students building a model at STEM camp

The Education Sciences Interdisciplinary Ph.D. with an emphasis in STEM Education is an intensive program designed to prepare future researchers, teacher educators, and researcher-practitioners to meet the national call for more individuals with heightened scholarly expertise in STEM Education. The Education Sciences Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program requires study throughout the year. Full-time study is strongly encouraged; however, part-time study is a possible alternative, particularly for professional educators.

Required Materials:

  1. GRE scores (preferably from within the past 10 years – if you are a KY teacher applying for rank change, GRE must be within the last 5 years)
  2. TOEFL or IELTS (for international students whose native language is not English)
  3. GPA requirement: 2.75 undergraduate; 3.0 Graduate work
  4. Official transcripts: official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended must be submitted to the Graduate School (send to The Graduate School, Attn: Admissions Office, 201 Gillis Building, Lexington, KY 40506-0033) – unofficial transcripts can be submitted to initiate application process, but all admissions are contingent upon receipt of official transcripts
  5. A short statement about your career goals and interests
  6. Writing sample (e.g., paper written for coursework requirement, grant application, publication)
  7. Three letters of recommendation (the online system will email your references to submit their letters)
  8. Interview with STEM Ed faculty specializing in your area of interest (Interview will be scheduled upon completion of application materials)
  9. Onsite writing sample prior to interview
  10. $65.00 admissions fee paid in full (international students: $75.00)

Gather the required materials and submit an application to the Graduate School.

Applications are accepted throughout the academic year. In order to guarantee accept/deny decision and time to enroll, domestic applications must be submitted AT LEAST one month prior to the beginning of the semester in which you wish to enroll. International applications must be submitted by March 15 (to start during the fall) and by August 22 (to start during the spring).

The onsite writing sample and interview can be conducted virtually in cases where applicants are not living within driving distance of UK.

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Graduate Assistantship opportunities are available for our students. We begin reviewing applications for teaching assistantships in April for funding to begin in the fall semester. However, applications are accepted throughout the year. Availability and renewal depends upon classroom teaching and research needs, and priority is given to students enrolled in our degree programs.

Full-time assistantships involve about 20 hours of job duties and include a stipend, full tuition waiver, and student health insurance.  Please note that assistantships are not guaranteed to be available for all students needing this opportunity as positions are limited.  In order to be considered for a funded assistantship, students must have already applied to the program.

The program includes 45 credit hours of coursework culminating in a dissertation study designed by the candidate. Coursework encompasses four main core components:

  • Education Sciences Interdisciplinary Ph.D. core focusing on research methodologies (12 hours)
  • STEM Education required courses addressing pedagogy and research in STEM Education (15 hours)
  • STEM Education Methodology (9 hours)
  • Electives (9 hours)

The program is not a fully online program and students must be able to commute to UK’s campus in Lexington, KY at least once a week for courses.  However, there are some courses available fully online and others that are hybrid (half online and half on campus) to assist with those students within lengthy driving distances.

The time needed to complete the program varies based on students’ education and professional experiences, interests, and career goals.

View a complete list of coursework in the program.

Within the first year of the program, you should choose an advisor from STEM Education faculty that has similar background and interests.  See Dr. Fisher if you need help choosing.  Your advisor helps you choose your courses each semester.

You will be issued a curriculum contract via Google Docs by Dr. Fisher. It is your responsibility to keep it up-to-date so you and your advisor can monitor your coursework requirements.

You are allowed to transfer coursework from other institutions under the following rules:

  • Can only transfer up to 9 hours
  • Coursework must fit within the curriculum contract of your degree program
  • Hours can’t already be applied to another degree
  • Must be a grade of B or higher
  • You must fill out Transfer of Credit form and attach transcript

You have 5 years to complete your coursework.  This time clock starts from the date of your first graduate course (even if that course was transferred into the program).  You can formally request a one-year extension, if needed, but you must be showing progress toward completion.

All coursework completed in the PhD program must be at the 600-level or above.  If there is a 500-level course of interest to you, it must be pre-approved by the DGS or your advisor in order for it to count on your curriculum contract.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to take a leave of absence, then you alert your advisor and the DGS.  Once you have done so, you must contact (via email) Mary Richardson ( in the Graduate School to alert her of your absence, and copy your DGS and advisor on the email.  You are allowed to take up to two consecutive (fall, spring) semesters of leave. If you must be away longer than that, then you must re-apply for the program and complete the full application process upon return.

You have 5 years to complete your coursework.  This time clock starts from the date of your first graduate course (even if that course was transferred into the program).  You can formally request a one-year extension, if needed, but you must be showing progress toward completion.

Once you have completed 18 hours of coursework, you must begin establishing your dissertation committee.  Your committee consists of four faculty members and must contain the following:

  • Chair – This is a member of the STEM Education faculty and is typically your advisor that was chosen early within your coursework. In the event that you would like to choose a chair that was not your advisor, then please let your advisor know. I promise our feelings do not get hurt if you change – everyone’s research interests change over time, thus sometimes a change in your advisor is needed.
  • At least 3 of the 4 members must be tenured faculty members.
  • At least 1 member of the committee must be a faculty member outside of the STEM Education Department.
  • If this “outside” member can’t be determined right away, then we can use the Associate Dean of Research as a placeholder name.

Once you have established your four-person committee, you need to submit your committee request to the Graduate SchoolWhen you submit your committee request, you must select the STEM Education faculty using the “EDI” program.

Once you have finished your coursework, you are required to complete and pass a qualifying exam before you can continue to your dissertation work.  As you finish your coursework, you should begin planning for this milestone.  The first step is to convene a meeting of your dissertation committee to plan your qualifying exam timeline.  During this meeting, you will discuss your dissertation research ideas in order to give the committee ideas for your qualifying exam questions.

The qualifying exam consists of four written responses (one from each committee member).  You will have one week (7 days) per question to write a substantial response that is fully supported by literature and theory.  You have two options in completing the four-week exam:

Option 1:  Receive all four questions at once and return the four responses after a 28-day period.

Option 2:  Receive each question, one at a time, and return the response after a 7-day period.  In this option, the four questions can be spread among a longer period of time in order to be flexible with your schedule.

NOTE:  It is not recommended that you attempt to work a full-time job while completing your qualifying exam.  If at all possible, choose the option above that will allow you the most time to complete your responses.

After completion of the written responses, you will defend your responses during your oral exam.  The oral exam must take place during an academic semester and you must be registered for SEM 767 during this semester.  Plan accordingly during registration and be sure to register for the section of SEM 767 in which your chair is the listed instructor.  This is a 2-credit hour course, but will distinguish you as a full-time student for financial aid purposes.

You must schedule your oral exam with the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the exam!  To schedule your oral exam, submit the qualifying exam request. To schedule the exam, you must have already arranged the date, time, and location.

If you fail the oral exam, then your committee will determine the appropriate conditions that must be met in order to retake the exam.  The second attempt must take place in the date range within four months and one year from the first attempt.  A third attempt is not permitted.

If you are no longer taking courses (i.e. preparing for qualifying exam or working on dissertation), then you MUST register for SEM 767 every fall and spring semester in order to stay enrolled as a student at UK.  The only time where you will register for SEM 767 during the summer is when a qualifying exam or dissertation defense takes place during the summer semester.

Congratulations!  If you are a student in this stage, then you have successfully completed your qualifying exam and are now considered a doctoral candidate.

Your qualifying exam is typically designed to be a jump-start to your dissertation proposal.  After finishing your qualifying exam, you will begin writing your dissertation proposal.  Once it is ready for presenting to your committee, you will do an informal dissertation proposal defense with your committee members.  After they approve your research plan, you will work with your chair to complete the IRB process and begin data collection.

You have 5 years to complete your dissertation and defense, which begins the semester following the passing of your qualifying exam.

At the beginning of your final semester, you apply for your degree within 30 days of the start of the semester.  You will apply through myUK and filling out the “Application of Degree” form.

As you are nearing the completion of your dissertation, you must submit a “Notification of Intent to Schedule a Final Doctoral Examination” form to the Graduate School.  This must be done at least eight weeks before your dissertation defense.  After this form is completed, the Graduate School will assign an “outside examiner” to serve on your dissertation committee.  The purpose of this member is to ensure proper and ethical procedures are taking place.

All members of the dissertation committee must receive a final draft of the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the defense.

You must schedule your dissertation defense with the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the defense!  To schedule your dissertation defense, submit the “Request for Final Exam” form.  To schedule the defense, you must have already arranged the date, time, and location.

After your dissertation defense, you have 60 days to submit the final copy of the thesis to the Graduate School.

  • All formatting instructions are available at this site as well.
  • While the deadline is 60 days, you cannot graduate until this has been completed.
  • Check the UK Academic Calendar for the last day to submit your dissertation for approval in order to graduate that semester.

A lot of things happen during the semester of your final defense, just to review:

  • Apply for your degree within 30 days of the start of the semester.
  • At least eight weeks prior to the dissertation defense, you must submit “Notification of Intent to Schedule a Final Doctoral Examination” form.
  • At least two weeks before your dissertation defense, you must schedule your defense with the Graduate School.
  • At least two weeks before your dissertation defense, you must provide each member of your committee with a final draft of your dissertation. (electronic or printed)
  • After defense, you have 60 days to submit the final copy of the thesis to the Graduate School.
  • GRADUATION! You will be “hooded” on stage by your dissertation chair. Please communicate with your chair whether you will be attending the commencement ceremony.

For dissertation examples from students in this program, click here.