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Degree Examinations

Thesis Committees

Ph.D. degree committees in the ME group typically consist of four members and M.S. degree committees typically consist of three members, although additional committee members are permitted if warranted by the student’s research project. One member of the committee is the student’s graduate research advisor and the two or more others are UC Merced faculty members in the group. One of the committee members can be a UC Merced faculty member from outside the group or a regular or adjunct faculty member from any UC campus or an individual from outside the University of California who has special expertise and qualifications.

MS Plan I Thesis and Defense

The student will prepare a written thesis under supervision of their faculty advisor until the work is judged ready for review by the faculty committee. The student must provide a copy of the thesis to each member of the faculty committee and allow each committee member at least two weeks to read and comment on it. If one or more committee members believe that there are significant errors or shortcomings in the thesis or that the scope or nature of the work are not adequate, the student must address these shortcomings before scheduling a defense. Once the committee members are in agreement that the thesis is ready to be defended, the defense may be scheduled by the student in consultation with the committee. The thesis defense consists of an open seminar followed by a closed-door examination by the thesis committee. During the examination, the student is expected to explain the significance of the research, justify the methods employed, and defend the conclusions reached.

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination

All students in the Ph.D. program are required to pass a preliminary examination to evaluate their understanding of fundamental mechancial engineering principles. Students are expected to take and pass the preliminary examination within the first two years of graduate study unless they successfully petition the graduate group chair to take it at a specific later date. The qualifying examination will be offered and administered by the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Group in the spring semester. A student wanting to take the exam must sign up for it with the graduate group no later than four weeks before the final day of classes of the semester before the exams will be taken.

The preliminary examination will cover undergraduate core material from three of the following focus areas, which are chosen by the candidate:

  • Thermodynamics
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Heat Transfer
  • Dynamics
  • Controls
  • Solid Mechanics

The examination will consist of open-ended questions (at least two in each focus area) to be posed and graded by a committee of graduate group faculty members familiar with the field. The format will be a 6-hour examination. The examination will be followed by a Mechanical Engineering faculty meeting, evaluating the performance of the candidate, and promptly thereafter the results of the examination will be submitted to Graduate Studies.

A complete list of rules and guidlines for students taking the exam is available here: Preliminary Exam Student Guidelines.

The official form used to document exam results is available here: Preliminary Exam Results Form.

PhD Research Proposal and Qualifying Examination

Before the qualifying examination, the student will provide to the degree committee a written thesis proposal that describes his or her research topic, summarizes progress to date, and outlines what he or she proposes to do, why it is relevant, and what will be learned. The thesis committee will receive this document no later than two weeks before the scheduled qualifying examination, which will include two parts: presentation of the proposal related to thesis research, and a structured oral examination. The student must be registered the semester of the exam.

Advancement to PhD Candidacy

After successful completion of the research proposal and qualifying examination, the student is given an application for advancement to candidacy. When it is filled out and signed by the graduate research advisor, the student pays a candidacy fee and submits the form to Graduate Studies. Upon advancement to candidacy for the degree, the faculty committee is then charged to guide the student in research and in the preparation of the dissertation.

Grad Student Handbook

For more information on any of the examinations or other processes, refer to the Mechanical Engineering Policies and Procedures.


The following rubrics are available for each of the deliverables associated with the MS and PhD degrees, as well as for students' annual progress review. All documents except the annual review form are fillable electronically. On completion, the forms can be submitted to the engineering grad office.

MS Plan I Thesis and Defense Rubric

PhD Preliminary Examination Rubric

PhD Reserach Proposal and Oral Qualifying Exam Rubric

PhD Dissertation and Defense Rubric

Annual Progress Review and Report