uc davis materials science engineering graduate milestones

Graduate Student Milestones

Plan Your Graduate Career

As a materials science and engineering graduate student, you can expect to encounter four major milestones during your time at UC Davis: 

Beginning Graduate School

Getting ready to begin your studies is an exciting time. However, before you take your bike for a spin around town, register for classes or rent that moving truck, there are a few steps that need to be completed. Check out our guide for a complete list of the actions you need to take to become an Aggie.

The First Year 

Finding a major professor

You can expect at least one main milestone in your first year—finding a major professor. During fall quarter, students participate in "Preparing for Graduate Student Success" (EMS 200), which matches you with a major professor. In general, you should plan to meet with at least five to six faculty members by the midway point of the quarter. Attending group meetings is also a great way to meet a faculty member’s students and learn about current research projects. From there, you should narrow your preferences down to the top three research groups you would like to join. Preferences are then collected from the faculty, and the department chair, the graduate program chair and staff advisors meet to match students and faculty. This process is usually complete by the end of fall quarter. 

Taking the preliminary exam

If you are a doctoral student, another first-year milestone is passing the preliminary exam at the end of spring quarter. You may also take the preliminary exam if you are a master's student who wishes to move to the doctoral degree track. To do so, you need consent from your major professor, a 3.25 GPA and good academic standing. Updated guidelines for the preliminary exam are usually discussed as a group during winter quarter. Over the course of spring quarter, you should write your abstract, prepare and practice your presentation and complete your program of study. By mid-April, you will be notified of the date of your exam and the committee. Most exams are taken in mid-to-late May, with notification of results by the beginning of June. 

Advancing to Candidacy

For master’s students, advancement to candidacy can occur as soon as the majority of your coursework has been completed, usually by the fall quarter of your second year. However, doctoral students must complete all coursework and pass their qualifying exam before advancing, which usually occurs by the spring quarter of your second year. Ready to advance? Read about the guidelines of advancing to candidacy


You’re almost done and ready to throw that cap in the air. Here’s what you need to know before you say farewell to your fondest years at UC Davis.