PhD in Fire Protection Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy
FPE student shielding wire

Take your place at the frontline of a global movement to design a safer world with WPI’s internationally renowned PhD in Fire Protection Engineering.

The first university to offer a PhD in Fire Protection Engineering—and currently home to one of the nation’s three graduate programs in the field—WPI is recognized as a world leader in fire dynamics and computational modeling.

Value Proposition Description

As a PhD student here, you’ll learn from and work with expert WPI faculty members who are making advances that inform regulatory policy, building design, first responder operations, and product performance standards. You’ll also benefit from our strong industry connections, robust alumni network, and hands-on approach to learning.



Fire protection engineering is interdisciplinary in its nature—protecting our increasingly crowded world from the risk of fire means diving into a stimulating mix of engineering disciplines, mathematics, computer science, and even psychology.

As you pursue your PhD in fire protection engineering, you will have a chance to explore all the facets of FPE through our large selection of courses, and through focused research undertaken in collaboration with a faculty advisor. Our courses and research focus on these topics:

  • advanced fire suppression
  • building fire safety 
  • detection, alarm, and smoke control
  • explosion protection
  • failure analysis
  • fire dynamics


G​roundbreaking research is a cornerstone of WPI’s Fire Protection Engineering Department. Fire protection engineering is a relatively young field, and WPI faculty and student researchers are helping shape the discipline and create new areas of knowledge.

Our researchers receive significant funding from public and private sectors as they increase breakthroughs aimed at making the world a safer place, from assessing fire hazards of green buildings, to streamlining procedural standards for firefighters and understanding of how wildfires spread.

WPI’s FPE program is one of only three in the nation. Your research will benefit from the unparalleled expertise among our faculty and industry partners.

As a recognized world leader in fire dynamics and computational modeling, WPI offers students a distinctive and valuable edge.

Simply put, the resources in our cutting-edge fire science labs are distinctive, highly specialized, and valuable to fire science engineering researchers.

Our researchers study much more than fire—the program elements include fire safety aspects of human behavior, business, management, and public policy for a comprehensive approach.

FPE graduates enter a lucrative career field—WPI graduate students are recruited by local, national, and international employers to meet the rising global demand.

WPI faculty members and their students create new knowledge every day, often in collaboration with national and international groups. Their work informs and shapes regulatory policy, building design, product manufacturing, and product performance standards.

Our research labs offer frontline fire scenarios (up to two stories high) to help understand fire dynamics, material safety, wildland fires, and dust explosions. The results improve everything from building materials to firefighter safety to national fire regulations.

Our graduate students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and unsurpassed, technologically advanced laboratories and classrooms. Our Performance Engineering Laboratory boosts unique full-scale capabilities, including 2,000 square feet of space that can be adapted for a wide range of large-scale experiments. Other resources include our Combustion Laboratory and Fire Fundamentals Laboratory.

Faculty Profiles

Nicholas Dembsey
Nicholas Dembsey

My research focuses on the building performance applications of fire dynamics, fire characteristics of materials and fire models.  I am working in the following areas: closing the fire performance gap in buildings; fire safety of green buildings; development of new techniques and guidance documents for practicing engineers to measure fire properties of materials; the optimization of building assemblies for fire performance, ease of manufacturing and cost effectiveness.

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Kathy Notarianni
Kathy Notarianni
Associate Professor, Fire Protection Engineering

Today, firefighters serve increasingly as first responders for emergency medical calls, civil emergencies, terrorist threats, and hazardous materials incidents, in addition to fire emergencies. The fire service needs tools and technologies that aid in carrying out their ever expanding mission without increasing costs. My research is focused on working with the fire service to achieve this important goal. I am conducting research on fire department mobilization times and exposure of fire fighters to toxic gases.

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Milosh Puchovsky
Milosh Puchovsky
Professor of Practice & Associate Department Head, Fire Protection Engineering

Practicing fire protection engineers are trained to recognize and assess a broad range of complex fire and life safety issues. They are called upon to bring forth technical knowledge and the skills necessary to develop effective solutions. Through my academic and professional practice I bring practical perspectives to our students' educational experience.

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Ali Rangwala
Ali Rangwala


Professor Rangwala’s research interests include problems related to industrial fire and explosion problems. He has worked on topics such as deflagration of combustible dust clouds, ignition behavior of combustible dust layers, in-situ burning of oil, spread of an oil slick in channels, velocity measuring techniques in fire induced flows, and flame propagation and burning rate behavior of condensed fuel surfaces.

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Getting Involved

Whether you want to gain professional experience or just have fun, you’ll find many opportunities to get involved outside of class, from club sports to the performing arts. You may also connect with other fire protection engineering students in the WPI Student Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

Do You Have the Drive, But Need the Degree? Explore MS Options Online & On-Campus.

Ready to become a leader in fire protection, but need to earn a master’s first? With our master’s in fire protection engineering, you will gain the hands-on experience and exposure to predict and inform policy while on the frontline of fire emergencies.

Prefer the flexibility to study online at your convenience? Our online master’s in fire protection engineering is a customizable program that provides students the ability to study remotely part-time. Maybe you’re looking to get an introduction in fire protection rather than the commitment of a master’s? We offer online and on-campus graduate certificates that cover fire dynamics and computational modeling so you can gain advance knowledge in the field.