Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering
Requirements for students entering with a BS:
Candidates are required to complete the equivalent of fifteen (15)
credits to graduate from this program. Full-time PhD candidates
generally complete their
degree requirements in five academic years.
- Breadth of Technical Exposure (four credits)
Choose 2 out of the 5 core sequences
- Core 1. Fluid Dynamics & Heat Transfer
- Core 1A. ME 111 Thermal Fluid Transport I
- Core 1B. ME 112 Thermal Fluid Transport II
- Core 2. Dynamics & Controls
- Core 2A. ME 180 Digital Control of Dynamic Systems
- Core 2B. ME 181 Advanced Dynamics and Vibrations
- Core 3. Material Mechanics & Processing
- Core 3A. ME 122 Solid Mechanics or ME149 Continuum Mechanics
- Core 3B. ME 125 Materials Processing
- Core 4. Design
- Core 4A. ME 102 Inventive Design
- Core 4B. ME 149 Advanced Product Design
- Core 5. Human Factors
- Core 5A. ENP 162 Human Machine Systems Design
- Core 5B. ENP 163 Analytical Methods in Human Factors
Mechanical Engineering is a field of diverse engineering
science fundamentals and applications. The purpose of the
breadth requirement is to expose the student to the
connections between the sub-disciplines of mechanical
The Core A course is a pre-requisite for the Core B course
in the same sequence.
- Development of Analytical Capabilities (one credit)
The ability to apply mathematics, both classical analysis and computational techniques, to the formulation and solution of problems is central to engineering practice. The MS curriculum addresses this need in two ways. First, the application of a variety of analytical topics integrated within the Core courses. Second, all MS students are required to take one of the above courses to satisfy the mathematical component of this program.
- ES 101 Numerical Methods
- ME 150 Applied Mathematics for Engineers
- ME 108 Total Quality Control
These three courses are advanced engineering mathematics courses that emphasize different topics - analytical (ME150) or numerical (ES101) solution of ordinary and partial differential equations, mathematical transformation techniques (ME150), or statistics and process control (ME108). Students may elect to take more than one of the courses if they choose, in which case the 2nd course would count towards the "focus course work" requirement (see below).
- Qualifying Exam
The qualifying exam is designed to evaluate the student's
preparation for doctoral work, including knowledge of core
disciplinary material in mechanical engineering, the ability to
apply that knowledge to solve problems, mathematical
preparation, and the ability to communicate technical material.
The exam will also seek to evaluate the student's ability to
conduct research as evidenced by oral presentation of a prior
The exam will be offered twice a year – typically in September
Students in the PhD program (that entered with a BS) must take the
qualifying exam in their third semester.
Students in the PhD program (that entered with an MS) must take the
qualifying exam by the end of their third semester. However, they
may choose to take it earlier than this.
Students in the MS program that are considering a PhD are encouraged
to take the qualifying exam in their third semester, but are not
Students intending to take the qualifying exam must notify the department (via e-mail to the department administrator) the semester prior to the given exam.
The ME qualifying exam consists of 2 written components and 1 oral component:
Written Exam, part 1 (2 topic areas) on Day 1
Written Exam, part 2 (2 topic areas) on Day 2
Oral Exam on Day 4
Students must select four topic areas for the written part of the exam. These four topic areas are selected from the following nine options:
Cognitive Human Factors
Students will take one written exam in each of the four
areas selected. A faculty examining committee will be convened
after students have selected their topic areas.
A topic list is available for each of the nine (9) areas. The
topic list specifies the material that students should study in
preparation for the exam. These topic lists will be made
available via Trunk once the student informs the department of
the intention to take the quals. Students are welcome to review
the topic lists prior to selecting their topic areas.
Students are welcome to bring a calculator, textbooks, and notes
to the written exams. Phones, computers, and tablets are not
allowed. Students may speak with any member of the faculty or
student body about the exams, but it is emphasized that the
published topic lists on Trunk are the ONLY official source of
information about the breadth of material covered on the written
exams. The exam topics are NOT taken from any particular course,
and the authors of the exams vary from year to year. Students
should NOT assume that the questions will be the same as in
previous years or have any particular relationship to problems
given in courses.
Students will be evaluated both on their KNOWLEDGE and on their
THOUGHT PROCESS. When taking the exams, students should attempt
to clearly demonstrate both knowledge, and a clear and logical
The written exams will be distributed over two consecutive days.
Students should expect to take exams on 2 topic areas in each of
these days. Two hours and 30 minutes will be available for the
student to complete each written exam. It is intended that the
exam questions are of reasonable length so that the exam can be
completed within this time period without undue time pressure on
The oral exam will be offered after the written exams are
complete (on day 4 of the process – see schedule above). The
oral exam is intended to examine the student's ability to:
- Conduct independent research
- Answer technical questions related to that research
- Communicate technical content in an oral presentation
Students will give a 20 minute presentation based on any
past technical research topic of the student's choice. This can
be previous undergraduate research, summer research, a master's
thesis, a previous published paper, or research directed towards
the future PhD dissertation. The research that is described in
the presentation need not be complete; it can be ongoing work.
After the 20 minute talk is complete, the qualifying exam
committee will ask questions based on the research talk.
Questions will explore technical content related to the
presentation, the results of the research that was presented,
and the process by which the student conducted the research that
was presented. The student will NOT be questioned on any content
from the written examinations. The purpose of the oral is NOT to
explore the dissertation topic the student will select in the
The first time that students take the qualifying examination,
they may pass outright. If a student does not pass on the 1st
attempt, they may be asked to repeat selected portions of the
exam during the next qualifying exam period (exams will be held
twice a year). After the 2nd time taking the exam, students will
either pass, or be asked to withdraw from the PhD program. Any
student who is asked to withdraw from the PhD program, and has
not previously completed a masters degree in mechanical
engineering, will have the opportunity to complete the
requirements for a MS degree before leaving the program.
Focus Course Work (seven credits)
The remaining courses should be selected by students in
consultation with their advisor(s). These elective courses
should be relevant to dissertation work, and must be at the
graduate level (100 or above). One of the required graduate
courses must be at the 200 level, but students are encouraged to
take additional 200-level courses (these courses may be taken
from outside the ME Department with department approval). The
Department recommends a design course as part of the program of
study. Taking multiple courses outside of engineering and the
sciences are exceptions in this program requiring departmental
approval prior to registration; otherwise such courses will not
be counted towards the degree requirements.
Seminar (no credit)
- ME 291 ME Graduate Seminar (fall semester)
- ME 292 ME Graduate Seminar (spring semester)
Regular attendance at Mechanical Engineering weekly Seminar
Series is an integral part of full-time PhD studies. The
seminars feature speakers from both inside and outside of Tufts.
The seminars provide students and faculty with an opportunity to
learn about the latest developments in mechanical engineering
research and practice.
All full-time mechanical engineering PhD students are required
to register for the ME Seminar every semester. As part of this
requirement, a student must pass the seminar course by attending
at least 80% of the seminars in the semester. Students who pass
the seminar will receive an "S" on their transcript; students
who fail the seminar will receive a "U" on their transcript.
Dissertation (three credits)
- ME 297 PhD Thesis (fall semester)
- ME 298 PhD Research (spring semester)
Preparation of a dissertation representing an independent
research work is a pivotal phase of the PhD degree program. It
provides the student with an opportunity to work on an
open-ended problem, developing a particular solution that is not
pre-determined and involving synthesis of knowledge and
All PhD candidates must submit a thesis prospectus summarizing
the thesis problem and planned approach. The prospectus should
also identify the four members of the thesis committee including
the primary advisor(s), other faculty members at least one of
whom is from outside the ME Department, and another member from
outside of Tufts University. The purpose of the prospectus is to
inform the department about the candidate's research program and
those involved. The proposed research must be formally defended
in an oral presentation before the end of the sixth semester in
the program. The prospectus must be signed by all committee
members, except the outside expert, and submitted to the
Department. Copies of past prospectuses are available in the ME
Students receive a grade of Y (incomplete) in the above courses
as long as the thesis in progress. Eventual dissertation grades
replace the incomplete grades upon formal completion of the
The examining committee for doctoral candidates should consist
of a minimum of four (4) members with one member from a
different Tufts department, and one member from outside the
University. The committee chair is normally a full-time,
tenure-track faculty member from the department. Exceptions must
be approved by the dean.
The PhD dissertation is completed upon a successful oral
defense, open to the community, and submittal of an approved
dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies. The thesis
examination committee is composed of at least four members. It
includes the dissertation advisor, an additional ME Department
faculty member, one faculty member from outside the department,
and one technical expert outside of Tufts University. The
student should consult Graduate Student Handbook for specific
dates and deadlines for this process in the graduation semester.
Degree completion and recommendation for the award of the
appropriate degree involves a coordinated set of steps within
and outside of the Department. In order to ensure completion of
all the program requirements, a degree candidate should complete
the MS Tracking Form.
Special Note: As students complete the steps listed below, they
should pay careful attention to the deadlines set by the Office
of Graduate Studies for submitting a thesis and other degree
related work to complete degree requirements in time for
February, May, or August degrees.
Step 1: The first step in the process is filing the "Doctoral
Degree Sheet" available on-line and also submitting the Graduate
Exit Survey. The student fills out the degree sheet, obtains
approval from his/her academic advisor, and submits it to the
Department Chair for approval. The Department then sends the
approved form to Student Services for processing and retains a
copy as part of the student's record. Upon receiving of this
form, Student Services places the student on the "Graduate
Degree Listing" for the next degree awarding cycle (February,
May, or August). Specific due dates for these forms are provided
in the Graduate School handbook for the graduation year.
Step 2: The second step in the process is scheduling and
defending the dissertation. The student, in consultation with
his/her thesis advisor is responsible for selecting the date,
the dissertation committee and the required room reservation.
Ask the department office staff for assistance. The dissertation
defense is a public presentation open to the entire community.
In order to provide adequate time for publicizing this event,
the student must inform the department of the impending defense
A minimum of ONE WEEK before the defense, the graduating student
must provide the department with the following information
electronically (via email to
- Student's Name
- PhD Dissertation Title
- Date, Time, and Place of Dissertation Defense
- Committee Members and Affiliations including identification of
- 100-200 word Abstract
In the interest of public presentation, this requirement is
strictly enforced and no exception is granted.
Step 3: Upon a successful defense of the thesis, the third step
in the process is finalizing the thesis in accordance with the
examining committee's recommendations. The thesis in its final
form is submitted electronically along with the appropriate
paperwork as per Graduate Student Handbook. The handbook also
provides a detailed description of the thesis format and
- Degree Continuation
ME 501-PT Part PhD Time Continuation
ME 502-FT Full PhD Time Continuation
Students whose research requires work beyond the semesters in which they are registered for PhD dissertation must register for continuation. A student must be enrolled at Tufts for every semester during the academic year until graduation; otherwise he/she will be administratively withdrawn from the University. A per semester continuation fee is assessed to students who require additional time over the expected completion period - four and a half years for full-time doctoral programs. Tuition scholarship CANNOT be applied to this fee. An exception to this rule is when a student is granted a leave of absence. International students must have full-time status at all times. International students cannot take a leave of absence and remain in the United States.
Marching Only Policy at Commencement: Engineering students are allowed to march at Commencement if they have only one lecture course credit remaining to fulfill all degree requirements. All thesis and project requirements must be completed and approved in order to be allowed to march in Commencement.