Ph.D. Degree Requirements


The following requirements are departmental; they are meant to provide details beyond those given by the Rackham Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures.  Where the following requirements conflict Rackham’s Policies and Procedures, the Rackham requirements will take precedence. 



All students must take two courses (cognates) outside the MSE dept.  These cognate courses (each of two credit hours minimum) must be in a technical area, and are usually satisfied at the graduate level (400 level courses can also satisfy cognate requirements).



All graduate students receiving financial support from the MSE dept., from the University, or from a National Fellowship must enroll in MSE 690, 990, or 995 during the term(s) they are supported.  The faculty research advisor will work closely with the student to establish a research program and officially evaluate the student’s research progress through the grading of MSE 690, 990, or 995.  Students must register for at least a total (coursework and research credits) of 8 credit hours at the Master’s and Candidate level, and at least 6 credit hours at the Pre-Candidate level, each term to maintain full time status.



All Ph.D. students and all M.S. students who are enrolled in research and are supported by a fellowship or grant must register for 1 credit of MSE 890 (MSE Colloquium) for 4 semesters and attend at least 70% of the colloquium each semester to receive a satisfactory passing grade. All Ph.D. Candidates and Research Master’s students who are enrolled in research and not supported by a grant or fellowship are still required to attend the Colloquium series, but need not enroll in MSE 890.  Coursework Master’s students who are not enrolled in research are not required to enroll in MSE 890, but may take up to 2 credits of MSE 890.


All course selections must be approved by the faculty research advisor or the graduate advisor.  


  • Students must show a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent awarded by an accredited institution.
  • Students must complete at least 18 credit hours (not including 990 research, including the grade of S - Satisfactory) of graded graduate coursework on the Ann Arbor campus.
  • Students must take at least 2 cognate courses, at least 2 credits each in a technical area and obtain a B- or better in each course.
  • Pre-candidates must enroll in 3 credits of MSE 990 research credits each fall and winter semester until Candidacy.  Candidates must enroll in 8 credits of MSE 995 research credits each fall and winter semester until graduation.
  • Successful completion of College of Engineering Responsible Conduct of Research & Scholarship/RCRS training.
  • A cumulative minimum GPA of B (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) is required for all graduate work taken for credit.  
  • Successfully pass the Prelim Exam for Candidacy.
  • Successfully pass the Qualification Exam Core courses.
  • The department expects that students will achieve candidacy within 2 years, although some students may be able to do it sooner. According to Rackham’s policies, a student who does not achieve candidacy within three calendar years after the first enrollment in the Rackham doctoral program will be placed on academic probation. 
  • A candidate may elect either one course per term, or more than one course for a total of no more than four credits, without paying additional tuition. Courses may be taken for credit or as a visit (audit). A candidate who does not elect a course during a term of 995 enrollment may, in the next term, either register for courses for no more than 8 credits or register for no more than two courses that total more than 8 credits without paying additional tuition. An additional course may not be taken in anticipation of taking none in a future term of 995 enrollment. A candidate who takes courses beyond this limit will be assessed tuition.





The PhD qualification process in MSE requires the incoming graduate students to take and pass the following core courses, each with at least B+ grade, in their first year:

  1. Thermodynamics (MSE 532), offered in the Fall term 
  2. Kinetics (MSE 535), offered in the Winter term
  3.  Fundamentals of MS&E (MSE 550), offered in the Fall term* 

* The core course MSE550 is targeted at students entering the MSE graduate program with a non-MSE undergraduate major such as Physics, Chemistry, etc.  The students with non-MSE undergraduate degrees may petition the graduate committee to opt out of 550. The petition should provide evidence, through copy of undergraduate transcript, that the student has taken the equivalent of the following required courses in MSE undergraduate curriculum at University of Michigan, and passed each with B+ or higher grade: 

MSE 220 or 250 (Intro MS&E); MSE 242 (Solid State / Materials Physics); 

MSE 350 (Structures of Materials); MSE 420 (Mechanical Behavior of Materials).

The written qualifying exam option as a substitute for taking the core courses will no longer be offered, i.e., all incoming students will be required to take and pass the 2 or 3 (as applicable) core courses. However, a student who takes a core course but fails to get a grade of B+ or higher, may petition the graduate committee to take a ‘make up’ written test in that core course as a second attempt towards qualification. Although the student’s grade on the transcript will not change, the score in the ‘make up’ written test will be used by the graduate committee to determine if the student has met the qualification requirement in that core topic. 

A score below B+ in the core course and failure in the following ‘make up’ written test will result in disqualification from the PhD program.

Students who do not complete all of the above PhD qualification core courses in year 1 may be asked to discontinue from the PhD program.


2) COURSEWORK (Graded)
  • 12 credit hours from MSE courses (generally, 4 courses, including core courses)
  • Students must take at least 2 cognate courses, at least 2 credits each in a technical area and obtain a B- or better in each course.
  • 9 additional credit hours from MSE or other courses (generally, 3 courses) at least 6 credit hours must be from a technical area.  Students may count no more than 1 non-engineering, professionally related (e.g. business, entrepreneurship, public policy, patent law, TechCom, engineering education) course toward their coursework degree requirement, which must be approved by the student’s advisor (Ph.D.) or Master’s Chair (M.S.) This course cannot be used as a cognate.

*Incoming students holding an M.S.E. degree (or equivalent) from another institution must complete 18 credit hours of formal coursework (12 MSE credit hours and 2 cognate courses from a technical area) to fulfill the residency and cognate requirements set forth by the Rackham Graduate School.



Students must enroll in MSE 890 (1 credit) for four semesters and attend 70% of the seminars each semester. 



Students seeking Ph.D. candidacy must successfully pass the Prelim Exam within two years of their initial enrollment in the MSE department. The Prelim Exam will consist of an oral defense of the thesis proposal based on student’s research performed as a pre-candidate or, if approved by the faculty research advisor, prior work towards the Master's degree.

A thesis proposal document should be submitted to your committee members 10 working days in advance of the prelim examination; and should provide the motivation for the proposed research based on a critical review of the background and relevant literature, a statement of the objective, a description of the proposed research approach, including new proof-of-concept research results, a thorough analysis of the results, a plan for future research, and a list of references.  The document should be less than 20 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font, 1” margins), including figures, but not including references.  Successful completion of the prelim exam is a requirement for advancing to candidacy.

 The examination is conducted by a committee (selected according to Rackham dissertation committee selection requirements), which is expected to become the doctoral thesis committee if the student becomes a Ph.D. candidate. The committee will report to the Graduate Committee whether the student has passed; and, if not, whether a rescheduled exam is recommended.



Each student is required to complete one teaching assignment prior to the completion of the Ph.D. degree.  Normally this requirement is met after achieving candidacy.



At least one data meeting is required, no later than 4 years after initial enrollment.  Final defense is expected within 1 year after the data meeting.



Each Ph.D. student is required to complete an annual student evaluation form with their advisor by May 31st every year.  Failure to do so may result in cancellation of GSRA/fellowship support.



A thesis and its public defense are required for the Ph.D. degree as set forth by the Rackham Graduate School.