Thesis Proposal-Mechanical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Thesis Proposal & Committee

In addition to the thesis advisor, each PhD student has the benefit of a PhD thesis 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.

The thesis committee must include:

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

As part of the process of keeping the committee informed of the progress of the research, a thesis proposal must be held within 2.5 years following entrance to the PhD program.  The thesis proposal meeting is also intended to provide the student with a milestone to mark progress made during the initial phases of the research.  The precise timing of the thesis proposal meeting is left to the advisor and student to fit their specific situation, though it should be consistent with the overall philosophy described here.

Prior to the thesis proposal meeting, the student will typically provide the committee members with a written prospectus for the thesis research or a paper describing preliminary results of the thesis research.  At the thesis proposal meeting the student will give an oral presentation of the proposed thesis research, and should expect to be questioned on the research and on related subjects.

After a thesis proposal meeting has been held, the student’s advisor submits a letter or email to the Graduate Program Coordinator and the Graduate Committee Chair indicating the members of the thesis committee and the date on which the thesis proposal meeting was held.

Additional meetings (after the thesis proposal meeting) can also be useful.  In particular, it is strongly recommended that a thesis committee meeting be held approximately within the year prior to the final thesis defense.  This meeting should be held after the bulk of the thesis research is completed, but sufficiently in advance of the final defense for committee members to make substantive comments that can be addressed by the student.

In conjunction with these departmental guidelines, college guidelines have been prepared by the CIT Dean's Office. Copies of “Guidelines to the Preparation of a Ph.D. Thesis,” provided by Carnegie Institute of Technology, are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator. 

Students who are enrolled in the Ph.D. program should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator for a copy of these guidelines and for the appropriate forms to be completed. 

Students should make an appointment with the Graduate Program Coordinator the semester BEFORE they are planning to defend.  At that point, the Graduate Program Coordinator will review the following points with the student and clarify any ambiguous areas.  This meeting the semester BEFORE the defense is important; students have the responsibility of ensuring that their records are correct and up to date.

Please double check with the graduate coordinator that you have satisfied all the requirements for the Ph.D. (except, of course, the dissertation).  You may also want to pick up a copy of the CIT guidelines for preparing a defense; this brochure is on file in SH 404.

After your committee, your advisor, and you have decided on a defense date, please come by SH 404 and fill out a Ph.D. defense notice (Appendix E). This form must be filled out at least two weeks before your defense.  The graduate coordinator will type it up and distribute it to the appropriate people.  If you need to schedule a room in Scaife Hall, you can do so through the Department Head Secretary.

On the day of your public defense, please stop by SH 404 and get a signature card.  You must take this card to the defense and have everyone sign it.  Immediately after the defense, please return the signed card to the graduate program coordinator.

Your committee will probably recommend a few changes to the dissertation before it is submitted to the Department in final form.  You should make these changes in consultation with your advisor.  When the changes are complete, please provide the graduate coordinator with one unbound copy of the dissertation on good paper, and three bound copies.  (Additional information about these requirements are located in the CIT guidelines brochure.)  Each copy should be signed by your advisor.  After you turn in your copies, the graduate coordinator will

submit everything to the Department Head and to the Dean.  After all copies have been signed and approved, they will be distributed as follows: one copy for the Department's use, one copy for you, and one copy for your advisor.  The unbound copy will have gone to the library for microfilming.  If you would like additional copies for your own use, please feel free to submit more than four copies.  Also, if you are not going to be in town when the dissertations are signed and returned, please be sure to leave your new address with the graduate coordinator.

When you submit your dissertation to the Department, you will also need to submit two completed surveys, copies of which are on file with the graduate coordinator.  They should take about 1 1/2 hours to complete and are a necessary part of the process.

We have strict deadlines that must be followed in regards to the final submission of the dissertation; please check with the graduate coordinator if you are unsure about the dates surrounding August, December, or May graduation.

A final note:  There are several other recent Ph.D’s in the Department; if you would like someone to talk to about the process, the defense, the dissertation, etc., please contact one of them, or stop by SH 404 for their names and numbers.