Ph.D. in Mechanical Sciences and Engineering
The Ph.D. program in Mechanical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn educates and trains talented students who will conduct original and innovative research in the engineering field, educate future generations, and play leading roles in developing cutting-edge technologies while working in industry, academia, and government.
The doctoral program has a strong orientation toward the interfaces between the science of mechanical engineering and other areas. In addition to the core mechanical engineering subfields, such as mechanical and thermo-fluid sciences, the program’s areas of research training include the emerging fields in which mechanical engineering intersects with the materials sciences, bioengineering, automotive engineering, optical engineering, and advanced energy technologies.
The Ph.D. program is highly selective and offers admission to exceptional students who have completed a Bachelor's or Master's degree in engineering, applied math, computer science, or physical science.
This Ph.D. program of the Rackham Graduate School of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is located, administered, and offered by UM-Dearborn. The program observes the standards for admissions, registration, degree requirements, awarding of degrees, and other administrative policies and regulations established by the Executive Board of the Rackham Graduate School.
The Ph.D. degree requirements require a minimum of 36 credits hours of post-bachelor coursework and a minimum of 24 credits in dissertation coursework.
The program is a full-time, research-based degree with a strong orientation toward the interfaces between the science of mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and emerging fields.
Students are admitted for full-time study and all admission offers are for Fall (deadline February 1) and Winter (deadline September 1) terms only.
The Ph.D. program provides students with education and research training in the broad area of mechanical sciences and engineering, with specialization in the areas of active research of the faculty participating in the program. The requirements follow the Rackham Graduate School’s guidelines and ensure that all students have a uniform minimum background by the time they reach candidacy. The implementation of the requirements is, by necessity, differ for the three major student profiles:
- Direct Ph.D. students, who are admitted with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, bioengineering, or a closely related field, but without a relevant master’s degree. Students of this group must complete no fewer than 36 credit hours of letter-graded coursework.
- Students admitted with a relevant master’s degree (in mechanical engineering, bioengineering, or a closely related field) from one of the University of Michigan programs. These students must complete no fewer than six (6) credit hours of letter-graded coursework.
- Students admitted with a relevant master’s degree acquired outside the University of Michigan system. These students must satisfy the requirement of coursework in residence by completing no fewer than 18 credit hours of letter-graded coursework.
The completed coursework must satisfy the requirements specified below. This may require greater than the minimum number of credit hours.
The Ph.D. program does not accept transfer credits. Students may use up to 4 credits from a previously completed Master’s degree to meet the cognate requirement as described below.
For students admitted on the basis of a Master's degree, some of the requirements specified below can be satisfied by the coursework completed during the Master's studies. This should be approved by the Ph.D. program committee and does not reduce the required minimum number of coursework credit hours.
For students entering with insufficient background in engineering and essential sciences, such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry, remedial coursework is assigned, which does not count toward the degree requirements.
To train talented students who will conduct original and innovative research in the engineering field, educate future generations, and play leading roles in developing cutting-edge technologies while working in industry, academia, and government.
- Students will be able to demonstrate advanced knowledge of the foundational principles of mechanical sciences and engineering and the chosen specialization. (Tag: Theory & Tools)
- Students will be able to conduct high-quality original research in the broad field of mechanical sciences and engineering. (Tag: Research & Innovation/Problem Solving)
- Students will be able to communicate and disseminate their knowledge to a broader audience. (Tag: Scholarship)
- Students will be able to demonstrate preparedness for varied responsibilities and opportunities for careers in industrial research and academia. (Tag: Research & Scholarship)
The minimum requirements for admission to the program include:
- A bachelor’s or master’s degree in mechanical engineering or a closely related field with a minimum GPA (grade point average) at or equivalent to 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. Candidates with other engineering degrees or degrees from non-engineering fields are considered with the understanding that they have to complete remediation coursework upon admission.
- GRE general test scores are no longer included in the admissions process for Rackham’s doctoral programs as of the 2022–2023 admissions cycle. (More information available.)
- Submission of a full application package, which, in addition to the above, includes:
- at least three letters of recommendation (must be on letterhead and indicate the student's research potential),
- a curriculum vitae (CV) or a resume,
- an academic statement of purpose indicating the intended field or fields of research, and
- a personal statement that describes the background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational or other opportunities or challenges, that motivate the decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree at the University of Michigan-Dearborn
The expected backgrounds of successful applicants will far exceed the minimum requirements. We target students with:
- Strong background in natural sciences and mathematics
- GPA higher than 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and a degree from a university with a recognized high quality of graduates
- Demonstrated interest in research or prior R&D experience
- Demonstrated commitment to Ph.D. studies and a subsequent career in academia, research, or industrial R&D
- Proficiency in the English language and good communication skills
We understand the financial commitment of continuing your education. Our Ph.D. program adheres to the CECS full-funding model for Ph.D. students. All Ph.D. students receive full-funding in the form of an appointment as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Research Assistant (GSRA), or a combination of both which covers: a monthly stipend, health insurance, and tuition waiver.
Students admitted to the program are fully funded for up to five years. Funding is guaranteed based on continued good academic standing and adequate progress towards the Ph.D. degree.
In addition to the Rackham Graduate School policies for doctoral students, as a doctoral student in ME, you need to know the requirements, timeline, and processes for Pre-candidacy years 1 and 2, the Qualifying Exam at the end of year 2, Proposal Exam, and eventually your Dissertation Defense. See the Path to Degree section below.
Also, an Annual Progress Report completed by you and your faculty advisor must be submitted for review to the ME Ph.D. Committee in May of each year.
The ME Ph.D. Committee and your Faculty Advisor are the main resources for information and guidance throughout your program. The ME Committee is chaired by Dr. Dewey Jung, and includes Drs. Mathumai Kanapathipillai, Youngki Kim, and Yi Zhang.
Students must register before the first day of classes. A student who registers on or after the first day of classes (not including course adds, drops, or changes to initial registration) will be charged a late registration fee.
Ph.D. Continuous Enrollment Requirement
Students in Ph.D. programs must register for each fall and winter term until final completion of degree requirements unless they have received an authorized leave of absence or have been approved for extramural study.
Required Registration to Complete Milestones
- A student who takes candidacy or preliminary exams in a spring or summer half term must register in that half term.
- A student who defends the dissertation and/or finalizes degree requirements in a spring or summer half term must register for the full spring/summer term and submit the final dissertation and all materials by the published deadline to avoid registering for another term.
- Pre-candidates preparing for qualifying exams may be enrolled in 980, “Dissertation/pre-candidate,” for the number of credit hours that reflect their effort and as required by outside agencies such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Candidacy Registration and Enrollment Requirement
- Ph.D. candidates will be registered for 990, “Dissertation/candidate,” which consists of 6 credit hours for a full term.
- Ph.D. candidates register in the fall and winter terms for six credit hours of 990/Dissertation Candidate. Part-time enrollment is not permitted.
- A student who defends in either the spring or summer half term must register for 6 credit hours of 990 for the spring/summer full term, or for both 3 credits in the spring half-term and 3 credits in the summer half-term.
- A candidate who registers for a course (other than the 990) must seek prior approval from the faculty advisor and also register for 990.
- When a candidate registers for a course during the fall, winter, or spring and summer half-terms but does not register for 990, the Registrar’s Office will add the 990 to the term and assess any required tuition.
Please refer to the Path to Degree page for the procedures and forms for the following:
- milestone exams
- dissertation committee
- dissertation proposal
- final oral defense
To help the student become an expert in the selected specific field of knowledge, a detailed personalized plan of study is developed at the beginning of the student’s Ph.D. studies. This must be submitted to the Ph.D. director for approval during the first term of registration.
In addition, the student must select one of the two research concentration areas corresponding to the major areas of expertise within the department:
- Mechanical Engineering
As described below, the coursework requirements are different for the two concentration areas. Interdisciplinary study plans are possible and encouraged, but the coursework must satisfy the requirements of at least one concentration area.
Each year the Plan of Study and student's progress is reviewed with the faculty advisor.
Only letter-graded courses at the 500+ level count toward the degree. Courses completed with a grade lower than 3.3 on the 4.0-scale (B+) or a "U" grade are not accepted. To advance to candidacy, the cumulative coursework GPA (Grade Point Average) must be 3.5 or above on the 4.0-scale.
Each student must select one of two research concentration areas corresponding to the major areas of expertise within the department:
• Mechanical Engineering
For Direct Ph.D. students, the courses must be selected so that, in addition to satisfying the Ph.D. program requirements, they satisfy the requirements of one of the two MSE degrees offered by the Department: MSE in Mechanical Engineering or MSE in Bioengineering.
Advanced Mathematics Requirement:
ME 518 (Advanced Engineering Analysis, 3 credit hours) must be taken within the first two semesters of enrollment in the program. A second graduate-level mathematics or mathematics-related class of no fewer than three (3) credit hours must also be taken. (See Approved Course list below)
Engineering Core Requirement:
A student must take no fewer than seven (7) 500+ level courses (no fewer than 21 credit hours) from the department’s graduate programs in mechanical engineering and bioengineering (excluding ME 518--see Advanced Mathematics Requirement section above). Courses of other graduate engineering programs at the University of Michigan can be used if approved by the Ph.D. program committee.
The guided study or research courses (ME 600, 601, 602, 699, 791, BENG 600, 699) are allowed in this group, but for not more than 9 credit hours. The master’s thesis courses (ME 699 and BENG 699) may be counted as satisfying a part of the requirement if they have been taken during an earlier master’s program, but cannot be taken by a student already enrolled into the Ph.D. program.
A least two courses (6 credit hours) must belong to the same narrow field of studies (presumably the field of the student’s research work).
At least four (4) credit hours must be in 500+ level courses outside the engineering program corresponding to the student’s selected concentration area. The second mathematics class can be used to satisfy all or part of this requirement. (See policy below)
The remaining coursework must be in graduate-level engineering, mathematics, or natural sciences courses. Courses outside these areas must be approved by the Ph.D. program committee.
Research Methodology Seminar:
ENGR 700 (Doctoral Research Methodology Seminar) must be completed within the first two semesters of enrollment in the program. The seminar includes the required training in responsible conduct of research and scholarship. The seminar carries no credit hours. Passing is based on participation and attendance, with the exception of the responsible conduct of a research and scholarship training module, for which a test is required.
ME 798 (Doctoral Seminar) is required for all Ph.D. students during each semester while they are enrolled in the program. The seminar carries no credit hours and is graded pass/fail based on attendance and participation.
Courses of the Program
Courses from the department’s graduate programs in mechanical engineering and bioengineering at the 500+ level are eligible to satisfy the degree requirements. Virtually all courses are offered in the evening (typically from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. once a week). Most courses are offered online through distance-learning mode. All courses are three (3) credit hours except the guided research courses ME 600, 601, 602, BENG 600, ME 699, ME 791, 980, 990, which can be taken for a varying number of credit hours.
The courses offered at the other campuses of the University of Michigan will be accepted per a petition submitted by the student, endorsed by the faculty advisor, and approved by the program director.
Check with the department for a list of courses.
Advanced Math Courses
- ME 518 Advanced Engineering Analysis+ (required)
- 500-level courses offered by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering listed as satisfying the degree requirements for the MSE in Mechanical Engineering and MSE in Bioengineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Early Start Research Requirement Courses
- ME 600 Study or Research in Selected Mechanical Engineering Topics
- ME 601 Experimental Research in Mechanical Engineering
- ME 602 Guided Study in Mechanical Engineering
- ME 699 Master’s Thesis
- BENG 600 (Study or research in Bioengineering)
- BENG 699 (Master’s Thesis)
- ME 791 Doctoral Direct Study
- ME 980 Pre-candidate Dissertation Research
- ME 990 Doctoral Dissertation
At least 4 credit hours of coursework must be outside the mechanical science area. The second mathematics class (see the approved courses list) can be used to satisfy all or part of this requirement. Other ways of satisfying this requirement are:
- Completion of at least 4 hours of approved cognate credits, which must be from outside the ME department. The minimum acceptable grade for a cognate course is B+.
- Completion of a University of Michigan master’s degree, which includes a cognate component. This coursework must have been completed no more than 5 years before admission to the Ph.D. MSE program.
- Completion of a relevant master’s degree from another university that had coursework that meets the expectation of the program cognate requirement, without transferring the credit to the transcript. This coursework must have been completed no more than 5 years before admission to the Ph.D. MSE program. These courses do not apply toward the minimum 18 (or 36) credit hours in residence at UM-Dearborn required for the degree and do not appear on the university transcript.
The students are expected to engage in research work from the first months in the program. To facilitate that, each student should have a faculty research advisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering by the end of the first semester and an identified topic of dissertation research by the end of the second semester in the program.
There is an additional requirement that at least six (6) credit hours of faculty-guided research be completed within the first two years of enrollment in the program. Depending on the student’s advancement in the program, ME 791 (Doctoral Direct Study), ME 980, or ME 990 can be taken. Direct Ph.D. students may also take 600-level courses, such as ME 600 (Study or Research in Selected ME Topics), ME 601 (Experimental Research in Mechanical Engineering), ME 602 (Guided Study in Mechanical Engineering), ME 699 (Master’s Thesis), BENG 600 (Study or research in Bioengineering), or BENG 699 (Master’s Thesis).
The credit hours in these courses can be applied to satisfy either the coursework requirements (600-level courses and ME 791) or the dissertation research requirement (ME 980 and ME 990).
Time Limits for Completing the Degree
Students must pass the qualifying examination and achieve candidacy within two years and pass the dissertation proposal examination within three years of enrolling in the program. The total time for completing the degree is limited to seven years after enrolling in the program. Extensions of the time limits in justified cases are handled in accordance with the program guidelines.
It is generally expected that the student will complete the degree faster than stipulated by the time limits. The target time of degree completion is within five years.
- Concentration courses
- Core courses
- Depth courses
- Advanced Math course
- Early Start Research courses
- Required Seminar courses
- Completion of a 4-credit cognate course with a minimum B+ grade
Effective Fall 2020, the qualifying examination consists of two components:
- Part 1 - Curriculum Examination
- Part 2 – Oral Qualifying Examination
A student must be in good standing (GPA of at least 3.5) and is given two attempts to pass the exam. To sit for the exam, a student must have:
- Completed related coursework
- A 3.5/4.0 GPA overall
- A 3.7/4.0 GPA for all three courses selected for the curriculum examination
Achieving candidacy for the Ph.D. MSE requires:
- Completion of all required coursework
- Successfully passing the Qualifying Exam
- Completion of the RCR training workshops provided by the UM-Dearborn campus
- Selection and Approval of a Dissertation Committee
- Submission of the candidacy application form
Once candidacy is achieved, students must register for at least eight (8) credit hours of ME 990 (Doctoral Dissertation Research) in each fall and winter semester.
Dissertation Proposal Examination:
The dissertation proposal examination requires:
- Achieve candidacy
- A research advisor and agree on an appropriate topic
- Submit and defend a proposal for the doctoral research content
The examination must be completed within a year of passing the qualifying examination.
Dissertation and Defense:
The Ph.D. MSE requires the following:
- Passing the dissertation proposal examination
- Completing the required dissertation research credit hours
- Conducting an original research
- Preparation and submission of a written dissertation
- A Pre-defense meeting
- An Oral Defense of an approved written dissertation
The dissertation defense may not be scheduled in the same academic term as the dissertation proposal examination.
The Ph.D. MSE program has a limit of 7 years for completion. Students are expected to complete the degree within five years of achieving candidacy, but no more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in the Ph.D. MSE program.
Effective Fall 2020
The exam committee consists of three faculty members appointed by the program committee, none of them being the student's research advisor.
The goal of this examination is to ensure that students have a good understanding of the fundamentals of mechanical sciences and engineering in the broad area of their research. The examination must be completed within the first three semesters of enrollment in the program and has the following steps:
- A set of three mechanical engineering graduate-level courses must be identified by the student when the Ph.D. study plan is prepared at the enrollment into the program and approved by the Ph.D. program committee. One course should be in the area of the student’s research program (Research Area course).
- Good performance in three courses. The courses must be passed with grades not lower than 3.7 on the 4-point scale (A-).
Later changes in the list are possible only under exceptional circumstances, for example when the selected course is not offered and must be approved by the Ph.D. program committee.
For students admitted with a relevant Master’s degree from one of the University of Michigan programs, 500+ level engineering courses already completed during the Master’s study can be used.
Oral Qualifying Examination
This oral examination on the selected Research Area Course follows successfully meeting the requirements for the curriculum component of the qualifying exam and, as a rule, occurs in the same or the following semester. The objective is to ensure that a student has the necessary educational background and skills to conduct independent research in the selected area. The examiners test such aspects of the student’s preparedness as:
- Depth and clarity of understanding in the selected area,
- Ability to make independent logical conclusions,
- Problem-solving skills and creativity,
- Communication skills.
The composition of a dissertation committee adheres to the Rackham guidelines (see the Rackham dissertation handbook).
- The dissertation committee will consist of four members, including at least three tenure-track members (appointment as Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor) of the instructional faculty affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program.
- The student’s dissertation advisor, who must be a member of the graduate faculty of the department, will serve as chair or co-chair.
- Of the additional members, two must hold at least 50% appointment as tenured or tenure-track faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, with at least one being a member of the ME graduate faculty.
- The third committee member (cognate member) must be from outside the department: a faculty member with at least 50% appointment from a Rackham Doctoral program other than Ph.D. in MSE.
- The composition of the dissertation committee must be approved by the Ph.D. program committee and requires Rackham approval.
- A committee may have a sole chair or two co-chairs. By special arrangement, retired faculty members who were affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program or research professors may serve as sole chairs. Persons who may serve as co-chair, but not the sole chair, include:
- tenure or tenure-track members of the University’s instructional faculty who are not affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program;
- research faculty;
- instructors and lecturers;
- similarly qualified University faculty or staff, or person from outside the University; and
- former University faculty members who have moved to a faculty position at another university.
In the cases when it is justified by the nature of the student’s research and by approval of the program committee, the dissertation work can be co-supervised by two co-chairs. Both co-chairs must hold at least 50 percent appointments as tenured or tenure-track faculty. One of them must be a member of the graduate faculty of the ME department. The other can be from the ME department or outside it.
Please refer to the Path to Degree for the procedures and forms for the dissertation committee, dissertation proposal, dissertation, and final oral defense.
Dissertation Proposal Examination
The main objective of the dissertation proposal examination is to ensure sufficient strength and feasibility of the proposed research topic, as well as the suitability of the student’s background and skills regarding the topic.
The examination consists of a written dissertation proposal and its open-to-the-public presentation by the student. The examination is conducted by the dissertation committee. As a rule, the dissertation committee continues overseeing the student’s work to the stage of the final dissertation defense.
After passing the dissertation proposal examination, the student may proceed with the dissertation research and the writing of the dissertation. The dissertation should document the original contributions made by the candidate as a result of independent research. This research work should be of archival quality. In advance of graduation, all members of the student's dissertation committee must approve the dissertation. To obtain this approval a student must submit a written copy of the dissertation to the dissertation committee and defend the research work at a final oral examination open to other faculty, students, and the interested public. Students must be registered for ME 990 the full spring/summer term if defending the dissertation after May during the spring/summer term.
The dissertation must strictly follow the Rackham Graduate School Dissertation guidelines as described in the Dissertation Handbook Guidelines for copyrighting, publishing and distributing, dissertation embargo and distribution limitations.
Students are expected to complete the degree within two years of passing the dissertation proposal exam, but no more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in the Ph.D. MSE program. The Ph.D. MSE committee conducts annual reviews to evaluate progress toward degree completion. Students defending the dissertation must be registered in the 990 Dissertation Research course.
Dissertation Research Requirement
- At least 24 credit hours of doctoral research credit must be completed before graduation.
- Students who have completed the coursework requirements but have not reached the candidacy status should register for ME 980 (Pre-Candidacy Dissertation Research). A maximum of 12 credits may be completed in ME 980 Pre-Candidacy course.
- Students who have achieved candidacy should register for 8 credits in ME 990 (Doctoral Dissertation Research).
Note that the actual completion of the dissertation project is likely to take several years at full-time enrollment and, thus, require more than the minimum number of credit hours.
Upon completion of the dissertation work, the student initiates the last step toward the degree—the dissertation defense process. The process follows the official guidelines and consists of the following main stages:
- Preparation of a written dissertation formatted in accordance with the guidelines,
- Pre-Defense meetings with the members of the program committee,
- Written evaluations of the dissertation by the dissertation committee members presented to the Ph.D. program committee,
- The Oral Defense of the dissertation consisting of two parts:
- Public seminar and open question session held by the student
- Private deliberations by the committee,
- Final oral examination report and certificate of approval prepared by the dissertation committee and submitted to the Ph.D. program committee.
- Post-Defense meeting with the CECS Graduate Education Office