Summary of Field Rules for M.S./Ph.D. Students in Mechanical Engineering
Version: 21 Jan 2016
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
One registration unit corresponds to the satisfactory completion of one academic semester of full-time study and research. Six registration units are required for a Ph.D. degree.
All requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within seven years.
Two semesters of teaching experience are required of all Ph.D. students. This requirement is usually fulfilled through Teaching Assistantships (TAs). International students whose native language is not English are required to undergo screening by the International Teaching Assistant Development Program (ITADP) and may be required to take courses in English and pedagogy before assuming TA duties. The College of Engineering requires all teaching assistants to participate in TA Training offered by the College. In exceptional circumstances, students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for a reduction in the required amount of teaching experience.
PhD students on a three-year (or longer) fellowship may satisfy the teaching requirement by serving one semester as a TA and performing an additional qualified teaching activity. A qualified teaching activity shall be approved by the DGS and Special Committee chair, and must involve teaching technical material to a group and involve at least 15 contact hours.
Subjects and Concentrations
Major Subject and Concentrations
The major subject for all students in the field of Mechanical Engineering is Mechanical Engineering. The major concentration must be one of the following:
- Biomedical Mechanics
- Dynamics and Control
- Energy and Sustainability
- Fluid Dynamics
- Micro- and Nanoscale Engineering
- Solid Mechanics & Materials
- Thermal Sciences
Usually, approximately 4 to 6 graduate courses in Mechanical Engineering are taken for credit to fulfill this requirement, at the discretion of the student’s Special Committee (see below).
Students are required to take at least one minor subject outside of the fields of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering. A student may elect to take a second minor in any field. The subject studied for each minor must be distinct from that of the major.
A minimum of three graduate faculty members comprise the Special Committee for a Ph.D. student. The Chair of the committee represents the major subject. Each Minor Subject is represented by an additional committee member.
At least two members of a student’s committee should be able to assess expertly the technical content of the student’s research. In consultation with the Chair of the Special Committee, the DGS may add a field-appointed member to the student’s committee if the DGS believes that the committee, as constituted, does not represent this level of expertise.
A full committee must be selected by the student and a Special Committee Selection and Change form must be filed with the Graduate School by the end of the student’s third semester. Students are encouraged to meet with their Special Committees once each year to review progress toward their degree.
Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must complete a dissertation constituting an important and original contribution to knowledge. Each candidate must provide one bound copy of the Dissertation to be held in the Sibley School collection, in addition to those copies required by the Graduate School.
Students are allowed to elect the ‘papers option’ form of dissertation, which is made up of a series of relatively independent chapters with each chapter written as a paper suitable for publication. The student must be the first or single author on each paper. This option must have the unanimous agreement of the special committee.
The field of Mechanical Engineering requires the successful completion of three examinations for the Ph.D. degree.
Qualifying Examination (Q-Exam)
The purpose of the qualifying exam is to gauge the candidate’s potential as a doctoral student. The scope of topics should not be so broad as to influence the selection of courses taken by the candidate prior to the exam. A thorough understanding of relevant undergraduate courses and graduate courses already taken should be sufficient to pass the examination.
Students entering with Master’s degrees take the Q-Exam at the end of their first semester; students entering with a Bachelor’s degree take the Q-Exam at the end of their second semester.
Admission to Candidacy Examination (A-Exam)
The purpose of the A-exam is to determine whether the candidate has attained mastery of the major and minor subjects. In addition, a review may be conducted of the progress of the research and of the plans to complete the Dissertation.
Conducted by the student’s Special Committee, this examination is expected to be taken before the seventh semester of residence and must be taken at least two semesters before the Defense of Dissertation Examination (B-Exam). All members of the student’s Special Committee are expected to participate in the exam.
At least seven calendar days before the date of the exam, a ‘Schedule of Examination’ form, signed by each member of the special committee and the DGS, must be submitted to the Graduate School and an announcement of the exam made to the field faculty. Within three days after the exam, a ‘Results of Examination’ form, recording the outcome of the exam and signed by each member of the Special Committee and the DGS, must be submitted to the Graduate School.
Defense of Dissertation Examination (B-Exam)
The B-Exam comprises a public presentation of the student’s dissertation followed by an oral exam by the student’s Special Committee. All members of the student’s special committee are expected to participate in the examination. All members of the field are encouraged to attend and participate in the public portion of students’ B-Exams.
At least seven calendar days before the date of the exam, a ‘Schedule of Examination’ form, signed by each member of the special committee and the DGS, must be submitted to the Graduate School and an announcement of the exam made to the field faculty. Within three days after the exam, a ‘Results of Examination’ form, signed by each member of the special committee and the DGS, recording the outcome of the exam, must be submitted to the Graduate School.
There is no foreign language requirement, however, students are encouraged to acquire and maintain foreign language skills.
PhD students matriculating in the graduate field of Mechanical Engineering starting Fall 2016 must pass MAE7999 at least six times before completion of the PhD degree. The DGS may reduce this requirement at her/his discretion when student tenure is short or other classes, teaching requirements, or enrollment in absentia terms repeatedly preclude enrollment in MAE7999. Students desiring a reduction should petition the DGS explaining why enrollment in two terms was impossible or onerous.
Master of Science (M.S.)
Four registration units are required for a M.S. degree. Students may petition the DGS to reduce MS degree registration unit requirements to three if they begin their MS study while completing their BS degree in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The DGS may approve this petition at his/her discretion. The DGS may also reduce MS degree registration unit requirements to two if a student transfers from the PhD program to the MS program.
All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within four years.
The Field may grant an M.S. degree in any of the following circumstances.
Terminal M.S. with thesis
Students may be admitted directly to terminal MS program with thesis. These students must meet the following requirements:
- four registration units
- completion of an MS thesis and successful completion of an MS examination. The collective expectations of the field, as interpreted by the MS thesis committee, is that the MS thesis should be publishable as independent research or should be a significant secondary author contribution to a publication with another researcher as first author.
- 48 credits total
- at least 20 credits of MAE 8900
- at least 2 credits of MAE 7999
- at least 15 credits at 5000 level or higher
- at least 6 credits at 6000 level or higher (not including 7999 or 8900)
A Non-Thesis M.S. degree may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least four registration units and one of the following:
1. has successfully completed the A-Exam,
2. has withdrawn from the Ph.D. program after failing the A-Exam, but performed at a level commensurate to a passed Final Exam for an M.S. degree,
3. has successfully completed a Final Examination for the M.S. degree, but will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
M.S. with Thesis
An M.S. degree (with Thesis) may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least two registration units, and either:
1. with the approval of the Special Committee, writes an M.S. Thesis and successfully completes an M.S. Examination before continuing on with the Ph.D. program. (The M.S. Examination may be combined with the A-Exam.)
2. submits a “Change of Program” to an M.S. degree, submits a Thesis, and takes a M.S. Examination. The student does not continue in the Ph.D. program.
One major and one minor subject are required for the M.S. degree. If the minor is within the Mechanical Engineering Field, it must be chosen in an area that is substantially different from that of the major.
A minimum of two faculty members compose the committee. The chairman represents the major subject and another appropriate faculty member represents the minor subject. A thesis advisor, not representing a subject area, may be added.
A final examination conducted by the Special Committee is required for an M.S. with thesis. At the committee’s discretion, this examination may be entirely oral or both oral and written, and a portion of the examination may be opened as a public presentation of the thesis. At least two faculty members must be present at the final examination.
There is no language requirement or teaching requirement for an M.S. degree.
Minor in Mechanical Engineering
Ph.D. students pursuing a Ph.D. in other graduate fields may study Mechanical Engineering as a Minor Subject. Faculty serving as Minor Committee Members representing the ME field usually require that students take four graduate courses in Mechanical Engineering are taken for credit to complete study of ME as a Minor Subject.