Mechanical Sciences and Engineering

The Ph.D. program in Mechanical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn educates and trains talented students who will conduct original and innovative research in the engineering field, educate future generations, and play leading roles in developing cutting edge technologies while working in industry, academia, and government. The doctoral program has a strong orientation toward the interfaces between the science of mechanical engineering and other areas. In addition to the core mechanical engineering subfields, such as mechanical and thermo-fluid sciences, the program’s areas of research training include the emerging fields in which mechanical engineering intersects with the materials sciences, bioengineering, automotive engineering, optical engineering, and advanced energy technologies.   

The Ph.D. program is highly selective and offers admission to exceptional students who have completed a Bachelor's or Master's degree in engineering, applied math, computer science, or physical science.

All students admitted for full-time study receive a competitive financial aid package in the form of an appointment as a graduate student instructor (GSI) or research assistant (GSRA). 

All admissions are for the Fall term only.

If you have additional questions, please contact the program chair: Dr. Oleg Zikanov.

The specific learning goals of the program is that the graduates will have:

  • A strong foundation in engineering science and deep knowledge of the chosen field
  • The ability to conduct high-quality original research in the broad field of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering
  • The ability to communicate and disseminate their knowledge to a broader audience
  • Preparedness for varied responsibilities and opportunities of careers in industrial research and academia.

Ph.D. in Mechanical Sciences and Engineering

The MSE Ph.D. degree requirements include a minimum of 36 credits of coursework and 24 credit hours of dissertation for Ph.D. students. The implementation of the requirements is, by necessity, different for the three major student profiles:

  1. Direct Ph.D. students, who are admitted with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or a closely related field, but without a relevant Master’s degree. Students of this group must complete no fewer than 36 credit hours of coursework, 30 of which allow them to earn an embedded MSE in mechanical engineering degree. 
  2. Students admitted with a relevant Master’s degree (in mechanical engineering or a closely related field) from one of the Rackham school programs. These students must complete no fewer than 6 credit hours of coursework
  3. Students admitted with a relevant non-Rackham (i.e., from outside the University of Michigan system) Master’s degree. These students must satisfy the requirement of coursework in residence by completing no fewer than 18 credit hours of coursework.

For students entering with insufficient background in mechanical engineering and essential sciences, such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry, remedial coursework is assigned, which does not count toward the degree requirements.

The completed coursework must satisfy the minimum degree requirements specified below. Only letter-graded courses at the 500+ level will be allowed.

Each student is guided by a research advisor and a dissertation committee and must pass the following major milestones:

  • Completion of required coursework
  • Qualifying examination consisting of two parts:
    • Curriculum examination
    • Research fundamentals examination
  • Dissertation proposal examination and advancement to candidacy
  • Preparation of a written dissertation and its oral defense

Degree Requirements

For students admitted on the basis of a Master's degree, some of the requirements can be satisfied by the coursework completed during the Master's studies. This should be approved by the Ph.D. program committee and does not reduce the required total number of credits within the program.

GPA Requirement

To advance to candidacy, a student must have a cumulative GPA (Grade Point Average) of 3.5 or above on the 4.0-scale. Courses completed with a grade lower than 3.3 (B+) do not count toward the degree requirements.

Breadth Requirement

This requirement is for direct Ph.D. students only.

A student must take no fewer than two courses (6 credit hours) in each of the two major course groups.

1. Mechanical Sciences

ME 510Finite Element Methods3
ME 512Structural Analysis3
ME 514Advanced Stress Analysis3
ME 515Advanced Mechanics of Solids3
ME 519Basic Comp Methods in Eng3
ME 540Mechanical Vibrations3
ME 542Advanced Dynamics3
ME 543Vehicle Dynamics3
ME 545Acoustics and Noise Control3
ME 547Powertrains I3
ME 548Automotive Powertrains II3
ME 554Theory of Gearing and Applicat3
ME 556Stress and Stren Cons in Desgn3
ME 558Fracture and Fatig Cons in Des3
ME 560Experimental Methods in Design3
ME 563Advanced Instrum and Control3
ME 565Mechatronics3
ME 567Reliability Consid in Design3
ME 570Powertrain NVH of Elect Veh3
ME 580Advanced Engineering Materials3
ME 581Materials for Manufacturing3
ME 582Injection Molding3
ME 583Mechanical Behav of Materials3
ME 584Mechanical Behavior of Polymer3
ME 585Cast Metals in Eng Design3
ME 586Materials Consid in Manufactur3
ME 587Automotive Composites3
ME 588Production of Mech Products3
ME 589Composite Materials3
ME 591Degradation of Materials3
ME 595Digital Manufacturing3
ME 610Finite Elem Methods--Nonlinear3
ME 640Advanced Vibration Theory3

2. Thermal/Fluid Sciences

ME 521Dyn and Therm of Comp Flow3
ME 522Advanced Fluid Mechanics3
ME 525Computational Thermo-Fluids3
ME 528Fund of Boiling and Condensatn3
ME 531Statistical Thermodynamics3
ME 532Combustion Processes3
ME 535Advanced Thermodynamics3
ME 537Automotive Air Conditioning3
ME 538Vehicle Thermal Management3
ME 552Sustainable Energy Systems3
ME 571Conduction Heat Transfer3
ME 572Convection Heat Transfer3
ME 573Radiative Transport of Heat3
ME 577Energy Conversion3
ME 592Fuel Cells3
ME 596Internal Combustion Engines I3
ME 597Internal Combustion Engines II3
ME 598Engine Emissions3
ME 622Adv Topics in Fluid Mechanics3

Depth Requirement

A least two courses (6 credit hours) must be in a sequence, i.e., belong to the same narrow field of studies (presumably the field of the student’s research work) and include a higher-level course that continues the ideas of a lower-level course.

Cognate Requirement

At least 4 credit hours of coursework must be outside the mechanical engineering area. The second mathematics class (see below) can be used to satisfy all or part of this requirement.

Other ways of satisfying this requirement with some restrictions are:

  • Engineering courses of 500+ level in a discipline other than mechanical engineering or the discipline of the student's Master's studies
  • Other 500+ level courses, if approved by the program committee
  • Completion of a University of Michigan Master's degree, which includes a cognate component
  • Completion of a relevant Master's degree from another university which had coursework that meets the expectations of the program cognate requirement, without transferring the credit to the transcript

No more than 6 credit hours of cognate courses can be counted towards the degree requirement.

Directed Study Requirement

At least 6 credit hours of research coursework, guided by the student’s research advisor, must be completed within the first two years of enrollment in the program. ME 600 (Study or Research in Selected ME Topics), ME 601 (Experimental Research in Mechanical Engineering), ME 602 (Guided Study in Mechanical Engineering), or ME 699 (Master's Thesis*) can be used for this purpose.

ME 600Study or Res in Sel Mech Eng1-3
ME 601Exper Research in Mech Eng1-3
ME 602Guided Study in Mech Eng1-6
ME 699Master's Thesis1-6

* Can be used by direct Ph.D. students only.

Elective Requirement

The remaining coursework must be in graduate-level engineering, mathematics, or natural sciences courses.

Methodology Seminar

This course must be completed within the first two semesters of enrollment in the program. The seminar includes required training in responsible conduct of research and scholarship. The seminar carries no credit hours. Passing is based on participation and attendance, with the exception of the responsible conduct of a research and scholarship training module, for which a test is required.

Ph.D. Research Seminar

Attendance at this seminar is required for all Ph.D. students, including those at the pre-candidacy level, during each semester they are enrolled in the program. The seminar carries no credit hours and is graded pass/fail based on attendance and participation.

Advanced Mathematics Requirement

ME 518 (Advanced Engineering Analysis, 3 credit hours) must be taken within the first two semesters of enrollment in the program. A second graduate-level mathematics or mathematics-related class of no fewer than 3 credit hours must also be taken.

ME 518Advanced Engineering Analysis3

A list of approved advanced mathematics courses is presented below. It is acceptable to use advanced mathematics courses to meet the cognate course requirement.

IMSE 510Probability & Statistical Mod3
IMSE 511Design and Analysis of Exp3
MATH 504Dynamical Systems3
MATH 5055Integral Equations3
MATH 512First Course in Modern Algebra3
MATH 514Fin Diff Meth for Diff Equat3
MATH 515B-Splines & Their Applications3
MATH 516Fin Elemnt Meth for Diff Equat3
MATH 520Stochastic Processes3
MATH 525Mathematical Statistics II3
MATH 551Advanced Calculus I3
MATH 552Advanced Calculus II3
MATH 554Fourier and Boundary3
MATH 555Func of a Complex Var with App3
MATH 558Introduction to Wavelets3
MATH 562Mathematical Modeling3
MATH 583Discrete Optimization3
MATH 584Applied&Algorithmic Graph Thy3
MATH 592Introduction to Topology3
STAT 530Applied Regression Analysis3
STAT 535Data Analysis and Modeling3
STAT 545Reliability & Survival Analys3
STAT 590Topics in Applied Statistics3

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination consists of two parts to be taken in sequence:

  • Part 1 – Curriculum Examination
  • Part 2 – Research Fundamentals Examination

A student must be in good standing (GPA of at least 3.5) and is given two attempts to pass each part. The time limits to complete the examination after enrollment in the program are two years for full-time students and three years for part-time students.

The examination committee consists of 3 faculty members appointed by the program committee, none of whom is the student’s research advisor.

Curriculum Examination

The goal of this examination is to ensure that students have good understanding of the fundamentals of mechanical sciences and engineering in the broad area of their research. The examination must be completed within the first three semesters of enrollment in the program and has two components:

  1. Good performance in three courses selected during the first semester of enrollment in the program. The courses must be passed with grades not lower than 3.7 (A-).
  2. A written examination on the material of one of these courses and the underlying undergraduate material.

Research Fundamentals Examination

This oral examination follows a successfully passed curriculum examination and, as a rule, occurs in the same or following semester. The objective is to ensure that a student has the necessary educational background and skills to conduct independent research in the selected area. The examiners test such aspects of the student’s preparedness as:

  • Depth and clarity of understanding in the selected area
  • Ability to make independent logical conclusions
  • Problem solving skills and creativity
  • Communication skills.

Dissertation Proposal and Advancement to Candidacy

The last step of advancement to candidacy is the dissertation proposal examination, the main objective of which is to ensure sufficient strength and feasibility of the proposed research topic, as well as the suitability of the student’s background and skills regarding the topic. The examination must be completed within a year of passing the qualifying examination.

The examination consists of a written dissertation proposal and its open-to-the-public presentation by the student. The examination is conducted by the dissertation committee. As a rule, the dissertation committee continues overseeing the student’s work to the stage of final dissertation defense.

Dissertation and Defense

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee consists of the chair and three members. The student’s dissertation advisor serves as chair. Of the three additional members, two must hold at least a 50 percent appointment as tenured or tenure-track faculty of the mechanical engineering department, with at least one being a member of the graduate faculty. The third committee member must be from outside the ME department—a faculty member from another department or another university, or an expert from industry.

The composition of the dissertation committee must be approved by the Ph.D. program committee.

Dissertation and Final Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation work, the student initiates the last step toward the degree—the dissertation defense process. The process follows the official guidelines and consists of the following main stages:

  1. Preparation of a written dissertation formatted in accordance with the guidelines
  2. Pre-defense meetings with the members of the program committee
  3. Written evaluations of the dissertation by the dissertation committee members presented to the Ph.D. program committee
  4. Oral defense of the dissertation consisting of two parts:
    • Public seminar and open question session held by the student
    • Private examination of the student by the members of the dissertation committee
  5. Final oral examination report and certificate of approval prepared by the dissertation committee and submitted to the Ph.D. program committee

Time Limit for Completing the Degree

Full-time students must achieve candidacy within three years of enrolling in the program and complete the degree within five years of achieving candidacy. The total time for completing the degree is limited to seven years after enrolling in the program. Extensions of the time limits in justified cases are handled in accordance to the program guidelines.