Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering
Requirements for students entering with an MS:
Candidates are required to complete the equivalent of eight (8)
credits to graduate from this program. Full-time PhD candidates
generally complete their
degree requirements in five academic years.
- 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 research project.
The exam will be offered twice a year – typically in September and
- 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 required to.
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
- 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
- Cognitive Human Factors
- Fluid Dynamics
- Heat Transfer
- Materials Processing
- Physical Ergonomics
- Solid Mechanics
- Mechanical Design
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 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
qualifying exam. 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 thought
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 student.
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 future.
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
- Focus Course Work (five credits)
Coursework 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. For
students that did not take the Design Core, the Department
recommends a design course as part of the program of study (e.g.
ME102, Inventive Design), although this is not required.
These courses need not be taken in mechanical engineering. With
advisor approval, students may take their focus coursework at the
graduate level in other engineering departments, in computer
science, in the physical sciences, or in mathematics. However,
taking 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
- 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 graduate studies. The seminars,
held on Thursday afternoons, 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 graduate 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 intellectual creativity.
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 Department office.
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 dissertation.
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.
- Degree Completion
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
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
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
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
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 in advance.
A minimum of ONE WEEK before the defense, the graduating student
must provide the department with the following information
electronically (via email to Pat Fennessy).
- 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 requirements.
- 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.