PhD Degree Policy and Procedures


 Table of Contents

1.           Graduate Catalog Requirements

2.           Summary of Course Requirements

3.           Seminar Requirement

4.           Academic Standards

5.           Qualifying Examination

6.           Additional Information about the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

7.           Committee-on-Studies (Cos) Chair

8.           Members of the Committee-on-Studies

9.           Time of Formation of the Committee-on-Studies

10.      Changes to the Committee

11.      Planning Coursework

12.      Application for Candidacy Form

13.      Language Requirement

14.      Comprehensive Examination Procedure

15.      Evaluation of the Dissertation and Administration of Examination

16.      Notification of Intent to Graduate

17.      Submission of Dissertation

18.      Student's Responsibilities

19.      Distinction on Thesis and Dissertation Defenses


Graduate Catalog Requirements

Students should carefully study the section in the UNM Catalog under "The Graduate Program."  It is ultimately the student's responsibility to see that these requirements are satisfied.  The following outline is meant to clarify the departmental procedures and to aid the student in satisfying the requirements stated in the UNM Catalog. 

Summary of Course Requirements

A minimum of 54 credit hours of course work beyond the Bachelor of Science Degree, excluding dissertation credit hours, is required.

Comments on Design Project course (ME 559) - Students who are currently enrolled in the PhD program are not allowed to register and receive credit for ME 559. The credit hours that a student may have earned for this course during their MSME (Plan I) program of studies, however, will be accepted as part of the 30 credit hours of coursework that is normally transferred from a master's degree program to the PhD Program (see below).

A minimum of 18 hours of dissertation (ME699) credit hours is required.

During the course of their dissertation work, doctoral candidates are required to enroll in a minimum of 18 hours of dissertation (ME 699) credit. Enrollment in 699 should not begin prior to the semester in which the student takes the doctoral comprehensive examination. Only those hours gained in the semester during which the comprehensive examination is passed and in succeeding semesters can be counted toward the 18 hours required. A student who fails the comprehensive exam cannot apply any ME 699 credits toward his/her program of studies until the semester in which the comprehensive examination is retaken and passed.

Enrollment for dissertation (ME 699) may be for 3, 6, 9 or 12 hours per semester, with 9 hours the maximum in Summer session. Minimum enrollment in ME 699 for one semester is 3 hours.

Students who start enrolling in ME 699 must continue registering in ME 699 every semester until completion of the degree.

Comments on "Problems" courses (ME 551 or ME552) - Some faculty members and their students find this "continuous enrollment" OGS rule cumbersome. For this reason, the student who has not passed the PhD comprehensive exam and is performing  research directly related to his/her dissertation topic may take these "Problems courses" in lieu of registering for dissertation credits. These courses may be repeated as many times as needed for this purpose, as long as they are taken as CR/NC mode of grading (i.e., the same mode of grading as the Dissertation hours). However, credit hours earned for these courses (and similar research-type courses from other UNM graduate programs) are not allowed to be counted towards the minimum 54 hours of coursework needed for graduation (see above). Obviously, the student's effort will eventually be reflected in the total dissertation hours that he/she takes upon passing the PhD Comprehensive Exam. On the other hand, if the student is genuinely working on some topic of mutual interest unrelated to his/her dissertation research with their advisor or another professor, she/he may take the ME 551 or ME 552 courses that will be allowed (max. 3 credit hours) to count toward the satisfaction of the PhD degree requirement. An example of scholarly activities that may justify such credits would be the research performed through an independent study work that may provide a Research Assistantship (RA) job for the student, but it does not lend itself as an appropriate dissertation topic. The student's report of such activities shall be kept in his/her ME academic folder and scrutinized at the time of Application for Candidacy. In these reports the student must clearly document why the corresponding activity is separate from his/her dissertation research.

At least 24 hours of graduate credit coursework must be completed at UNM, of which at least 18 hours must be in courses numbered 500 and above.

At least 18 hours of graduate credit coursework must be completed after admission to the doctoral program.

Four courses will comprise the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Core.  Courses taken as part of a Master's degree may satisfy one or more of the core requirements. A memo to the ME Graduate Director from the Chair of the Committee-on-Studies should include course catalog description and syllabus for each class proposed as equivalent to one of the core classes.

No more than 50% of the doctoral coursework completed at UNM can be taken with a single faculty member, including courses taken as part of a master's degree. Thesis and dissertation hours are excluded.

Up to 30 hours of the doctoral coursework may be transferred from a master's degree program provided that:

1.     each course carried graduate credit,

2.     each course was offered by an accredited institution, and

3.     the student received a grade of "B" or above.

4.     maximum of 6 hours of non-graded work [e.g., master's thesis work, etc.] may be included.

Seminar Requirement

Each Ph.D. student must have one hour of seminar credit on his/her program.  The student shall register for ME 591/592 for three semesters while attending the seminars. In the first two semesters, registration may be for zero credit hours.  In the third semester the student must register for one credit hour.  The grade will be CR/NC, based upon attendance. Presenting a seminar on campus will count for attendance at two seminar sessions.

The doctoral seminar requirement may be transferred from a master's degree program granted by UNM.

For attendance requirements, please CLICK HERE.

Academic Standards

Academic standards are set forth in the UNM Graduate Catalog. In addition, the Mechanical Engineering Department has a "two-Cs" rule:  A Ph.D. student who has received two or more grades of C in post-master's coursework will be dropped from the program before or after the Committee-on-Studies is formed.

Qualifying Examination

Ph.D. students must pass the Mechanical Engineering Qualifying Examination before they form a Committee-on-Studies and file an Advancement to Candidacy form. The departmental policy on the Qualifying Examination is as follows:

1.     Students must take the Qualifying Examination no later than the second semester in the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Programs as a Ph.D. student.  Students may request an extension to this deadline for extenuating circumstances that are clearly beyond the student's control.  Such an extension must be approved by the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Director.  Students who do not take the Qualifying Examination at this time will be placed on non-degree status.

2.     The student must pass the Engineering Mathematics examination and three other area examinations from the categories listed below:

A.   Thermal Sciences:  Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, or Heat Transfer

B.   Mechanical Sciences and Engineering:  Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, or Controls

C.   Other Physical Sciences:  Materials Science

D.   Engineering Practice: Design

The three area examinations must be selected from a minimum of two (2) different categories (A, B, C, D). Each examination will cover the topic at the advanced undergraduate level. Some previous examinations are available on the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program website for your perusal. Please CLICK HERE for listings.

The individual examinations in areas A, B, and C will be developed and evaluated by a committee composed of at least two members of the Mechanical Engineering Faculty. The Chairperson of the committee shall be a tenured, senior faculty member (Associate Professor or higher ranks). These examinations will each be a two- to three-hour written examination such as is often given as the final examination in a class.

The examinations for category D are different from those for the other groups. Therefore, these examinations will be composed of a project report on a topic assigned by a committee of two or more Mechanical Engineering faculty members one week before the examination date.  The committee will evaluate both the written report and an oral presentation followed by questions related to the topic.

3.     Students will inform the ME Graduate Director regarding the area examinations they are planning to taken in the next Qualifying Examinations round according to a schedule set by the department.  Accordingly, information about the nature of the area examinations will be made available to the students so that they may better prepare for the examinations. The examinations in groups A, B, and C will be conducted in a double-blind manner, if possible. The students taking an examination in category D will be informed about the examination committee members when the project is assigned.

4.     The Qualifying Examination will normally be scheduled during the Labor Day week or UNM Fall Break week in Fall semesters and  during Spring Break week in Spring semesters, and will be administered by the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Director. The Graduate Director will appoint a committee of the Mechanical Engineering Faculty to be responsible for the following items related to each area examination:

I. Inform the Graduate Director of the nature of the examination.

II. Develop and deliver a copy of the examination to the Graduate Director.

III. Evaluate the results of the examination and inform the Graduate Director of the Pass/Fail status of each student who took the examination within one week of the examination day.

5.     The segments comprising the Qualifying Examination will be scored as either passing or failing by the committee responsible for each examination.  Students who fail one or more subjects upon their first attempt at the Qualifying Examination must retake the Qualifying Examination during the following semester.  Once a student has passed an area examination, he/she is not required to retake that examination. Students may elect to take different subjects when they retake the Qualifying Examination, subject to the above guidelines in Section 2.  A student who fails to earn passing grades on the Engineering Mathematics and three (3) other subjects during two (2) attempts at the Qualifying Examination will have failed the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and is not eligible to earn a Ph.D. degree from the Mechanical Engineering Department at UNM.

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Additional Information about the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

Engineering Courses

The engineering subjects in the examination are basic to any undergraduate mechanical engineering program.  The examinations representing them concentrate on the concepts normally covered in the corresponding undergraduate courses.  However, the student is expected to demonstrate an understanding of these concepts and use of them beyond what is expected of undergraduates.  The student may be required to demonstrate this understanding of the concepts by either discussion type questions, definitions, problems, or derivations.  Thus, in answering questions, the student should include explanations to demonstrate a depth of understanding.

In the solution of problems, the important factors include: (1) deciding on the appropriate theories or principles; (2) applying the principles correctly.  Any assumptions made in the solution process should be clearly stated so there is no question about the student's understanding of the limitation of the principles and/or the solution. 

Engineering Mathematics

The mathematics examination may cover the following topics:

1.     Differential and integral calculus of one or more variables.

2.     Vector algebra and vector calculus.

3.     Ordinary differential equations.

4.     Series and sequences.

5.     Linear Algebra

For the most recent exam descriptions and dates, please CLICK HERE.

Committee-on-Studies (CoS) Chair

The student should discuss his/her research interests with several Mechanical Engineering faculty members early in attendance at UNM.  It is helpful (but not required) if an agreement is reached with a Mechanical Engineering faculty member to serve as Committee-on-Studies Chairperson by the time the Qualifying Examination is taken.  The Committee Chairperson must be a regular (i.e., tenure-stream) faculty member. Approval of the Committee Chairperson must be obtained using a departmental form.

Members of the Committee-on-Studies

Committee-on-Studies shall consist of (minimum) four members, of which at least three, including the Chairperson, shall be tenure-stream faculty members.  One external member must be a faculty member from UNM or another accredited institution; he/she must hold a tenure-stream appointment. Approval for committee members who are not UNM tenure-stream faculty must be obtained from the Department and Office of Graduate Studies.

Notes: (1) UNM faculty members who hold a joint appointment with the ME Department are treated the same as regular, tenure-stream ME faculty members for the purpose of PhD committees. (2) For the sake of simplicity and continuity, PhD students are encouraged to work with the same group of individuals as the members of their Comprehensive Exam Committee and Dissertation Committee; as such, the ME Department refers to these two committees as the "Committee-on-Studies."

Time of Formation of the Committee-on-Studies

The Committee-on-Studies may be formed the same semester the student passes the Qualifying Examination. Approval of the committee membership must be obtained using a departmental form.

Changes to the Committee

Changes to the Committee-on-Studies require that a new form be submitted along with a memo explaining reasons for the changes.

Planning Coursework

Student's course work planning is done in consultation with the Committee-on-Studies' Chairperson, and may include make-up work at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Application for Candidacy Form

Once the student's Committee-on-Studies and its Chairperson are selected, and the Committee has met to  approve the research plan through PhD Comprehensive Examination (see below), the student shall complete the "Application for Candidacy" Form and submit it to the ME Graduate Director for approval. 

Changes in the student's program must be described in a memorandum from the student and require the same approval procedure.

The completed "Application for Candidacy" is usually forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies during the semester in which the student has passed his/her doctoral comprehensive examination and no later than the semester before he/she wishes to graduate. It should be accompanied by the PhD Comprehensive Exam's "Report of Examination."

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Language Requirement

The Mechanical Engineering Graduate Programs has no language requirement.

Comprehensive Examination Procedure

An Announcement of Examination form for the PhD Comprehensive Examination must be approved by the ME Graduate Director, and submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the examination.  The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination shall be given individually to the student by the Committee-on-Studies, normally within one to two years after the student passes the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. The Comprehensive Examination usually involves a presentation of the dissertation proposal and an oral examination. The Chairperson of the Committee-on-Studies shall ensure that the Report of Examination form is signed by all committee members and submitted to the ME Graduate Director.

A student has five years to complete the PhD degree from the date the Comprehensive Examination  is passed.  Only in cases of extreme emergencies will an extension of time be approved by the department and Office of Graduate Studies. Only ME 699 Dissertation hours taken during the semester in which the Comprehensive Exam is passed, and in succeeding semesters, may count toward the required 18 hours. Students must maintain continuous enrollment in ME 699 (at least 3 hours per semester, not including summers prior to graduation) through the semester/term of graduation.

Evaluation of the Dissertation and Administration of Examination

The dissertation shall be provided to the Committee-on-Studies at least three weeks before the scheduled dissertation defense which functions as the Doctoral Final Examination. The ME Program Advisement Coordinator must also be notified of the time and location of the examination at least three weeks prior to it. The Doctoral Final Examination shall usually consist of a presentation of the research work by the student and an oral examination by the Committee-on-Studies.

The Report of Examination form must be completed at the conclusion of the exam and signed by all committee members. A final exam may be passed with distinction according to the ME department policy. The Committee Chairperson must make certain that each Committee member completes the Dissertation Evaluation form, and then submit these forms to the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Director. The final version of the dissertation must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies by November 15, April 15, or July 15 in order for the student to graduate in the Fall, Spring, or Summer semester, respectively.

Notification of Intent to Graduate

The student must submit the Notification of Intent to Graduate Form to the Graduate Coordinator before the deadlines shown on the form. The student must be enrolled in a graduate course in the semester of graduation. If all other course work is completed, three (3) hours of ME699 may be taken.

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Submission of Dissertation

The dissertation (including Information Cover Sheet and Certificate of Final Form), all in certified final form and approved by the Committee-on-Studies, must be submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies by November 15, April 15, or July 15 to graduate in the respective semester. PhD degree candidates should refer to the following OGS pages for comprehensive information regarding document submittal: Dissertations and Forms.

Student's Responsibilities (Check-list)

1.     Take the Qualifying Examination at an early date.

2.     Arrange for a Mechanical Engineering faculty member to serve as Chairperson of the Committee-on-Studies immediately after passing the Qualifying Examination. Submit advisor approval form.

3.     Work with the Committee Chairperson to select the balance of the Committee. Submit approval form.

4.     Meet with the Committee-on-Studies to plan the program.

5.     Prepare the Application for Candidacy Form as soon as possible after the study program has been planned .

6.     Select a dissertation topic, prepare a proposal, and submit it to the Committee and ME Graduate Director. 

7.     Schedule and take the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination.  The Comprehensive Examination will not be administered until after "Tentative Approval" of the Application for Candidacy is given.

8.     Perform the research and prepare the dissertation.  Information pertinent to the preparation of the dissertation is available at the Office of Graduate Studies website along with the required front pages in the dissertation (Certificate of Approval, Title page, and Abstract Title Page).

9.     Submit Notification of Intent to Graduate form to the Mechanical Engineering Program Advisement Coordinator. This must be done in accordance with the UNM Graduate Catalog deadlines to graduate in a particular semester.

10.      Distribute copies of the dissertation to members of the Committee-on-Studies at least three weeks prior to the defense.  Notify the Mechanical Engineering Program Advisement Coordinator of the exact date and time at least three weeks before the defense.

11.      Pass the Doctoral Final Examination which involves an oral presentation of the results of the research and questions from the Committee-on-Studies.

12.      Revise the dissertation as agreed upon by the Committee-on-Studies and submit it to the Dean of Graduate Studies for approval.  The deadlines for a particular semester or summer session must be observed in order to graduate in that semester.

Distinction on Dissertation Defenses

Distinction may be awarded to recognize exemplary performance on a Ph.D. dissertation defense. The student's transcript will include "Passed with Distinction." The examining committee shall consider the written work as well as the oral presentation / examination. Outstanding performance on all aspects of the examination is required. A committee decision to propose that a student be passed with distinction must be unanimous, and is subject to approval by the ME Graduate Director. The committee chair must provide a memo (electronic mail) describing those aspects of the written work and student's oral presentation that merit distinction. Normally, it is expected that the dissertation recommended for "Distinction" has generated refereed, archival-quality publication(s). If the dissertation requires more than minor editorial corrections, distinction will not be considered. Department's standards of excellence suggest that, on average, about one in five Ph.D. dissertation defenses will merit distinction.

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Additional Useful Links:

Manual of ME Graduate Programs | ME Graduate Programs Home | Office of Graduate Studies Home