen by the committee.

The advisory committee recommends the candidate to the Dean of the Graduate School for the Ph.D. degree upon successful completion of the final oral examination and acceptance of the dissertation. Passing grades must be obtained in all the dissertation hours to fulfill degree requirements.

Advisory Committee

Students in the Ph.D. program will be advised initially by a graduate faculty member recommended by the graduate program advisor and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. Students should select a general research area and a research advisor or co-advisors for the dissertation by the end of two semesters after enrollment in the program. The advisor or co-advisors, after consultation with the student, recommend the other members of the advisory committee to the Dean of the Graduate School.

The advisory committee must have at least four members. Two members must be graduate faculty members from the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering ; at least one member must be a University of Tulsa graduate faculty member from a department other than the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering ; and one member may be a qualified expert in the research area from outside the University.

The advisory committee assists with the student’s program of coursework, approves the dissertation topic, and administers the final dissertation oral examination.