Current Students

Program Requirements

The MolE PhD program is separated into two focus areas, cleantech and biotech. Students must complete the following credits as part of the program.

  • Core Courses (18 credits)
  • Electives (18 credits)
  • Research (63 credits)

Core Courses

MolE-I: Molecular Engineering Principles

This required course, offered jointly with the Chemical Engineering Department, covers molecular aspects of condensed organic materials, particularly molecular and collective interactions and resulting interfacial forces, entropic phenomena and condensation to systems of higher complexity. It also explores molecular system constraints, the molecular origin of resulting macroscale properties, and provides an introduction into computer modeling.

MolE-II: Advanced Molecular Engineering

This required course, offered jointly with the Bioengineering Department, covers the fundamentals of molecular recognition and design including thermodynamics, molecular dynamics, and kinetics. The course delves further into molecular design of macromolecules, recognition processes for current molecular engineering applications in biomedicine, and therapeutics based on cells.

MolE-Cleantech: Organic Electronic and Photonic Materials/Polymers

This course covers physical and material concepts determining properties of organic electronic and photonic materials including electronic structure and physico-chemical characterization. This course also introduces electrically conducting polymers, organic nonlinear optical electroluminescent materials, polymer optical fibers, and tow-photon absorption materials for 3-D microfabrication. This course is offered jointly with the departments of Materials Science & Engineering and Chemistry.

MolE-Biotech: Synthetic Biosystem Engineering on the Molecular Scale

This course covers: mathematical modeling of transcription, translation, regulation, and metabolism in cell; computer aided design methods for synthetic biology; implementation of information processing, Boolean logic and feedback control laws with genetic regulatory networks; modularity, impedance matching and isolation in biochemical circuits; and parameter estimation methods. This course is offered jointly with the departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Bioengineering, and Computer Science & Engineering.

MolE-S: The Molecular Engineering Seminar

This required seminar features weekly research presentations from national and international experts in molecular engineering. It is supported and run by the MolES Institute. Students are required to attend this seminar during their first three years.


Research Facet Electives (9 credits)

At least one course must be taken from each of the following research facets: (1) synthesis, assembly, and design, (2) characterization and analysis, and (3) theory, computation, and modeling. An approved and regularly updated list of research facet electives is provided by the MolE Graduate Advisor.

Outside of Focus Area Elective (3 credits)

This elective includes a CleanTech or BioTech related course that is from the opposite track as your own. For example, a BioTech student would choose a CleanTech course and vice versa.

Free Electives (6 credits)

Here you have the ultimate freedom to choose courses that are related to your research, research interests or research goals. Professional development courses, like grant writing or technology commercialization, are also acceptable.


A total of at least 63 research credits are earned as research assistants under the supervision of MolES faculty advisors.

Data Science Option

The MolE Data Science Option introduces MolE Ph.D. students to the foundations of data science and provides them with techniques and tools that they can apply to their own research. This option, supported by the UW eScience Institute, is designed for students with little or no background in data science, computer science, or coding, to become proficient users of data science tools.


Program Milestones

1. Preliminary Exam

In the Autumn quarter of the second year, students take a Preliminary Exam involving both a written and oral component through which the student’s Ph.D. supervisory committee evaluates their ability to:

  • Convey knowledge gained through core coursework on synthesis, modeling, and characterization
  • Analyze and critique research done by others via a paper review
  • Conduct original, independent research based on the research they have completed thus far and their research plans going forward.

To qualify to take the exam, students must have a GPA of at least 3.3 based on at least 15 credits of approved 400- and 500-level UW courses.

2. Master of Science

To complete the non-thesis MolE Master of Science (M.S.), students are required to submit written and oral reports to their Ph.D. supervisory committee so that the committee can evaluate the quality of the research and student’s ability to apply molecular engineering principles. Students must attain their MolE M.S. degree at least one quarter prior to taking the General Exam. On average, MolE students complete this requirement in two years.

3. General Exam

The General Exam once again entails written and oral reports to the student’s Ph.D. supervisory committee so that they may evaluate the quality of the research and student’s ability to apply molecular engineering principles. Students must take the General Exam at least one quarter prior to their Final Exam. Students are expected to pass their General Exam prior to the start of year 4.

4. Final Exam/Dissertation

The MolE program is completed when a student passes their final exam and submits their dissertation. The exam itself consists of both a public and private component. Prior to a public presentation of their work, the student’s Ph.D. supervisory committee meets privately to briefly discuss the Candidate’s progress (transcripts, Preliminary Exam results, General Exam results, etc.). After the public presentation, the Supervisory Committee questions the Candidate in private. More Information is available in the “Dissertation & Final Exams” section of the MolE PhD Student Handbook.

Additional forms and resources can be found here.