Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Applied Science

Program Description

Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Applied Science

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the natural and built environment. It is a very broad field made up of several sub-disciplines such as environmental engineering, construction engineering, geotechnical engineering, hydrotechnical engineering, materials engineering, structural engineering, and transportation engineering. Many of the sub-disciplines of civil engineering are themselves very broad and are made up of further distinguishable sub-disciplines. For example, hydrotechnical engineering includes water resources engineering, offshore engineering, and coastal engineering.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering (Ph.D.) program is an advanced research-based graduate program for students who wish to pursue a program of independent research in Civil Engineering. The Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering is available in the following areas of specialization:

  • Civil Engineering Materials
  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics
  • Environmental Systems Engineering
  • Geo-Environmental Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Hydrotechnical Engineering
  • Project & Construction Management
  • Structural & Earthquake Engineering
  • Transportation Engineering

Note that the specialization does not appear on the degree parchment or on the transcript. Successful completion of the Ph.D. degree requires the completion of 30 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor's degree, subject to various constraints and requirements as provided below, as well as a Ph.D. thesis. For further information, please contact the Civil Engineering Graduate Support Office.

Coursework Requirements

The Ph.D. program requires completion of at least 30 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree level, and successful completion of a Ph.D. thesis (CIVL 699) (which itself carries no academic credit). Most students would typically count 18 credits from the preceding Master’s degree coursework, leaving only 12 credits of coursework to be taken within the Ph.D. program itself.

The 30 credits of coursework are subject to the following requirements:

  • 500 level courses. A minimum of 24 credits of graduate-level course (numbered 5XX) courses must be completed, of which at least 12 credits must be in Civil Engineering (labeled CIVL 5XX).
  • CIVL 597. All students are required to register once in the appropriate section of CIVL 597 Graduate Seminar (1 credit, Pass/Fail mark); however, they are encouraged to attend the seminar series (without subsequent registration) throughout their time in the program.
  • CIVL 592. A maximum of 6 credits may be taken through CIVL 592 Directed Studies.
  • CIVL 598. A maximum of 6 credits may be taken through CIVL 598 Topics in Civil Engineering. (These are courses that have not yet been approved by the University Senate.)
  • 300/ 400 Level Courses. A maximum of 6 credits of 300 or 400 level courses may be taken.
  • 100/200 Level Courses. 100/200 level courses may not be used for credit towards the program.
  • Specialization Requirements. Coursework requirements specific to each area of specialization may be found under Areas of Specialization.

Students are required to obtain approval of their course selection from their Specialty Advisor or the Research Supervisor.

Coursework Regulations

Coursework Plan. Prior to registering for any courses, all Ph.D. students are required to consult with the Research Supervisor or Specialty Advisor regarding a Coursework Plan, and thereby secure approval of the Plan. The student should initially develop a draft plan that lists the proposed courses and schedule, taking account of course availability (not all courses are offered every year) and term in which they are given (see Course Schedule) and may take account of core course substitutions and course exemptions in the manner indicated below. This will assure adherence to course credit requirements, coursework regulations, an appropriate course load and selection, and no scheduling conflicts.

Minimum Course Marks. A minimum of 68% is required in each course used for credit. Supplemental examinations are not granted to graduate students: a course in which a grade of less than 60% is obtained may be repeated for a higher standing, subject to the approval of the Department and G+PS. A student who obtains a grade of less than 68% in more than 3 credits, or who achieves an overall average of less than 80% in coursework taken in the Ph.D. program, will normally be required to withdraw for inadequate academic progress.

Course Exemptions. Transfer credits are not granted to Ph.D. students. Instead, they may be granted exemptions towards the 30-credit requirement based on previous courses taken. A student who has completed graduate courses while enrolled in another UBC department or another university, will have course requirements assessed on an individual basis by the Research Supervisor: exemptions may be granted for a maximum of 18 credits of coursework, for courses with a standing of at least 74%, subject to approval of the Department and G+PS.

Core Course Substitutions. A Core Course may be substituted by an elective course if the equivalent course has already been taken.

Selection of Elective Courses. Elective Courses may be selected from the list of Approved Elective Courses for the relevant specialization, CIVL 592 (which needs to be arranged with a particular instructor), a relevant CIVL 598 section (if available) and/or other courses including 300/400 level undergraduate courses and courses outside Civil Engineering. However, beyond the Approved Elective Courses, the final selection of elective courses requires the approval of the Specialty Advisor, typically at the time of Coursework Plan approval. At all times, Department-wide course credit requirements and constraints need to be strictly adhered to.

PhD Thesis

All Ph.D. students should register and maintain registration in CIVL 699 Doctoral Dissertation in order to complete the Ph.D. thesis. The thesis is prepared under the guidance of the Research Supervisor. In order to complete the thesis, Ph.D. students are required to successfully complete the following four milestones:

  • Comprehensive Exam
  • Proposal Defence
  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Thesis Defence

These are outlined in turn:

Comprehensive Examination. A student needs to complete successfully the Comprehensive Examination in order to commence with the preparation of a Thesis Proposal. The purpose of the examination is to evaluate the student’s comprehension of scientific and engineering principles in the chosen field of study, as well as the potential for independent and original research. The examination can only be taken after completing the 30-credit coursework requirement and must be taken within 24 months of initial registration in the program. The examination comprises a take-home written examination, followed by an in-camera oral examination that may extend up to three hours. A Comprehensive Examination Committee conducts the examination in accordance with Department Guidelines. The Committee is comprised of a chair appointed by the Associate Head, the Research Supervisor, and at least two other members as determined by the Research Supervisor in consultation with the Associate Head. The Chair conveys the Committee's recommendations in writing to the Associate Head for transmittal to G+PS.

Proposal Defence. Upon successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, the student prepares a Research Proposal for the thesis that must be approved by the Supervisory Committee. The format of the proposal defense and its evaluation vary between each area of specialization. Accordingly, the student is required to consult with the Research Supervisor on the development of the proposal.

Advancement to Candidacy. Upon successful completion of all required coursework, the comprehensive examination and the proposal defense, the student may be admitted to candidacy through the submission and approval of the relevant G+PS form. All doctoral students must be admitted to candidacy within 36 months of initial registration in the Ph.D. program.

Thesis Defence. For detailed information on the final doctoral examination, including the appointment of the External Examiner, the constitution of the Examination Committee, and the oral defense, refer to Final Doctoral Examination.

Research Focus

Civil Engineering Materials, Environmental Engineering (Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Geo-Environmental, Pollution Control & Wastewater Management), Geotechnical Engineering, Hydrotechnical Engineering, Project & Construction Management, Structural Engineering (Earthquake Engineering), Transportation Engineering.

Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Adebar, Perry Erwin (Concrete structures, seismic design, high-rise buildings, sheer design, evaluation and repair of structures)
  • Banthia, Nemkumar (Materials engineering, concrete, advanced composite materials, shotcrete, fiber reinforcement, rebound mechanics, kinematic studies, optimization, supplementary cementing materials in concrete)
  • Berube, Pierre (Water treatment, trace organic contaminants, membrane and advanced oxidation technologies., Drinking water treatment, filtration/membrane processes for water and wastewater treatment, distribution system water quality, advanced oxidation, wastewater reuse)
  • Bigazzi, Alexander York (Motor vehicle emissions,)
  • Fannin, R Jonathan (Shear wave velocity for the detection of fines loss in soils, internal erosion in earth dams, seepage-induced instability in gap-graded soils, grain shape and the strength of sands, filtration compatibility of woven and nonwoven geotextiles, pullout resistance of geogrids in static and dynamic loading, debris flow travel distance on steep mountainous terrain, slope stability in engineering practice)
  • Froese, Thomas (Construction Engineering and Management, Project Management, Computer-Integrated Construction, Product and Process Models for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction, Computers in Engineering Education)
  • Hall, Eric (forest industry pollution; pulp and paper wastewater, wastewater treatment, Environmental Engineering, Pollution Control and Wastewater Management)
  • Haukaas, Terje (Risk, structures, structural safety, seismic, earthquake, probability, computer analysis, Structures, Probabilistic mechanics, structural reliability and optimization, timber engineering, earthquake engineering, decision making, risk, advanced structural analysis, finite elements, response sensitivity analysis, software development)
  • Howie, John (Field and laboratory characterization of soils for geotechnical engineering design, ground improvement, foundation engineering)
  • Isaacson, Michael D (Coastal and offshore hydrodynamics, with a particular emphasis on ocean waves and their effects on structures.)
  • Laval, Bernard (physical limnology fluid mechanics environmental fluid mechanics underwater robotics, Field and 3D numerical modeling techniques to describe the spatial and temporal variations of physical processes and their impacts on transport in lakes and coastal waters)
  • Lawrence, Gregory (Environmental fluid mechanics, hydraulics, hydrodynamic stability and mixing, physical limnology, water quality management)
  • Lee, Jongho (Membranes, Water/Wastewater Treatment, Desalination, Resource Harvesting, Nanoporous Media, Electrokinetics )
  • Lence, Barbara Jean (Hydrotechnical, Optimizing design and operational strategies of water resources projects, reliable withdrawal-treatment strategies for contaminated groundwater supply systems, asset management strategies for mid-sized water utilities with limited break data, water distribution system operational procedures to meet hydraulic and water quality objectives)
  • Li, Loretta (Contaminated site investigation and management, environmental monitoring, risk and impact assessment, soil-contaminant interactions, mobility and migration of contaminants, remediation technology, mine tailings waste disposal and treatment processes)
  • Mavinic, Donald (wastewater treatment/management; water treatment and quality; environmental engineering, Environmental, Landfill leachate management, biological waste treatment processes, wastewater residuals treatment, nitrification and denitrification processes, phosphorus removal and recovery, diffused aeration studies, drinking water pipe corrosion studies and disinfection by-products in drinking water)
  • Sayed, Tarek (transportation engineering, Transportation, Full Bayes safety models, Automated safety analysis using computer vision techniques, Safety evaluations, Traffic conflicts techniques, Pedestrian modeling, and ITS)
  • Shawwash, Ziad K (Modeling and optimization of large-scale civil engineering systems; planning, design, and operation of hydroelectric generating facilities; use of decision, policy, and risk analysis techniques in water resource planning and management; use of artificial intelligence systems in water resource and hydroelectric systems.)
  • Staub-French, Sheryl (Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), Building Information Modeling (BIM), collaboration and integrated project delivery, design and construction coordination, 4D (3D + time) visualization, interactive workspaces)
  • Taiebat, Mahdi (static and dynamic soil-structure interaction, Theoretical and computational geomechanics, constitutive modeling of engineering materials, geotechnical earthquake engineering, static and dynamic soil-structure-interaction)
  • Tannert, Thomas (Design of timber joints,)
  • Vaziri, Reza (Finite element analysis, Mechanics of composite materials, Constitutive modeling of engineering materials, Plasticity, Damage mechanics, Process modeling of composite structures, Analysis of impact and blast loading of metallic and composite structures)
  • Ventura, Carlos Estuardo (Earthquake engineering, structural dynamics, full-scale vibration testing, shake table testing Seismic risk evaluation and hazard management studies Investigation of earthquake effects on man-made structures)
  • Weijs, Steven (water resources management and hydrology, with a special focus on the dynamics of uncertainty and information within that context)
  • Wijewickreme, Dharmapriya (Geotechnical, pipeline geotechnical engineering)

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Yang, Tsung-Yuan (Seismic behavior and design of steel, concrete and composite structures, seismic behavior and design of tall buildings, develop performance-based evaluation methodology and code design procedures for new and existing structures, using innovative structural component and systems to improve structural performance, including the use of innovative active, semi-active and passive energy dissipation systems, develop accurate and cost-effective experimental methods to analyze structural response under extreme loading conditions.)
  • Zanotti, Cristina
  • Ziels, Ryan

Recent Doctoral Citations

  • Dr. Chaoyang Yue
    "Dr. Yue developed an integrated system that recovers phosphorus from municipal wastewater. The system could produce the high-quality effluent from treatment plants, reduce waste sludge, and recover phosphorus as an eco-friendly fertilizer. Dr. Yue's research showcased how to turn waste into resources." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Mohamed Hussein
    "Dr. Hussein developed a novel microscopic pedestrian simulation model. His model showed a high accuracy in simulating pedestrian movements and predicting their behavior during different interactions. His research will aid in developing a solid understanding of pedestrian behavior and studying a variety of applications, including pedestrian safety." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Devin James Sauer
    "Dr. Sauer studied the structural and economic attributes of a novel cable-supported bridge system. His research enables decision makers to evaluate the system against their specific project needs and, where suitable, it provides engineers with the tools required to achieve an optimal design." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Dorian Peng Tung
    "Dr. Tung developed a design procedure and validation technology for earthquake resilient structures. Such structures aim to minimize repair costs and expedite recovery time. This procedure is simple to implement, and the technology is cost-effective. Researchers, engineers, and the general public will all benefit from his research outcomes." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Andrew Kent Hamilton
    "Dr. Hamilton studied ice-ocean interactions in the Canadian High-Arctic. His research provided new insight into how ice shelves, massive floating platforms of ice, influence ocean properties and circulation in polar fjords, and how the collapse of ice shelves due to climate warming will impact the dynamics of marine-terminating glaciers." (November 2016)

Sample Thesis Submissions

  • A three-phase integrated flow-stress framework for process modeling of composite materials
  • Nanofiltration and tight ultrafiltration membranes for drinking water treatment – system design and operation
  • Understanding the transition to BIM for facility owners
  • An efficient virtual testing framework to simulate the progression of damage in notched composite laminates
  • Robust statistical subspace-based damage assessment
  • Structural and economic evaluation of self-anchored discontinuous hybrid cable bridges
  • Design and validation of innovative earthquake resilient fused structures
  • Phosphorus recovery from a membrane enhanced biological phosphorus removal (MEBPR) process
  • Development of an agent-based simulation model for pedestrian interactions
  • Adaptive insertion of cohesive elements for simulation of delamination in laminated composite materials
  • Ice-ocean interactions in Milne Fiord
  • Seismic assessment of basement walls in British Columbia
  • Damage modeling for performance-based earthquake engineering

Career Outcomes

96 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 1 graduate is seeking employment; for 12 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 83 graduates:


  • University of British Columbia (5)
  • British Columbia Institute of Technology (3)
  • University of Lethbridge
  • American University of Sharjah
  • University Centre in Svalbard
  • Cairo University
  • University of Chile
  • King Mongkut's University of Technology
  • Carleton University
  • University of Toronto


  • BC Hydro (5)
  • Golder Associates (3)
  • City of Vancouver (2)
  • Klohn Crippen Berger (2)
  • Tetra Tech EBA (2)
  • General Electric
  • Sightline Engineering Ltd.
  • Glotman Simpson
  • Ecofish Research


  • Senior Geotechnical Engineer (6)
  • President (3)
  • Senior Project Engineer (2)
  • Engineer (2)
  • Structural Engineer (2)
  • Geotechnical Engineer (2)
  • Principal Consultant (2)
  • Principal (2)
  • Associate (2)
  • Founder, CEO


You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC Ph.D. graduates on


These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.


Many graduates from the Civil Engineering program at UBC use the knowledge and experience they gain from the broad academic program as a stepping stone to non-engineering careers, such as in business and management, or go on to other academic disciplines such as architecture or medicine.

Graduates from the Civil Engineering program at UBC who go on to practice as professional engineers are employed by small and large consulting engineering companies – some providing more specialized services and others more comprehensive services; engineering companies that provide large-scale infrastructure projects; crown corporations such as BC Hydro; and various levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal governments, and government branches and agencies




  • ibT Reading 22
  • ibT Writing 21
  • ibT Listening 22
  • ibT Speaking 21



  • IELTS Reading 6.5
  • IELTS Writing 6.5
  • IELTS Listening 6.5
  • IELTS Speaking 6.5

Cost & Fees

  • International students: CAD $8,435.94 per year
  • Canadian students: CAD $4,801.80 per year

Financial Support

Information on University awards and scholarships can be found at Award Opportunities for Current Students. Information on a financial support made available through the Department of Civil Engineering can be found at Graduate Funding Opportunities. Most commonly, a Ph.D. student's financial support arises through a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) administered by the Department of Civil Engineering.

Quick Facts

  • Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
  • Subject: Engineering
  • Mode of delivery: On campus
  • Registration options: Full-time
  • Specialization: Civil Engineering
  • Program Components: Dissertation
  • Faculty: Faculty of Applied Science
This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated February 14, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2019
4 - 6 years
Full time
4,802 CAD
$4,801.80 Tuition per year for Canadian Citizens, Permanent Residents, Refugee, Diplomat; $8,435.94 Tuition per year for International students
Canada - Vancouver, British Columbia
Start date : Sept. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2019
Canada - Vancouver, British Columbia
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info