PhD in Materials Science & Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy

In WPI’s PhD in Materials Science & Engineering program, you’ll conduct original research on the relationships between the structure, properties, processing, and performance of various materials. Whether you want to create a safer battery or a hip replacement joint that won’t degrade, you can do that here.

Choosing to study at WPI will give you access to our expert faculty and the extensive hands-on opportunities to understand the scientific principles behind materials like metals, polymers, ceramics, and composites and then test how the materials’ structures change and perform under varying conditions.

You may work within our industry-supported centers to focus on areas including metal castings, heat treating, and recycling, and have access to the research-focused Metals Processing Institute. Research here emphasizes designing and developing materials solutions to meet the needs of many industries—from biomedical to batteries.


The PhD program is adaptable and individualized so you can develop a plan that meets the degree requirements but that matches your interests and will advance your professional goals. In our program, you’ll produce original research under the guidance of faculty advisors. Your work will offer something new to the field and help solidify your emerging industry reputation as you complete a dissertation proposal, presentation, and defense.


Lighter Metals, Greener Vehicles

Your research is grounded in a well-funded, collaborative, supportive, and innovative department. Our labs and facilities give you state-of-the-art equipment, and you’ll work alongside our world-class faculty to forge breakthroughs in how materials can meet the changing demands of an increasingly technologically complex world.

Research through the Metal Processing Institute includes three centers that support precompetitive fundamental research, large-scale federally funded government projects, and proprietary research for MPI members.

Recent research:

  • Aluminum composites for automotive applications
  • A machine-learning approach to modeling the laser-assisted cold spray process 
  • Fabrication of Si/Graphene Anode composite for lithium ion batteries
  • Nano-strength testing of additive manufactured parts using atomic force microscopy
  • Application of computational thermodynamics and kinetics to rare earth reduction in magnesium alloys
  • Developing new heat treating or casting processes

Whether you want to develop new materials, discover a novel way to use something already in existence, or find out how to best recycle the materials we use every day, the resources here will advance your research.

Materials science engineering naturally lends itself to a multidisciplinary approach. A curriculum that blends essential elements of science and engineering skills means graduates of the program are sought after by employers.

With broad knowledge and targeted research experience, materials science engineers find careers in academia, government, business, and industry.

Faculty Profiles

Danielle Lynn Cote

Dr. Cote is an Assistant Professor in Materials Science & Engineering at WPI. She received her B.S. from the University of New Hampshire in Chemical Engineering and M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering from WPI. She also worked as a research engineer at Saint-Gobain High Performance Materials in the Polymer Characterization research group.

Her current research involves:

- Computational thermodynamic and kinetic modeling

- Rapidly solidified materials, with a focus on Al powder alloys (feedstock for AM)

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Jianyu Liang

Professor Liang’s research explores the physics of interfaces between the nanometer and micron scales. Her team responds to the challenging interdisciplinary nature of their research endeavor through successful collaboration with colleagues with expertise in metrology, physics, bioscience, medical science, chemistry, and fire protection engineering. Her educational effort includes novel approaches to project-based learning and global centers for science and engineering.

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Adam Clayton Powell

Adam C. Powell, IV is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical & Materials Engineering department who joined the WPI faculty in August 2018. His field is materials processing, and research focuses on greenhouse gas emissions reduction, elimination, and drawdown. Current projects aim to reduce vehicle body weight, lower solar cell manufacturing energy use and cost with improved safety, reduce or eliminate aviation greenhouse gas impact, power ships and trains with zero emissions, and improve grid stability as we drive toward 100% renewables.

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Pratap M. Rao

My research is aimed at discovering, understanding and developing advanced materials for a range of applications including solar energy conversion, catalysis, printed electronics, sensors, and functional coatings. Our lab specializes in the synthesis of nanostructured thin film materials using scalable processes. Students and researchers in my lab can expect to work on highly interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of materials science, mechanical engineering, solid state physics, and thermal sciences.

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Yan Wang

I am William Smith Foundation Dean's Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Since joining WPI, I have been very active in research. Currently, my lab focuses on the study of new electrodes and materials for energy storage, including lithium ion batteries, supercapacitors, flow batteries, battery manufacturing, battery safety and recycle, and fundamental electrochemistry. This research can lead to energy storage with high energy density, high power density, long life, low cost, and high safety.

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