Mechanical Engineering, PhD—Advanced Entry

Requirements

The PhD is awarded to students who demonstrate high academic achievement and research competence in the fields of mechanical or industrial engineering. To earn a PhD, a student must complete an approved, rigorous program of advanced course work and submit and defend an original dissertation of independent research. The Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) expects all successful doctoral candidates to show depth of knowledge and research innovation in their chosen field of specialization.

The MIE department admits applicants to the PhD program either directly after earning a suitable bachelor’s degree (i.e., Direct Entry) or after earning a master’s degree (i.e., Advanced Entry). Upon acceptance into the program, an applicant is designated as a doctoral student. This designation is changed to doctoral candidate upon successful completion of the doctoral qualifying examinations (both written and oral area exams) as well as all the required course work.

Academic and Research Advisors

PhD students must find a research advisor within their first year of study. The research advisor must be a full-time or jointly appointed faculty or affiliated member of the MIE department; otherwise, a petition must be filed and approved by the MIE graduate affairs committee. If the research advisor is outside the MIE department, a faculty member with 50 percent or more appointments in the MIE department must be chosen as co-advisor. Students are advised by the academic advisor of their discipline before they select their research advisor(s).

Course Requirements and Plan of Study

A typical program of study includes at least 24 semester hours of course work beyond the master’s degree. All MIE PhD students must complete Technical Writing (MEIE 6800) and Research Seminar in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MEIE 6850) preferably during their first year of full-time study. If appropriate, part-time students may petition the graduate affairs committee to waive these requirements.

All MIE graduate students are also required to complete a brief online session on Responsible Conduct of Research and Plagiarism in one of these courses. The outcome of online session will be filed with the student’s records.

Each doctoral student, together with his or her research advisor, should develop an initial program during the first semester of study. The final program is also subject to the approval of the area examining committee, who will add the program of study to the student’s record upon admission to doctoral candidacy.

Students may petition the MIE graduate affairs committee to substitute up to a 4-semester-hour Independent Study (ME 7978) as part of their required course work. An independent study must be approved by the research advisor.

PhD Candidacy

To qualify as a doctoral candidate, a doctoral student must successfully complete the doctoral qualifying examinations (both a written comprehensive exam and an oral area exam—see below) as well as all the required course work.

Doctoral Qualifying Examinations

Background and Motivation: To demonstrate breadth and depth in each of the subject exams, crossover and merging exams are necessary in an effort to provide students with an opportunity to master the core disciplines in mechanical or industrial engineering (at both undergraduate and graduate levels) along with a focus area of importance to their specialization. These exams also provide an assessment as to whether students have adequate knowledge to pursue advanced study and possess attributes of a doctoral candidate by demonstrating understanding of and the ability to apply fundamental principles. Also, an oral exam tied to the written exams is necessary in an effort to evaluate student’s potential to perform independent research in the chosen field of specialization for the doctoral program.

Doctoral Qualifying Examinations Framework: The doctoral qualifying examinations consist of the following two parts: 

  1. Two written comprehensive exams, which are respectively referred to as eExam A and exam B.
  2. An oral area exam equivalently referred to as area exam. This exam can be administered at any time after passing the written comprehensive exams but no later than the end of the semester in which the written exams are taken and passed. 

Written Comprehensive Examinations

All doctoral students who hold a master’s degree must take the written comprehensive exams no later than the first time that it is offered after their first academic year of study. The written comprehensive exams include two exams, exam A and exam B; and are given on Thursday and Friday of the first week of classes during regular semesters.  A complete list of these exams along with topical coverage and details are provided on the MIE department graduate website.  Students should also consult extensively with their research advisor regarding all aspects of the qualifying exams.

Written Comprehensive Exams Rules: Exam A, about four to six hours in length, should be selected from the list of major exams based on the student’s concentration (i.e., materials, mechanics, mechatronics, or thermofluids), see below.  No deviation from this rule will be permitted. As listed below, exam B, about one to two hours in length, should be selected from the list of exams B for the PhD degree program in mechanical engineering (see below). Only one exam from this list should be selected.  All students are required to have their research advisor’s approval on selection of exam B prior to registering to take written comprehensive exams. Note that exam B cannot be similar or close to one of the topics covered in exam A.

List of Exams A and B Based on Student's Research Concentration:

Exams A for Mechanical Engineering PhD Students (select one Exam A):

  • Materials Science Engineering (MSE): Kinetics of Materials (MSE1), Thermodynamics of Materials (MSE2); and Process, Structure, Property, and Performance of Materials (MSE3)
  • Mechanics (MEC): Mechanics of Deformable Media (MEC1), Dynamics and Vibration (MEC2), and Finite Element Method  (MEC3)
  • Dynamic Systems and Control (DSC): Dynamic Systems (DSC1); Mechanical Vibrations (DSC2); and Control Systems (DSC3)
  • Thermofluids Science (TFS): Thermodynamics (TFS1); Fluid Mechanics (TFS2); and Heat Transfer (TFS3)

Exams B for Mechanical Engineering PhD Students (select one Exam B):

  • Control Systems (DSC3)
  • Dynamic Systems (DSC1)
  • Dynamics and Vibration (MEC2)
  • Engineering Mathematics (MTH)
  • Finite Element Method (MEC3)
  • Fluid Mechanics (TFS2)
  • Heat Transfer (TFS3)
  • Kinetics of Materials (MSE1)
  • Mechanics of Deformable Media (MEC1)
  • Process, Structure, Property, and Performance of Materials (MSE3)
  • Thermodynamics (TFS1)
  • Thermodynamics of Materials (MSE2)

Oral Area Examination

The objective of the oral exam, also referred to as the area exam, is to assess the student’s potential to perform independent research in the chosen field of specialization. This exam can be administered at any time after passing the written comprehensive exams but no later than the end of the semester in which the written exams are taken and passed. The exam shall be publicly advertised at least one week in advance and all faculty members and students may attend and participate.

Oral Area Examination Procedure: The student’s research advisor convenes and chairs an oral examination committee comprised of a minimum of three faculty or affiliated faculty members of the MIE department deemed appropriate to the student’s research field. This committee provides a set of technical papers pertinent to the student’s research area.  The oral examination committee will then conduct the area exam that comprises the following two parts (both to be completed in a one-hour session):

  1. A thirty-minute oral presentation on a selected number of papers out of the assigned technical papers
  2. aA thirty-minute oral exam consisting of committee members’ questions and evaluation of the student covering topics specifically related to the student’s research area

Grading Procedure

Grading Procedure and Results of the Written Comprehensive Examination: The MIE graduate affairs committee (GAC) will review all students’ performance in the written comprehensive exams. Depending on the results of both major and minor exams and in consultation with the student’s research advisor, the GAC will recommend one of the following three possible options:

  1. No invitation to oral area exam: The student will be dismissed from the program.  He or she may be granted an MS degree if the requirements are already met; otherwise, the student may continue to fulfill the requirements for a master's degree in industrial engineering (IE), mechanical engineering (ME), or operations research (OR).
  2. No invitation to oral area exam yet: The student will be asked to retake the written exam(s) again in the next offering; and/or take additional courses.
  3. Student is invited to oral area exam.

Grading Procedure and Results of the Oral Area Examination: If the student's performance in oral area exam is not satisfactory, the student will be dismissed from the program. He or she may be granted an MS degree if the requirements are met; otherwise, the student may continue to fulfill the requirements for a master's degree in industrial engineering (IE), mechanical engineering (ME), or operations research (OR). 

Upon successfully passing the oral exam, the student continues in the PhD program and upon passing all the required course work, he or she will become a PhD candidate. The results of the written and oral exams and any recommended course work become part of the student’s record.

Appeal Procedure

The preliminary qualifying examination process provides means for reevaluation for students who fail one or more exams on their first attempt. Only the student’s research advisor may request the MIE graduate affairs committee to reevaluate the student’s failed exams using the appeal form found at the link.

PhD Students Changing Their Program

PhD students who, for any reason, decide to change their program (i.e., from PhD in ME to PhD in IE or vice versa) must take (or retake) the doctoral qualifying examinations (both written comprehensive exams and oral area exam) based on the student’s new major research area (i.e., industrial engineering, materials, mechanics, mechatronics, or thermofluids). 

Interdisciplinary PhD Students with MIE as the Home Department

Students pursuing a College of Engineering interdisciplinary PhD program with the  MIE department as their home department, must take one of the major written comprehensive exams (exam A) of the MIE doctoral qualifying examinations. The minor exam (exam B) can be substituted with appropriate exam(s) from other department(s) involved with the student’s interdisciplinary PhD program.

Dissertation Proposal Preparation and Presentation Timing

Students must present their dissertation proposal no more than twelve months after successfully completing the oral exam, referred to as the area exam.  In addition, the presentation of the dissertation proposal and the actual dissertation defense (see below) shall be no less than six months apart. The student’s dissertation committee will invite any additional faculty deemed appropriate to that field; this dissertation committee will then conduct the dissertation proposal session.  Each student’s dissertation committee must be comprised of at least three members, including the research advisor. At least two of those three members must be full-time MIE faculty members.

Dissertation Course Requirements

Upon successful completion of the doctoral qualifying examinations (both written preliminary and oral area exams) as well as all the required course work, the doctoral candidate, in consultation with his or her research advisor, must register in two consecutive semesters (may include full summer term) for Dissertation (ME 9990). Upon completion of this sequence, the student must then register for Dissertation Continuation (ME 9996) in every semester (in each fall and spring term and also in the summer term if summer is the student's last semester) until the dissertation is completed. Students may not register for Dissertation Continuation (ME 9996) until they fulfill the two-semester Dissertation (ME 9990) registration sequence.

To meet the full-time registration requirement for PhD students who have completed the majority of their course work and not yet reached PhD candidacy, a zero-credit course, Candidacy Preparation—Doctoral (ME 8960), can be taken if needed to meet full-time course registration requirements. This course is an individual instruction course, billed at 1 semester hour, and graded as S or U.  Candidacy Preparation—Doctoral (ME 8960) does not have any course content, and students must register in a section for which their research or academic advisor is listed as the “instructor" in the online course registration system.

Final Oral (Dissertation Defense) Examination

All doctoral candidates must pass a final oral exam. This exam will be scheduled once the dissertation committee agrees that the candidate’s research is at a stage where it is appropriate for formal presentation and after completion of all other requirements for the PhD, including all course work approved in the final program of study. The objective of the exam is for the candidate to present and defend the results of the dissertation research and to demonstrate depth of knowledge and significant expertise in the area of that research under questioning from the dissertation committee and other attendees.

The exam shall be publicly advertised at least one week in advance and all faculty members may attend and participate. At the conclusion of the presentation and subsequent questions period, the dissertation committee will convene to determine the outcome. The committee may recommend that the candidate be awarded the PhD or may require additional research and/or modifications of the dissertation. In some cases, candidates may be asked to present an additional final oral dissertation defense.

Residency Requirement

After achieving PhD candidacy, the university residency requirement is satisfied by two semesters of full-time graduate registration or four semesters of part-time graduate registration. Students must be continually enrolled during the pursuit of their dissertation.

Complete all courses and requirements listed below unless otherwise indicated.

Milestones

  • Doctoral qualifying exams (both written comprehensive and oral area exams)

(must be taken no later than the first time that it is offered after first year of study)

  • Annual review
  • Dissertation committee formation

(no more than twelve months after successfully completing the oral area exam)

  • Dissertation proposal

(must be presented no more than twelve months after successfully completing the oral area exam)

  • Dissertation defense 

(shall be no less than six months from dissertation proposal presentation)

General Requirements

Seminars
MEIE 6800Technical Writing0
MEIE 6850Research Seminar in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering0
Approved Course Work
Requires 24 semester hours including up to 4 semester hours of Independent Study (ME 7978). Please consult your faculty advisor for acceptable courses.24

Dissertation Courses

Complete the following (repeatable) course twice:

ME 9990Dissertation0
Must register in two consecutive semesters (may include full summer term).

Program Credit/GPA Requirements

24 total semester hours required
Minimum 3.000 GPA required