Thermal Fluids Qualifying Exam

The Ph.D. Qualifying Exam in the Thermal Fluids Systems (TFS) area is offered twice a year, usually during the first and second weeks of class in both the Spring and Fall semesters. Before admission to the PhD program, a student must pass the three oral examinations that comprise the TFS Qualifying Exam: Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics. In each exam the student is expected to demonstrate a graduate-level understanding and command of undergraduate material. In support of interdisciplinary studies, the option exists to take other qualifying exams in the Department in place of one or two of those offered within the TFS area. You must apply for the TFS Qualifying Exams two months prior to the beginning of the first day of class of the following semester. In addition to a confirmation of intent to take the exam, each student must provide his/her current UT Graduate GPA, the name of his/her advisor, and the semester they started graduate studies at UT.

A GPA of 3.5 or greater in UT graduate courses is required for a student to be eligible to take the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam. In extenuating circumstances where a student’s GPA is slightly below this mark, the student may petition the TFS Area Coordinator to take the exam. Such a petition must include an explanation of why the student believes they will be able to pass the exam and successfully complete a PhD degree, and must include a memo of endorsement from the student's advisor. The petition must be received by the TFS area coordinator at least two months before the beginning of the semester in which the exam is to be taken. The petition must first be approved by the area coordinator and will then be considered and voted on by the TFS faculty.

Students are expected to be able to pass all three examinations in their first attempt.

A student who fails one or more of the subject exams may be invited to take the examination a second time during its next offering, though this is not automatic. The decision to allow a second chance will be made by the TFS faculty based on the student's performance on the exam as well as the student’s record of academic accomplishment. In particular, students whose performance on any of the three exams is sufficiently poor will not be given a second chance to take the exam. If a student is not given a second chance to take the qualifying exam, or if the student fails to pass after a second attempt, the student will not be allowed to continue in the PhD program and will have to terminate his/her enrollment as a ME/TFS graduate student upon completion of an MS degree. When students are informed of the results of the exam, they will also be informed as to whether they will have an opportunity to take it again.

Students who are not invited to take the exam again may petition to do so, but such petitions will be granted only for very unusual extenuating circumstances. In the past there have been occasions in which students have petitioned to take the exam a third time after being given a second chance; frequently these petitions were granted. This will no longer be the case.

Since the TFS Qualifying Exams are oral exams, students studying for the exams will benefit not only from intensive individual study of the core disciplines, but also by practicing problems presented in this format. Students are, thus, encouraged to form study groups to practice the oral exam format prior to the exam. For study purposes, there are three prior exams from each subject listed below. This will provide the student with an impression of the breadth and level of knowledge expected. Students are also encouraged to consult with senior graduate students who have successfully completed the oral exams for insight regarding how the exams are administered and for help in preparing for the exams.

Student will be responsible for the following topics in each area:

Thermodynamics: (A set of thermodynamic property tables will be provided for the one-hour exam review period prior to the exam.) 1st law analysis, 2nd law analysis, thermodynamic properties of working fluids, power and refrigeration cycles, psychrometrics, combustion, chemical and phase equilibrium, and exergy/availability analysis

Fluid Mechanics: Conservation of mass, momentum and energy, control volume analysis, Bernoulli's equation, viscous, inviscid and potential flows, dimensional analysis, compressible flows, hydrostatics, internal flows and boundary layers.

Heat Transfer: Analysis of multidimensional and unsteady conduction systems; similarity analysis for semi-infinite conduction problems; development of convection heat transfer correlations; scaling analysis , integral analysis, and similarity analysis for boundary layer convection analysis; analysis of thermal radiation in enclosures (spectral and gray effects).

Prior to the exams, each student will receive an email with the scheduled time for each of their exams and the exam location. The student should see the Graduate Program Coordinator one hour prior to the exam time to receive a written copy of the exam problems, paper on which to make notes, and any applicable reference materials. The student will then have one hour prior to the exam to study the posed problems, make notes, and organize the presentation of their solutions.