The following information is provided as a guide to the pursuit of a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, including the general process and description of major requirements. This information should be considered a guide - the requirements for the degree are spelled out in the Graduate Catalog, the legal document which should be a reference for all graduate students.

The essential milestones for completion of a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering are:

  • Admission to the graduate school
  • Passing the qualifying examination
  • Selection a research (dissertation) topic and faculty advisor
  • Admission to doctoral candidacy
  • Completion of necessary course requirements
  • Research for dissertation
  • Write dissertation
  • Successful defense of dissertation

The program does not have a foreign language requirement.


Admission to the Graduate Program

New Students

Admission is based on GPA, GRE scores, letters of reference, and a statement of purpose. Generally, admitted students have an MS degree, but we also have a program to allow students to work on a Ph.D. degree directly from their B.S. degree.

Continuing UT Students

If you received your MS degree from the University of Texas and want to apply for admission to the Ph.D. program, you need to complete a form called the "Doctoral Program
Application". Pick this form up at the Graduate Office in the Mechanical Engineering Building.
On this form list three professors who will be willing to recommend you for admission to the
Ph.D. program. Turn the form back into the Graduate Office which will then contact the


Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is best described as a graduate understanding of upper division undergraduate and first year graduate courses. A student who has pursued an MS in the department can typically take the qualifying examination immediately upon completion of the MS, or possibly after having completed all or most of the MS course work. For a student entering with an MS from another school it is advisable to take at least one semester of graduate work (to get the emphasis of our faculty) before taking the qualifying examination.

Each of the technical areas within the graduate program administers its own qualifying examination. The structure of the examination will vary depending on the technical area and the area coordinator should be consulted for details. However, generally it consists of both written and oral portions, and is typically offered twice each year.

The Nuclear and Radiation Engineering Ph.D. Qualifying Exam is three 30-minute oral examinations on reactor theory, health physics, and the interaction of radiation with matter. 

A candidate may pass unconditionally, pass conditionally (with specific requirements such as additional courses with a minimum grade), pass a portion of the exam, or fail.

Successful completion of the qualifying examination represents the major requirement before being formally admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.


Selection of Research Topic and Faculty Advisor

The student should, immediately upon passing the qualifying exam, if not earlier, consult with faculty members in his or her area to decide on an appropriate dissertation topic and a faculty member to "chair" the dissertation committee that will be responsible for overseeing the student's doctoral program (courses and dissertation).


Admission to Doctoral Candidacy

The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) of the Mechanical Engineering department requires that a student pass the qualifying exam and be admitted to candidacy before accumulating 50 credit hours towards their PhD degree (this includes research and seminar hours). This rule was adopted to promote a timely completion of the PhD degree consistent with the University's "99 hour" rule.

Admission to Ph.D. candidacy requires that a dissertation committee be formed. The dissertation committee includes a minimum of five faculty members, including at least one from outside the department. This committee must meet to review the student's course program and dissertation proposal. The committee will typically make recommendations with respect to the scope and direction of the dissertation. Furthermore the committee reviews graduate courses taken, or to be taken, as part of the student's program of study, and may recommend that additional courses be taken. Courses to be taken are at the discretion of the dissertation committee, but the following minimum standard has be established by the Mechanical Engineering department GSC:

Completed or planned graduate coursework in the area of specialization, taken for grade, and amounting to a minimum of 18 credit hours (for students with an MS degree) or a minimum of 48 credit hours (for students without an MS degree). All graduate courses taken at another university are applicable, however, it is expected that a significant portion of the program will be taken at UT.

Based on the recommendation of this dissertation committee, the student completes the necessary forms for application to doctoral candidacy. One form involves a listing of the proposed program of course work (previously completed and yet to be completed); this form
is signed by the student's dissertation supervisor confirming that the list of courses in the program of study has been approved by the dissertation committee. Another form specifies the proposed doctoral program chair and committee members, as well as a fairly detailed description of the dissertation research topic goals. The Chair of the GSC and the Graduate Advisor (GA) submits these application forms for approval. Upon approval by the GSC and GA the application is submitted to the Graduate School Dean for formal approval. With this approval the student is officially a "doctoral candidate".


Research for Dissertation

It is recommended that the doctoral committee meet at least twice after the initial meeting: one or more times to review and possibly redirect the dissertation work, and a final meeting for the dissertation defense. In addition, it is expected that the research advisor meet regularly with the candidate during the development of the dissertation.


Writing of Dissertation

The candidate should recognize that it takes significant time to write the dissertation and should allow 2 to 3 months for the formal writing after all technical work is done. Also, the candidate should provide to the advisor as the first draft a complete manuscript, one that is completely satisfactory to the candidate and is in


Dissertation Defense

At a time when the candidate and his research supervisor feel the dissertation is complete and a draft has been completed, a defense is scheduled. Members of the committee should have a copy four weeks in advance of the defense. The defense and draft must meet the approval of the committee. If satisfactory, the committee will Pass the student and sign the Report of the Dissertation Defense. The candidate then has the dissertation prepared in final form, including any requirements specified by the committee, has it signed by the committee and bound. The finished manuscript must be approved by the Graduate School before binding. Two bound copies must be submitted to the Graduate School. In addition to these two bound copies, an additional bound copy must be submitted to the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Office.


Rules and Suggestions for Doctoral Degree Students

The primary guide to the rules for the Graduate School is The Catalog of the Graduate School. These rules are supplemented by the rules of the University and rules imposed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Mechanical Engineering Department. The University and the Graduate school allow some latitude to the Department regarding rules, however, our rules in ME are always more restrictive. The Graduate Advisor has the responsibility to interpret the rules in specific cases. The technical areas within ME also have rules and procedures enforced by the Graduate Advisor.

We do not mean to be all inclusive in the list of items below. The list includes situations where we have observed difficulties before. Read the Graduate School Catalog, talk with the evaluators in the Graduate School Office (MAI 101), talk to the faculty in the academic areas, talk with the Graduate Coordinator of ME (ETC 5.218), or ask the Graduate Advisor of ME (ETC 5.218) if you need clarification.

Registration and Courses

  • The "99 hour" rule: after accumulating 99 credit hours towards their Ph.D. degree, students will be charged non-resident tuition. The 99 credit hours include seminar, research, and dissertation hours.
  • Each semester, you are advised in your academic area concerning courses. A faculty member from the area must sign a form listing your proposed courses. You obtain final approval of registration materials in the ME Graduate Office.
  • If you are a continuing student, you should always pre register. If you do not pre- register or if your registration is canceled (due to non-payment), you will be handled last during the regular registration time, after new students are processed.
  • If you are a full time student, you must enroll for at least nine credit hours in each long
    semester (Spring and Fall).
  • The research course (ME 380M) and the seminar courses (ME 397K and ME 197K) may be used to fulfill your minimum enrollment requirement, but they do not count toward your graduate degree.
  • You may add or drop ME courses during the departmental add/drop period in the ME Graduate Office. You may not add or drop ME courses during the centralized add/drop period.
  • You must take the dissertation course for a letter grade.
  • If you are a PhD student, you cannot sign up for dissertation credit (ME x99R) unless you are admitted to candidacy by the Graduate School before the 12th class day in the Fall and Spring semester, and the 4th class day in the Summer semester.

Refer to the course schedule for the last date to change grade status (CR/NC or letter grade).

Assistant Instructors (AI), Teaching Assistants (TA), and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA)

  • Only after you have been admitted to candidacy can you be appointed as an AI. An AI usually has full responsibility for an undergraduate course. Once appointed as an AI, you cannot be appointed as a TA again. You may have TA duties, but not a TA title. You must also be paid at the AI salary rate. This has caused problems in the past so be very careful before accepting an AI position.
  • In order to be appointed for a AI, TA or GRA you must be in good standing (not on
    academic probation).
  • If you are appointed as a AI, TA or GRA, you must register, and remain registered, for 9 credit hours in the Fall and Spring semester. Summer appointments vary as to the number of semester hours for which you must be registered.
  • The different academic areas (Mechanical Systems and Design, Thermal and Fluid Systems, OR/IE, etc.) of the ME Department staff have TA positions in undergraduate courses. If you are interested in being a TA, you must contact the appropriate area well before the beginning of the semester in which you plan to teach. This must be done every semester, even if you have served previously.
  • Teaching assistants are assigned by responsible faculty in the academic areas (Mechanical Systems and Design, Thermal and Fluid Systems, OR/IE, etc.).
  • When appointed as a TA, you cannot withdraw to accept a GRA after classes begin.
  • An international student who is a TA must be certified as competent in the English language. The certification is done by the Graduate School.
  • Graduate Research Assistants are assigned by faculty members holding research grants or contracts. If you are interested in a particular research program, you must contact the faculty member directly.

You cannot be appointed as a teaching assistant and/or graduate research assistant for more than twelve long semesters.

Doctoral Programs

In some cases, a student with a BS degree may elect to proceed directly to the PhD degree. This requires submission of a written request to the graduate advisor, and approval from the graduate advisor.

You must pass a qualifying examination to be eligible to apply for Doctoral Candidacy. The qualifying examination is prescribed by the academic areas (with approval of the Graduate Studies Committee).

All required courses taken for your PhD must be taken on a grade basis. Any additional courses you wish to take may be take on a CR/NC basis.

Since the process of applying for candidacy takes several weeks, apply for candidacy well before the semester in which you would like to register for dissertation credit.

Once admitted to candidacy, you must continuously register during all fall and spring semesters unless granted a "leave of absence" by the Graduate School.

File a Degree Candidate Card in the semester you plan to graduate (during the first week in the semester). If you happen not to graduate, a new card must be filed in the next semester.