PhD in Mechanical Engineering
The Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering boasts a world-class program leading to the PhD in Mechanical Engineering, offering tremendous flexibility in course selection.
Students may choose whether or not to earn the MS on the way to earning the PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Most students joining the department enter the PhD program in Stage 1, during which students complete their MS degree in Mechanical Engineering or Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. An outline of the steps toward completion of the Mechanical Engineering PhD is presented below.
Stage 1: MS or its Equivalent
Students entering directly after earning the BS are considered Stage 1 PhD students until the prerequisite for the qualifying exam has been completed.
Stage 2: Qualifying Examination, PhD Coursework, Preliminary Examination
The Department requires graduate students to successfully complete a qualifying examination to formally enter the PhD program.
ME PhD Qualifying Examination
The objective of the qualifying exam is to evaluate student’s sufficient depth and breadth of understanding in the area of research. Towards this goal, a committee of two faculty members appointed by the Associate Head for Graduate Programs for each examinee will administer an hour-long oral exam on a peer-reviewed, archival journal article related to student’s area of research. The committee will be asked to select an important paper in the student’s research field, consistent with the fact that the student has a two-week preparation period. The paper is chosen by the committee in consultation with the student’s advisor, and is provided to the student two weeks ahead of the exam. The article may not be one authored/co-authored by the student or by any faculty in the department. The exam result is presented as pass, conditional pass or fail, and should be submitted via e-mail to the Graduate Programs Coordinator. The Assistant Director of Graduate Programs will relay the result to the student’s advisor.
A minimum of B+ grade in each of four independent courses from any one or a combination of any two areas chosen from an approved list (see below) is a prerequisite for taking the qualifying exam.
A student may attempt the examination twice.
Details of the Exam
Prerequisites: A B+ grade or higher in each of the four independent courses chosen from an approved list (see below) is a prerequisite for appearing in the qualifying exam. These four courses can be chosen from a single area or a combination of any two areas. In addition, the student is required to take the qualifying exam within two years after a master’s degree or within three years of a bachelor’s degree. The advisor must approve the choice of courses. Students would be encouraged to retake a class to improve their grade sufficiently to meet the requirements. Transferred coursework cannot be used to fulfill the prerequisites of the qualifying exam.
Administration of the Qual Exam: Students who have satisfied the prerequisites for the exam and wish to register should submit the ME PhD Qualifying Exam Form to the Graduate Programs Office via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Exam schedules will be set based on committee availability and must not be earlier than 3 weeks from the time of the request approval.
Advisors will email the names of three suggested committee members and three suggested articles to the Graduate Programs Office.
The Associate Head for Graduate Programs will review the request and select the two members for the evaluation committee.
A notice will be sent from the Graduate Programs Office to the committee, informing them that they have been appointed to administer the examination and who has been named Committee Chair. The notice will also include the suggested articles from the advisor and the timeline in which the exam needs to be scheduled.
Students are responsible for picking a date and time that works for all committee members. Once a date and time are confirmed by all committee members, students must email Kathy Smith (email@example.com) the date and time of their exam, with each member of the committee carbon-copied (CCed) on the email.
Oral Examination Committee: A committee of two faculty members from MechSE appointed by the Associate Head for Graduate Programs for each examinee will administer an hour-long oral exam on a peer-reviewed, archival journal article related to student’s area of research.
Journal article: The student will be examined on a published, peer-reviewed archival journal article related to student’s research. The student’s adviser will provide a suggested list of papers to the Graduate Programs Office with a rationale for the choice of the articles, to be shared with the examining committee. The committee may choose a paper from the list, or it can choose a paper outside of the advisor’s suggested list, but from within the general research area of the student. The selected paper must be an important paper in the student’s research field, consistent with the fact that the student has a two-week preparation period. If the article selected is outside the list, the committee needs to provide a rationale for the choice of the article, and a statement describing the reason as to why an article was not chosen from the advisor’s suggested list. The committee’s statement will be provided to the Associate Head (AH) for Grad Programs, and not to the student’s advisor. AH may communicate the statement to the advisor at his/her own discretion. The article may not be one authored/co-authored by the student or by any faculty in the department. In addition to reading the article, the student is expected to review the related literature. The article will be provided to the student two weeks ahead of the exam, so please contact the Graduate Programs Office with the article selection as quickly as possible. Once the paper is selected, the student will be notified to contact the committee to schedule the examination.
Grading: The student must present the material from the article in 30 minutes, and answer committee’s questions in the remaining 30 minutes. The exam will be graded on the following points:
- overall significance of the article
- influence of the work on the development of the field
- possible future research directions in the area of the article
- the key findings of the work
- connection to student’s research
Outcome of the exam: the result can be (a) an unconditional pass, (b) a conditional pass pending taking a specific course or courses with a defined minimum grade, and (c) a fail. On failing, a student may repeat the oral exam once.
Approved List of Areas and Courses
Combustion: ME 403, 501, 503; CHBE 551/CHEM 582; CHEM 522;
Computational Mechanics: ME 412, 447, 471, 570; TAM 470, 570, 574; CEE 576; CS 446, 450; MSE 485
Controls: ME 446, 460, 461, 541, 561, 562; AE 403, 454, 504, 555, 556; ECE 486, 515 (same as ME 540), 517, 534, 553, 555, 568, 573; Math 518, 519, 540, 541, 550, 551
Dynamics: ME 440, 546 (same as ECE 528); TAM 412, 416, 514, 518; TAM 515 / AE 554
Fluid Mechanics: ME 410, 411(same as AE 412), 412, 504, 510; TAM 435, 531, 532, 536, 537, 538, 570; AE 511, 514, 515
Heat Transfer: ME 401, 411 (same as AE 412), 412, 420, 502, 504, 520, 521, 522, 523
Manufacturing: ME 450, 451, 452, 453 455, 458, 541, 550, 554; AE 526
Materials: CHEM 524; ME 430, 431, 530, 531, 532, 533; MSE 455, MSE 460, MSE 480, MSE 488; PHYS 460; TAM 424, 427, 428, 524, 559; AE 525, 526
MEMS/NEMS: ME 485, 487, 523, 586
Solid Mechanics: ME 472; TAM 445, 451, 456, 529, 545, 551, 552, 554, 555, 557, 559; AE 522, 523, 528, 529, 550, 559
Biomechanics: ME 481, 482, 483; TAM 461
Thermodynamics & Energy Conversion: ME 400 (this course will be counted for the Qualifying Examination for those who have taken the course during Spring 2017 or earlier), ME 401, ME 402, ME 404, ME 502, ME 512; CHEM 442, CHEM 524, CHEM 544; PHYS 427/MSE 500 (one or the other--students may not take both), PHYS 486, PHYS 487, PHYS 504
If a student is entering with a completed MS degree or plans to earn the MS on the way to the PhD, the coursework requirements are 20 hours of graduate-level coursework beyond the MS, to include: at least 8 hours of 500-level courses, an advanced 500-level math course taught at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus (which can be counted as part of the required 8 hours of 500-level coursework). The advanced math requirements may be satisfied by TAM 541, TAM 542, TAM 549, ECE 534, or any 500-level course offered by the Mathematics Department except for the following: MATH 596, MATH 597, MATH 598, and MATH 599. At least 8 hours of “Enrichment” coursework (graduate level courses that do not strongly overlap with the student’s main research topic) to be chosen in consultation with the advisor, and at least 44 hours of dissertation credit (599) beyond the MS. Additional courses beyond the 8 hours of 500-level courses may be ME or TAM graduate-level courses (400-500 level), or other engineering graduate-level technical courses chosen in consultation with advisor. No more than 4 of the 20 hours may be ME or TAM 597, Independent Study.
If the PhD is pursued directly after the bachelor's degree, the coursework requirements are 44 hours of formal graded coursework to include 16 hours at the 500 level, 4 of which may be ME 597 Independent Study and may include the required 3-4 hours of 500-level math. The math requirement may be satisfied by TAM 541, TAM 542, TAM 549, or any 500-level course offered by the Mathematics Department except for the following: MATH 596, MATH 597, MATH 598, and MATH 599. At least 8 hours of “Enrichment” coursework (graduate level courses that do not strongly overlap with the student’s main research topic) to be chosen in consultation with the advisor, and at least 52 hours of dissertation credit (599) beyond the MS. Additional courses beyond the 16 hours of 500-level courses may be ME or TAM graduate-level courses (400-500 level), or other engineering graduate-level technical courses chosen in consultation with advisor.
Preliminary and Final Examinations
Scheduled upon completion of coursework requirement or in the semester in which the final coursework is taken. To schedule your exam, please see this page on the Graduate College website: grad.illinois.edu/thesis/submitting-doctoral-committee-requests
You should submit your exam request to the Graduate College at least 3 weeks prior to the approximate exam date. Once you have submitted your Graduate College exam request, a notice is sent to the MechSE Graduate Programs Office to approve the request. Once the request is approved by the MechSE Graduate Programs Office, the Graduate College will send the student and the MechSE Graduate Programs Office notice that the exam has been approved.
After the Graduate College has approved your exam and you have been notified of the approval via email, please complete the Departmental Preliminary Exam Request Form or Departmental Final Exam Request Form. These forms should be submitted online to the MechSE Graduate Programs Office at least one week prior to the exam.
PROCESS FOR REPORTING EXAM RESULTS
The process for reporting Prelim and Final exam results is as follows:
The Committee Chair should email firstname.lastname@example.org, cc’d to the committee members. The email must include the following information:
- For Preliminary Exams: 1) Date of the exam, 2) Result of the exam, 3) Names of committee members
- For Final Exams: 1) Date of the exam, 2) Result of the exam, 3) Names of committee members, 4) How each committee member voted
- For Thesis/Dissertation Approval Forms: 1) Approval of the document, 2) Names of committee members
The Graduate Programs Office will attach the result confirmation email to the PER/FER form, which should include the signature of the EO or DGS at the bottom. This departmental signature confirms the accuracy of the result, which aligns with our standard practice.
DOCTORAL EXAMINATION COMMITTEE REQUIREMENTS
- Graduate College policy requires this committee shall have a minimum of 4 voting members, 3 of whom must be University of Illinois Graduate Faculty (i.e. they have an appointment with the Graduate College as teaching faculty who instruct a graduate course or courses. MechSE policy states at least 1 of the 4 voting members must not be from the department of the candidate. Committee members from outside the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are welcome but would serve in addition to the 3 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign committee members. If a member of the committee is non-UIUC faculty and will participate as a non-voting member, nothing additional is required. If you desire a non-UIUC faculty member to serve as a voting committee member, a letter/email of justification from the advisor, stating what qualifies the person to be a voting member on the committee along with the person’s CV, must be attached to the exam request at the time of submission.
- Three of the committee members must be listed as Graduate Faculty members and two must be tenured (Associate Professor or Professor). The committee should include faculty members from more than one area of specialization.
- The “Chair” must be a member of the Graduate Faculty from the candidate’s department and may also be the Director of Dissertation Research. The chair is responsible for convening the committee, conducting the examination, and submitting the Certificate of Result to the department in which the student is enrolled.
- A “Contingent Chair,” if designated, must be a member of the Graduate Faculty. The Contingent Chair serves if the original chair is unable to serve for any reason.
- The Director of Dissertation Research is responsible for guiding/advising the student in their thesis research as part of an ongoing research project. He/she may also discuss a tentative course of study or recommend a sequence of courses the student can take reflecting the interest of the student.
- A Department Affiliate cannot serve as a “Chair” or a “Contingent Chair” of a Preliminary Examination or Final Examination Committee. Only faculty members of the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering may serve in that capacity.
Continuous registration in ME 590 is required until completion of the preliminary exam unless the student will not attend the full semester the preliminary exam is administered. In this case, the student does not need to register in their final semester. Seminar credit cannot be counted toward coursework requirements.
Stage 3: Thesis and Final Examination
Thesis and Final Examination
DOCTORAL DISSERTATION DEFENSE
May be taken no sooner than six months after the preliminary examination.
Residency requirement: The University of Illinois requires that 64 hours must be from courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign campus or at other locations approved by the Graduate College for resident credit.
*A student entering with a MS degree is credited with 32 hours of coursework, leaving 64 hours to be completed at Illinois.
**A maximum of 4 hours of ME 597 Independent study may be applied toward the 500-level coursework requirement.
***Coursework applied toward the degree must be approved by the Associate Head for Graduate Programs.
Continuous registration in ME 590 is required until completion of the preliminary exam. Seminar credit cannot be counted toward coursework requirements. Students are required to attend a minimum of 4 seminars in the semester. The seminar schedule is e-mailed to students at the beginning of each semester.
Students enrolled in a course that conflicts with ME 590 or TAM 500 still need to register for ME 590/TAM 500 and are required to attend alternate seminars.
To complete seminar registration with a conflict:
- Request a registration override by contacting the Undergraduate Programs Office at email@example.com. Include your name, UIN, and the course you are enrolled in that is in conflict with the seminar. Also, list the seminar course you will register for (ME 590 or TAM 500).
- You will receive an email when the override is entered.
- You must register for ME 590 after the override is entered.
To receive credit for alternate seminars:
Alternate seminars include TAM 539 Fluids Seminar Series (for students who are registered in TAM 539), any other MechSE seminars not listed as part of the MechSE Seminar Series, and other seminars in Engineering, Math, or Physics.