Ph.D. Required Exams

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Beginning in Fall 2013, the written Diagnostic Exam will no longer be offered.  Instead, PhD students will be required to pass an Oral PhD qualifying exam. This oral exam will require that students demonstrate a mastery of the underlying theory specific to their dissertation research, as well as a theory in their engineering sub-discipline.  The exam will be a 2-hour oral exam administered in four 30-minute segments. The exam will consist of 4 topical areas, at least 2 of which will be from the following list of core subject areas. The associated Core Course is listed in parentheses as a general guideline for the topical area.  However, the topical content of the oral exam will be at the discretion of the examiner.

  • Thermodynamics (MECH 538)
  • Dynamics of Mechanical Systems (MECH 529)
  • Materials (MECH 532)
  • Solid Mechanics (CIV 560)
  • Fluid Mechanics (MECH 539)
  • Heat Transfer (MECH 544)
  • Mathematics for Scientists and Engineers (MATH 530)
  • Computational Methods for Mechanical Engineers (MECH 568)

The remaining 2 subject areas will be based on the candidate’s dissertation research topic subject to approval by the Advisor.

More information can be found in the Qualifying Exam document.

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination

Purpose: The purpose of the preliminary examination is to determine the candidate’s background knowledge in the proposed dissertation area and to determine the adequacy of the current research plan to develop a satisfactory dissertation.  The exam is based on the candidate’s written research proposal that contains a detailed survey of the supporting literature, preliminary data, and a summarized research plan.  Upon successful completion of the preliminary exam, the committee and student will agree to a final research plan that includes clear expectations for the content of the dissertation.

Scheduling:  Prior to planning the preliminary exam, students should be actively conducting research with a faculty advisor, have the graduate committee confirmed, and have the GS6 form (Program of Study) form on file with the Graduate School.  The preliminary exam is conducted after an extensive literature review and collection of preliminary data which leads to a “working title” or definition of the research project and a written research proposal.

Students are advised to complete the preliminary exam within a year after passing the diagnostic exam.  The preliminary defense is required a minimum of two terms prior to the final dissertation defense.

Suggested Timeline:

Three weeks prior to the preliminary exam:

  • Confirm a date and time for your preliminary exam with your graduate committee

Two weeks prior to the preliminary exam:

  • Contact the graduate program director to schedule the room and provide you with a template for your announcement with abstract
  • Submit announcement with abstract by email to graduate program director for distribution and advertising
  • Email the written research proposal to each member of the committee and the graduate program director to be shared with mechanical engineering faculty and graduate students.

Procedure:  On the day of the prelim, the student’s advisor is required to pick up the student file from the mechanical engineering office.  The file will contain the GS16 form (Report of Preliminary Examination for the Ph.D. Degree) for committee signatures.  Student files are not released to students.  The exam will consist of the student’s presentation of the research proposal and questions by the committee to further assess the preparedness of the student to continue the degree, followed by analysis of the proposal by the student’s committee with recommendations for changes in the plan. The student and advisor will prepare a rough outline of the changes to the research plan suggested by the committee. The student has a maximum of two opportunities to pass the preliminary exam.

Results:   By completing and signing the GS16 form, the committee shall:

  • Pass: Recommend the student advance to Ph.D. candidacy and accept the research plan as agreed to by the committee during the exam
  • Fail: Recommend that the student take the preliminary examination again, if the student’s research plan or background knowledge is unacceptable but the committee feels that the potential exists for satisfactory performance
  • Terminate: Recommend the student be terminated from the Ph.D. program

The student is required to obtain the department head’s signature on the original GS16 form and submit a copy to the graduate program director.  The advisor is required to return the student file to the graduate program director.

The signed original of the GS16 form must be delivered in person by the student to the Graduate School within 2 business days following the examination.