Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering
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:
- Biomechanics and Biomaterials: biomechanics of human motion, biomaterials, orthopedic biomechanics and biomedical product design, transport phenomena, and drug delivery.
- Computational Mechanics and Mathematics of Computations: computational mechanics, finite element analysis, finite element methods and software
- Thermal-Fluid Systems and Heat Transfer: energy and thermal-power system design, heat transfer and computational fluid dynamics
- 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
The broad discipline of mechanical engineering enables students to have productive and rewarding careers, and to develop and improve new technologies in both traditional and 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.
Graduates holding the Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering will be able to:
- Conduct independent, publishable, impactful research on a topic or topics related to mechanical engineering.
- Demonstrate the ability to learn new concepts and build new skills relevant to the discipline of mechanical engineering.
- Demonstrate expertise in at least one area of mechanical engineering.
- Effectively communicate advanced mechanical engineering concepts, both in writing and orally, at a professional level.
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.
Fall Priority Deadline: December 15
Spring Priority Deadline: September 30
Applications may be accepted after the priority deadlines listed above, but those applicants may not be considered for fellowships and assistantships. All application materials for international students must be submitted by March 31 for fall and September 30 for spring to be considered for admission. For domestic students, these dates are June 1 for fall and November 1 for spring. See the Graduate Studies website for the application procedure and fees.
- Online Application
- GRE scores (institution code = 6871; program code = 1502)
- One-page statement of purpose
- Resume or curriculum vitae (optional)
- Official transcript from each institution of higher education attended
- Three letters of recommendation
- TOEFL scores (international students; institution code = 6871; program code = 68)
- Financial statement (international students only if admitted)
Submit all supporting documents and your graduate application online. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are required for all applicants and are used in the evaluation process.
- Students who have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.75/4.0 or 3.5/4.0 with an M.S. degree are eligible for and will be recommended for direct admission into the Ph.D. program (“Fast Track”) on a regular admission status.
- For Ph.D. applicants whose M.S. GPA is below 3.5/4.0, admission on provisional status will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- For Ph.D. “Fast Track” applicants whose undergraduate GPA 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 Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) or Graduate Research Assistantship (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 Admission to Graduate Study policy.
KU recognizes several mechanisms by which applicants may demonstrate their English proficiency. The following are acceptable means of demonstrating English proficiency for purposes of graduate admission:
- Graduation with a baccalaureate degree (or higher) earned in residence from a regionally accredited English-medium U.S. college or university or from a foreign university which conducts all instruction in English and which maintains substantially equivalent bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree requirements
- Degrees earned online may not be used to demonstrate English proficiency.
- Demonstrates Full Proficiency: applicants are not required to complete AEC testing.
- Satisfactory completion of the entire AEC curriculum with a final university designation of "Proficiency Obtained"
- Demonstrates Full Proficiency: no further English-language testing or coursework is required
- Employment as an officer in the U.S. military with documentation of selection or promotion to the rank of Major or higher (or the equivalent U.S. Navy or Coast Guard rank)
- Demonstrates Full Proficiency: applicants are not required to complete AEC testing
- Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS-Academic, or PTE), sent by the testing agency to the University of Kansas. Official scores must be less than two years old at the time that Graduate Admissions processes the application.
- Scores demonstrate Provisional, Admission, or Full Proficiency
- In exceptional cases, a department, with written support from the appropriate school or college, may petition the Vice Provost for Graduate studies to consider alternative documentation of English proficiency. In consultation with the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty and the Director of the AEC, the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies will determine whether the alternative documentation demonstrates English proficiency at the level expected for regular admission to graduate study at KU.
- Demonstrates Provisional, Admission, or Full Proficiency, depending on the documentation provided
The Applied English Center (AEC) maintains a testing process for non-native speakers of English. This process serves to confirm each student's level of English proficiency and determine whether English courses will be included as a requirement of the student’s academic program. In order to graduate, students who are required to complete AEC courses must meet KU’s Full Proficiency standard as demonstrated by their performance in AEC coursework and/or testing.
- Students who are admitted in the Full Proficiency band are not required to complete AEC testing.
- All other non-native speakers of English who gain admission to campus-based programs are required to complete AEC testing upon arrival on campus.
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, and GA Appointments: General Guidelines and Eligibility.
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 test,
- A 22 on the speaking portion of the TOEFL(iBT) with Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores of at least 20, or
- An 8 on the speaking portion of the IELTS (minimum overall score of 6.0, no part score below 5.5)
In addition, all non-native speakers of English must be interviewed by three institutional representatives, including at least one student 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.
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 Campus Visit 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 involves arranging to visit us on your own (either in-person or virtual), 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.
Please contact the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program Coordinator at email@example.com or +1 (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
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree
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 Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, a minimum of an additional 18 credits hours of graduate course work and 24 credit hours of dissertation are required. If a Master’s degree is not sought, 42 credit hours of graduate course work beyond the bachelor’s degree and 30 credit hours of dissertation credit 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 801, ME 899, ME 901, and ME 999). A minimum of 9 credit hours of advanced mathematics beyond the bachelor’s degree is required.
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 should 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 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 19, 2019.
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.
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.
A) The student will identify three 3-credit mechanical engineering technical elective courses (excluding courses required for the KU BSME degree, ME 702, ME 801, ME 860, ME 899, and ME 999) and one 3-credit mathematics course from the approved list in the KUME Graduate Handbook (or approved prior by the Graduate Director). The chosen ME courses should reflect three specific subjects in the focus area of study. Equivalent graduate courses that are completed at other institutions may be used to satisfy the requirements. All courses must meet the approval of the student’s advisor and the Qualifying Examination Committee including a review by the Graduate Director.
B) OR, DEPENDING ON ADVISOR PREFERENCE, the student will be required to demonstrate an understanding of three specific ME subjects and mathematics by passing written exams in each of these four subjects. The series of written exams will be scheduled during one week each fall and/or spring semester. Each exam will be graded separately on an A to F basis and count similarly to a 3-credit course towards this assessment. Scheduling and generation of the exams is the responsibility of the student’s major advisor with other faculty assistance.
In order to pass this criterion, the student must achieve at least a cumulative 3.7 GPA over all four courses or exams. A conditional pass may be awarded for a 3.5 GPA or greater (up to 3.7 GPA) with the student required to address said deficiency in the lowest graded course by either (depending on advisor preference): (1) completing extra coursework in that subject while achieving an A grade, or (2) re-taking the exam in that subject area and passing with an A grade. The student must address this deficiency before taking the Ph.D. comprehensive exam.
The student will give an oral presentation that will last 20 minutes or less, and including questions from the Qualifying Examination Committee, the overall presentation will last 60 minutes or less. The material for the presentation will be a summary of one to three pertinent and related papers (with no conflict of interest) to the student’s Ph.D. topic area given to the student one week prior to the oral presentation date. These paper(s) will be approved by the advisor and the Qualifying Examination Committee.
Two days before the oral presentation, the student will provide a one-page summary (single-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman, 1” margins) to the committee of the material to be presented. No outside help will be allowed. To receive a passing grade, the student must demonstrate to the committee their 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.
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 their adviser to assist the student in preparing the plan of study, 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.
Credit by Transfer
No graduate credit may be transferred toward a doctoral degree, but departments may take relevant prior graduate work into consideration in setting up programs of study.
Proficiency in Research Skill Area and Responsible Scholarship
All doctoral students must meet the Research Skills requirement before proceeding to comprehensive exams. The requirement must include at least two components:
- Every doctoral student is required to have training in responsible scholarship pertinent to the field of research.
- Every doctoral student is required to obtain research skills pertinent to the doctoral level of research in their field(s).
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:
- Foreign Language. The aspirant may demonstrate a reading knowledge in a foreign language in either of two ways:
- 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.
- Complete a language course approved by the advisory committee with a grade of B or better.
- 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.
- 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
When a doctoral aspirant has completed the major portion of the course work at a level satisfactory to the graduate degree program and school (typically 18 credit hours beyond the Master’s degree, or 42 beyond the Bachelor’s degree) and met all other program, school, and general requirements prerequisite to the comprehensive oral examination, including the research skills requirement as appropriately applied and established for the student’s particular program, the degree program must request the Graduate Division of its school to schedule the comprehensive oral examination. It should be determined that the student is in good academic standing (3.0 or higher grade-point average) before scheduling the examination. The examination request (using the Progress to Degree system) must be submitted in advance of the examination date by at least the period specified by the Graduate Division, normally a minimum of two weeks. The Graduate Division ascertains whether all pertinent requirements have been satisfied and if reports of any previously scheduled comprehensive oral examinations have been properly submitted and recorded. http://policy.ku.edu/graduate-studies/doctoral-oral-exams
The 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. Its members are appointed by the Graduate Division of the school or college on the basis of nominations submitted by the graduate degree program. At least one member must be from a department other than the aspirant’s major department. This member represents Graduate Studies and must be a regular member of the Graduate Faculty. The Graduate Studies representative is a voting member of the committee and has full right to participate in the examination. In the case of any unsatisfactory or irregular aspects of the exam or violation of Graduate Studies policy, the Graduate Studies representative shall provide a written report to the Dean of Graduate Studies for consideration of further action. The examination may be scheduled provided that at least five months have elapsed from the time of the aspirant’s first enrollment at KU considering the Qualifying Exam has been successfully passed.
The comprehensive oral examination covers the major field and any extra-departmental work for which the program wishes to hold the aspirant responsible (students should discuss the oral examination requirements with their advisor and committee). For every scheduled examination, the degree program reports a grade of Honors, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory. If the aspirant receives a grade of Unsatisfactory on the comprehensive oral examination, it may be repeated on the recommendation of the degree program, but under no circumstances may it be taken more than three times. In any case, the examination may not be repeated until at least 90 days have elapsed since the last unsuccessful attempt. The schedule for the examination should be announced throughout the Department at least 7 days in advance.
Doctoral candidates are required, after passing the comprehensive oral examination, to be continuously enrolled each fall and spring semester in one or more hours of dissertation or programmatically equivalent coursework (for example, document hours for DMA students) that both moves the student towards degree completion and reflects, 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 (including the filing of the dissertation) or until 18 post-comprehensive hours have been completed (whichever comes first), the candidate must enroll for a minimum of 6 hours a semester.
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 until all degree requirements have been met. The number of hours of each enrollment must be determined by the candidate’s advisor and must reflect as accurately as possible the candidate’s demands on faculty time and university facilities.
The doctoral candidate must present a dissertation showing the planning, conduct, and results of original research and/or scholarly creativity. The purpose of the dissertation is to encourage and ensure the development of broad intellectual capabilities and to demonstrate an intensive focus on a problem or research area. The dissertation itself should be an evident product of the candidate’s growth and attainment of the ability to identify significant problems; organize, analyze, and communicate scholarly results; and bring to bear on an area of scholarly or scientific interest a variety of research skills and scholarly or creative processes. The dissertation must show some original accomplishment (sufficient quality to merit publication(s) in refereed journals and it is anticipated that the student will submit one or more journal publications prior to their defense), but it should also demonstrate without doubt the candidate’s potential to make future contributions to knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, a candidate for a doctoral degree must satisfy all Graduate School requirements for the degree.
Both the dissertation research and the dissertation itself are to be completed under the guidance and direction of the committee appointed as described in the Doctoral Student Oral Exam Committee Composition policy:
- Doctoral committees are composed of at least five voting members;
- The majority of committee members serving on a doctoral student oral examination committee must be tenured/tenure-track faculty holding regular or dissertation graduate faculty status in the candidate’s department/program of study. Tenured/tenure-track faculty who are appointed as courtesy faculty within the program/department are considered (for the purposes of committee composition) to be faculty of that program/department;
- One member must meet the requirements for serving as the Graduate Studies representative. A faculty member from a different department with a courtesy appointment in the student’s department may serve as the Graduate Studies representative or in fulfillment of the committee majority, but cannot serve in both roles at the same time; and
- Beyond the majority requirement, the additional member may hold any graduate faculty status, including regular, dissertation, or special status. This fifth member can be, but need not be, a member of the candidate’s department/program.
As long as the conditions above are met, the committee may include more than five members.
The doctoral committee chair must hold dissertation status. While committees are not required to have a co-chair, the student or the committee members may decide to select a co-chair. The co-chair can hold any graduate faculty status.
Substitutions of the committee chair (and/or co-chair) are prohibited after the committee has been approved by the Graduate Division of the school/college. If a committee chair (and/or co-chair) needs to be replaced, the revised committee must be approved by the Graduate Division in advance of the exam.
Substitutions of the committee members are permitted as long as the new members hold regular or dissertation graduate faculty status. Special members can be added after the committee has been approved by the Graduate Division of the school/college, but these additions must be approved by the Graduate Division in advance of the exam.
Dissertation Oral Examination
Completion of the dissertation is the final academic phase of a doctoral program, culminating in the final oral examination and defense of the dissertation. In all but the rarest cases, tentative approval of the dissertation is followed promptly by the final oral examination. When the completed dissertation has been accepted by the committee in final draft form, and all other degree requirements have been satisfied, the chair of the committee requests the Graduate Division to schedule the final oral examination. This request must be made in advance of the desired examination by at least the period specified by the Graduate Division (normally three weeks). The submission of the request must allow sufficient time to publicize the examination so that interested members of the university community may attend. The final oral examination may be held no earlier than one (1) month after the successful completion of the comprehensive oral examination. Departments, programs, schools, or the College may require a longer minimum interval between the oral comprehensive exam and the final dissertation defense.
The committee for the final oral examination must consist of at least five members (the members of the dissertation committee plus other members of the Graduate Faculty recommended by the committee chair and the department and appointed by the Graduate Division). At least one member must be from a department other than the major department. This member represents Graduate Studies and must be a regular member of the Graduate Faculty. Before the examination, the Graduate Division provides a list of responsibilities to the Graduate Studies representative. The Graduate Studies representative is a voting member of the committee and has full right to participate in the examination. In the case of any unsatisfactory or irregular aspects of the exam or violation of Graduate Studies policy, the Graduate Studies representative shall provide a written report to the Dean of Graduate Studies for consideration of further action.
The Graduate Division ascertains whether all other degree requirements have been met and it reports of any previously scheduled final oral examinations have been submitted and recorded. Upon approval of the request, the final oral examination is scheduled at the time and place designated by the Graduate Division. This information must be published in a news medium as prescribed by the Graduate Faculty. Interested members of the university community are encouraged to attend these examinations.
For every scheduled final oral examination, the department reports to the Graduate Division a grade of Honors, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory for the candidate’s performance. If an Unsatisfactory grade is reported, the candidate may be allowed to repeat the examination on the recommendation of the department.
When the candidate has passed the final oral examination and the members of the dissertation committee have signed the dissertation, a title page and acceptance page with original signatures are to be delivered to the Graduate Affairs office of the school/college in which the student’s program resides so that completion of degree requirements may be officially certified. As a requirement of graduation, the candidate must arrange publication of the dissertation and payment of all applicable fees, through the electronic submission process.
Moreover, the candidate must provide a bound copy to the major professor, and one bound copy to the Mechanical Engineering Department.
Program Time Constraints
The student must spend three full academic years, or the bona fide equivalent thereof, in resident study at this or some other approved university, including the time spent in attaining the master’s degree. Resident study at less than full time requires a correspondingly longer period, but the requirement is not measured merely in hours of enrollment. Because a minimum number of hours for the degree is not prescribed, no transfer of credit is appropriate. However, graduate degree programs take relevant prior graduate work into consideration in setting up programs of study leading to the doctorate.
Two semesters, which may include one summer session, must be spent in resident study at KU. During this period, the student must be involved full time in academic or professional pursuits, which may include an appointment for teaching or research if it is directed specifically toward degree objectives. Enrollment in approved distance-learning courses offered through KU cannot be used to meet the doctoral residency requirement. The student must be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credit hours per semester, and the increased research involvement must be fully supported and documented by the dissertation supervisor as contributing to the student’s dissertation or program objectives. Research must be performed under the direct supervision of the major adviser if on campus, or with adequate liaison if off campus.
After being admitted to doctoral programs at KU, students complete all degree requirements in eight years. In cases in which compelling circumstances recommend a one-year extension, the Graduate Division has authority to grant the extension on the written advice of the department and dissertation committee. Students who complete the master’s degree at KU and subsequently begin doctoral studies have a maximum total enrolled time of 10 years to complete both degrees. Normal expectations, however, are that most master’s degrees (excluding some professional terminal degrees) should be completed in two years of full-time study, and both master’s and doctorate in six years of full-time study. Some graduate degree programs may have more stringent time restrictions. Students should inquire about the policy in effect in the department in which they plan to study.
A student in any of the above categories 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 doctoral program and long-range professional goals. Leaves of absence also may 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 must apply for readmission to the program and the Graduate Division.