Students

New Qualifying Exam policy

Date of effect:
Autumn quarter 2017 (modifications approved by the ME faculty at the departmental faculty meeting on Thursday, June 1, 2017).

Table of contents

When to take the exam

The department has three different pathways for pursuing a Ph.D. degree: pre-M.S. entry with a bachelor's degree, post-M.S. entry with a non-UW degree, and post-M.S. entry with a UW degree. The timing of the exam for these different pathways is described in detail below.

Pre-M.S. entry

Every full-time student in the department's pre-M.S. admission pathway is required to take the qualifying exam within 12 to 24 months after entry into the program. A student who has not passed the exam within 24 months after entry into the program will be asked to withdraw from the program.

Post-M.S. entry with a non-UW degree

Every full-time student in this pathway (Ph.D. following a non-UW M.S. degree) is required to take the exam within 6-18 months after entry into the program. A student who has not passed the exam within 18 months after entry into the program will be asked to withdraw from the program.

Post-M.S. entry with a UW degree

Every full-time student in this pathway (Ph.D. following a UW M.S. degree) is required to take the exam no later than 15 months after entry into the Ph.D. program. A student who has not passed the exam within 15 months after entry into the program will be asked to withdraw from the program. A student in this pathway may take the qualifying exam while still in the UW M.S. program.

Part-time students

Part-time status is available for Ph.D. students in the traditional post-M.S. pathways (following either a UW or a non-UW M.S. degree). Part-time students are advised to take the exam when they have completed 18 credits of graded coursework or within two years after entry into the Ph.D. program, whichever occurs first.

In other words, if a part-time student takes only one course each quarter (excluding summer), the student should take the qualifying exam by the end of the second year. If the part-time student takes more than one course per quarter, the student will need to take the exam earlier.

Occasionally, part-time students may not be able to take the qualifying exam within the suggested time frame. In this case, part-time students may file a petition to the Graduate Education Committee to defer the qualifying exam. Please refer the petition section for the procedure. Also please note that the petition may or may not be granted.

Transfer students

Occasionally, students who have passed a qualifying exam at a Ph.D. granting institution transfer into UW ME Ph.D. program. In this case, the students may file a petition to the Graduate Education Committee to waive or to defer the qualifying exam. Please refer the petition section for the procedure. Also please note that the petition may or may not be granted.

Timeline

  Qualifying Exam General Exam Final
Pre-M.S. entry 12–24 months after entry to Ph.D. program 6–18 months after passing Qualifying Exam >6 months after passing General Exam
Post-M.S. entry
with a UW degree
0–15 months after entry to Ph.D. program 6–18 months after passing Qualifying Exam >6 months after passing General Exam
Post-M.S. entry
with a non-UW degree
6–18 months after entry to Ph.D. program 6–18 months after passing Qualifying Exam >6 months after passing General Exam

Exam format

The Qualifying Exam consists of:

  1. A written document (total of 3-5 pages, not including references). The components of the written document consist of:
    • Paper review (1-2 pages) – in-depth review of a research paper suggested by adviser and committee
    • Literature review and context (1-2 pages) – perform a related literature review to understand broader context of proposed work
    • Research plan (1 page) 
  2. An oral exam presentation (total of 60-90 minutes = 20 mins of student presentation + 40–70 mins of questions by examiners). The 20min-oral presentation is open to other faculty, and the general public.

Committee formation and composition

The committee must include at least three members from the student’s probable Ph.D. committee, including at least two core Mechanical Engineering faculty. This committee may be adjusted between the Qualifying Exam and General Exam and does not need to be officially registered with the Graduate School.

The committee must include at least one member of core ME faculty with whom the student’s adviser(s) have no substantive record of collaboration. This member of the committee is the designated Departmental Representative (DR).

  • Committees should be formed at least 6 weeks before the Qualifying Exam is scheduled.
  • Committee members should be agreed upon by the student and adviser(s).

Exam Procedure

6 weeks prior to the exam date Qualifying Exam scheduled (committee appointment, including DR, must be complete)
4 weeks prior to the exam date Committee sends a paper for review to a student.
2 weeks prior to the exam date Student submits the written exam document (3-5 pages, not including references) to the committee for review.
1 week prior to the exam date Short committee meeting (may be virtual) or email communication to discuss an approach to the exam and preliminary comment on the student's exam document
The day of the exam Student performs the oral presentation
  • Exam outcomes are determined at the end of the exam.
  • Warrant form for Qualifying Exam must be signed by the committee members.
+1 week after the exam date Exam summary document forwarded to student.

Exam outcomes

The committee will vote on the outcome, and the student is verbally informed the outcome at the end of the exam.

Pass exam

Student is asked to continue in the program.

Conditional pass

The student will be asked to continue in the program. The student is, however, generally required to fulfill specified requirements before taking the general exam (e.g., additional coursework with GPA requirements, TA a specific course).

Fail with permission to retake

The student will be asked to retake the exam. Please note that students who fail the exam in their first attempt may not automatically receive this option.

Fail and withdrawal from Ph.D. program

The student must withdraw from the Ph.D. program. The Department will allow the student to stay in the program for two quarters as a transition to exit the program. There are two things to note:

  • This outcome is possible for students who fail the qualifying exam in their first attempt.
  • In compliance with US immigration laws, international students must maintain successful progress toward the degree while in the program. An international student may not be eligible for the two-quarter transition period if the compliance is violated.

Students may take the Qualifying Exam no more than two times. A retake following the failure of the exam must occur within 6 months.

Petition

Students wishing to ask for a variance or exception to policy should submit a petition to the Graduate Education Committee. The petition should include the following elements:

  • A petition letter carefully addressing:
    • Reasons for petition
    • Proposed solutions (e.g., deferral of exam for 6 months)
  • Documents or physical evidence to support your petition
  • An endorsement letter from your Ph.D. adviser

Core curriculum and GPA requirements

Ph.D. students are required to take ME 564 and ME 565 (Engineering Analysis) plus three courses chosen from the baskets listed below. Students will be expected to work with their faculty advisers to select an optimal set of courses for their programs of study.

Students must attain a cumulative GPA of at least a 3.5 in the core curriculum. If students receive below a 3.5 GPA in these core courses, the committee will determine appropriate remedial actions including retaking a course, TAing courses, taking additional courses, or completing an oral or written examination to synthesize material.

There may be a waiver granted for UW master's students who go on to a complete a traditional Ph.D., but only in cases where the student’s master's coursework contributes to the basket requirement being completed. Three courses from the following list must be chosen (not necessarily from a single interest group), along with ME 564 and ME 565.

In total, students must complete 18 graded credits and 60 credits total before taking the general exam.

Engineering Analysis (required)

Course Credits Title
ME 564 3 Mechanical Engineering Analysis I
ME 565 3 Mechanical Engineering Analysis II

Energy and Fluids

Course Credits Title
ME 507 3 Fluid Mechanics
ME 521 3 Macroscopic Thermodynamics
ME 522 3 Microscopic Thermodynamics
ME 524 3 Combustion
ME 530 3 Radiative Heat Transfer
ME 531 3 Conductive Heat Transfer
ME 532 3 Convective Heat Transfer

Systems and Dynamics

Course Credits Title
ME 469 4 Applications of Dynamics in Engineering
ME 470 3 Mechanical Vibrations
ME 471 4 Automatic Control
ME 525 3 Applied Acoustics I
ME 547 4 Linear Systems Theory
ME 548 3 Linear Multivariable Control
ME 549 3 Estimation and System Identification
ME 550 3 Nonlinear Optimal Control
ME 578 4 Convex Optimization
ME 581 4 Digital Control System Design
ME 583 3 Nonlinear Control Systems
ME 588 3 Dynamics and Vibrations
ME 593 3 Feedforward Control
ME 594 3 Robust Control

Mechanics, Materials and Manufacturing

Course Credits Title
ME 501 3 Modern Manufacturing Processes
ME 503 3 Continuum Mechanics
ME 527 4 Musculoskeletal Biomechanics
ME 541 3 Fatigue of Materials
ME 551 3 Elasticity I: Elastostatics
ME 552 3 Viscoelasticity and Plasticity
ME 553 3 Adhesion Mechanics
ME 556 3 Experimental Stress Analysis
ME 557 3 Experimental Stress Analysis II
ME 559 3 Introduction to Fracture Mechanics
ME 563 3 Advanced Composites: Design and Manufacturing