Admissions and Degree Information | Quantum Science and Engineering

Degree Requirements

The QSE graduate program offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Students will follow one of three tracks: 1) Quantum Nanotechnology, 2) Quantum Theory or 3) Quantum Algorithms and Computation. Students will indicate the track to which they are applying at the time of application and are welcome to consult the graduate advisor when making this decision. In general, students planning to do experimental work will follow the Quantum Nanotechnology track. Students planning to do theoretical work that requires knowledge of physical systems (e.g. atoms or solid-state materials) will follow the Quantum Theory track. Students planning to work on quantum algorithms, quantum computing applications or classical computing that facilitates quantum computing will follow the Quantum Algorithms and Computation track.

Students who have already taken courses, in other departments or at other institutions, that they believe satisfy the requirements of a required course for this degree may request that a course requirement be waived. Such applications must be submitted to the graduate program advisor and associate program director in writing. Applications must be accompanied by a) documentation of the content covered in the prior course (e.g. syllabus, copies of homework or exams) and b) evidence of satisfactory completion of the prior course. Applications will be evaluated and approved or denied by the graduate committee, typically in consultation with the UD instructor of the course for which a waiver has been requested. Students whose requests are approved will select, in consultation with the graduate program advisor, assistant program director and their advisor, a different course to take to meet the total number of credits required for the degree. The graduate program advisor will complete a course substitution form to document the approved substitution.

All Ph.D. trainees are encouraged to participate in internships with our corporate and national lab partners. There are three goals for this internship program. First, we want trainees to understand the industry context in which the skills they are learning will be used. Second, the internships will create a network of contacts upon which trainees can draw after graduation. Third, we want the needs of industry to be continuously brought back into our research programs. 

Qualifying exams

Ph.D. students are required to pass qualifying exams to enter candidacy. Qualifying exams should generally be scheduled in year two but must be completed by the end of year three. If a student does not pass the qualifying exam by the end of year three, the student will be asked to leave the program. In the case of extenuating circumstances, the student may petition the Graduate Committee for an extension.

The qualifying exams comprise two parts: a written paper and an oral exam. The written paper, which serves as a dissertation proposal, is prepared by the student. The student’s advisor should review the paper to ensure that it conforms with these requirements and may offer constructive feedback to the student. After this review, the paper should be sent to the student’s committee at least two weeks before the date of the qualifying exam. The paper should be no longer than 12 pages in length (single space, 12-point font, Times New Roman or equivalent) including figures. Substantial references, demonstrating that students are familiar with the background literature in the field, should be included in the paper and are not included in the 12-page maximum. References should be in a standard format that complies with NSF guidelines.

The paper must include the following sections:

  • Introduction and Motivation explaining the importance of the research problem.
  • Background summarizing the scientific foundations and important prior work in the field.
  • Statement of the research problem that will be the focus of the student’s dissertation research, including a statement of hypotheses to be tested.
  • Proposed approach describing the methods to be employed in conducting the research. This section should include citations to references that establish the techniques to be employed and a description of why these techniques are appropriate for the proposed research.
  • Timeline of the proposed research.
  • Progress to date describing the student’s efforts on the project thus far. Demonstration of substantial progress and/or results is not required.

Additional sections, as appropriate to the proposed topic and field, are welcome.

When students preparing to take their qualifying exam are the lead author of a published or submitted journal or full-length conference paper, they may request that this paper be accepted in lieu of the written qualifying exam paper. The Graduate Committee will approve or deny this request. If the request is granted, the student will be expected to submit to their committee both the approved paper and a short (approximately three-page) description of specific future research plans and timeline.

The student should prepare an oral presentation with slides. The slides should cover all of the required sections of the written paper and should include a final slide with a tentative project timeline. The presentation should be designed to be 30 minutes in length if delivered without interruption. Students should expect frequent interruptions to discuss the slide content and to probe the student’s knowledge of the material presented and how it relates to underlying scientific principles. To ensure the examination adequately tests the student’s ability to synthesize knowledge from courses and apply it to a research project, examiners are free to ask questions about any scientific topic related to the proposed project, including topics covered in either the written paper or oral presentation. All background knowledge probed should be germane to the proposed project. Exams typically take between 90 and 120 minutes. This should include a hard stop at least 10 minutes prior to the end of the examination to permit time for the faculty to deliberate without the student in the room.

Evaluation Criteria

Students will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Has the student demonstrated the ability to integrate foundational material and concepts in order to understand the scientific foundations of the research problem?

  • Does the student understand the scientific underpinnings of the approaches to be employed?

  • Has the student demonstrated knowledge of the important prior results in the field?

  • Has a clear research problem or objective been identified and clearly explained?

  • Does the proposed approach describe a feasible path to addressing this research problem?

Based on these evaluation criteria, the committee shall form a consensus on whether the student passes, passes provisionally, or fails the examination. Feedback should be provided to the student. A “passes provisionally” shall entail whatever provisions and timeline the committee deems necessary to address the shortcomings that resulted in that outcome. The advisor is responsible for ensuring these provisions are met and shall notify both the student’s committee and the graduate program director in writing how the provisions were met. In the event a student fails the examination, the committee should explain the reasons for the failure. The student shall, at the discretion of the advisor, be permitted to retake the exam one additional time within six months.

Master's or Ph.D.?

M.S. and Ph.D. students take the same core and elective courses. The master’s degree can be completed in as little as one year because the coursework is followed by a relatively brief capstone project. The M.S. program is designed for people who want to learn the foundations of the field and enter the workforce relatively quickly. The Ph.D. program typically takes five to six years because the coursework is followed by several years of research under the supervision of a faculty advisor culminating in a Ph.D. dissertation. The Ph.D. program is designed for people who want to develop the capacity to perform – and lead – independent research in the field.

Explore these degree options more in depth:


The application deadline is Dec. 1 for Ph.D. students and March 1 for M.S. students. Review of applications will begin December 1; applicants will typically be notified of acceptance in mid-March and will be expected to respond to the offer by April 15.

Admission to the graduate program is competitive. Those who meet the stated requirements are not guaranteed admission, nor are those who fail to meet all of those requirements necessarily precluded from admission if they offer other appropriate strengths.

Students wishing to transfer into the program from a graduate degree program at another institution should submit a regular application by the January 15 deadline. Students wishing to transfer into the program from another graduate degree program at UD should contact the graduate program advisor.

Online Application

Begin assembling your required application materials as electronic documents before completing the online graduate application. Do not mail any documents. Applicants must submit all materials directly to the University of Delaware Graduate College using the online admission process before admission can be considered. Admission applications are available here. Please submit a completed application by Dec. 1 for the Ph.D. program and March 1 for the M.S. program to be considered for fall admission. 

Application Fee

Please contact Wendy Feller for a special application fee waiver code.

The minimum requirements for admission to the QSE program, for both M.S. and Ph.D. candidates, are the following:

  • baccalaureate degree in engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science or a closely related field from an international or accredited U.S. institution with an undergraduate cumulative GPA in engineering, science and mathematics courses of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, or comparable to that ratio for degrees that use a different scale. Applicants with degrees in other disciplines may be admitted with provisional status and may be required to complete prerequisite courses that are deemed necessary for appropriate preparation for courses in the program. The GPA restrictions mentioned above also apply to applicants with academic backgrounds outside the traditional science and engineering disciplines. All international transcripts must be accompanied by a degree certificate showing the title earned and the date awarded.
  • Undergraduate courses in quantum mechanics are not required. All students are required to have taken linear algebra and to have the background necessary for the coursework in the track to which they apply. Students applying to the Quantum Nanotechnology or Quantum Theory tracks are required to have taken coursework in differential equations. Students applying to the Quantum Algorithms and Computation track are required to have taken coursework in probability and statistics. 

Candidates are required to provide the following additional documents as part of their application package:

  • Three letters of recommendation from former teachers or supervisors
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Statement of purpose

Consistent with University policy, a minimum of 100 on the internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or a score of at least 600 (paper based) is required for non-native English speakers who have completed prior degrees (those with prior degrees from an accredited institution in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are exempt) at non-English speaking institutions. A waiver of proof of English proficiency can be granted when a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree has been or will be earned from a university recognized by the ministry of education in a country where English is the primary language.