Appendix I - Transportation

Master’s Core Courses in Transportation and Infrastructure System’s Engineering

A set of core courses is required for all master’s students in Transportation & Infrastructure Systems Engineering.  The objective of such a core program is to guarantee that all master’s students have a basic set of skills.  The core courses are not required for PhD students who already have a master’s degree from another school or department if they have taken equivalent courses elsewhere. Students may include, at most, one 400 level course in their plan of study.

The core program will consist of:

  1. CE 561: Transportation Systems Evaluation,
  2. CE 594: Transportation Systems Analysis, and
  3. One course in quantitative methods - STAT 512: Regression Analysis, or STAT 517: Statistical Inference, or IE 535: Linear Programming, or MA 527: Advanced Mathematics for Engineers and Physicists I

Notes:

  1. Between STAT 512 and 517, students interested in pursuing a PhD are encouraged to take STAT 517.
  2. Students lacking a basic statistical background are required to take STAT 511 outside the plan of study. 

Study Options

Each graduate student has many courses from which to select a program of study and each program is tailored to fit the specific needs of the student.  The master’s degree may be thesis or non-thesis. Because most of the financial support is for research, a high percentage of the students take the thesis option and the graduate assistant support when available. Non-thesis master’s students are required to complete three credit hours of directed study in CE 597.

Transportation Students’ Seminar

Registration in the Transportation Seminar, CE 691, is required of all graduate students in the fall and spring semesters. The seminar is generally held once a week.  It is intended for student presentations of their research.  All master’s and doctoral students make a presentation once a year.  Attendance by all TIS graduate students is mandatory.

Requirements for the PhD Qualifying and Preliminary Examinations

Transportation Engineering and Infrastructure Systems (TIS) Group

A. Introduction

The Transportation Engineering and Infrastructure System’s (TIS) Group at Purdue University administers two sequential examinations to its PhD students prior to their final examination to ascertain the adequacy of their preparation to conceive and undertake their chosen research topic. The first of these, the qualifying examination, tests the student on the basis of his/her coursework to ensure that he/she has acquired adequate breadth and background knowledge in the relevant primary or related disciplines. The second is a preliminary exam (which is oral) that tests the depth of the student’s knowledge in a specific research area, their ability to communicate that knowledge to fellow researchers, and their capability to produce a successful thesis in the subject area.

Only those students who have passed their qualifying exam are allowed to apply for the preliminary exam. The preliminary exam is held within one (1) year following the qualifying exam. For the preliminary exam, the composition of the committee may be same or different from that for the qualifying exam. However, both committees should be chaired by the same person: the student’s major academic advisor and thesis supervisor. This document presents the requirements for the PhD Qualifying and Preliminary Examinations in the Transportation Engineering and Infrastructure Systems (TIS) Group.

B. The Qualifying Examination

1. What is the Qualifying Exam? The qualifying exam is a written examination session that is administered once a year – at the beginning of the Fall semester (the week of the second Monday in September). This is a four-day take-home exam in the four (4) different subject areas. It is the responsibility of the student to apply for the qualifying examination well in advance of the intended examination date (see the next item “Applying for …” below). The qualifying exam should be taken in September of the following year after the student joins TIS as a PhD student. For students who join the PhD program in January, the date for their qualifying exam will be September of the following year.

2. Applying for the Qualifying Exam and Forming the Committee: Before the end of the Spring semester that precedes the qualifying exam, the student should apply for the qualifying exam. The process, at a minimum, consists of the following steps:

  • File the PhD plan of study (POS) with the Graduate School and obtain approval.
  • Collect and complete a qualifying exam request form from the TIS PhD exam coordinator
  • Form the qualifying exam committee with advice from the student’s major academic advisor. There should be at least four (4) subject areas, and the committee should consist of at least one approved faculty member for each subject area. The names, subject areas and associated coursework (see Item B.3 below), and contact information for each committee member should be indicated on the qualifying exam request form
  • Submit the qualifying exam request form to the TIS PhD exam coordinator for review and approval
  • Receive, subsequently, from the TIS PhD exam coordinator, notification of acceptance of the student’s qualifying exam plan.

3. Subject Areas and Courses for the Qualifying Examination: There should be at least four (4) different subject areas, and each area must have a sequence of least two courses taken at the graduate level. At least one (1) subject area must consist of two (2) courses within TIS. In addition, at least one (1) subject area must consist of two (2) courses outside of TIS in a relevant methodological area (such as Statistics, Operations Research, Economics, etc.).

4. Administering the Qualifying Exam: The qualifying exam is a written session that is administered as a four-day take-home exam in each of the subject areas. Where the number of subject areas exceeds four (4), the number of days for the take-home exam shall be adjusted accordingly. All students in a given exam session take the exam at the same time.

5. Passing the Qualifying Exam: After the qualifying examination, the chair of the examining committee convenes a face-to-face meeting or teleconference of the committee to make a decision on whether the candidate has passed the examination. The student must pass all the subject areas in the qualifying exam. The final decision to pass or fail the student is made at the discretion of the examining committee.

6. Repeating the Qualifying Exam: The examining committee has the option to recommend a second qualifying exam if a student does not pass the qualifying exam in his/her first attempt. This decision is made by the examining committee shortly after the first exam on the basis of the outcome of that exam. The second qualifying exam, if approved, will be held in the following January. Failure to pass the exam in the second attempt disqualifies the student from further pursuing a PhD in the TIS area.

C. The Preliminary Examination

1. What is the Preliminary Exam? The preliminary exam is held within one (1) year following the qualifying exam. The exam consists of an oral research presentation by the student and follow-up questions by the faculty regarding the presentation. Applying for, and scheduling the preliminary exam is the responsibility of the student and thus he/she should consult all members of the preliminary exam committee and other TIS faculty to establish an appropriate date for that exam.

2. Applying for the Preliminary Exam and Forming the Committee: Only those students who have passed their qualifying exam are allowed to apply for the preliminary exam. Before the end of the Fall semester of the qualifying exam, the student is responsible for setting in place the necessary administrative procedures for the preliminary exam. The process, at a minimum, consists of the following steps:

  • Form the preliminary exam committee, with advice from the student’s major academic advisor. See Item C.3 below.
  • Choose a date for the preliminary examination.
  • Meet the Graduate Administrative Assistant of the School of Civil Engineering to notify of the student’s intent to have a preliminary exam and to fill any appropriate forms. The names and contact information of each preliminary exam committee member should be indicated on any required paperwork. At this meeting, the student must fill and submit Purdue University Form 8 for the preliminary exam as required by the Graduate School. This form must be submitted at least three weeks before the date of the preliminary exam. After receiving the form, the CE grad office will process it and then submit it to the graduate school. After approving the form, the Graduate School will generate the necessary paperwork for the preliminary exam and will send it to the CE graduate office so that it can be signed during the preliminary exam.
  • Receive subsequently, from the CE Graduate Office, notification of acceptance of the student’s preliminary exam plan.

3. Composition of Committee Members: For the preliminary examination, the committee should comprise of faculty identified by the student and his/her major academic advisor for purposes of that exam. For the preliminary exam, the composition of the committee may be same or different from that for the qualifying exam. However, both committees should be chaired by the same person: the student’s major academic advisor and thesis supervisor. There should be a minimum of four (4) graduate school certified faculty members for the preliminary exam. At least one of these should be outside the TIS area.

4. Administering the Preliminary Exam: The preliminary exam consists of an oral research presentation by the student and follow-up questions by the faculty regarding the presentation. The examining committee and other TIS faculty attend this exam. After the exam, each member of the committee completes a rubric; at the end of the exam, the committee chair submits the completed rubric to the CE Graduate Office.

5. Passing the Preliminary Exam: During the Preliminary Exam, the student is typically expected to exhibit:

  • A clear understanding of the research problem at hand
  • An awareness of relevant background literature and current efforts in the research area of interest
  • Some initial progress toward solving the research problem (data collection/processing, framework/methodologies, and preliminary results, etc.)
  • A reasonable plan to execute the remainder of the thesis research.

At the end of the preliminary exam, the examining committee votes on whether the student should proceed with their PhD program. Other faculty members who are present may provide input for the decision.

6. Repeating the Preliminary Exam: The examining committee has the option to recommend a second preliminary exam if a student does not pass the preliminary exam in their first attempt.  The decision on the second preliminary exam is made by the examining committee shortly after the first exam based on the outcome of the first exam. The student should request a new Form 8 from the CE graduate office. The second preliminary exam should take place at least in the next semester session (summer session included) following the first preliminary exam. Failure to pass the exam in the second attempt disqualifies the student from further pursuing a PhD in the TIS area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the TIS PhD qualifying exam the same as the preliminary exam?
No. Under the new rules, TIS separates these two examinations.

Should the members of the qualifying exam committee be identical to those of the prelim? exam committee?
No. They need not be identical. The qualifying exam committee is the same as the “PhD examining committee”. The preliminary exam committee is the committee that signs the plan of study. The preliminary exam committee is the same as the “PhD advisory committee”.

For the qualifying exam, can a student specify a committee member for an area even though that member did not teach him/her that course but the area is that member's area of expertise?
This is generally not allowed but may be allowed in exceptional cases only, for example, when the original faculty member, for some reason, is unavailable at the time of the exam.

For the qualifying exam or preliminary exam, can a student specify a committee member who is not a faculty member? For example, staff? Or visiting professor? Etc.
The examining committee for the qualifying exam should involve only Purdue faculty members. The examining committee for the preliminary exam should involve only Purdue faculty members that are certified by the Graduate School but in special circumstances, non-Purdue faculty or Purdue non-faculty can be approved by the graduate school to serve on that committee.

Can student include a 400-level course in any of his/her areas?
Each subject area in the qualifying examination must have a sequence comprising at least two courses taken at the graduate level. The two courses that constitute the minimum requirement should at least be at 500 level.

Can a student include independent/individual/special studies (CE 597 and CE 697) as a subject area?
No. It is not allowed.

Should a student file his/her Plan of Study before scheduling or taking his/her qualifying exam?
Yes. The PhD Plan of Study should be filed and approved before the end of the Spring semester in the calendar year of the qualifying exam. However, the student need not take all courses listed in the Plan of Study before applying for the qualifying examination.

How soon should a student take the qualifying exam after joining the TIS program as a PhD student?
Those who join in August take the qualifying exam in September of the following year. For those who join in January, the qualifying exam will be in September of the following year.