MS&E Handbook

Florida State University
Materials Science and Engineering Program
Graduate Handbook

(Revised Aug. 05, 2014)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Contact Information
  3. Applying to the Program
  4. Program Deadlines
  5. Financial Support
  6. Information for International Students
  7. Health Insurance Requirement
  8. Language (English Competency) Requirement
  9. Course and Credit Information and Requirements
  10. Dismissal and Academic Probation
  11. Major Professor and Supervisory Committee
  12. Graduation Criteria for M.S. in MS&E
  13. Graduation Criteria for Ph.D. in MS&E
  14. Timetable
  15. Annual Reviews
  16. University Graduate Degree Requirements
  17. Steps to Graduation
  18. Living in Tallahassee
  19. Funds You Need to Have When You Arrive in Tallahassee
  20. Becoming a Resident of the State of Florida (for Domestic Students)
  21. Helpful Links
  22. Appendix: MS&E Curriculum

1. Introduction

Materials Science and Engineering is a broad-reaching, interdisciplinary field, where gigabyte memory sticks, human joint replacements, lightweight and smart prostheses, touch screen cell phones, and advanced composites (more than 50% by weight) in the new generation of commercial jet airliners are all or in part the results of MS&E.  Materials science involves the relationships between the processing, structure, properties, and performance of materials. MS&E graduates develop or synthesize new materials and create new products or systems using existing materials. Fundamental to MS&E is the design and simulation of the properties of new and existing materials through advanced computational methods. There is an inter-weaving of basic and applied experiences that creates a unique skill set that allows graduates to successfully pursue the frontiers of MS&E research.

2. Contact Information

For more information about the Materials Science & Engineering program please contact:


Eric Hellstrom

Director — MS&E
850 645-7489


Judy Gardner

Graduate Coordinator — MS&E
850 645-8980

3. Applying to the Program

MS&E follows FSU's admission standards and adds some additional requirements. These are:

FSU requirements

  • A bachelor's degree earned at a regionally accredited U.S. institution, or a comparable degree from an international institution, with a minimum 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) grade point average (GPA) in all work attempted while registered as an upper-division undergraduate student working towards a bachelor's degree; or
  • A graduate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or a comparable degree from an international institution.
  • Test scores from a nationally standardized graduate admission test which is acceptable for the program to which the applicant is applying.
  • International students whose first language is not English are required to take an English Language Proficiency test. The following are the minimum scores required for admission to FSU:
    • Internet based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): 80
    • Paper based TOEFL: 550
    • Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB): 77
    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS): 6.5
    • Pearson Test of English (PTE): 57
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation.

MS&E specific requirements

  • Undergraduate or graduate degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field.
  • GRE scores – On the new scoring system, the student's scores must place them in at least the 55th percentile for verbal and 75th percentile for quantitative. On the old scoring system, the student must have a minimum combined score of 1100 on the verbal and quantitative GRE exam.  Note: GRE scores are only valid for 2 years.
  • A statement of goals and purpose.

Admissions process

Students apply to the MS&E program through the FSU Graduate School Admissions Portal. Each applicant will be evaluated by the MS&E admissions committee, which is made up of MS&E faculty members with tenure homes covering all the departments in the Program. This committee will decide whether to admit each student and will also evaluate each student for one of the first-year fellowships.

4. Program Deadlines

Beginning Semester Deadline to Submit Materials Notes
Fall May 1 Must submit application package by December 15 to be considered for financial aid. Financial aid is only available for students who begin in Fall semester.
Spring September 1  
Summer January 1  

5. Financial Support


The MS&E program will offer several fellowships for incoming PhD students. These awards, which pay $20,000 for the academic year and include a tuition waiver plus a subsidy for health insurance, will allow the recipients to learn about the wide range of research available in MS&E. Recipients are required to do three research rotations in three MS & E faculty member's labs during the academic year and to join a research group at the end of the academic year.

By the Summer term of the first year, fellowship students should have chosen a research advisor. The major source of financial support for graduate students is the research assistantship, paid for by the grant funds of the major professor. These assistantships are awarded at the discretion of the major professor, subject only to the University stipulation that reinstated students on academic probation are ineligible for financial support.

Tuition Waiver Policies

Out-of-State tuition waivers are available on a very limited basis, and most out-of-state students will need to be funded from fellowships or sponsoring organizations from their home country.

University policy limits the number of years a graduate assistant can receive out-of-state tuition waiver support from the University. The standard is 6 years for a student who enters graduate school at FSU without a Masters degree, or 4 years for a student entering FSU with a Masters degree.

Taxes on Stipends

The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that student assistantships are not tax exempt. However, some foreign countries have treaties with the U.S., and individuals from those countries may be tax-exempt. Questions about taxes (especially prior returns) should be directed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Second Job While Working as a Research Assistant

The research assistant stipend provided to graduate students is intended to facilitate study, educational progress and research. Additional, unrelated, outside employment reduces a student's role in contributing to the departmental graduate program, and also might be construed as indicative of a lack of commitment to a student's training. If a student finds it necessary to obtain supplementary, outside employment, he/she must provide justification and obtain signature-approval from his/her major professor and other supervisory committee members.

Without the necessary approvals, it is inappropriate to be a full-time student on a research assistantship or fellowship and also receive outside employment. Unapproved dual employment could jeopardize eligibility for continued (a) departmental support and/or (b) grant support, and/or work with the major professor of choice. Approval of supplemental work and compensation does not excuse a student from meeting the time lines specified for graduation.

6. Information for International Students

Prearrival Process: International students are responsible for contacting the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) regarding the pre-arrival process. The Center for Global Engagement can be contacted by telephone at 850/644-1702 or by e-mail at . Also, information about the prearrival process can be obtained on the CGE website at

Social Security Number: International students who are being paid through FSU need to get a Social Security number.

This is covered on page 17 in the F1 Student Immigration Handbook that can be downloaded here. Also visiting in the following page

7. Health Insurance Requirement

All new graduate students are required to show proof of adequate health insurance, either purchased through FSU or show comparable coverage as determined by Thagard Student Health Center. If you do not show proof that you have health insurance, you will not allowed to register for classes. For insurance information including coverage and cost, go to the Thagard Student Health Insurance website at or call 850/644-6230.

The Graduate School offers qualifying graduate assistants a subsidy towards the purchase of the university-sponsored health insurance. The subsidy will be disbursed approximately 30 days after the drop/add period through payroll. For more information, please visit the Graduate School's Health Insurance Subsidy page

For more information about the insurance plans, please start at Click on the INSURANCE navigation bar towards the lower right of the page then click READ MORE ( When you have been directed to READ MORE, click on STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN INFORMATION on the left hand navigation tabs ( Towards the bottom of the page see:

Plan Brochures


Benefit Booklets

Note: The Graduate School has a health insurance subsidy for qualifying graduate students. Visit their website here

8. Language (English Competency) Requirement- for International Students

Occasionally, a student in the MS&E program will have an opportunity to work as a Teaching Assistant. A requirement for international students working in TA positions is to pass the SPEAK test, administered by the Center for Intensive English Studies (CIES), with a minimum score of 50. For more information on the SPEAK test please click here

9. Course and Credit Information and Requirements- M.S. and Ph.D.

Terminal M.S. degree in MS&E

  • Core courses (minimum 12 credits). 
    • Fundamental Core Courses: - Three required
    • Elective Core Courses: - One required
  • Four elective, specialization courses (minimum 12 credits)
  • Interdisciplinary Seminar Series – taken every semester  (0 credits)
  • 6 credits (minimum) of thesis research
  • Write and defend thesis
  • Minimum of 30 credits to graduate

Ph.D. requirements

  • Core courses (minimum 12 credits).
    • Fundamental Core Courses: - Three required
    • Elective Core Courses: - One required
  • Five elective, specialization courses (minimum 15 credits)
  • Interdisciplinary Seminar Series taken every semester (0 credits)
  • 24 credits (minimum) of dissertation research
  • Pass qualifier exam
  • Write and defend a dissertation
  • Minimum of 54 credits to graduate

The courses will be offered by the participating departments. Students who wish to take a specific course in this program need to have met the prerequisite(s) prior to taking the course or get the consent of the instructor.

10. Dismissal and Academic Probation

The University reserves the right to exclude at any time a student whose conduct is deemed improper or prejudicial to the interest of the University community or whose academic performance is substandard, regardless of GPA.

A graduate student, excluding College of Law students and MD candidates in the College of Medicine, whose cumulative grade point average for courses taken at Florida State University falls below 3.0 at the end of a term (not counting courses for which "S" or "U" grades may be given) will be considered not in good standing by the University and will be placed on academic probation. If a 3.0 cumulative grade point average is not attained by the end of the next full term of enrollment, the student will not be permitted to register for graduate study, including registering as a non-degree student. However, at the time of dismissal, the major professor may petition the academic dean for consideration of special circumstances that the professor thinks constitute justification for an exception to this regulation, but under no circumstances will a student be allowed more than one additional term of probation. Owing to the differential uses of the designation, "academic probation" shall not appear on permanent records of regular graduate students. After one probationary period, however, a student whose average falls within the probationary range will receive automatic dismissal. Statuses of "academic warning," "probation," or "reinstated from dismissal" do not specifically prohibit a student from participating in extracurricular activities unless otherwise specified by University policy, rules, or by-laws governing the activity or organization. Consideration of the academic dismissal takes priority over any readmission application and must be resolved first. Students on dismissal are not eligible for readmission or the readmission appeal process unless they have first been reinstated by the academic dean. The academic dean is the final authority for reinstatement considerations.

Students pursuing multiple degrees under different careers (i.e., graduate and undergraduate simultaneously) are subject to the retention standards of the career associated with each degree. Dismissal from one career does not automatically constitute dismissal from the second career when those careers are different (undergraduate and graduate).

For more information, please see the FSU Graduate Bulletin section on Academic Regulations & Procedures

11. Major Professor and Supervisory Committee

Each student will choose a major professor (dissertation advisor) from the MS&E faculty by the end of his/her second semester. The Ph.D. supervisory committee consists of a minimum of five faculty members with Ph.D. directive status. The major professor is the chair of the supervisory committee and must be an MS&E faculty member. The student and the major professor will select the supervisory committee. A maximum of 2 members of the supervisory committee can be from the advisors department, a maximum of 3 can be from the advisors college, and the committee must have members from at least 3 different departments. In addition at least 4 of the 5 committee members must be from MS&E. Additional members may be appointed to the committee if deemed desirable by the major professor. The supervisory committee must be selected by the end of the semester in which the student passes the Ph.D. qualifying exam.

FSU faculty members who participate in the MS&E Ph.D. program must be approved for graduate faculty status in MS&E. The university representative on the committee will be a faculty member who does not have graduate faculty status in MS&E.

12. Graduation Criteria for M.S. in MS&E

All students must pass all of the required coursework (minimum of 24 credit hours of graded course work) with a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to meeting the university requirement to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or above, MS&E students need to achieve a grade of "B" or better in each core course. Students not achieving a "B" must either retake the course or take another core course in a different topic area that will be selected by MS&E in consultation with the instructor of the core course in which the student did not achieve at least a "B."

All M.S. students must write, present, and successfully defend a thesis on their research.

For more information, please see page 19 in the FSU Graduate Student Handbook

13. Graduation Criteria for Ph.D. in MS&E

All students must pass all of the required coursework (27 credit hours of graded course work) with a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to meeting the university requirement to maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or above, MS&E students need to achieve a grade of "B" or better in each core course. Students not achieving a "B" must either retake the course or take another core course in a different topic area that will be selected by MS&E in consultation with the instructor of the core course in which the student did not achieve at least a "B."

Qualifying Exam

All MS&E Ph.D. students must take a written qualifying exam after the first year. It is based on the content of the four core courses completed by the candidate. Students must pass the exam to be in the Ph.D. program. Students will have two chances to pass the qualifying exam.

Preliminary Examination and Prospectus

After passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam and finishing all the elective specialization courses, the student will prepare a prospectus. This is a written document that includes preliminary research results and a plan and timeline to complete the research. The student will submit the written prospectus to his/her supervisory committee and will also present the prospectus orally. As part of the oral prospectus presentation, the student will have oral questions from the supervisory committee based on the students elective specialization courses to gauge the students understanding of the breadth and depth of materials science. This oral examination and presentation of the prospectus will constitute the preliminary examination.

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

Upon satisfactorily completing the preliminary examination and prospectus, the student will finish his/her research and then prepare a written document for his/her dissertation and defend the dissertation orally.

For more information, please see page 23 in the FSU Graduate Student Handbook.

14. Timetable

Note: timetable only counts academic semesters (Fall and Spring)

PhD Students

Requirement Deadline
Choose research advisor RA Students- when admitted
Fellowship students- at end of 2nd semester
Appoint research committee By beginning of 2nd year
Written PhD qualifying exam Beginning of 3rd semester
PhD prospectus and preliminary exam During 5th semester
Defend PhD Dissertation During 9th or 10th semester

MS Students 

Requirement Deadline
Choose research advisor When admitted
Appoint research committee By end of 2nd semester
Defend MS thesis By end of 2nd year

15. Annual Reviews

All graduate assistants must be reviewed each semester. This is done by their major professor if they are a research assistant and by the course instructor if they are a teaching assistant.

Each student will submit a written summary of his/her research results and plans for ongoing research in Spring of each year. The evaluation procedure described below is done yearly until the student graduates.

Before passing the Preliminary Exam, the students advisor will evaluate the students progress and write a short report that is given to the student, to MS&E, and to the dean of the Graduate School during May of each year.

After passing the Preliminary Exam, the student will present their results and plans to their supervisory committee in Spring of each year. The committee will write a short evaluation of the students progress that is given to the student, to MS&E, and to the dean of the Graduate School during May of each year.

16. University Graduate Degree Requirements

For details of the FSU M.S. and Ph.D. graduation requirements, please see the section Graduate Degree requirements in the FSU Graduate Bulletin.

17. Steps to Graduation

For information on graduation requirements in the final term, for both the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, see page 56 in the Graduate Student Handbook 

For additional information on graduation requirements, please see information in the Graduation of Masters and Doctoral Students section of the Graduate Degree Requirements in the FSU Graduate Bulletin.

18. Living in Tallahassee

Tallahassee is home to Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Tallahassee Community College. There are several websites available for information on living here.

For information about moving to and living in Tallahassee, please see this link to the FSU Center for Global Engagement site. This website has links to specific information on the following topics:

19. Funds You Need to Have When You Arrive in Tallahassee

Students need to be aware that it will take several weeks for them to be paid by Florida State University if this is their funding source. Students who are paid from abroad may also find that it takes some time for their funding to arrive from their home country. Therefore, students should have sufficient individual funds for expenses for their first few weeks in Tallahassee. The Center for Global Engagement gives this list of approximate expenses that you can anticipate upon arrival:

  • Airport transportation - $20
  • Deposits and application fees for housing - $800
  • First month's rent for housing - $600
  • Deposits for utilities - $326
  • Deposits for internet, TV, phone - $50
  • Bedroom, bathroom, & kitchen linens - $100
  • Paper products, toiletries, and cleaning supplies - $50
  • Pots, pans, dishes, cooking and eating utensils - $200
  • One month bus pass - $50
  • One month of food - $400
  • One quarter of insurance coverage - $462

Total - $3,058

20. Becoming a Resident of the State of Florida (for Domestic Students)

Domestic students who are paid through FSU are expected to become residents of the State of Florida at the end of their first year as a graduate student. The reason for this is that FSU does not need to pay an out-of-state tuition waiver for Florida residents. The procedure for becoming a resident has to start BEFORE THE FIRST DAY OF CLASSES in your first semester at FSU. Details are given on the FSU Admissions Website. The procedure to start to become a resident is as follows.

1. Download the Declaration of Domicile form

2. Fill out the form but do NOT have it notarized. You will have it notarized at the Leon County Clerk of Courts office.

3. Hand-deliver the form to the Leon County Clerk of Courts at the following address:

Leon County Clerk of Courts
313 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32302
Hours: Monday - Friday; 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Fee: $15.00
Bring a state issued photo ID required

21. Helpful Links

For additional information on the following topics, please see these websites:

  1.  City of Tallahassee- Includes bus schedules and information on connecting utilities.
  2. StarMetro (Bus to get around Tallahassee): Students with valid Florida State I.D.s may ride free of charge on all city bus routes. The Student Fare Free Zone is seven days per week except Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.
  3. Seminole Express (Bus to get around FSU campus): With five routes, the Seminole Express bus service assists students in their day-to-day movement around campus, including Innovation Park. 
  4. FSU campus maps
  5. Parking on the FSU campus- All students are assessed a per credit hour fee paid with their tuition to cover their parking and transportation needs. To acquire a permit visit the Parking and Transportation Services website. Students must have a vehicle license number, vehicle make and model, valid Florida State e-mail, and a valid shipping address to which the permit will be mailed to obtain a student parking permit. Students must also have a valid FSU Card and be registered for classes. Permits become available the third week in August and are valid for one year: September 1 through the following August 31. It is not necessary to pay for the permit at the time of procurement, as it is charged to the student via the Transportation Access Fee on the tuition bill.
  6. Comcast
  7. Century Link
  8. Dish Network
  9. Checklist for new FSU Graduate Students
  10. FSU Graduate Student Handbook
  11. FSU Graduate Bulletin
  12. FSU Student Organizations
  13. Local events plus places to see and stay in the Tallahassee area
  14. Tallahassee Wiki

22. Appendix: MS&E Courses, Curriculum

Please see the MS&E website for course requirements and curriculum.

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