Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering
The basic University requirements for the Ph.D. degree are discussed in the "Graduate Degree" section of this bulletin. The Ph.D. degree is intended primarily for students who desire a career in research, advanced development, or teaching; for this type of work, a broad background in mathematics and the engineering sciences, together with intensive study and research experience in a specialized area, are the necessary requisites.
Ph.D. students must have a master's degree from another institution, or must fulfill the requirements for the Stanford M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering or another discipline.
In special situations dictated by compelling academic reasons, Academic Council members who are not members of the department's faculty may serve as the principal dissertation adviser when approved by the department. In such cases, a member of the department faculty must serve as program adviser and as a member of the reading committee, and agree to accept responsibility that department procedures are followed and standards maintained.
Admission involves much the same consideration described under the Engineer degree. Since thesis supervision is required, admission is not granted until the student has personally engaged a member of the faculty to supervise a research project. Once a student has obtained a research supervisor, this supervisor becomes thereafter the student's academic adviser. Research supervisors may require that the student pass the departmental qualifying examination before starting research and before receiving a paid research assistantship. Note that research assistantships are awarded by faculty research supervisors and not by the department.
Prior to being formally admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, the student must demonstrate knowledge of engineering fundamentals by passing a qualifying examination. The academic level and subject matter of the examination correspond approximately to the M.S. program described above. Typically, the exam is taken shortly after the student completes the M.S. degree requirements. The student is required to have a minimum graduate Stanford GPA of 3.5 to be eligible for the exam (grades from independent study courses are not included in the GPA calculation). Once the student's faculty sponsor has agreed that the exam should be scheduled, the student must submit an application folder containing several items including a curriculum vitae, research project abstract, and preliminary dissertation proposal. Information, examination dates, and deadlines may be obtained from the department's student services office.
Ph.D. candidates must complete a minimum of 27 units (taken for a letter grade) of approved formal course work (excluding research, directed study, and seminars) in advanced study beyond the M.S. degree. The courses should consist primarily of graduate courses in engineering and sciences, although the candidate's adviser may approve a limited number of upper-level undergraduate courses and courses outside of engineering and sciences, as long as such courses contribute to a strong and coherent program. In addition to this 27-unit requirement, all Ph.D. candidates must participate each quarter in one of the following (or equivalent) seminars: ME 389, 390, 393, 394, 395, 396 397; AA 297; ENGR 298, 311A/B. The department has a breadth requirement for the Ph.D. degree. This may be satisfied either by a formal minor in another department (generally 20 units) or by at least 9 units of course work (outside of the primary research topic) which are approved by the principal dissertation adviser. If a minor is taken, 9 units from the minor requirements can be counted towards the depth requirement.
The Ph.D. thesis normally represents at least one full year of research work and must be a substantial contribution to the field. Students may register for course credit for thesis work (ME 500) to help fulfill University academic unit requirements, but there is no minimum limit on registered dissertation units, as long as students are registered in at least 8 units per quarter prior to TGR. Candidates should note that only completed course units are counted toward the requirement, so ungraded courses or courses with an "N" grade must be cleared before going TGR. Questions should be directed to the department student services office.
The final University oral examination (dissertation defense) is conducted by a committee consisting of a chair from another department and four faculty members of the department or departments with related interests. Usually, the committee includes the candidate's adviser, reading committee members, plus two more faculty. The examination consists of two parts. The first is open to the public and is scheduled as a seminar talk, usually for one of the regular meetings of a seminar series. The second is conducted in private and covers subjects closely related to the dissertation topic.