Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering offers advanced coursework integrated with research leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering.

The program has three concentrations:

  • Thermal and Fluid Systems
  • Design and Manufacturing Systems
  • Mechanics and Materials
  • Biomechanics/Bioengineering

The Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering will be awarded to candidates who have displayed an in-depth understanding of the subject matter and demonstrated the ability to make an original contribution to knowledge in their field of specialty.

The regulations for this degree comply with the general University regulations (refer to Chapter 2: General Academic Regulations, and Chapter 5: Doctoral Degree Regulations).


Admissions Requirements

All graduate students must meet the university admission requirements as outlined in the graduate catalog. The minimum requirements for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering degree program are as follows:

  • Students whose native language is not English must achieve a minimum score of 550 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
  • Normally, a student must hold a Master's degree in mechanical engineering or in a related field with a GPA of 3.0 or better before being granted admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering degree program at UTSA. Such applicants may apply a maximum of 30 semester credit hours of previously earned graduate credit toward their doctoral degree. A maximum of 6 semester credit hours credit may be awarded for a master’s thesis (such as ME 6983). Each student’s transcript will be evaluated by the Graduate Programs Committee and credit will be designated on a course-by-course basis to satisfy the formal coursework requirements of the degree.
  • Outstanding students, who do not hold a Master's degree, may enter the Doctor of Philosophy program on provisional status directly upon receiving a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or a closely related field, with the special approval of the Graduate Programs Committee. Such applicants must have a GPA of 3.5 or better in the last 60 semester credit hours of undergraduate coursework in mechanical engineering or a closely related field. A student with provisional status must meet the course requirements of the Master’s degree program and all requirements of the Doctoral Program within two years of full-time equivalent studies at the Ph.D. program.
  • The Graduate Programs Committee will evaluate each applicant, approve the necessary requirements, and recommend corrective actions on a case-by-case basis.

Degree Requirements and Program of Study

The degree requires 90 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree or 60 credits beyond the master’s degree, passing of Qualifying Exam, Dissertation Prospectus, and Dissertation Defense and acceptance of the Ph.D. dissertation.

Curriculum (60 credit hours A through E)

  1. Common Core Courses (6 credit hours)
    • EGR 6013 Analytical Techniques in Engineering 3 credit hours
    • ME 6113 Experimental Techniques in Engineering 3 credit hours
    • ME 6973 Special Problems: Advanced Mathematics in Engineering 3 credit hours
  2. Technical Core Courses (6 credit hours)
    • Students are required to take at least two courses from the following list corresponding to their Major Area of study.
    • Thermal and Fluid Systems
      • ME 5243 Advanced Thermodynamics 3 credit hours
      • ME 5613 Advanced Fluid Mechanics 3 credit hours
    • Design and Manufacturing Systems
      • ME 5113 Advanced System Dynamics and Controls 3 credit hours
      • ME 5503 Lean Manufacturing and Lean Enterprises 3 credit hours
    • Mechanics and Materials
      • ME 5413 Advanced Solid Mechanics 3 credit hours
      • ME 5713 Mechanical Behavior of Materials 3 credit hours
  3. Elective Courses (9 credit hours)
    • Students are required to take at least three elective courses in consultation with their
      Ph.D. advisors.
  4. Seminar (3 credit hours taken for three semesters)
    • ME 7991 Research Seminar 1 credit hour
  5. Doctoral Research and Dissertation (18 credit hours each)
    • ME 7993-6 Doctoral Dissertation 3-6 credit hours
    • ME 7983-6 Doctoral Research 3-6 credit hours

In general undergraduate courses, general education courses, and prerequisites for graduate courses cannot be counted toward the total. The entire program of study must be recommended by the student’s dissertation advisor by the end of 9 credit hours of coursework, approved by the graduate programs committee, and must be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School for final approval.

The courses taken by students are intended to focus and support the individual’s mastery of his or her particular area of specialization.


Advancement to Candidacy

Qualifying Examination

All students seeking a doctoral degree at UTSA must be admitted to “candidacy” in order to become eligible to continue their research that leads to a PhD degree. The requirement for admission to candidacy is passing a qualifying examination. The qualifying examination of the PhD/ME program comprises two parts:

  • A written examination based on coursework
  • An oral examination based on the research interest of the student. After passing the qualifying examinations, the student becomes a PhD candidate.
  • Written Qualifying Examination:

    The written part of the qualifying examination is given in June of each year. Upon approval by their PhD advisor, students wishing to take the examination must submit their request in writing to the Graduate Advisor of Record before March 31. Normally, the written examination is taken by students who have completed the coursework listed under sections A and B of the curriculum in Table 1. Students who fail the written qualifying examination in their first attempt may petition for a second attempt. No more than two attempts are permitted to pass the written examination.

    The purpose of the written qualifying examination is to ensure that students pursuing a doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering have the essential depth and breadth of knowledge basis. The Department of Mechanical Engineering administers the written qualifying examination in the following four areas with the supporting courses:

    1. Common area

  • EGR 6013 Analytical Techniques in Engineering
  • ME 6973 Special Problems: Advanced Mathematics in Engineering
  • 2.Technical areas

       a) Thermal & Fluid Systems (two subjects)

  • ME 5243 Advanced Thermodynamics
  • ME 5613 Advanced Fluid Mechanics
  •    b) Design & Manufacturing Systems (two subjects)

  • ME 5113 Advanced System Dynamics and Controls
  • ME 5503 Lean Manufacturing and Lean Enterprises
  •    c) Mechanics & Materials (two subjects)

  • ME 5413 Advanced Solid Mechanics
  • ME 5713 Mechanical Behavior of Materials
  • Students are required to take the common area as well as a major area and a minor area from the three technical areas (a, b, c) of Mechanical Engineering.

    The written qualifying examination includes three parts: Part 1-Common Area (this is a mandatory area), Part 2-Major Area (selected by student) and Part 3-Minor Area (selected by student). The three parts of the written exam are given on three different days. The examinations are administered once a year in June. Each part (Common Core, Thermal and Fluid Systems, Design and Manufacturing Systems, Mechanics and Materials) consists of six (6) questions to be answered in three (3) hours. The examinations are typically in the form of closed books and notes. If needed, the faculty member preparing the questions provides a formula sheet.

    Oral Qualifying Examination:

    For a student who has passed the written qualifying examination in June, the oral part of the qualifying examination should be given in December of the year or in January of the next year. An oral qualifying examination committee, which includes at least three graduate faculty members, should be assembled by his/her PhD Advisor as the chair of the committee. The timing of the second examination is determined by the oral qualifying examination committee. The student prepares a 20-minute presentation on a topic of research interest, which highlights the research objective, motivation (need for research), literature survey, methodology, expected results, deliverables, and a timeline to complete the research.

    The objective of the oral qualifying examination is twofold: (1) to evaluate the student’s skills for understanding the literature and summarizing the “state of the art” in the area of research interest; (2) to form the dissertation committee of the student based on the interest of the faculty attending the oral examination. The oral qualifying examinations are broadly announced and all faculty members are invited to attend, ask questions, and provide feedback. After the oral qualifying examination, the oral qualifying examination committee determines if the student has passed the examination in consultation with Graduate Studies Committee. Students who fail the oral qualifying examination in their first attempt are allowed to make a second attempt. No more than two attempts are permitted to pass the oral examination.

    Dissertation Committee

    A PhD candidate needs to assemble his/her dissertation committee in consultation with his/her PhD Advisor. The dissertation committee members are typically selected by the student in consultation with the PhD advisor and approved by the Graduate Advisor of Record and the Department Chair. This process should start as early as the time when the student has selected a PhD Advisor. The dissertation committee must be finalized no later than one month of passing the oral qualifying examination.

    A dissertation committee includes the PhD advisor as the chair of the committee and a minimum of four members. Of the four members, at least two must be Mechanical Engineering graduate faculty members and one must be outside the department or UTSA, whose suitability will be subject to approval of the Graduate School. Part-time faculty may serve as members of the dissertation committee, but may not serve as PhD advisors.

    PhD Dissertation Proposal

    After admission to candidacy, the student should first consider research topics for his/her dissertation, and then write a dissertation proposal based on preliminary results. Normally, the dissertation proposal is presented to the dissertation committee of the student within one year after admission to candidacy. During this time, students take ME 7983-6 Doctoral Research (Table 1, Section E). The dissertation proposal consists of quantifiable and verifiable objectives, literature survey, methodology, preliminary work, deliverables, and expected contribution.

    A written dissertation proposal should be submitted to the student's dissertation committee at least two weeks before the oral presentation. The dissertation proposal should:

  • explain the basic idea of the dissertation topic,
  • describe why that topic is original, challenging, and important,
  • present an overview of the related work in the field,
  • state what kind of results are expected, and present preliminary results, if any, and
  • make a plausible argument that the study can be completed within a proposed time line.
  • The student should write the dissertation proposal as soon as he/she can address the issues described above. The dissertation proposal should be typically single spaced and 25-30 pages long. A public presentation of the student's dissertation proposal will be arranged and followed by a closed-door questioning by the dissertation committee.

    The oral presentation is typically a 40-minute talk, followed by a question-and-answer session. Following the public presentation, the dissertation committee will conduct a closed-door oral examination based on the proposal and on relevant background from the student's Program of Study. Only the dissertation committee members may attend the closed-door session. After the examination, the student will be asked to leave, and the dissertation committee will discuss the student's performance in the dissertation proposal presentation. The dissertation committee may recommend changes before approving the dissertation proposal. No more than two attempts are permitted for the student to get his/her dissertation proposal approved.

    Final Oral Dissertation Defense

    After the approval of the dissertation proposal, the next steps are writing the dissertation and passing the final oral defense. During this time, students take ME 7993-6 Doctoral Dissertation (Table 1, Section E). The final oral defense is administered and evaluated by the student’s PhD dissertation committee and covers the general field of the dissertation. The final oral defense consists of a public presentation of the dissertation, followed by a closed session with the members of the dissertation committee. It is expected that the material of the dissertation will be of archival quality and will be published in journals. The dissertation must be approved by a unanimous decision of the Dissertation Committee.

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