Direct Ph.D. Requirements-Mechanical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Direct Entry Ph.D.

Objectives of Ph.D. program:

  • World-class researcher with in-depth understanding in some area of engineering
  • Ability to learn outside of the classroom
  • Ability to conduct independent research
  • Present complex ideas to a technical audience
  • New knowledge in some area of engineering that is disseminated to the technical community
  • Knowledge of Mechanical Engineering fundamentals

Students achieve these objectives through a combination of course work, examinations, and research. These requirements are for students entering with a BS in Mechanical Engineering or related field of engineering.

Ph.D. Skills Matrix:





Depth in





ME courses



Other courses









Qualifying exam



















Annual committee





Public defense








Technical meeting










The student’s research experience forms the core of the PhD program. Research involves active, student-directed inquiry into an engineering problem. Students learn how to conduct research under the close supervision of faculty advisor(s). The research experience is overseen by a PhD committee. There are two goals for conducting research: (1) to become and expert and to develop new fundamental knowledge in some area of engineering and (2) to learn the general skills to conduct independent research. Conducting research requires combining knowledge gained in the classroom with the ability to read the scientific literature, identify critical knowledge gaps, structure complex problems, formulate and test hypotheses, analyze and interpret data, and present and discuss technical results. Engineering research also requires significant experimental, computational, and analytical skills. A student learns these core skills as they pursue their research problem. Many of these skills are not learned in the classroom, but in the laboratory, library and conference room as the student actively interacts with faculty, other students, and researchers. Independent, non-classroom based learning and problem solving is a core aspect of the PhD degree. Upon completion of his or her dissertation, the student should be an international expert in a technical area. Dissemination of new knowledge at technical conferences and in peer-reviewed archival publications is an important part of research.

Research requirements:

  • PhD proposal within 2.5 years of entering the program
  • Annual presentations to PhD committee
  • Public PhD defense; announcement must be published two weeks prior to defense date.
  • Dissertation
  • Regular participation in Graduate Seminar; 24-791 (Fall); 24-792 (Spring)


  • Several publications in peer-reviewed, archival journals or peer-reviewed, archival conference proceedings
  • Several presentations (oral or poster) of your research at national or international technical conferences

Ph.D. committee: The PhD committee oversees the student’s research experience. Through the proposal, annual committee meetings, and the defense, the committee monitors the student’s progress. At each of these meetings the student presents his or her research and responds to the committee members’ questions. The committee provides an outside perspective on the student’s research – helping the student to structure his or her research and identify research opportunities. The committee is responsible for approving the student’s research plan and signing off on the final dissertation.

  • At least 4 members
  • At least 2 CMU ME faculty members
  • At least 1 member outside CMU ME
  • Annual committee meetings after proposal

Course Work: Courses are the focus of the early part of the PhD degree. Courses form one part of the foundation for the student’s research. There are two objectives of the course work: (1) broad knowledge of the Mechanical Engineering fundamentals and (2) in-depth understanding of an area of engineering closely related to the student’s research. The course work requirements should be viewed as a minimum; students are encouraged to take additional courses to expand the breadth and depth of their knowledge. Students are encouraged to take courses outside of Mechanical Engineering.

  • Minimum of 96 units<
  • All graduate level (600 or higher)
  • At least 4 ME courses (24-###)
  • At least 1 engineering math course (24-701, 24-703, or equivalent as approved by GEC-see below note #3)
  • No supervised reading, independent study, or research
  • Must maintain a 3.0 grade point average
  • All courses must be approved by advisor

Qualifiers: Through an oral qualifying exam students must demonstrate their understanding of ME fundamentals. The exam format requires students to clearly present technical concepts, structure an engineering problem, respond to questions, and demonstrate engineering intuition.

  • Same format as current exam
  • Offered in January and September
  • Must take by within 1 year of entering the program
  • Students who fail the first time must retake the next time it is offered (if students fail second time, obtain an MS in 2 years assuming that they have completed MS-C requirements)
  • Students enrolled in the MS program who want to transfer into the direct PhD program must take the qualifying exams within 1 year of enrolling in the graduate program (same schedule as students entering into the direct PhD program).  MS students can also enter the PhD program (but not direct PhD program) after completing their MS.

CMU Mechanical Engineering Teaching Intern: Participation in the teaching mission of the department is considered an integral part of the graduate program, providing both learning and mentoring experiences for the student.  All PhD students must serve as a teaching intern twice during the tenure in the Department.

To fulfill the teaching requirements students must sign up and pass 24-795 Ph.D. Teaching Internship totaling 24 units.

Course description: A teaching assignment under the guidance of a faculty member for intermediate or terminal-level doctoral candidates. Typical activities include preparing and teaching recitations, preparing and teaching laboratory sessions, holding office hours, grading and preparation of quizzes, problem sets and other assignments, and assisting instructor with other activities associated with teaching a course. 24-795 is 12 units and offered in Fall and Spring. (P/F). All non-native English speakers should conform to the university regulation on the TA language requirements.


Students must serve as a teaching intern one semester in both their second and third years after enrolling in the department.  The department graduate coordinator will contact each second- and third- year students before the fall semester to set up the schedule for the upcoming year.  Students can be assigned to any course during either semester during their second- or third-years.  The graduate education committee will consider requests regarding a particular semester or course a student wants to TA.  However, the ability to grant these requests is dependent on satisfying the department teaching needs.


  • 1 year of residency
  • English competency required, as indicated by passing ITA exam
  • Students may receive a MS degree after they have completed the course requirements and the qualifying exam if they request this option through the graduate program coordinator. This request should be made by the end of the first semester after entering the PhD program.
  • Current students will have the option to transition to direct program. If they transition they will need to fulfill all of the requirements including being a TA.


1) Note: CIT Interdisciplinary Courses 39-6XX may be counted as graduate units upon approval of the Graduate Education Committee.

2) Note: Mechanical Engineering courses consist of all 24-XXX courses, including courses in other departments cross-listed as 24-XXX courses, and the course 39-600, Integrated product Development.

3) Note: additional courses approved to fulfill Direct PhD math requirement now include:

  • 06-713 Mathematical Techniques in Chemical Engineering

  • 16-811 Mathematical Fundamentals for Robotics

  • 12-704 Probability and Estimation Methods for Engineering Systems

Students are limited to a maximum of 54 units (total) per semester; the additional units (above full time) may be used to audit courses in preparation for the qualifying examinations.