Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Ph.D. Degree Requirements


The requirements for the Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering comprise completion of coursework, passing of examinations and completion of a dissertation. This page, and related sites, provide key information on these requirements that should be examined carefully by the students and their thesis advisers. Adherence to the stated procedures and deadlines is critical for the timely advancement through the various stages of the degree.

Course Requirement

The course requirement for the doctoral degree is three non-research, technical, graduate-level courses beyond the M.S. degree. The three courses must be approved by the graduate adviser and may not include MAE 200A or MAE 200B or, generally, any basic graduate course taken by first-year graduate students in the area the student chooses for the preliminary exam. In general, a Ph.D. student in the MAE department should take or have taken one or more courses within the department.

Submit the following form to the graduate coordinator together with your Preliminary Examination form (see below):

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is an important milestone for entering the Ph.D. program. Only students who have been formally admitted to the Ph.D. program and have a Ph.D. adviser on record are eligible to take the preliminary examination. Detailed information on the exam is provided in the following document:

Students must register for the Preliminary Examination by filling out and submitting the following form to the Graduate Studies Coordinator at least six weeks prior to the examination date.

Advancement to Candidacy / Qualifying Examination

Advancement to candidacy signifies that the student has completed his or her coursework and other requirements and is ready to move forward to the dissertation phase. To advance to candidacy, the student must satisfy the following four requirements:

  1. Completion of the M.S. degree.
  2. Completion the Ph.D. coursework requirement.
  3. Successful completion of the Preliminary Examination.
  4. Passing of the Qualifying Examination.

The Qualifying Examination tests primarily your research proposal and your research competence. Detailed information on the exam is available in the following document:

When you are ready to take the Qualifying Examination, you need to proceed with the following steps and their deadlines. Please pay close attention to the deadlines because they need to be strictly adhered to.

  1. Submit the Qualifying Examination application form to the graduate adviser at least four weeks prior to the scheduled date of the examination:
  2. After the graduate adviser approves your application, you will initiate your Ph.D. Form I via DocuSign.
    • Complete the PhD Form I according to the information in your Qualifying Examination application form, subject to any modifications made by the graduate adviser. The Ph.D. Form I should only be initiated after you have completed your exam.
  3. After approval of your Ph.D. Form I by the graduate adviser and by the department chair, you must take the Qualifying Examination. All members of the Qualifying Examination Committee must be present at the exam. At least two weeks prior to the examination, you are obliged to provide the committee members with a preparation package containing a proposed table of contents for the dissertation, a program plan, an outline of work completed, an outline of work remaining, a bibliography and any other pertinent information. Inform the graduate coordinator of the time and place of the examination, so that your file and Ph.D. Form I will be available for the exam.
    After passing your Qualifying Examination, the Qualifying Examination Committee will give you the signed Ph.D. Form I. It describes the results of your examination and lists the members of your Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee consists of three members of your Qualifying Examination Committee and is normally organized immediately following your Qualifying Examination. Your faculty adviser is chair of your Dissertation Committee.
  4. Submit Form I (along with a $90 candidacy fee) to the Graduate Division. Graduate Division will review the fulfillment of all the requirements for advancement to candidacy. Once all the requirements are deemed satisfied, you will be advanced to candidacy.

If you do not pass your Qualifying Examination, you may be given a chance to retake the exam or you may be asked to terminate your studies. If you are allowed to retake the exam, you must fulfill the conditions imposed by the Qualifying Examination Committee before reapplying to take the exam, and you will need to repeat all the procedures listed above. There will be no opportunity for a third attempt to pass the exam.

Ph.D. Dissertation and Defense

Ph.D. Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is the detailed document that describes your Ph.D. research. Your Dissertation Committee consists of three members from your Qualifying Examination Committee, with your faculty adviser acting as chair. You and your faculty adviser coordinate the preparation of your dissertation. When you have completed a final draft of your dissertation, you should begin preparations for your Final Dissertation Defense.

Final Dissertation Defense

The Final Defense consists of a public oral presentation of your Ph.D. dissertation. You first present the Dissertation Committee with a final draft of the dissertation. The Dissertation Committee has up to four weeks to read, review and comment on the dissertation. You should then revise your dissertation along the guidelines recommended by the Dissertation Committee.

After the Dissertation Committee agrees that the dissertation is ready for oral presentation, the Final Defense is scheduled. Note: the Final Defense is not scheduled until the Dissertation Committee agrees that the dissertation is acceptable. It is your responsibility to ensure that the Defense occurs before the UCI deadline for filing for the degree. One or two weeks before the Final Defense, you must place a copy of your revised dissertation in the MAE office for public perusal. The time and place of the defense will be advertised.

The Final Defense consists of a public seminar of 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute public question period. A closed oral examination with the Dissertation Committee follows the public session. Your Final Defense must be attended by all members of the Dissertation Committee. This is the minimum audience required to attend. Other faculty, graduate and undergraduate students will be encouraged to attend the defense as well. It is your responsibility to ensure that the minimum attendance requirements are met. After the presentation, questions and answers, all non-faculty will leave (or the faculty may adjourn to another room), and your presentation will be judged. The faculty may call you back in for more questions. If the defense is considered acceptable, the Dissertation Committee will sign your Final Defense form. For an unacceptable defense, the Dissertation Committee may require a range of corrective measures from minor revisions of the dissertation to major revisions and another oral presentation.

After your Final Defense is accepted, and final revisions to the dissertation have been made, your Dissertation Committee signs your dissertation. You must submit a bound copy of your signed dissertation to the department for posterity. After receiving your dissertation, the MAE department chair will sign your Final Defense form (Ph.D. Form II) and forward it to the Office of Graduate Studies, indicating completion of your Ph.D.

In addition to completing all the graduation requirements specified in the catalogue, Ph.D. candidates are required to notify the department (contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator: of the finalized date for their thesis defense. This notification must occur at least 4 weeks prior to the defense date. The reason for this notification is to enable enough time for announcing and advertising the thesis defense seminar.