Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree

The Department of Mechanical Engineering offers a dissertation option for a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Areas of study in Mechanical Engineering include:

  1. Biomechanics and Biomaterials: biomechanics of human motion, biomaterials, orthopedic biomechanics and biomedical product design, transport phenomena, and drug delivery.
  2. Computational Mechanics and Mathematics of Computations: computational mechanics, finite element analysis, finite element methods and software
  3. Thermal-Fluid Systems and Heat Transfer: energy and thermal-power system design, heat transfer and computational fluid dynamics
  4. Mechanical Design, Manufacturing, and Microprocessor Applications: computer-aided mechanical design, continuum mechanics, computer-integrated manufacturing, computational mechanics, finite element analysis, machine stress analysis, microcomputer applications, and automatic control systems

Mission

The broad discipline of mechanical engineering enables students to have productive and rewarding careers, and to develop and improve new technologies in both traditional an emerging fields. Mechanical engineers apply fundamental principles to develop, design, manufacture, and test machines and other mechanical devices. Such devices include but are not limited to power-producing machines as well as power-consuming machines. Mechanical engineers are employed in diverse areas including but not limited to: the energy and power industries, the automotive and aerospace industries, and industrial manufacturing. Mechanical Engineering graduates also have careers in medicine and medical device development, patent law, engineering and corporate management, forensic engineering, and engineering sales.

The mission of the Mechanical Engineering Department is to provide our students with a high quality education, to generate and apply knowledge, and to serve both society and the engineering profession.

 

In support of our mission, upon graduation our graduate students will be:

  1. capable of performing research at the highest possible level and contribute valuable advances to their chosen areas of specialization;
  2. enthusiastic and have a strong desire to instruct young engineers in their chosen areas of specialization; and
  3. qualified to work at the most prestigious research institutions and universities in the world.

Admission Requirements

To qualify for graduate study in any of the graduate programs in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a student generally must have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited mechanical engineering program. However, a student with good pre­paration in some other engineering discipline or a related program, such as physics, may qualify by taking appropriate undergraduate courses specified by the Mechanical Engineering Department Graduate Admissions Committee.

Regular Status

  • For admission to regular status in the PhD program, the student must have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.75/4.0 for direct admission into the PhD program (“Fast Track”) or 3.5/4.0 for admission with an MS degree.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are required for all applicants and are used in the evaluation process.

Provisional Status

  • For PhD applicants whose MS GPA is below 3.5/4.0, admission on provisional status will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • For PhD “Fast Track” applicants whose undergraduate grade point average is below 3.75/4.0, admission on provisional status will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

After the equivalent of one semester of full-time study as a provisional graduate student, the performance of the student is reviewed and will be (1) transferred to regular status, (2) dropped from the Graduate School, or (3) allowed to continue the equivalent of another semester as a provisional student. It is ordinarily expected that provisional status will not exceed two semesters. Provisional students are not eligible for GTA or GRA appointments, but may be considered for scholarship/fellowship funding based on need and available funding.

Minimum English Proficiency Requirements

These guidelines are subject to change by official action of the appropriate Graduate School governance bodies. Visit the full English Proficiency Requirements for International Students policy: http://policy.ku.edu/graduate-studies/english-proficiency-international-students

Admission:

The following are acceptable means for verifying English proficiency for purposes of admitting students – whether domestic or international – to graduate study who are not native speakers of English:

  • Graduation with a baccalaureate degree (or higher) earned in residence from an accredited English-medium U.S. college or university or a college or university in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, English-speaking province of Canada, or an English-speaking Caribbean country, with instruction conducted in English.
  • Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.
  • Receipt of an official copy (not student's copy) of an applicant's English proficiency standardized test scores (e.g. TOEFL) achieved not more than two years prior to the semester of first enrollment.

All students who are not native speakers of English and/or international students and who are admitted to campus-based programs are required to check in at the Applied English Center (AEC) upon arrival on campus. At that time, the AEC will confirm the student's level of English proficiency and determine if English courses are required.

GTA and GRA Eligibility:

Graduate teaching and research assistant eligibility requirements are distinct from admission requirements. Additional information on eligibility for graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants may be found in the GTA/GRA Eligibility Guidelines.

The Board of Regents policy on spoken English competency for graduate teaching assistants requires that non-native speakers of English demonstrate English proficiency by obtaining:

  • A minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK or TSE,
  • A 22 on the speaking portion of the TOEFL(iBT) with Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores of at least 20,
  • An 8 on the speaking portion of the IELTS (minimum overall score of 6.0, no part score below 5.5)

The student must be interviewed by three institutional representatives to determine sufficient English proficiency. More information may be found in the Kansas Board of Regents Policy on Spoken English Language Competency of Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants. Please consult the Graduate School English Proficiency Score requirements for admission and GTA/GRA eligibility.

Visiting Us

The graduate program staff is happy to work with all prospective students in determining the fit between the student and the program. In order to determine this, we feel that visiting our campus in Lawrence is a very important step. In order to facilitate your visit to KU, there are two main options:

  • The first, and most preferred, option entails simply applying for admission to the program. All prospective students are welcome to attend our Open House in early November and some highly qualified admitted students may be invited to participate in Visitation Days in late February or early March (prior to the fall semester of your intended matriculation). These organized visitation opportunities will allow you time to gather a great deal of first-hand information which we hope will help you in making a final decision about whether to attend KU.
  • The second option is making arrangements to visit us on your own, outside of organized events. With early notification, we will do our best to work with you to provide information and schedule appointments with faculty when possible. Please contact us if you feel that this is the best option for you.

Contact Information

Please contact the Mechanical Engineering Program Assistant at kume@ku.edu or (785) 864-3181, to schedule a visit or with questions about the application process.

The University of Kansas
Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program
3138 Learned Hall
1530 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7605

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree

A minimum of three full academic years, or the equivalent, beyond the baccalaureate degree must be spent in graduate study at the University of Kansas or some other approved university to complete requirements for the Ph.D. degree.

A minimum grade point average of 3.5/4.0 in Masters’ degree work is normally required for admission to a doctoral program.

Doctoral Qualifying Examination

For a student with a master’s degree, a qualifying examination will normally be taken in the first semester of participation in the doctoral program on regular status. It may not be taken later than the end of the second semester. For a direct admit with a bachelor’s degree, a qualifying examination will typically be taken after completion of 30 hours of graduate course work. The Doctoral Qualifying Examination is defined below.

The Qualifying Examination Committee consists of three or more members of the graduate faculty within the area of emphasis and are normally expected to be members of the Research and Graduate Studies Committee of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. A grade of pass or fail will be assigned and be kept in the departmental records.

Three evaluation criteria for the Qualifying Examination were established by the faculty on August 15, 2008.

Criterion #1: The student must demonstrate an understanding in a core set of fundamental undergraduate mechanical engineering knowledge.

Criterion #2: The student must demonstrate an understanding in a subset of core advanced mechanical engineering knowledge.

Criterion #3: The student must demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively through writing, oral presentation, and open questioning.

The faculty from the four areas of study in Mechanical Engineering, as defined by the Graduate Student Handbook, are responsible for developing separate methods to evaluate the criteria. The areas of study are: Biomechanics and Biomaterials; Computational Mechanics and Mathematics of Computations; Thermal-Fluid Systems and Heat Transfer; and Mechanical Design, Manufacturing, and Microprocessor Applications. The methods for the four areas to assess the three criteria area listed below.

Criterion #1

Assessment #1 (all four groups the same): This criterion will be assessed and satisfied with the current policies for entrance to the KUME graduate program. This includes the current requirements for satisfying deficiencies in the undergraduate mechanical engineering curriculum. At the time of the Ph.D. qualifying exam, the student must have satisfied and completed all requirements and conditions specified by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the SOE to address deficiencies.

Criterion #2

Biomechanics and Biomaterials Criterion #2: The student will select three 3 credit mechanical engineering courses numbered 700-990 (excluding ME 702, ME 860, ME 899, ME 901, and ME 999) with the approval of his/her advisor and the qualifying committee chair. The chosen courses should reflect the student’s interest in the area(s) of biomechanics and biomaterials. To satisfy this criterion, the student must complete the three qualifying courses with an average GPA of 3.5 or above.

Computational Mechanics and Mathematics of Computations Criterion #2: The student is required to demonstrate an understanding of 1) the fundamentals of mechanics, 2) the theory of finite-element methods and 3) applied mathematics, by passing written exams in each of these areas. The series of three written exams will be scheduled during one week each spring semester. Each exam will be graded separately. A student must pass all three exams to pass the qualifying requirement. A CONDITIONAL PASS may be awarded in the case of a student passing in two areas and failing in just one area. Additional conditions that must be satisfied may include extra coursework and/or a repeat of the exam in the area failed. A student failing to pass in at least two areas must repeat the entire exam sequence the following year.

Thermal-Fluid Systems and Heat Transfer Criterion #2: A student must demonstrate that they have an understanding in a core advanced thermal-fluid systems and heat transfer knowledge by completing a graduate level course with grade “A” in the following areas: Fluids, Heat Transfer, Applied Thermodynamics and Advanced Mathematics. A course from each area may be selected from the following.

            Fluids                                   Heat Transfer                 Applied Thermodynamics

            ME 711                                  ME 770                             ME 636

            ME 810                                  ME 774                             ME 637

           *ME 733                                  *ME 831 or C&PE 731      ME 712

           *ME 831 or C&PE 731                                                     *ME 733

            * Course will count in one area only

           Advanced Mathematics

           Courses selected from approved list

Equivalent graduate courses that are completed at other institutions may be used to satisfy the requirements. For a conditional pass, a student must complete with an “A” grade courses in at least two areas and obtain a “B” grade in each of the remaining areas. The student will be required to pass courses with “A” grades in the areas in which he/she obtained “B” grades, within a year or before taking the Ph.D. comprehensive examination.

Mechanical Design, Manufacturing, and Microprocessor Applications Criterion #2: The student will select three 3 credit mechanical engineering courses numbered 700-990 (excluding ME 702, ME 860, ME 899, ME 901, and ME 999) with the approval of his/her advisor and the qualifying committee chair. The chosen courses should reflect the student’s interest in the area(s) of design, manufacturing, and microprocessor applications. To satisfy this criterion, the student must complete the three qualifying courses with an average GPA of 3.5 or above.

Criterion #3

Biomechanics and Biomaterials Criterion #3: This assessment will be done over a three day period. On the morning of the first day, the student will be provided three published manuscripts within his/her research area. The student will briefly review the articles and then select one for the examination. There are two steps to the examination.

Within the first three hours of the examination:

The student will write and submit a one page summary of the chosen manuscript. No outside help or resources are allowed. A computer with word processing will be provided. The written examination will last 3 hours or less.

Within the next three days of the examination:

The student will prepare a PowerPoint presentation to be presented to the qualifying examination committee. The presentation should include a discussion of the manuscript content and an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. No outside help will be allowed, although the student may utilize resources such as published manuscripts, textbooks, and references as needed to clarify the manuscript content. This is not an examination of research methods. It is also not an examination of the student’s ability to assimilate a broad research topic. This is an examination of the student’s ability to effectively communicate the information contained within the chosen manuscript. Therefore, no other manuscripts should be referred to during the presentation. The oral presentation will last 20 minutes or less. The presentation, including questions on the manuscript content, will last 60 minutes or less.

Note: A set of SAMPLE questions corresponding to a SAMPLE manuscript (i.e. not the manuscript selected by the student) will be provided prior to the exam to give the student insight into the types of questions he/she should expect on the manuscript content during the exam.

Computational Mechanics and Mathematics of Computations Criterion #3: Under development.

Thermal-Fluid Systems and Heat Transfer Criterion #3: The student will give a 20 minute oral presentation to the qualifying examination committee. The material for the presentation will be from one of the following: the results of the student’s MS thesis research, the manuscript of the student’s published paper, or the results of a special research project assigned by the student’s major advisor. The student must provide to the committee an abstract of the presentation ahead of the examination. To receive a grade of pass, the student must demonstrate to the committee his/her ability to effectively communicate the information. For a student that receives a grade of conditional pass, the committee will recommend appropriate remedies. If a student receives a grade of fail, a second and final attempt will be granted.

Mechanical Design, Manufacturing, and Microprocessor Applications Criterion #3: This assessment will be done over a three day period. On the morning of the first day, the student will be provided three published manuscripts within his/her research area. The student will briefly review the articles and then select one for the examination. There are two steps to the examination.

Within the first three hours of the examination:

The student will write and submit a one page summary of the chosen manuscript. No outside help or resources are allowed. A computer with word processing will be provided. The written examination will last 3 hours or less.

Within the next three days of the examination:

The student will prepare a PowerPoint presentation to be presented to the qualifying examination committee. The presentation should include a discussion of the manuscript content and an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. No outside help will be allowed, although the student may utilize resources such as published manuscripts, textbooks, and references as needed to clarify the manuscript content. This is not an examination of research methods. It is also not an examination of the student’s ability to assimilate a broad research topic. This is an examination of the student’s ability to effectively communicate the information contained within the chosen manuscript. Therefore, no other manuscripts should be referred to during the presentation. The oral presentation will last 20 minutes or less. The presentation, including questions on the manuscript content, will last 60 minutes or less.

Note: A set of SAMPLE questions corresponding to a SAMPLE manuscript (i.e. not the manuscript selected by the student) will be provided prior to the exam to give the student insight into the types of questions he/she should expect on the manuscript content during the exam.

Plan of Study

On successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student selects a major professor from the Department to serve as the chairperson of the advisory committee and to direct the research. An advisory committee of at least five Graduate Faculty members from the School of Engineering with at least three from the Mechanical Engineering faculty is then selected by the student and his adviser to assist the student in preparing the plan of study (see following two pages), to conduct the comprehensive examination and to assist the student in planning research.

Courses completed without an approved program of study filed will not necessarily count toward the degree. The complete plan of study must be submitted before the end of the first semester and include the specific courses and all other requirements (research skills, research topic, etc.), and filed electronically with the Department and the Graduate Division of the School of Engineering.

A minimum of 72 credit hours of graduate credit beyond the bachelor’s degree is required for a Ph.D. For students with a 30-credit Masters’ degree in Mechanical Engineering, a minimum of an additional 18 credits of graduate course work and a 24-hour dissertation are required. If a Masters’ degree is not sought, 42 hours of graduate course work beyond the bachelor’s degree and a 30-hour dissertation are required. A minimum of 9 credit hours of the 18 (or 21 of the 42) must be mechanical engineering courses numbered 700-900 (excluding ME 702, ME 899, ME 901 and ME 999). A minimum of 9 credit hours of advanced mathematics beyond the bachelor’s degree is required.

Proficiency in Research Skill Area and Responsible Scholarship

The responsible scholarship requirement may be met by taking ME 801, in addition to all other course and credit requirements.

The Ph.D. student must demonstrate proficiency in at least one research skill area. Since the needs of students differ, the research skills are determined with the advice and approval of the advisory committee. Possible areas may include:

  1. Foreign Language. The aspirant may demonstrate a reading knowledge in a foreign language in either of two ways:
    1. Receive a score in the language on the Educational Testing Service Graduate School Foreign Language Test at, or above, the minimal level prescribed by the Graduate Studies Office.
    2. Complete a language course approved by the advisory committee with a grade of B or better.
  2. Computer Science. To establish competence in computer science, it is necessary to satisfy the advisory committee by demonstrating proficiency in a commonly used programming language and creating at least one original program.
  3. Laboratory Training. Specific training on research skills relevant to the topic of dissertation by the advisor in their respective laboratory with the help of senior students.

All research skill and responsible scholarship requirements must be satisfied prior to the comprehensive examination and reported to the Graduate Division.

Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

Following the completion of at least 18 credit hours of coursework beyond the master’s degree, a comprehensive or candidacy examination must be passed. The comprehensive examination shall consist of a presentation of the student's proposal for research on a topic previously approved by the advisor, followed by a public oral examination based on the aspirant's academic background. Through the Progress to Degree (PtD) system, the Department must request a record review from the School of Engineering Graduate Division as a pre-approval process for the comprehensive oral examination in advance of the examination date by a minimum of two weeks. The committee (typically the advising committee) for the comprehensive oral examination must consist of at least five members, all of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty and at least three of whom must be tenured / tenure track Mechanical Engineering Faculty (including the committee chair). Members are nominated to serve on the Graduate Faculty by their department in the form of a request sent to the Graduate Studies Office via the Progress to Degree system. At least one of the members must be from a department other than Mechanical Engineering. This member represents the Graduate Studies Office and must be a regular member of the Graduate Faculty at KU. The examination may be scheduled if no less than five months have elapsed from the time of the aspirant's first enrollment at this university considering that the Qualifying Exam has been successfully completed. The schedule for the examination should be announced (by email, web, and posted notices) throughout the Department at least 7 days in advance.

For every scheduled examination, the department will report a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If the aspirant receives a grade of unsatisfactory on the comprehensive oral examination, it may be repeated upon the recommendation of the Department and the request of the aspirant. The examination may not be repeated until at least 90 days have elapsed since the last unsuccessful attempt and no later than one year from the date of the first attempt. Normally, the aspirant will be terminated from the doctoral program if the comprehensive examination is not passed after two attempts.

After passing the comprehensive oral examination for a doctoral degree, the candidate must be continuously enrolled, including summer sessions, until all requirements for the degree are completed, and each enrollment must reflect, as accurately as possible the candidate's demands on faculty time and university facilities. During this time, until all requirements for the degree are completed OR until 18 post-comprehensive hours have been completed (whichever comes first), the candidate must enroll for a minimum of 6 hours each fall and spring semester and 3 hours a summer session. Post-comprehensive enrollment may include enrollment during the semester or summer session in which the comprehensive oral examination has been passed. If after 18 hours of post-comprehensive enrollment, the degree is not completed, the candidate must continue to enroll each semester and each summer session until all requirements for the degree have been met. The number of hours of each enrollment must be determined by the candidate's dissertation advisor and must reflect as accurately as possible the candidate's demands on faculty time and university facilities.

Dissertation and Final Examination

A dissertation is required of each doctoral candidate. The Ph.D. dissertation presents the results of the student's research investigation. It is expected to make an original contribution to technical knowledge of sufficient quality to merit publication(s) in refereed journals. A candidate for a doctoral degree must satisfy all Graduate School requirements for the degree and must submit to the major professor a paper or papers, based on the dissertation, suitable for publication in a refereed journal.

When the student passes the comprehensive oral examination, the Graduate Division identifies the candidate's Dissertation Committee based on the recommendations of the Department. The Dissertation Committee must consist of at least three members and may include members from other departments and divisions or, on occasion, members from outside the university. All members of the Committee must be chosen from the Graduate Faculty, and the chairperson must, in addition, be authorized to chair doctoral dissertations. A prospective member of the Committee from outside the university must have gained appointment as an ad hoc member of the Graduate Faculty prior to appointment to the Committee.

When the completed dissertation has been accepted by the Dissertation Committee, and all other degree requirements have been satisfied, the chairperson of the Dissertation Committee requests, three weeks in advance of the desired examination, the Graduate Division to schedule the final oral examination. The examination must be publicized at least 7 days prior to the date of the examination in the Department. At least five months must elapse between the successful completion of the comprehensive oral examination and the date of the final oral examination.

The committee for the final oral examination must consist of at least five members (the members of the Dissertation Committee plus at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty recommended by the chair of the dissertation committee and the Department and appointed by the Graduate Division). At least one of the members must be from an academic department other than the Department. This member represents the Graduate School and must be a regular member of the Graduate Faculty. The Department will report to the Graduate Division (byDo-All form) for every scheduled final oral examination a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory for the candidate's performance. If a grade of unsatisfactory is reported, the candidate may be allowed to repeat the examination upon the recommendation of the Department.

When the final oral examination has been passed and the dissertation has been signed by the members of the dissertation committee, a copy needs to be submitted electronically to the Graduate School, one bound copy to the major professor, and one bound copy to the Mechanical Engineering Department (with the funds needed to bind the two copies). In addition, the candidate must make arrangements for publication of the dissertation abstract in "Dissertation Abstracts International" Information on publication procedures may be secured from the Graduate Division. Recommended binding services for personal or departmental copies may be found at http://www.graduate.ku.edu/etd/submitting.

Program Time Constraints

Residence Requirement

Two semesters, which may include one summer session, must be spent in resident study at the University of Kansas. During this period of residence the student must be involved full-time in academic or professional pursuits, which may include appointments in this university for teaching or research if it is directed specifically toward the student's degree objectives. In this latter case, the student must be enrolled in a minimum of 6 hours per semester, and the increased research involvement must be fully supported and documented by the dissertation supervisor as being contributory to the student's dissertation or program objectives. The research work must be performed under the direct supervision of the major adviser if on campus, or with adequate liaison if off campus.

Maximum Tenure

The following time constraints apply for completion of doctoral programs:

  1. A student who enters graduate studies at this university with a masters’ degree from another university must complete all the work for the doctoral degree within eight years of the time of the initial enrollment in graduate work at this university.
  2. A student who leaves after having received the masters’ degree from this university, and later decides to pursue the doctorate, may apply through the Department and Graduate Division for readmission to the Graduate School. If readmission is granted, the student must complete all the work for the doctoral degree within eight years of the time of the first enrollment after readmission.
  3. A student who enters graduate studies at this university to pursue both a master’s degree and doctoral degree (consecutively) must complete all the work for both degrees within ten years of the time of initial enrollment in graduate work at the university.

Extension of the tenure periods specified above may be granted in exceptional circumstances for one year at a time by the Graduate Division upon receipt of a satisfactorily documented petition from the student concerned, supported by the Department.

A student in any of the categories listed above may petition the Graduate Division through the Department for a leave of absence during either the pre- or post-comprehensive period to pursue full-time professional activities related to the student's doctoral program and long-range professional goals. Leaves of absence may also be granted because of illness or other emergency. Ordinarily a leave of absence is granted for one year, with the possibility of extension upon request. After an absence of five years, however, a doctoral aspirant or candidate loses status as such and, in order to continue, must apply for readmission to the Department and to the Graduate Division.