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College of Engineering and Computing

Degree Programs

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering requires course work, qualifying exam, comprehensive exam and dissertation.

Educational Objectives

The mission of the graduate program in Mechanical Engineering is to provide graduate students with learning opportunities for acquiring a broad foundation of mechanical engineering knowledge, an in-depth research experience at the frontiers of Mechanical Engineering, and skills for life-long learning and professional development.

Consistent with its mission, the graduate program has the following educational objectives for the graduates of its Ph.D. degree programs:

  • The graduates shall have expertise in a core subject area of Mechanical Engineering or Nuclear Engineering.
  • The graduates shall gain exposure to advances in Mechanical Engineering or Nuclear Engineering.
  • The graduates shall have the ability to identify pertinent research problems and to formulate a research plan.
  • The graduates shall have the ability to execute a research plan, to generate and analyze original research results, and to communicate those results through oral presentations and written publications.
  • The graduates shall have the basic skills needed for life-long learning and professional development.


Course Work

The course work requires a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours (including only 12 hours of dissertation preparation) beyond the Bachelor's degree. A student with a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering or a closely related field must take at least 18 hours of graded graduate courses (half of which must be 700-level or above), and a student without a master’s degree must earn 48 graduate semester hours (42 or more hours must be graded graduate courses, half of which must be at 700 or above). Prior to taking the Ph.D. qualifying exam, the student, in cooperation with the student’s Academic Advisor, must complete the Ph.D. Program of Study Form. This form lists courses to be taken, courses to be transferred to USC, and courses already taken at USC.


Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the Ph.D. qualifying exam is for a Ph.D. student to demonstrate his/her qualification to pursue the Ph.D. degree program. The qualifying exam will have a written portion and an oral portion.

A student, after being admitted to a Ph.D. degree program, will take the exam in the first spring semester after completing three graded graduate courses at USC or at an earlier time specified by the student’s exam committee.


Comprehensive Exam

The Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam consists of a written part and an oral part.  The examination is to be conducted by the student's Comprehensive Exam Committee. The examination is to focus on the student's proposed dissertation work.  This written dissertation proposal will be considered the students written examination and will be delivered to the examination committee no less than 7 days prior to the oral portion of the exam. The oral portion of the examination will consist of a 30 to 45 minute presentation of the proposed work followed by questions from the attendees. The presentation is to be open to all members of the University community and guests. After questions are complete from the general audience all non-faculty guests will be asked to leave the room. The remaining faculty may ask question of the candidate on any subject related to the proposed work. The presentation is to be conducted during normal business hours and on a day that faculty are expected to be on campus.



The student must present a dissertation based on research that has been approved by the student's Dissertation Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.  At the same time the candidate must submit an abstract of the dissertation.

The dissertation presentation is to be open to all members of the University community and guests. Immediately following the dissertation presentation, the student must orally defend the dissertation before their Dissertation Examination Committee and other members of the ME Graduate Faculty. The exam will be interpreted as pass or fail. Students who fail the exam may be allowed to correct the dissertation and/or re-stand the oral examination, depending upon the decision of their Dissertation Examination Committee. A student who is not granted a re-examination or does not properly correct the dissertation may not receive a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Please refer to the Graduate Handbook [pdf] for further information.

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