Ph.D. Examination Guidelines

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mississippi State University

Approved by Faculty: November 19, 1993
September 2006 Adoption
Updated by Faculty: August 2010, March 2011, May 2015

These guidelines complement the "Specific Degree Requirements--Doctor of Philosophy" as set forth in the Bulletin of the Mississippi State University Graduate School . Specific policies of the Department of Mechanical Engineering for the various requirements of the Ph. D. program are as stated below. These requirements are discussed in chronological order.

I. Qualifying Examination

  • Students who have entered the ME Ph.D. program are required to take the PhD Qualifying Exams after they have completed 18 graduate course credit hours or within their first 3 years, whichever comes first.  The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination will be administered once every year during the Spring semester. The philosophy of the exam is to examine the student's ability to synthesize a breadth of information in relevant topic areas. The exam is prepared with the expectation that the student has a fundamental understanding of undergraduate information.
  • The Graduate Committee of the Department of Mechanical Engineering will administer the examination. The qualifying examination is composed of the following eight major topical areas of Mechanical Engineering, along with their supporting courses:
Fluid MechanicsEM 3313
Heat TransferME 3313
Thermodynamics ME 3513, ME 3523
Dynamics - VibrationsME 3613, ME 4643
Machine DesignME 4403
Solid Mechanics - Strength of MaterialsEM 3213
Materials EngineeringME 3403
Applied MathematicsME 3113, Calc., Lin. Alg., Diff. Eqn.
  • Prospective Ph.D. students must take and pass four of the eight areas. Students will select these four topics with the approval of their advisor. Applied Mathematics must be one of the four areas chosen. The written exam will require mastery of undergraduate engineering topics listed on the syllabi of supporting courses. Copies of past exams are available from the Graduate Committee Chairman, Dr. Doug Bammann. Students with technical questions on specific exam topics are encouraged to contact the instructors associated with supporting courses in the topic areas.
  • The Applied Mathematics examination will be closed-book format, while the examinations in all other topic areas will be open-textbook exams. Each subject test will be 3 hours long.
  • Each Exam Task Group will forward the results of their Examinations to the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee will make a recommendation to the Mechanical Engineering faculty at a scheduled faculty meeting on whether or not the student should pass or fail the Qualifying Exam. Determination of the final result for each student (pass, fail, qualified pass, etc.) shall be decided by a majority vote of the Mechanical Engineering faculty members present and voting at the faculty meeting.
  • Students failing a portion of the qualifying exam in their first attempt may be allowed to retake that portion of the exam during the next spring semester. Students who do not pass the retake-exam could, with the consent of their respective academic advisor(s), petition to re-apply to the Mechanical Engineering Department to enter the M.S. program.
  • Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. students will only be required to take and successfully pass the MSU Ph.D. Qualifying Exam once, regardless of the completion date of their Ph.D. degree.

II. Preliminary Examination and Dissertation Research Proposal

The preliminary examination for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree consists of an oral examination that will be taken upon completion of course work and when the student's committee has approved the dissertation topic. The oral preliminary examination will also constitute the formal approval of the dissertation research proposal. A five to ten page synopsis of the research proposal must be submitted to the Mechanical Engineering faculty two weeks before the examination takes place.

The examining committee shall act as a “graduate committee of the whole” and will consist of the following persons:

  1. Members of the student's committee
  2. All other Mechanical Engineering faculty members with professorial rank

At the conclusion of the oral examination, each member of the examining committee will have the opportunity to discuss the student's suitability for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. After this discussion, a vote shall be taken by a show of hands, with each member of the examining committee having a vote. To pass the preliminary examination, the student must receive a favorable vote of two-thirds or greater of the examining committee members present and voting.

III. Final Examination

The final examination will be oral. The examining committee shall be composed of the student's committee and a representative of the Graduate School.

The examination will consist of an open and closed portion. During the open portion, the dissertation research results will be presented by the student in a fifty (50) minute seminar at which attendance will be unrestricted. Questions from the audience will be in order. Upon completion of the open question period, the examining committee will go into closed session with the student for further questions and discussion.

After both the open and closed sessions are completed, a vote will be taken with each member of the examining committee having a vote. In order to pass, the student must receive no more than one dissenting vote.