University of California, Riverside

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Graduate Program

Doctor of Philosophy Program (Ph.D.)

The Ph.D. degree provides an opportunity for students to pursue a program of research in a specialized area and to develop a dissertation that "embodies the results of original research and gives evidence of high scholarship". The procedures for satisfying the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering at UCR will consist of four (4) principal parts, each of which is discussed in greater detail in subsequent sections:

  1. Successful completion of an approved program of course work;
  2. Passing of a written and oral preliminary examination;
  3. Oral defense of a dissertation proposal written and submitted by the candidate
  4. Defense and approval of the dissertation

View the timetable and deadlines for the Ph.D. program

The first two requirements are administered by the Graduate Examination Committee. The third requirement will be overseen by the Ph.D. Qualifying Committee and the fourth requirement is supervised by the student's Ph.D. Dissertation Committee. In addition to these requirements, students must meet the minimum residency requirement of six quarters in the University of California, three of which must be spent in continuous residence at UCR. A student must maintain continuous registration until all degree requirements have been fulfilled. If such registration is not possible, the student must secure an approved leave of absence from the department and the Graduate Division.

Course Work

The course work should be formulated by the student and his/her faculty advisor within the one quarter year after admission to the Ph.D. program and must be approved by the student's Ph.D. advisor and Ph.D. Examination Committee. It is understood that changes to this may occur as the student's research progresses. These changes should be documented after consultation with the Ph.D. advisor and Ph.D. Examination Committee.

Core Course Work:

 Before the oral defense of the dissertation proposal at least 24 units of course work must be completed. This is excluding seminar and research credits. Of these a minimum of eight graduate units must be in Mechanical Engineering courses (ME 200 or higher, excluding ME 250, ME 290, ME 297, ME 298I, and ME 299). To meet this requirement by the end of the first year students must take at least eight units of course work per quarter. Typically students also enroll in ME 250 and ME 297 units their first year.

 The student may be advised to take additional courses prior to advancement to candidacy.

 Seminar Requirement:

The student must also complete 6 units of ME 250 (seminar) prior to graduation. One unit of ME250 is offered each quarter. These units do not have to be completed before the dissertation proposal defense

 Research Units:

 At least 36 units of directed or thesis research credits (ME 297 or ME 299) must be taken prior to graduation.

It is expected that a Ph.D. student will pursue a program of study that includes 1) a major area of study intended to increase the student's depth of knowledge in a major area, i.e., an area of specialty in mechanical engineering; and 2) a minor area of study intended to support and increase the student's breadth of knowledge in the major area. It is expected that the minor area will be in a basic science area related to the student's area of specialty. A coherent program of at least 24 units of graduate course work in the major area should satisfy the major requirement. A coherent program of at least 12 units of graduate and/or upper-division course work in the minor area should satisfy the minor requirement.

Preliminary Examination

The purpose of the Ph.D. preliminary examination is to screen candidates for continuation in the Ph.D. program.

The examination is administered by the graduate program committee and has two components:

  1. Written Examination designed to test understanding of concepts and methods used in mechanical engineering. It covers three subject areas to be selected by the student. Problems will be typical of those encountered in upper division course of undergraduate engineering curricula in U.S. schools with graduate-level understanding.
  2. Oral component assess the student's ability to conduct independent research. This examination is administered by a committee of 3 faculty members (including the advisor) selected by the candidate in consultation with the advisor. The student is required to submit a Ph.D. Preliminary Exam form that lists the committee members and the outcome of the exam signed by the committee chair.

It is necessary to pass both components to advance to the dissertation proposal. View a description of the subject areas.

First year students will be notified at least one month in advance of the Preliminary Exam Dates and must submit the Intent to Register Form for the Preliminary Examination form, signed by their advisor. This must be done prior to the deadline set by the Graduate Committee.

Based on the results of the written examination, a decision is made by majority vote of the Graduate Examination committee. The committee will make a recommendation that the student, either passes or fails the examination. If the student passes, he/she will be permitted to develop a Ph.D. dissertation proposal. If the student fails the examination, he/she is given a second and final opportunity to retake either all, or a portion of the examination at its next offering. The student may choose a different area for examination(i.e. not necessarily the same as that in which he/she failed during the first attempt)  during the second attempt.

If a student fails the preliminary examination during the second attempt, then one of the following will occur:

  1. If the student fails more than one written examination, then the student will be required to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.
  2. If the student fails no more than one examination and, in the committee's judgement, the student has demonstrated proficiency in the subject matter, but has some weaknesses, the examination committee may grant a conditional pass. The committee will recommend additional course work and acceptable satisfactory grades for the course work. Once the additional course work is completed satisfactorily, the student is declared to have passed the examination. If the committee does not grant a conditional pass, then the student will be required to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

A student who withdraws from the Ph.D. program may petition to be change his/ her degree objective to an M.S. If the student has completed all requirements for the M.S. degree, he/she will be awarded the M.S. degree at that time. If the M.S. degree requirements have not been met, the student will be permitted to continue in the program, complete these requirements, and receive the M.S. degree.

The oral exam should be completed within two weeks after the written exam. The exam evaluates the readiness of students for the dissertation work at the early stage. This exam should be given by a committee, consisting of three faculty members: the dissertation advisor (committee chair) and two members of the Academic Senate, of which one must be a ME regular or collaborative faculty member. The committee members shall be selected by the student together with his/her dissertation advisor. Students must submit a 1-page abstract to the oral examination committee 5 days before the date of the examination. Students should consult their advisor to coordinate. The committee should submit a written recommendation to the Graduate Committee within 2 business days of the examination. 

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal

After successful completion of the Ph.D. preliminary examination and completion of core course work, the student, with advice from his/her advisor, recommends a Ph.D. Qualifying Committee and prepares a dissertation proposal.   The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination committee consists of 5 members including the student's research advisor and one faculty member from outside the department. Please consult the Graduate Student Handbook for details about the Qualifying Examination Committee.

The student must submit both the Form 2 and the Report of Department Requirements for the Ph.D. form at least 2 weeks prior to the Qualifying Exam date.  At the time that the exam is taken, the student must submit the Form 3 reporting their results, this form also serves as the form that nominates the Dissertation Committee.  The Form 3 must be submitted to the Graduate Assistant no later than 48 hours after the exam.  All forms should be submitted via the Graduate Assistant and under no circumstances taken to the Graduate Division by the student. Please contact the Graduate Assistant for Form 2 and Form 3.

The dissertation proposal consists of a written document and an oral presentation or defense. Typically, a Ph.D. student will submit a dissertation proposal to his/her Ph.D. Qualifying Committee within one (1) year after successfully completing the preliminary examination. The Ph.D. Qualifying committee chairperson will normally schedule an oral defense within one (1) month of the written proposal submission. The presentation is given only to the Ph.D. Qualifying Committee members.

The written dissertation proposal should be typewritten, 15 pages maximum (references not included), double-spaced, in standard typeface (12 pt) with 1" margins all around. Suggested organization for the Ph.D. dissertation proposal is as follows:

Introduction: This section should include the purpose, the objectives (or accomplishments), and the scope of the proposed research.

Background: This section should include a summary of the literature concerning research work related to the proposed dissertation and how the proposed research builds on or relates to previous work.

Approach and Methodologies: A narrative of how the research is to be conducted, including an overview of the general research approach and techniques. Also, any experimental designs, statistical methods, and conceptual or mathematical models to be developed or employed should be discussed.

Preliminary Results and Discussion: Presentation of preliminary research results and their relevance to the proposed dissertation.

Significance of the proposed research: The purpose of this section is to explain why the proposed research is relevant and needed.

Literature cited: All publications referenced within the proposal should be cited in the reference section.

The oral presentation of the proposal focuses on the dissertation. The student should demonstrate considerable depth of knowledge in the student's area of specialty and a clear understanding of the research methods that are needed for successful completion of the dissertation research. The oral presentation will begin with a presentation by the student on his/her dissertation topic and will be followed by questions and suggestions from the Ph.D. Qualifying Committee.

The student is advanced to candidacy after successfully completing this examination. Students who fail the qualifying examination are given a second opportunity to take the examination. The committee will typically give suggestions to modify or enhance his/her proposal. Students who fail the examination at the second attempt will be required to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

Following advancement to Ph.D. candidacy, the student formally begins his/her dissertation research. The progress of the dissertation is monitored by the student's Ph.D. Dissertation Committee. The Ph.D. Dissertation Committee consists of 3 members. It is recommended that the Ph.D. candidate interact frequently with members of his/her dissertation committee to insure that dissertation progress is acceptable.

After completion of the dissertation research, a written draft copy of the completed dissertation must be submitted to the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee for review, evaluation, and determination of whether the draft thesis is ready for oral defense. Once a draft has been approved for defense, an oral defense of the dissertation will be scheduled, which shall be open to the entire academic community. This defense consists of a presentation followed by a question/answer period conducted by the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee and the audience.

An abstract and title should be submitted to the Graduate Assistant at least 9 days prior to the scheduled defense so that it can be advertised to the public for a period of at least one week.  No exceptions will be made for late abstracts.  Dissertation Committee members should fill out the Form 5 and return it to the Graduate Assistant as soon as possible after the defense. Please contact the Graduate Assistant for Form 5.

Based on the written dissertation and the oral defense, the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee decides to 1) accept the dissertation and recommend to the Graduate Division that the Ph.D. degree be awarded, 2) ask that the dissertation be modified and re-defended, or 3) decline acceptance of the dissertation (normally, only after a second opportunity is given).

After successfully defending the dissertation, the Ph.D. candidate must submit final copies of the dissertation that comply with the format requirements set forth by the Graduate Division. Copies are to be given to the department and the dissertation advisor, in addition to those required by the Graduate Division.

Standard of Scholarship

Only courses in which grades of "A," "B," "C," or "S" are received may be counted toward satisfying graduate degree requirements. To continue in good standing and obtain an advanced degree, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.00. In addition, students must demonstrate acceptable progress toward their degree objectives. This entails the acceptable completion of all course work and other degree requirements in a timely fashion.

Students are considered to be making unacceptable progress and become subject to dismissal when

  1. They have 12 or more units of "I" grades (incomplete course work) outstanding
  2. The overall GPA falls below 3.00. Students with a GPA of less than 3.00 will be placed on probation.
  3. The quarterly GPA falls below 3.00 for two consecutive quarters
  4. They fail to fulfill program requirements such as examinations or research in a timely and satisfactory manner, or
  5. They have not completed their programs within one year after reaching normative time
  6. They fail to pass comprehensive or qualifying examinations in two attempts.
  7. They fail to make progress in research for two consecutive quarters

Please also consult the Graduate Student Handbook. It is being updated and will be available soon.


Normative Time

The normative time for a student to complete the Ph.D. degree is 5 years.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Bourns College of Engineering
446 Winston Chung Hall

Tel: (951) 827-5190
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