PhD Guidelines

The Department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) offers Ph.D. degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE).

Graduate Student in Lab

Important Details


72 total credits required

  • This includes a minimum of 15 WSU graded course credits, 500 level only
  • Optional graded courses can be added if desired
  • Plus minimum of 20 BSysE 800 credits, or as many as needed to complete 72 credit hours


All students must enroll in 12 credits per semester, including at least 2 credits of BSysE 800.

Departmental Requirements:

  • BSysE 512 Research and Teaching Methods (3 credits)
  • BSysE 598 Graduate Seminar – must be enrolled for two semesters (before preliminary exam) and present one seminar (after preliminary exam).
  • BSysE 800 Research Credits – must be enrolled each semester
  • A graduate math course beyond differential equations or Stat 512 Analysis of Variance of Designed Experiments (3 credits) or Stat 523 Statistical Methods for Engineers and Scientists (3 credits) or Soils 502 Introduction to Statistics in R (3 credits)  or Entom 590 Fundamentals of Agricultural Research (4 credits) or Envr-Sci 592 (Quantitative Data Analysis for Environmental Science). Students should consult their committee chair regarding the most appropriate choice for their research area.

Area Required Courses:

Agricultural Automation Engineering

• BSyse 541: Instrumentation and Measurements (3 credits)
• 5 credits from two or more of the following courses:

  • BSysE 530: Machine Vision for Biological Systems (3 credits)
  • BSysE 551: Special Topics: Sensors in Phenomics (1-2 credits
  • BSysE 552: Special Topics: UAS in Agriculture (2 credits)
  • BSysE 532: Electrohydraulic Systems and Control (3 credits)
  • SOILS 568: GIS Spatial Analysis (4 credits)
  • SOILS 574: Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis (3 credits)
  • ME 581: Control Systems (3 credits)
  • EE 501: Linear System Theory (3 credits)
  • CS 541: Artificial Intelligence (3 credits)
  • CS 558: Wireless Sensor Networks (3 credits)
  • CS 570: Machine Learning (3 credits)
  • CPT_S 555: Computer Communication Network (3 credits)
  • AFS 505: Computational and Analytical Methods for Scientists (1-6 credits)
  • CPT_S 575: Data Science (3 credits)

Bioenergy and Bioproducts Engineering

  • BSysE 593 Renewable Energy Technologies (3 credits) – This course is required for students who joined in Fall 2024 and thereafter.
  • BSysE 596 Biomass Thermo-chemical Conversion (3 credits)
  • BSysE 597 Biomass Biological Process Engineering (3 credits)
  • BSysE 594 Design and Analysis of Biomass Conversion Processes and Systems (3 credits) This course is only required for students without an engineering background.

Food Engineering

  • BSysE 581 Advanced Physical Properties of Foods (3 credits)
  • BSysE 582 Food Process Engineering I (3 credits)
  • BSysE 583 Food Process Engineering II (3 credits)
  • BSysE 584 Thermal and Non-thermal Processing of Foods (3 credits)

Land, Air, Water Resources and Environmental Engineering

  • BSysE 550: Land, Air and Water Resources and Engineering (3 credits)
  • 9 credits from three or more of the following courses:
    • BSysE 541: Instrumentation and Measurements (3 credits) (Sindhuja Sankaran)
    • SOIL_SCI 514: Environmental Biophysics (2 credits + 1 credit lab) (Colin Campbell)
    • BSysE 552: Agroecosystems Data & Modeling (3 credits) (Kirti Rajagopalan), or
    • BSysE 556: Surface Hydrological Processes and Modeling (3 credits) (Joan Wu)
    • BSysE 564: Agricultural Waste and Air Quality Management (3 credits) (Pius Ndegwa)
    • SOILS 568: GIS Spatial Analysis (4 credits)
    • SOILS 574: Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis (3 credits)
    • CS 570: Machine Learning (3 credits)
    • SOIL_SCI 513: Environmental Soil Physics (3 credits)
    • CE 502: Applied Meteorology (3 credits)
    • CE 550: Hydroclimatology (3 credits)
    • CE Stochastic hydrology (I couldn’t find this one listed under CE)
    • CE 560: Advanced Hydrology (3 credits) (Jan Boll)
    • CE 562: Environmental Flow and Transport Processes (3 credits) (Young)
    • CS 575: Data Science (which is easier for many new students than the Machine Learning Class) (3 credits)
    • AFS 505: Computation Methods for Research  (2 options – R and Python )
  • Students may take additional courses after consulting with their advisors. Students’ program committee may also require students to take additional courses.

Note: More courses will be added to each group if and when relevant courses become available. Course structures were defined to meet the minimum requirement of 15 credit hours for the PhD program at BSE. Students may take additional courses after consulting with their advisors. Students’ program committee may also require students to take additional courses.

Other Departmental Requirements:

  • Graduate Studies Committee – committee members selected, expected end of 1st year
  • Program of Study – submitted to Graduate School, expected end of 1st year
  • Research Proposal – approved by Committee and copy in office file, expected 3rd semester
  • Coursework – completed, expected end of 3rd semester
  • Preliminary Exam – completed, expected end of 2nd year (approved research proposal required)  Evaluation rubric available under Student Resources
  • First Article – based on doctoral research submitted to peer-reviewed journal
  • Second Article based on doctoral research submitted to peer-reviewed journal
  • Final Defense – completed public presentation and oral exam (two papers required)  Evaluation rubric available under Student Resources
  • Exit Interview  schedule a meeting with the department chair prior to leaving WSU

Graduate Studies Committee:

The graduate student committees will have a minimum of three members; a minimum of two members will be tenured/tenure-track faculty in BSE, and other members may be tenured/tenure-track WSU faculty members in another department. Approved professionals not officially participating as Graduate Faculty within any graduate program at WSU can participate as committee members in addition to the minimum three committee members defined above.

Tenured and tenure-track BSE faculty and BAE Graduate Affiliate Faculty can serve as chair or co-chair of student committees. BAE Graduate Adjunct Faculty and non-tenure-track BSE research faculty may serve as co-chairs.

Preliminary Examination:

Purpose: It serves as a checkpoint to evaluate: 1) if the student has the adequate disciplinary knowledge and understands the context of the discipline, and 2) if the student is able to integrate knowledge into researchable questions and demonstrates the capacity to successfully conduct his/her Ph.D. research.

When: The preliminary exam should be conducted before the end of the second year as a full-time Ph.D. student. Student must have an approved program of study on file and must have taken all required courses prior to scheduling the exam.

Format: A preliminary exam consists of two parts, written and oral. The goal of the written examination is to evaluate student’s command of core knowledge required for the specific area of his/her research, and his/her ability to integrate the knowledge for Ph.D. research; the oral exam evaluates student ability to defend his/her Ph.D. research proposal submitted prior to the Preliminary Exam.

Student Reviews:

Your advisor will schedule a meeting with you at the end of each semester for the purpose of reviewing your progress towards degree completion.  Review forms will be completed and signed by both the advisor and the student and will be retained in student files at the Pullman campus.

Forms, Signatures, and Deadlines:

All forms needed to progress through your program are located on the Graduate School website.

Please contact the Academic Coordinator, Joanna Dreger (; 509-335-1578) to check the form before obtaining signatures of your committee members. This is especially important for the Program of Study and Final Exam scheduling forms. After Joanna verifies the completeness of the document, you will obtain signatures of all committee members and hand deliver or mail the original document to Joanna, who will obtain the signature of the department chair, make a copy for our records and submit the document to the Graduate School.

These guidelines are based on WSU’s Graduate School’s Policies and Procedures.