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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Academic

How many courses are required?

That depends on the degree, and all the details are on the Chemical Engineering site. Most students enroll in the research program, in which case 4 courses are required for a Master's degree, and 7 courses are required for a Ph.D. (3 courses if you already have a Master's degree). The chemical engineering department offers many graduate courses related to control, optimization and statistics, and relevant courses from other departments are often taken as well. For example: Computing and Software, School of Engineering Practice, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

What is a typical course load?

Students usually take 2 courses per term until they finish the course requirements. After doing an undergraduate degree with 5 or 6 classes per term, this may sound really easy. Graduate courses usually involve significantly more work than undergraduate courses, and often include a comprehensive course project. At the same time you'll be doing research and possibly a TA. Don't worry, you'll be kept busy!

Application for graduate study

What are the application requirements? And how do I apply?

The application requirements are as given by the Chemical Engineering Department. Application procedures, forms and deadlines are available from the same website above. And yes, you will have to pay the application fee.

Do I have to start in September?

Students are admitted for September, January or May. The starting date should be discussed with your supervisor.

How do I choose a supervisor?

Ideally, your supervisor should be doing research in an area that you are interested in, and have a personality that you can work well with. To find out which professor is working in what area, take a look at the Faculty section of the this website. You can then email those whose research areas seems particularly interesting, to discuss possible research projects.

Do I need a Master's degree to start the Ph.D. program?

The most common route for students entering with a bachelors degree who wish to study for a Ph.D. degree is to start in the Master's program, and then transfer to the Ph.D. program part-way through their Master's, without completing the Master's degree. More information is available from the Chemical Engineering department's Graduate Admissions page.

If I am accepted into the Ph.D. program, will I have to do a comprehensive exam? How hard is it?

Yes, you will have to do the comprehensive exam (comps) within 18 months of being accepted into the Ph.D. program. The exam tests your basic knowledge of the fields of process control, statistics and optimization, and the ability to synthesize information to formulate a credible research proposal. The exam is usually taken the first summer of your Ph.D. degree, so you will have time to talk with other students who have taken them, and to do whatever preparation you feel is necessary.

Career

If I do my thesis on RTO (PLS/Supply chain/Optimization/etc), will I have to do RTO (PLS/etc) the rest of my life?

No. The topic of your thesis does not limit you to that particular area for future jobs. While your research will be on one area of process systems engineering, the courses, seminars and conferences you will participate in as a graduate student will ensure that you have a good background of process control, optimization and statistics, in general. Many graduates from the McMaster control group end up getting jobs in areas other than their thesis research area.

Where are past MACC alumni working?

It is said that an image is worth a thousand words. Here is the answer in two pie charts. The first shows the type of employer, and the other shows where the graduates are working, by geographical region.


Pie charts of where MACC alumni currently work

Funding

Is funding available? How much?

Students admitted into the full-time M.A.Sc. and Ph.D. programs in Chemical Engineering will receive funding in the form of a Teaching Assistantship and a scholarship, during the normal duration of their degree (20 months for M.A.Sc., 4 years for Ph.D. who do not already have external support). MACC provides funding at a competitive level, and it is sufficient to cover tuition and basic living expenses. Part-time students do not receive funding. You are also encouraged to apply for other scholarships. The School of Graduate Studies provides information on some available scholarships. You should also check with your home province/country as they may offer additional awards.

Sales pitch

Ok, time to do your sales pitch. Why should I go to Mac?

For several reasons:

  1. Broad range of control research. While some control groups focus on a few areas of process control research, the research conducted by MACC covers many of the areas in process control, including the related fields of optimization and statistics. This allows you as a potential graduate student more choice in which area you would like to do your research. Also it gives you the opportunity to become more familiar with all areas of the field, as you talk with fellow students about their research, and attend control group presentations.

  2. Industrial interaction. Industrial interaction is important both in terms of the research we conduct, and for networking potential after research is completed and the job hunt begins. Industrial interaction helps ensure that the research we conduct has real-world application. Data can also help to make simulations more realistic. MACC holds a meeting and workshop each year, at which students have a chance to talk with representatives from the member companies. As well, many of the industrial members collaborate with students on their thesis projects - have a look at the grad student pages for industrial collaborations.

  3. World-renowned control group, with world-renowned professors. Our grad students come from all around the world. And most of them tell us that they 'found' us either through a prof or colleague who recommended McMaster as one of the best places to get a graduate degree in process control, or through the many publications by the profs in this group.

  4. Conferences. MACC provides the opportunity for all their graduate students to attend local control conferences, for example, the Annual Optimization, Statistics and Control Conference for Graduate Students and the opportunity for senior students to present their work at international control conferences.

  5. Work environment. The offices of all control students are close to each other, which make it easier to collaborate and discuss work. The large number of grad students in the control group also makes it easier to find someone who will be familiar with your work.

Work conditions

Will I be working in a lab?

While a few of the control group students end up doing some lab work as part of their research, most use industrial data and/or simulations to conduct their research. Chances are, you'll spend most of your time working on a PC in an office. Depending on the project, you may also get the opportunity to implement your work in an industrial setting, in which case you'll spend some time at a plant.

Will I have the chance for industrial interaction?

Yes. MACC holds a meeting and workshop each year in which the industrial and academic members of the consortium get together. Graduate students are expected to attend, and besides really great meals, there is plenty of opportunity to talk with people from industry. At the meeting each student gives a poster presentation of their work. This can result in research collaborations, as well as future jobs.

What are the working conditions like? Will I be stuck back in some dark corner for the next several years of my life?

You will have office space with other graduate students in the process systems group, which makes it easy to find people who can answer research and course questions, and lend you textbooks. Each student is provided with a PC, with internet access and an email account (all without charge to the student). There are some 'pool' computers, which are used to store backup files, run the printers, and for longer simulations. Most of the PCs run Windows XP or Vista, although several are installed with dual booting Windows and Linux. Several students also use their own laptops, but any software required for your research will be provided by MACC. We support the use of Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems.