All doctoral students are encouraged to select a research topic and faculty advisor as soon as possible. Consult with faculty members in your area to decide on an appropriate research topic. Students also need to decide on a ME Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) member, normally the student’s faculty advisor, to "chair" the dissertation committee. This committee will be responsible for overseeing the student's doctoral program (courses and dissertation) after advancing to Doctoral Candidacy.

All doctoral degree candidates must complete the following milestones to graduate:

Pass Qualifying Exams

Students must pass a qualifying examination to be eligible to apply for Doctoral Candidacy. The qualifying examination is prescribed by the academic areas (with approval of the Graduate Studies Committee). The qualifying examination is best described as a test of graduate understanding of upper division undergraduate and first year graduate courses.

A student who has pursued an M.S. in the department can typically take the qualifying examination immediately upon completion of the M.S., or possibly after having completed all or most of the M.S. course work. For a student entering with a M.S. from another school, it is advisable to take at least one semester of graduate work (to get the emphasis of our faculty) before taking the qualifying examination.

Each of the technical areas in the department administers its own qualifying examination. The structure of the examination will vary depending on the technical area, and the area faculty member who serves as the coordinator should be consulted for details.

Contact your faculty advisor or area coordinator to determine the faculty member currently coordinating the qualifying exam. Generally, it consists of both written and oral portions and is typically offered twice each year.

View area-specific qualifying exams

In addition to the Ph.D. qualifying exams offered by the various technical areas, the Department of Mechanical Engineering offers an Interdisciplinary Qualifying Exam. This Ph.D. qualifying exam is open to any doctoral student seeking a Ph.D. degree under the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Studies Committee (NB: technical area approval is not required for a student to select this Ph.D. qualifying exam option).

Successful completion of the qualifying examination represents the major requirement before being formally admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

Selection of a Research Topic, Faculty Advisor, and Committee Members

Students must pass qualifying examinations before forming their committee for dissertation proposal and defense.

The dissertation committee recommends courses to be taken as part of the Program of Work, which should include at least eighteen hours (6 classes) of graduate coursework in the area of specialization for students with a master's degree or thirty-six hours (12 classes) of graduate coursework in the area of specialization for students without a master's. This coursework must be taken on the letter-grade basis. The Program of Work must be approved by the chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Admission to Ph.D. candidacy requires that a dissertation committee be formed. The dissertation committee includes a minimum of four faculty members, including at least three ME GSC members, and at least one faculty member from outside the ME GSC (who may be a qualified PhD from outside the university). The chair or co-chair of the dissertation committee must be an ME GSC member. This committee must meet to review the student's course program and dissertation proposal. The committee will typically make recommendations with respect to the scope and direction of the dissertation. Furthermore, the committee reviews graduate courses taken, or to be taken, as part of the student's Program of Work and may recommend that additional courses be taken. It is advisable to bring a draft Program of Work to the committee meeting and have it reviewed by the committee.

Program of Work

Courses to be taken are at the discretion of the dissertation committee, but the following minimum standard has been established by the Department of Mechanical Engineering GSC:

Completed or planned graduate course work in the area of specialization, taken for grade, and amounting to a minimum of 18 credit hours (for students with a M.S. degree) or a minimum of 36 credit hours (for students without a M.S. degree). Graduate courses taken at another university may be applicable if approved by the GSC; however, it is expected that a significant portion of the program will be taken at The University of Texas at Austin.

Based on the recommendation of this dissertation committee, the student completes the departmental Program of Work. This form is signed by the student's dissertation supervisor confirming that the list of courses in the Program of Work has been approved by the dissertation committee. This form is then turned into the ME/ORIE Graduate Office to be signed by the GSC chair and is held in the student's departmental file. Students must submit the completed Ph.D. Program of Work before applying for candidacy.

Apply for Candidacy

The written Program of Work should be submitted to the department before the online Application for Candidacy is submitted through UT Direct.

The process of applying for candidacy takes several weeks; apply for candidacy well before the semester in which you would like to register for dissertation credit. Students may not register in a dissertation course until they have officially advanced to candidacy.

The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) of the Department of Mechanical Engineering requires that a student pass the qualifying exam and be admitted to candidacy before accumulating 50 credit hours towards their Ph.D. degree (this includes research and seminar hours). This rule was adopted to promote a timely completion of the Ph.D. degree consistent with the University's "99 hour" rule.


Before the 12th class day: Verify your registration in _99W. You are expected to be in the W section of dissertation the semester you defend.

6 Weeks Prior to Defense: Any changes to your committee must be made no later than 6 weeks prior to defense and all members of the committee should agree to the committee change via the Petition for Change in Doctoral Committee. Original signatures are required on this form.

4 Weeks Prior to Defense: All committee members should have a copy of your dissertation.

2 Weeks Prior to Defense: All committee members sign the Request for Final Oral Examination. Each member's signature, or the proxy signature of the research supervisor for the member, is an agreement that (1) the student is ready to defend the research and (2) the member will read the dissertation prior to the defense. Members who cannot attend the defense are written on the back of the form. After you have received all signatures (including the Graduate Advisor), please email the form to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Once approved, the defense will be listed on the Final Oral Defense Schedule (EID REQUIRED).

Defend: Once the Request for Final Oral Examination is approved by the Graduate School, the research supervisor and student will be sent the Report of Dissertation Committee. This form needs to be signed by all committee members and the Graduate Advisor and submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Note: One non-supervisory committee member may be absent from the defense if necessary, but all members must read the dissertation and, when satisfied, sign the Report of Dissertation Committee form. Non-attending members must provide a written explanation for their absence and must agree to read and comment on the dissertation by the time of the defense. Important: Any student not graduating in the semester they defend must notify the Advising Office before the last class day of that semester.

Submit dissertation by deadline

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