PhD in Mechanical Engineering
The Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering offers a world-class program leading to the PhD in Mechanical Engineering. The program offers tremendous flexibility in course selection, with a rigorous qualifying exam based on upper-level undergraduate course work.
The PhD in Mechanical Engineering can be done in conjunction with the MS degree or alone (aka Direct PhD). Most students joining the department enter the PhD program in Stage 1, during which they 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
Click here for information on getting your MS degree in ME or TAM.*
Students planning to take the new format of the qualifying exam must complete the prerequisite requirement (details below) prior to registering for the exam.
A student pursuing the PhD alone (Direct PhD) is Stage 1 until the prerequisite for the qualifying exam has been completed.
Stage 2: Qualifying Exam, PhD Coursework, Preliminary Examination
The Department requires graduate students to successfully complete a Qualifying Examination to formally enter the Ph.D. program.
There are two formats for ME qualifying examination, the “old format” and the “new format.” The new format will be available from Fall 2016. Current graduate students who have not taken their qualifying exam yet can opt for either the old format or the new format. Graduate students joining the department beginning Spring 2017 can take their qualifying exam in the new format only. Current students (enrolled during Fall 2016 or earlier) who are taking the exam during AY 16-17 are required to let the Graduate Programs Office know of their choice of the qualifying exam format by August 30, 2016. Once the choice is made, it cannot be changed.
Available as an option to students whose first term of enrollment is Fall 2016 or earlier. The last offering of the old format will be August 2018.
Students are required to take the exam within one calendar year of completion of their MS degree. You can download sample examinations should you want them. Also, please download the exam scheduling guidelines and both the research examination proposal cover sheet and PhD qualifying examination registration form to schedule your exam.
New format (starting Fall 2016)
ME PhD Qualifying Examination (beginning Fall 2016)
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 article 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.
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.
Oral Examination Committee: A committee of two faculty members appointed by the Associate Head for each examinee will administer the hour-long oral exam. The committee may not have the student’s thesis advisor.
Journal article: The student will be examined on a published, peer-reviewed archival journal article related to student’s research. The student’s adviser may suggest a list of papers to the examining committee. The committee may choose the paper from the list, or it can choose the paper outside the list. These articles are expected to be comprehensive representing a seminal work in the field. The article will be provided to the student two weeks ahead of the exam. In addition to reading the article, the student is expected to review the related literature.
Grading: The student must present the material from the article in 30 minutes, and answer committee’s questions in the remaining 30 mins. 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, 471, 570; TAM 470, 570, 574
Controls: ME 446, 460, 461, 541, 561, 562; AE 403, 454, 504, 555, 556; ECE 486, 515 (same as ME 540), 517, 553, 555, 568, 573
Dynamics: ME 440, 546 (same as ECE 528); TAM 412, 416, 514, 518; 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 411 (same as AE 412), 412, 420, 504, 520, 521, 522, 523
Manufacturing: ME 450, 451, 452, 541, 550, 554; AE 526
Mechanics of Materials: ME 430, 431, 530, 531, 532, 533; TAM 424, 427, 428, 524; AE 525, 526
MEMS/NEMS: ME 485, 487, 523, 586
Solid Mechanics: TAM 445, 451, 456, 529, 545, 551, 552, 554, 555, 557; AE 522, 523, 528, 529, 550
Biomechanics: ME 481, 482, 483; TAM 461
Thermodynamics: ME 400, 404; CHEM 544; PHYS 427, 504
If the PhD is pursued following a masters degree, the coursework requirements are 32 hours of graded coursework to include: 16 hours of 500-level, including 3-4 hours of advanced (500-level) math to be chosen from the approved list. The advanced 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.**
If the PhD is pursued directly after the bachelor degree, the coursework requirements are 56 hours of formal graded coursework to include: 24 hours at the 500 level, 4 of which may be ME 597 Independent Study.
MSE 492 Fundamentals of Laboratory Safety is required and students are expected to complete the course within their first academic year. Students who completed an MS at UIUC and took this course as part of the MS do not need to repeat it.
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, download the Guidelines for, and the administration of, the Doctoral Preliminary Examination and the Doctoral Final Examination. Students should submit Form A (for Preliminary Examination) to the MechSE Graduate Office (166 MEB) at least 3 weeks prior to the approximate exam date. Form B, along with an electronic copy of the proposal should be submitted to the MechSE Graduate Office at least one week prior to the exam.
Continuous registration in ME 590 is required until completion of the final exam. 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.
STUDENTS are responsible for preparing the Thesis/Dissertation Approval Form, “TDA” (formerly known as the “Red Boarder” form). They should print three original copies of the form to bring to the exam. The form is found at http://www.grad.illinois.edu/forms/tda . All information required on the form should be entered by the student before printing off the form . The only handwritten item on the form will be the signatures of the Committee Members. To schedule your exam, download the Guidelines for, and the administration of, the Doctoral Preliminary Examination and the Doctoral Final Examination. Students should submit Form C (for Final Examination) to the MechSE Graduate Office (166 MEB) at least 3 weeks prior to the approximate exam date. Students must submit Form D, along with an electronic copy of the abstract at least two weeks prior to the exam. This will allow time for the announcement to be published in MechSE e-week.
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 TAM 500 is required until completion of the final 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.
If you are enrolled in a course that is in conflict with ME 590/TAM 500 MechSE Seminar, you need to e-mail the Undergraduate office (mechse-ug-adviseillinois [dot] edu
) and provide your name, UIN, and the course that you are enrolled in that is in conflict with the seminar. You will receive an e-mail notification that a registration override has been put on for you. Once that is done, you will go back in to the student self-service system and register for ME 590 or TAM 500. The Graduate Programs Office will receive a copy of the e-mail notifying you that the registration override has been put on. You will be allowed to attend alternative seminars to meet the ME 590/TAM 500 requirement. Alternative seminars include: Other MechSE seminars not included in the MechSE Seminar Series (such as ME 591 MIG, ME 591 BIG, and TAM 539 Fluids Seminar), seminars from any other Engineering Department and Math and Physics. However, if you attend an alternative seminar, you must take an attendance verification form
and have it signed by the seminar host and return it to the Graduate Programs Office. If an attendance verification form is not received, you will not be awarded credit for attending.