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

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.

You will have a chance to explore all the facets of fire protection engineering 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

What is a Fire Protection Engineer?

Fighting Oil Spills with Fire



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.

Faculty Profiles

Faculty Profiles

Nicholas A. Dembsey

Nicholas A. Dembsey


My research focuses on the building performance applications of fire dynamics, fire characteristics of materials and fire models as well as fire surveillance applications of UAVs.

Kathy Ann Notarianni

Kathy A. Notarianni

Associate Professor

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.

Milosh T. Puchovsky

Milosh T Puchovsky

Professor of Practice & Associate Department Head

Fire protection engineers recognize and assess a broad range of fire and life safety risks and, possess the technical knowledge and skills needed to develop effective solutions. Through my academic endeavors and professional practice, I bring practical perspectives to our students' educational experience. My teaching incorporates situations that practicing fire protection engineers face on a daily basis, facilitating our students' functional understanding of a fire's physical behavior, its impact, and the role of reacting systems, regulations and product standards.

Ali S. Rangwala

Ali S. Rangwala


Current fire-safety standards do not fully account for the wide range of combustibility of materials found in industrial settings. Nor do the standards provide for accurate measurement of hazardous dust accumulation within the environment. My research addresses combustion, industrial fire protection, and explosion protection. Among the potentially life-saving projects I’m working on is the development of measurement and ~sensing devices designed to identify the presence, velocity, and flow direction of smoke.

Getting Involved

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.

Students walking around the fountain in the springtime

After Graduation