Mechanical Engineering PhD 


The mission of the Mechanical Engineering doctoral program is to provide students with advanced learning in the classroom and mentoring to conduct cutting-edge research in the areas of thermo-fluid sciences, mechanical systems, or manufacturing/controls. The primary goal of the program is to develop technical experts that become world-class scholars and leaders in either academia or industry.


Through the education offered by the PhD/ME program, students will learn:

  • to formulate solutions to mechanical engineering problems through the use of multi-disciplinary approaches
  • to be able to grow professionally and personally
  • to serve their profession and community as valuable contributing leaders


Students undertaking education in PhD/ME program are expected to

  • expand the knowledge and understanding of methods and approaches in 1 or more focused areas of Mechanical Engineering
  • formulate solutions to problems related to thermo-fluid sciences, mechanical systems, or manufacturing/controls
  • be able to conduct basic or applied research and development in Mechanical Engineering
  • become an engineer who will serve their profession and community as valuable contributing leaders


The Doctor of Philosophy program at the School of Mines helps mechanical engineering professionals advance to the next academic and professional level.

smvMEMuciStudent130x195With a PhD in ME, professionals can work as an educator and/or in advanced research, design, and development. You'll be well-prepared for whatever path you choose to take after graduate school. The ME department at the School of Mines is committed to helping students achieve their doctoral degree by fostering a culture of high-quality research work through regular presentations by faculty and research assistantship opportunities.

The ME department has close ties with both the Advanced Materials Processing center ( AMP)which boasts a world-class friction stir welding system and the Additive Manufacturing Laboratory ( AML)which houses both the Laser Powder Deposition Laboratory and Direct Write Laboratory. The Polymer Technology, Processing, and Composites Laboratory and the Experimental and Computational Mechanics Laboratory ( ECML) are both new additions to SD Mines.

The mechanical engineering PhD program is designed to give students an advanced educational experience in mechanical engineering, plus a specialization in one of three areas: thermal science, solid mechanics, or controls and robotics. Students graduating from the CSR (Computational Sciences & Robotics) master's degree program, who wish to continue on to earn a doctoral degree, can easily do so within the ME PhD program. Robotics faculty on campus (those within and outside the mechanical engineering department) can direct PhD dissertation study in robotics through the mechanical engineering department. 

Current CSR students who wish to continue and obtain the ME PhD can take the required Engineering Analysis I and II courses (ME 673 and ME 773) as part of the CSR curriculum electives. The student and his/her graduate advisor will select a graduate committee that will guide him/her towards a robotics and controls-oriented PhD. To learn more about the CSR program and how you can incorporate classes into your program that will better prepare you for a PhD. in mechanical engineering, click here.

Program Overview 

The ME PhD program consists of 80 total credits for a student entering the program with a BS degree. Students entering the program will be required to submit a plan of study, formally known as a program requirements agreement, and choose an advisor by the mid-term of the second semester of coursework.

The curriculum is designed around both options of entering the program with a bachelor of science or master of science degree. For the student designing their program around a BS degree, the coursework includes 6 hours of core credits, 12 hours of minor credit requirements (if applicable), 30 hours of dissertation, and a remaining 32 credit hours of coursework directly determined by the area of emphasis the student chooses to study.

Students completing a doctoral degree are required to enroll for 30 doctoral thesis credits (ME 898) before receiving a degree (students can register for a maximum of 18 in one semester).

Each student's advisory committee, on behalf of the ME faculty, will evaluate individual student progress through qualifying and comprehensive exams, seminars, the publishing and presentation record of the student, and the dissertation defense process.

Each student is required to take a qualifying examination, which tests the student's background knowledge and ability to pursue advanced courses and dissertation research.

Each student shall take a comprehensive examination consisting of two parts:

  1. The student's competency in coursework will be evaluated through oral and written examinations.
  2.  The student will prepare a written research proposal and complete an oral presentation of that proposal in the presence of the Advisory Committee.

The dissertation forms the final test of the student's ability to perform and communicate research. The student will prepare a doctoral dissertation and undergo a final defense of the scientific validity of the work, as well as basic and specialized knowledge in the field of study. Students are encouraged to submit papers to journals and proposals to funding agencies throughout the course of study, to verify the professional quality of their work.

Qualifying Examination

All students coming into the PhD program are required to take the qualifying exam within the first 12 months of residency. The qualifying exam shall be a written exam, administered by the department's graduate committee, once each semester. All students meeting the time standards for the qualifying exam will take the test at the same time.

Comprehensive Examination

All students coming into the PhD program with an MS degree are required to complete the comprehensive exam within their first academic year (fall, spring, summer semesters). Students coming into the program with a BS degree must complete the comprehensive exam after their coursework is substantially completed. The comprehensive exam shall be a proposal defense; students will be required to write and orally defend their research proposal to their selected advisory committee. Review of the examinations will be accomplished as soon as possible by all members of the committee, and the results will be reported to the dean of graduate Education on the appropriate form supplied by the graduate office. Satisfactory completion of the comprehensive exam requires that no more than one member of the advisory committee votes against passing. If the student passes with conditions, such as failure to pass a part of the exam, the committee shall inform him/her promptly as to how and when the conditions may be removed. If, in the opinion of two or more members of the advisory committee, the student has failed the comprehensive exam, another such examination may not be attempted during the same semester. After failure to pass a second time, work toward the doctorate can be continued only with the consent of the advisory committee, the committee for graduate education, and the dean of graduate education. The comprehensive examination should normally be passed at least five months before the dissertation is defended.

Admission to Candidacy

Four months before the dissertation defense, the doctoral student should apply to his/her major professor for admission to candidacy, on a form available from the graduate office. If the advisory committee and department head/program coordinator approve the application, by certifying that the student has passed the comprehensive exam, the signed form must be returned to the dean of graduate education, who, in turn, will admit the student to candidacy.

The Dissertation

It is expected that the dissertation will represent the culmination of at least of the equivalent of one academic year of full-time research. The dissertation need be of no specific length, but it must be written in grammatically proper English. It must advance or modify knowledge and demonstrate the candidate's technical mastery of the field. The dissertation can consist of a compilation of three published and/or submitted journal manuscripts that are derived from the candidate's doctoral research and are either authored or co-authored by the candidate. The dissertation and abstract shall be approved by all members of the student's advisory committee, and a preliminary acceptance page of the dissertation shall bear the signed initials of each member of the committee. The final draft of the dissertation, after all revisions recommended by the committee have been made, must be signed by the student and approved and signed by the major professor, the head/coordinator of the student's major department/program, and the Dean of Graduate Education, before final reproduction. The dean of graduate education requires that the final draft of the dissertation must be delivered to the graduate office a minimum of 21 days prior to graduation, to allow adequate time for review and potential approval. The institution requires four copies of the dissertation in final form: the original, unbound manuscript; one bound copy for the Devereaux Library; and two bound copies for the student's major professor. Two digital versions should also be submitted in electronic format, one for the graduate office and one for the department. A final draft must be submitted to each member of the advisory committee a minimum of two full weeks before the scheduled dissertation defense.
 For more in-depth information regarding oral and comprehensive exams, dissertation, and the dissertation defense, refer to the graduate catalog.


The following discussion assumes students are entering the program with a Bachelor's of Science degree. Students entering with a Master of Science degree will design their program of study in accordance with their graduate committee input, the department, and CGE policy.

Students entering the PhD program will be required to submit a plan of study and choose an advisor by the mid-term of the second semester of coursework. The degree requirements include a minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the Bachelor of Science degree. The 72 credit hours include a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework (see below) and a minimum of 20 credit hours of research (ME 898D), such that the sum of course credits and research credits adds up to the minimum total of 72 credits. Of the minimum 36 course credits, the ME department requires a minimum of 18 ME department credits from the list below or equivalent courses approved by the student's graduate advisory committee. The remaining 18 course credits may be taken from outside the ME department, with the approval of the student's graduate advisory committee. The ME courses must be from the following courses or equivalent courses approved by the graduate student advisory committee. Of these ME courses, ME 673 and ME 773 (Engineering Analysis I and II) are mandatory (core) courses for all ME graduate students.

The department also adopts the CGE policy in counting limited undergraduate course credits (not applied toward the baccalaureate) toward the Ph.D. degree (see the CGE policy for details) and in transferring the relevant M.S. course and research credits to the Ph.D. credits.

In addition to the successful completion of the curriculum, the program of study requires passing a qualifying exam, submitting a research topic proposal, passing a comprehensive exam, and successfully defending the dissertation.

Areas of Emphasis:

Students should choose an emphasis in one of the three areas: thermal science, solid mechanics, or controls and robotics.

Your advisor will work with you to design your program of study around the area of emphasis you choose.

For forms related to program of study, dissertation of defense, and other relevant PhD forms, click here .

Application Process:

We encourage you to apply now. Please click here to begin the application process.

Please note that, to be considered for funding, you must identify an emphasis on the graduate application. If this is done, you are automatically considered for funding opportunities and do not need to fill out additional paperwork.

Funding opportunities, in the form of both teaching and research assistantships, are available for exceptional students. If you are selected for an assistantship, you will receive confirmation via email from the ME department senior secretary, Leslee Moore, or Dr. Karim Muci.