Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mechanical Engineering Degree Requirements

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Qualifying Exam
Coursework Requirements
Dissertation Committee
Dissertation Proposal Presentation
Ph.D. Dissertation
Graduation Paperwork
Summary of Requirements
General Information

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As early as possible, students should identify the faculty member whom they would like to serve as their coursework and research advisor. For research assistants, the faculty providing the financial support is also the advisor. A student’s advisor will also serve as chairperson of the student’s Dissertation Committee (see below).

Qualifying Exam

All students entering the doctoral program are required to take the qualifying exam. Information on the Mechanical Engineering Qualifying Exams follow:

Mechanical Engineering Qualification Examination

1. Goals of the Exam: The qualifying exam will be an oral exam conducted in English. The goals of the exam include the following:

  1. determine student’s ability to understand and apply fundamental concepts in his/her technical area;
  2. determine student’s aptitude and ability to do original and independent research at the doctoral level;
  3. assess the student’s ability to review previous work from the literature; and
  4. identify areas in the student’s background that need strengthening as the student makes progress in his/her doctoral studies.

2. When to Take the Exam: Mechanical Engineering Doctoral students who matriculate into the program with an M.S. degree must take the qualifying examination no later than their second semester of study at the University of Maryland. Those who matriculate with a B.S. degree must take it no later than their fourth semester of study at the University of Maryland, or during the semester which follows the semester in which they have accumulated 24 credits or more, whichever occurs first. Under special circumstances (e.g., non-traditional background, health related issues), the student’s advisor may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to defer the exam. It is recommended that these petitions be submitted during the beginning of a semester. Along with the Graduate Committee, the Director of Graduate Studies will review each submitted petition and communicate the decision on the petition to the student’s advisor.

3. Exam Schedule: The first round of exams is typically scheduled during February of the Spring semester and September of the Fall semester. The second round of exams is typically scheduled during April of the Spring semester and October of the Fall semester.

4. Exam Preliminaries and Procedures:

  • Exam Subject Areas: In consultation with his/her advisor (or faculty sponsor) and the Graduate Studies Office, the student (examinee) will choose at least two and at most three (independent), broad exam subject areas that reflect the student’s background knowledge and key dissertation fields. Students will be asked to make this choice at the time they sign up for the exam.
  • Exam Committee Composition: The composition of the exam committee will be determined by the subject areas chosen by the examinee. It is recommended that this committee be chosen from tenure-track and/or tenured faculty members who will later serve on the student’s proposal and defense committees. The exam committee will consist of three full-time tenure-track and/or tenured faculty members who are mainly from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Maryland. Depending on the examinee’s choice of subject areas, a full-time tenure-track and/or tenured faculty member from outside the Department may be allowed by the Graduate Studies Office to serve as one of the three members of the examining committee.
  • Exam Committee Selection: For the first attempt, each committee will be comprised of the following persons: the student’s advisor (or faculty sponsor), a chair, and a third member. Co-advisors will be allowed to participate as silent observers during the first attempt. The members of this committee will be selected by the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Chair of the Department in consultation with the student’s advisor (or faculty sponsor) and the Division Leader. For the second exam administered to students who fail on their first attempt, a different committee of three full-time faculty members will be formed by the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Chair of the Department in consultation with the student’s advisor and the Division Leader.
  • Exam Venue and Date: The committee chair is responsible for scheduling the exam date and venue in consultation with the committee and the Graduate Studies Office, and for notifying the student in a timely manner.
  • Student’s Background: Each student must contact the chair of his/her examining committee no later than two weeks before the Monday of the week that the qualifying examinations are to be held to make the necessary arrangements. The student should also provide the chair of the examining committee a folder that contains the following: i) transcripts of undergraduate and graduate course work, ii) M.S. thesis research topic if applicable, and iii) Ph.D. proposal topic if known.
  • Research Topic: Ten calendar days before the date that the qualifying examination is to be held, each student will be assigned a research topic and one to two references related in some aspect to one or more of the subject areas selected by the student. The topic will be selected by the chair of the examination committee in consultation with both the student’s advisor (or faculty sponsor) and the third committee member. The topic may be one that is relevant to the student’s future doctoral work but will be different for each student. This topic cannot be from the student’s M.S. research area but can be from an area which the student might address later during his/her doctoral dissertation research.
  • Written Summary Report: The student should study the assigned and other pertinent literature on the selected topic in order to be able to formulate research questions within the topic, suitable for doctoral-level investigation and to outline his/her approach for carrying out such an investigation. The results of this study are to be summarized on one page, formatted as follows: single-spaced, 12-point type, and one-inch margins all around. The summary must consist of the following three paragraphs: (i) a paragraph reviewing the pertinent literature on the assigned topic, (ii) a paragraph identifying a research issue related to the topic that the student feels is worthy of doctoral-level research, and (iii) a paragraph describing a suitable research approach (experimental, numerical, and/or analytical) to address the research issue proposed by the student. The summary is to be submitted to each member of the examining committee by noon three days prior to the scheduled examination.
  • Oral Exam: The student will prepare a brief presentation (using transparencies or other appropriate media) describing his or her literature review, problem statement and proposed approach. The exam will begin with a 15 to 20 minute presentation by the student, and this will be the starting point for the oral exam discussion. The presentation may lead to questions (based on the chosen subject areas and sometimes unrelated to the assigned topic and of a broader nature) related to the goals of the exam.

5. Exam Outcome: The examining committee will confer immediately after the exam, carry out deliberations about the exam outcome, reach a decision, and convey this decision through the Examination Committee Chair to the Graduate Studies Office. The student will be notified of the outcome of the exam in writing, by the Graduate Studies Office. This notification may include conditions that a student would need to fulfill before attaining candidacy. Examples of these conditions include courses to be taken in a certain area. The committee may also provide other constructive feedback to the student on areas or skills that need to be strengthened. This is preferred for students who are considered to be qualified to conduct doctoral-level research but who do not fair well on the exam for reasons that can be remedied. The student taking the exam is considered to pass the exam if the committee decides unanimously in favor of the student. Students who do not pass the qualifying examination during their first attempt may, upon the recommendation of their examining committee and review of the Director of Graduate Studies, be allowed to repeat the examination during the same semester.

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Coursework Requirements

The Ph.D. Coursework Plan sets forth the entire program of study that will be undertaken to satisfy the course requirements for the doctoral degree. The program of study must be compiled in consultation with the student’s advisor, who must approve the coursework plan. The plan should then be submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for approval by the Department Graduate Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies, in the first semester of study. The Graduate Committee generally approves coursework plans only once a semester during the first meeting of the semester.

Changes to the plan are permitted, but must be approved by the student’s advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Committee prior to their implementation. Most revisions will need to be re-approved by the Graduate Committee; since the Graduate Committee only reviews Ph.D. coursework plans once every semester, students should understand that most revisions are not immediately approved. A new plan reflecting the changes must be filed with the Graduate Studies Office every time a change is made.

The Ph.D. coursework plan for Mechanical Engineering must contain a minimum of 36 credits of graduate coursework. A minimum of 12 credits of coursework must be taken at the University of Maryland. Students with a Master’s degree from another accredited institution may, upon approval of the student’s advisor and the Graduate Committee, transfer and include up to 24 credits of graduate coursework. Plans that include graduate work completed at other academic institutions must be accompanied by appropriate documentation to verify the level of work and to confirm that the work will not be duplicated by the courses that will be taken at the University of Maryland. All credits must be derived from courses taken at the 600-level or above; 400-level courses are allowed only if taken in accordance with the advisor’s recommendation and as graduate courses when no graduate equivalents exist. Coursework plans that include such courses must be accompanied by a statement from the advisor justifying the recommendation and by a statement from the instructor that the course was taken at the graduate level. No ENME or ENRE 400-level course can be part of the plan of study. Interdisciplinary programs will be given favorable consideration.

The coursework plan should contain a minimum of 6 credits of courses in mathematics. Courses that satisfy this requirement are:

Acceptable Mathematics Courses:
MATH, STAT or AMSC 600-level and higher
Any of the following:
ENME 605 Advanced Systems Control: Linear Systems
ENME 610 Engineering Optimization
ENME 625 Multidisciplinary Optimization
ENME 673 Energy and Variational Methods in Applied Mechanics
ENME 675 A Mathematical Introduction to Robotics
ENME 700 Advanced Mechanical Engineering Analysis
ENME 725 Probabilistic Optimization
ENME808B Computational Methods in Science and Engineering
ENRE 620 Mathematical Techniques of Reliability Engineering
ENRE 643 Bayesian Analysis
ENRE 655 Advanced Methods in Reliability Modeling
Requirements Updated: Jan. 31, 2012

Dissertation Committee

Functions of the Dissertation Committee include conducting the dissertation-proposal review, conducting the final review of the dissertation, advising and aiding students in completing the program of study, advising the student in the research activity as necessary and evaluating the student’s progress. The Dissertation Committee is formally nominated through the completion of the Nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Committee Form.

The Chair of the Dissertation Committee is the student’s advisor. Each Dissertation Examining Committee shall have appointed to it a representative of the Dean of the Graduate School. The Dean's Representative should have some background or interest related to the student's research. The Dean's Representative must be a Tenured Member of the Graduate Faculty at University of Maryland and must be from a graduate program other than the student's home program. In cases where a student is in an interdisciplinary graduate program, the Dean's Representative may not be a faculty member participating in the interdisciplinary program. The remaining members of the Dissertation Committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Maryland. Persons from outside the University of Maryland or non-tenure track faculty may serve on Dissertation Examining Committees, but must be Special Members of the Graduate Faculty. These special members must be in addition to the required five Tenured/Tenure Track Members of the University of Maryland Graduate Faculty. To nominate an individual to serve as a Special Member, the student’s advisor needs to submit to the Graduate Director the nominee's curriculum vitae, a Nomination for Membership on the Graduate Faculty Form [pdf], and a letter of support. Specific instructions regarding the process and forms for nominating an individual to the graduate faculty can be located here.

Mechanical Engineering students are expected to appoint their Dissertation Committee before their dissertation proposal is presented. To nominate the examining committee, the student must complete the Nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Committee Form [pdf] and return it to the Graduate Studies Office for approval and forwarding to the Registrar's Office. Changes to a dissertation committee due to unavoidable circumstances can be made at any time, with the approval of the student’s advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate School. Further information on deadlines for submission of the Nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Committee can be found here.

The advisor and student are notified in writing by the Graduate School regarding approval of the nominated doctoral dissertation committee and the Report of the Examining Committee Form is generated. Until the time of the student’s dissertation defense, the Report of the Examining Committee form is kept in the student’s file in the Graduate Studies Office.

Dissertation Proposal Presentation

The doctoral dissertation proposal is a formal presentation of the research the student plans to undertake as the basis for the Ph.D. dissertation. The dissertation proposal must be prepared in written form under the guidance of the student’s prospective dissertation advisor, and presented for approval by the student’s prospective dissertation committee. A dissertation proposal will be considered to have been approved when signed by all committee members after the proposal defense and submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for inclusion in the student’s file. The student’s research should not be complete at this time, and the proposal should not be treated as preparation for a final PhD defense. 

Proposal Format

  • Proposals need to be submitted at least a week before the proposal presentation to the committee members
  • Proposal format should follow the dissertation format of the Graduate School and it is preferable to have the material presented in single space with 12 point font
  • It is left open to the committee members to accept an electronic copy of the proposal
  • The proposal presentation should not be public, but the committee can extend invitations to outside parties of their choosing.
  • The proposal presentation should last between 20 and 30 minutes and the total time of the proposal presentation meeting should be between 1 and 1.5 hours.
  • The recommended format for the presentation is as follows:
    • Motivation
    • Literature survey
    • Problem statement
    • Proposed research
    • Roadmap and timeline for completion of dissertation
    • How to make your work more broadly useful: plans for publishing, data sharing, and software sharing

In addition to the University requirements for composition of a dissertation committee, the Department of Mechanical Engineering requires that all dissertation committees for mechanical engineering doctoral students contain five regular (tenure or tenure-track) faculty members. Research faculty and outside scientists are permitted to sit on dissertation committees only in addition to the five regular faculty members.

Students are required to present their proposal within one year of passing the qualifying exam.

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Admission to Candidacy

Once a student has passed his or her doctoral qualifying examination, completed the coursework in the doctoral program of study, and has obtained approval for his or her doctoral dissertation proposal, the student is considered to have completed the preliminary training and demonstrated his or her potential to successfully complete the Ph.D. degree. This is formally confirmed by the Graduate School by recognizing the student as a Ph.D. Candidate. The student must submit the Application for Admission to Candidacy Form to the Graduate Studies Office. This form must be approved by the Graduate Director and by the Graduate School. Students must be admitted to candidacy at least 6 months prior to the date on which the degree will be conferred. It is the responsibility of the student to submit an Application for Admission to Candidacy Form when all the requirements for candidacy have been fulfilled. This form may also be obtained from the Graduate Studies Office. Applications received prior to the 25th of the month will be processed such that the student's doctoral candidacy goes into effect on the first day of the following month.

Mechanical Engineering Doctoral students who do not hold an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering may be awarded a non-thesis M.S. degree at advancement to candidacy. Mechanical Engineering Students who wish to apply for this degree must have completed a minimum of 30 credits of graduate coursework. At least 24 credits must have been taken at the University of Maryland and at least 21 credits must have been derived from courses taken at the 600-level or above. At least 25 credits must be taken at the University of Maryland and at least 18 credits at the 600-level or above and completion of 16 credits of core courses. In such cases, the doctoral dissertation proposal fulfills the research paper requirement of the non-thesis option and the doctoral proposal defense serves as the department comprehensive examination. In addition, students must file the following forms:

  1. The Request for Inclusion or Transfer of Credits [pdf] (if transferring credits not used for a previous graduate degree from another institution) must be filed with the Graduate School, 2123 Lee Building.
  2. The Certification of Master’s Degree without Thesis Form [pdf] must be filed with the Registrar's Office.
  3. The Approved Program Form [pdf] must be filed with the Registrar's Office.
  4. The Graduation Application (Application for Diploma) is submitted online.

A hard copy of the above forms may be obtained at the ME Graduate Studies Office.

Ph.D. Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation must be prepared in consultation with the current edition of the The University of Maryland Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Style Guide. A typed copy of the dissertation, after the student’s advisor has approved it, must be provided to each member of the examining committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination.

In addition, a notice must be posted by the student on the designated bulletin board near the Graduate Studies Office inviting faculty and students to the formal dissertation presentation. A copy of this invitation should be sent by email to the Graduate Coordinator, who will post it on the ME graduate student list server.

Each doctoral candidate is required to defend his or her doctoral dissertation orally in English. The defense consists of a formal presentation of the dissertation followed by a closed session where the examining committee reviews the student’s work. The dissertation defense cannot be held until the Graduate School approves the composition of the nominated dissertation examining committee. About a week prior to the date the dissertation defense is scheduled to take place, the student is advised to verify that the Report of the Examining Committee is in his or her file in the Graduate Studies Office. The student’s advisor will then pick it up just prior to the dissertation defense and bring it with him or her to the examination.

When the student has passed the examination, the Report of the Examining Committee is signed by all members of the committee and submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for forwarding to Graduate School.

An unbound copy of the dissertation on regular paper is to be submitted to the  Graduate Studies Office. Students are encouraged to provide their advisor with a bound copy of the dissertation (binding is available through the Graduate Studies Office). An electronic copy of the dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School.

Graduation Paperwork

The following forms must be completed and submitted prior to graduation:

  1. Application for Diploma, also referred to as Graduation Candidate Application must be submitted online.
  2. Report of Examining Committee. This form is generated by the Registrar's Office upon the Graduate School's approval of the Nomination of Thesis Committee form and kept on file in the Graduate Studies Office. The signed Report of the Examining Committee form must be submitted to the Registrar's Office.
  3. An electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School at UMI ETD Administrator.
  4. One copy of the approved thesis should be submitted to the Graduate Studies Office.

The deadlines for the above forms are posted online. Failure to submit the above listed forms by the established deadlines will result in postponement of the student’s graduation to the following semester. In the semester prior to graduation students should verify with the Graduate Studies Office that they have met all the requirements for graduation.

Summary of Requirements and Timeline

  • Go to https://apra.umd.edu/ to complete your Plan of Study, and then get your plan approved by Advisor, Graduate Director, and Graduate Committee
  • Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Mechanical Engineering (preferred)
  • Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Mechanical Engineering
    (required if not taken previous semester)
3rd or 4th
  • Application for Diploma (Ph.D.) submitted by first week of semester
  • Ph.D. Dissertation Defense (no less than 6 months after admission to candidacy)
  • Report of Examining Committee Form submitted following defense (pick up form in ME Grad Office)
  • 1 copy of Dissertation submitted to Graduate Studies Office

*Admission to candidacy must be obtained within five years from entrance into the Ph.D. program. All remaining degree requirements must be completed within four years following admission to candidacy.

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General Information and Procedures for M.S. & Ph.D. Programs

Grade-Point Average

Students seeking a graduate degree must maintain an average grade of B (3.0) in all courses that have been taken for graduate credit since enrollment in the degree program. Ph.D. students enrolled in the Reliability Engineering program must complete the core courses with a minimal GPA of 3.5 in order to qualify for the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam.

Time Limitation and Transfer of Credits

With the exception of the six semester-hours of graduate-level course credits applicable for possible transfer to the master’s degree program, all requirements for the master’s degree must be completed within a five-year period. When extraordinary conditions arise, this limitation can sometimes be extended to seven years by submitting a waiver request. This time limit applies to all coursework, including transfer credits from other institutions.
Admission to candidacy must be obtained within five calendar years after admission into the doctoral program. All remaining requirements for the degree must be completed within four years of the admission to candidacy.

Program Advising

Prior to registering for any courses, students should consult with their advisor. The Graduate Studies Office can advise and assist students in locating an advisor. It is the student’s responsibility to develop an approved coursework plan at the beginning of the first semester of study in consultation with their advisor. Courses that are not on an approved coursework plan will not be counted toward the degree.

Minimum Registration Requirements

Graduate students are required to register every fall and spring semester during the duration of their graduated studies. In addition, students must be registered for at least one credit during the semester they graduate (including summer semesters).

Upon achieving doctoral candidacy, the Graduate School additionally requires that doctoral candidates be registered for at least 12 credit hours of ENME 899 until graduation.

Official Status

Official status (either full-time or part-time) for academic purposes will be determined on the basis of a student's registration at the end of the Schedule Adjustment Period (the first ten days of classes). Students receiving a private scholarship must maintain full-time status throughout the semester in order to keep their scholarship, unless otherwise stipulated by the donor in writing. International students on F-1 and J-1 student visas must also maintain full-time status throughout each semester according to Federal regulations governing F-1 and J-1 students. Please contact an advisor in IES at 301-314-7744 if you have any questions concerning full-time status.

To be certified as a full-time student a graduate student must be officially registered for a combination of courses equivalent to 48 units per semester. Graduate assistants holding full-time teaching or research appointments are considered full-time students if they are registered for at least 24 units. Courses taken for Audit do not generate graduate units and cannot be used in calculating full-time or part-time status. The list below gives the number of units per credit hour for each course level.

Course Number

Graduate Unit

2 units per credit hour
4 units per credit hour
5 units per credit hour
6 units per credit hour
12 units per credit hour
(Pre-candidacy doctoral research)
18 units per credit hour
(Doctoral dissertation research)
18 units per credit hour
UMEI 005
6 units per credit hour
UMEI 006
2 units per credit hour
UMEI 007
4 units per credit hour
UMEI 008
2 units per credit hour

*All doctoral candidates must be registered for six credit hours of 899, for which they must pay candidacy tuition.

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