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Graduate Students: Qualifying Exams & Candidacy

The Graduate School requires a minimum of two examinations for all Ph.D. students:

  1. The candidacy examination, which must be both written and oral
  2. The final dissertation defense examination

The written portion of the Ph.D. candidacy examination (referred to in MAE as the Qualifying Examination) is intended for determining the qualification of a student for pursuing a Ph.D. degree as well as for assuring that the student is well prepared in fundamentals of relevant subject areas to launch independent dissertation research. The written qualifying examination is administered by the Graduate Committee. The student, with advisor approval, must select to be examined in one of three areas: Dynamics, Systems, and Control (DSC); Solid Mechanics, Design, and Manufacturing (SMDM); Thermal Sciences and Fluid Dynamics (TSFD).

A major subject area for the examination covers topical materials represented in the core courses listed below and those of relevant undergraduate courses.  If in DSC, SMDM or TSFD the student will select three topics (of the four, five, or six respectively). These selections must be made with the advisor’s approval. A copy of a syllabus for each of the courses is available in the Graduate Studies Office. The four qualifying exam subject areas, and the courses which approximately support these exams, are listed here:

  1. DSC
    EML 5215 Analytical Dynamics I
    EML 5311 Control System Theory
    EML 5223 Structural Dynamics
    EML 6281 Geometry of Mechanisms and Robots I
  2. SMDM
    EML 5526 Finite Element Analysis and Application
    EGM 5533 Applied Elasticity and Advanced Mechanics of Solids
    EML 6934 Failure of Materials in Mechanical Design
    EML 6324 Fundamentals of Production Engineering
    EGM 6611 Continuum Mechanics
  3. TSFD
    EML 5714 — Introduction to Compressible Flow
    EGM 6812 — Fluid Mechanics I
    EGM 6813 — Fluid Mechanics II
    EML 5104 — Classical Thermodynamics
    EML 6154 — Conduction Heat Transfer
    EML 6155 — Convective Heat Transfer
  • The written qualifying examination will be offered around the second week of the Fall semester. The examination may also be given around the second week of the Spring semester, but only if there is sufficient demand for it. A student must pass the written qualifying examination before being eligible for the oral portion of the candidacy examination. The examination will be conducted in a designated time period (typically 4-6 hours) on a set date established for each particular area (DSC, SMDM, TSFD). 
  • Information on the conduct of the individual topics (date, open-book/closed-book, permissible computer use, etc.) and further details on the subject matter will be available at the start of the semester during which the exam is conducted. If a student’s major subject area covers two different specializations, a special examination set of three topics can be recommended by the advisor. Any such set must be approved by the Graduate Committee.
  • The written qualifying examination is formulated in each area and graded by a committee of faculty members from each respective group (DSC, SMDM, TSFD).  This committee will grade the qualifying examinations and designate one of three outcomes for each student: (1) Pass; (2) Partial Pass (the student must retake a single subject exam); and (3) Fail. If a student fails the written qualifying examination, including a partial failure, the student is allowed to retake the examination one more time only. In the event of second failure, the Chair of the student’s Supervisory Committee may petition the Graduate Committee for a third chance if there are extenuating circumstances.
  • The second part of the Ph.D. candidacy examination (referred to in MAE as the Research Proposal) should take place within one year of successful completion of the written qualifying exam. This examination is an oral examination and is conducted by the Chair of student’s Supervisory Committee. The research proposal should be comprised of the following three components:  (1) a detailed, critical literature review of the student’s intended area of focus; (2) identification of a research problem that follows the literature review; (3) a succinct statement of proposed research and research methods to be conducted, including a brief schedule. The research proposal must have a written document to accompany the oral presentation, which must be provided to the committee in advance of the presentation. The student’s Supervisory Committee should be present at the oral examination to decide on the student’s qualification for Ph.D. study, to discuss and approve a program of study, as well as to evaluate and approve a proposed Ph.D. dissertation project. 
  • Upon successful completion of the written examination (i.e. qualifying exam) and the oral examination (i.e. research proposal), the student is admitted into the Ph.D. candidacy.
  • The Ph.D. candidate must meet again with his/her Supervisory Committee, typically at least one year prior to the date of the final defense, to make an oral presentation of the research completed to date, along with an outline of the expected remaining research.  This research update meeting allows the Supervisory Committee the opportunity to provide input prior to the student’s final defense.

Please consult the MAE graduate policy handbook for complete requirements.