PhD Requirements

This guide explains some of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree in Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering. The information provided here supplements the NMSU Graduate School requirements for Doctoral Degrees, which are the minimum requirements.

The student’s academic program is not judged satisfactory unless it prepares the student to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field of Mechanical Engineering. To satisfy this objective, the program must include a minimum of 48 credit hours of approved graduate level course work beyond the Bachelor of Science degree. The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy is indicative of distinguished achievement in the areas of scholarship and original research. Therefore, a dissertation of high quality is required of all doctoral students in Mechanical Engineering. Students MUST follow the mechanical engineering degree requirements listed below to complete the PhD course of study.

  • A minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework beyond the Bachelor of Science degree, at least 18 of which must support the student’s research area.
  • A minimum of 24 credit hours of research, ME 700 – Doctoral Dissertation, which may include a maximum of 6 credit hours of ME 600 Doctoral Research. ME 600 is intended for those students who have not completed the qualification examination, a prerequisite for ME 700.
  • A student is required to have refereed journal papers published or at least accepted by graduation. The PhD dissertation can be a compilation and reformatted version of these published or accepted journal papers. Based on the nature of the thesis work, exceptions may be made by the Department Head on a case by case basis.

Selection of Permanent Advisor

Newly admitted graduate students will be assigned a temporary advisor for the first semester, however they must select a permanent advisor before registering for the second semester. In selecting a permanent advisor, the student should arrange to meet with several members of the graduate faculty during the first six weeks of enrollment to discuss specific objectives. The student should use these meetings to become familiar with faculty research interests and research projects currently in progress. The faculty member must consent (in writing) to serve as the student’s advisor.

Timeline to PhD Degree Completion:

Qualifying Exam

  1. All students admitted into the PhD program will take the written qualifying exam by the end of the second regular semester (i.e., spring, fall semesters).
  2. The exam will be at the introductory graduate level. A student will receive a pass, fail, or conditional pass for each of the three topics areas as discussed below:
  3. Students must take the exam to cover three topic areas; Engineering Analysis and two of the five areas listed below:
    • Solid Mechanics
    • Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics
    • Fluids
    • Dynamics and Vibrations
    • Controls
    • Space Dynamics

Students who need to take the qualifying examination should complete the Doctoral Qualifying Examination Form by August 1 if they need to take the qualifying exam during the Fall semester or by December 1 if they need to take the qualifying exam during the Spring Semester.

Subject Study Materials

Past exam questions and study topics are provided to give students an idea of the level of complexity of the exam. They are NOT to be used as the only source of study material for the exam. Students are responsible for all material listed under Study Material for each subject test. These materials are in PDF format.

Exam subject topics (Fall 2008 and beyond):


FA2014 Fluid Mechanics​


Solid Mechanics

Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics

FA2021 Mathematics FA2020 Mechanics FA2021 Thermodynamics

FA2020 Mathematics

FA2014 Solid Mechanics FA2020 Thermodynamics

FA2014 Mathematics 

FA2014 Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics

 Fluid Mechanics

Dynamics and Vibrations


FA2021 Fluid Mechanics

FA2021 Dynamics and Vibrations FA2021 Controls

FA2020 Fluid Mechanics

FA2020 Dynamics and Vibrations FA2020 Controls

FA2014 Fluid Mechanics

FA2014Dynamics and Vibrations SP2014 Controls

SP2008 Dynamics

SP2008 Vibrations

Space Dynamics

Fall2013 Space Dynamics


Graduate Committee

The advisor, in consultation with the student, will establish a Graduate Committee, the purposes of which are to:

  • Approve the program of study
  • Provide guidance for the student’s research
  • Administer the comprehensive examination
  • Administer the dissertation defense

The doctoral committee will be composed of at least four members of the graduate faculty holding doctoral degrees. Three members must be from doctoral-granting departments; the committee chair and two other members must be from the student’s department. In addition to the committee chair, at least one other member must be from a discipline within the student’s major area, which may encompass more than one degree-granting department. One member of the committee may be from a related area of study. If a minor is declared, at least one but not more than two members of the committee must be from the minor area.

One member of the committee must serve as the dean’s representative. The dean’s representative can be either the member from the related area or minor area or an independent member appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School but must not be from the student’s department. In programs where more than one department is a participant, the dean’s representative may not be from any of those departments.

All members of the committee will attend the comprehensive oral and the final defense for the dissertation. No change in membership of the doctoral committee may be made without prior approval of the Dean of the Graduate School. The Graduate Committee members become official when the student completes the Program of Study and Committee for Doctoral Students form.

Program of Study

A student who has completed 12 credits of graduate work beyond the master’s degree, or its equivalent, is in residence at New Mexico State University, and has successfully completed the qualifying examination, MUST file the Program of Study and Committee for Doctoral Students form (also called Program of Study) before registering for additional courses.

The Program of Study should be completed in consultation with the adviser and other members of the doctoral committee. The student must select members of the doctoral committee before submitting the form.

This form should include course numbers and abbreviated titles with associated credit hours. For courses already completed, grades must be shown for both major and minor areas. The program recommended by the student’s committee is subject to approval by the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department Head, the head of the minor department (if applicable), the college dean, and the Dean of the Graduate School.

The program of study should be designed to meet the campus residency requirements described in the graduate catalog and should include the minimum requirements listed above for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Comprehensive Exam

Before admission to candidacy for a doctoral degree, all students are required to pass a comprehensive examination intended to test knowledge of the major and any approved minor fields of study. The examination will be administered by the graduate committee and consists of two parts:

  1. The subject matter component of the examination determines a student’s grasp of essential concepts relevant to the doctoral degree in general, and the student’s ability to project beyond existing knowledge. Written and oral questions covering the student’s graduate course work must be included.
  2. The research proposal is used to evaluate a student’s research aptitude and ability to develop and present an original research proposal; and, equally important, to advise the student in finalizing successful research goals and procedures. The formal written proposal containing the research goals, methodology, expected results and contributions of publishable quality will be defended orally before the entire committee.

The comprehensive examination is taken soon after completing the doctoral qualifying exam requirements, and at least one academic year prior to making the dissertation defense. The student requests permission from his advisor to take the Comprehensive Examination. This request must be made prior to the end of the third week of a semester. After reviewing the applicant’s record and verifying eligibility, the committee forwards a recommendation of approval for the examination to the Department Head. Following approval by the Department Head, the student’s advisor will create the written portion of the examination and notify the student of the date and time of the exam. It is the responsibility of the advisor to administer the examination and have it graded.

The written part of the examination is taken first and the oral portion is scheduled within two weeks after the written part is passed. Students taking the comprehensive oral exam must submit the graduate school Committee for Doctoral Examination form at least two weeks prior to the scheduled oral examination. This is a graduate school requirement.

The student must be duly registered for three credits of graduate course work in the Graduate School during the semester in which the comprehensive examination is taken. A student taking an oral examination during the summer must enroll for at least 1 credit for that term.

A student failing the Comprehensive Examination is subject to one of the following actions:

  1. Based on recommendations of the Graduate Committee and the approval of the Graduate Dean, the student may be given a second examination after a lapse of at least one semester.
  2. The student is terminated from the program.
  3. A student who fails two Comprehensive Examinations is terminated from the program.

Preferably, there should be a time lapse of at least one year between the comprehensive and the final oral examination. However, depending on the type of research required in the MAE department and the method of administering the written comprehensive, such a time lapse is not always practical. In all cases there must be one semester between the comprehensive and the final oral examinations.

Advancement to Candidacy

A student will be formally advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, with the recommendation of the committee and the approval of the graduate dean.

Doctoral Dissertation

Every student working toward the doctoral degree will submit a dissertation containing original research. The dissertation is expected to demonstrate the student’s ability in independent investigation, and to be a contribution to the body of knowledge in the field. The dissertation shall display a mastery of the literature of the subject field, present an organized, coherent development of ideas with a clear exposition of results, and provide a critical discussion of the limits and validity of the student’s conclusions.

A minimum of 9 credits must be taken after successful completion of the comprehensive exam. A student may not register for dissertation credits (700) prior to successful completion of the qualifying exam. The dissertation preparation shall total at least 18 credits of courses numbered 700. The doctoral committee can impose additional requirements for courses numbered 700. After successful completion of the comprehensive examination, a student must continue to register for at least 3 credits of dissertation or graduate course work each regular semester until the Graduate School approves the dissertation and the binding section in Branson Library has accepted the copies. A student who fails to abide by this regulation will be considered withdrawn from the university and, in order to resume studies, must formally apply for readmission and satisfy the requirements in effect at time of reapplication.

Final Examination

After the doctoral candidate has requested permission to defend the dissertation and has submitted a complete draft of the dissertation, the advisor will call the Graduate Committee together to review the progress and consider the request. At this time, the committee will examine the research apparatus or any other physical evidence pertinent to the dissertation. When the advisor, with input from the committee, feels that the research is completed, the student will be allowed to take the final examination. At this time the Doctorate of Philosophy Examination form is to be completed by the student and submitted by the department to the Graduate School. This form must arrive at the Graduate School at least ten working days prior to the examination date. The student must ensure that each member of the examining committee receives a copy of the dissertation no later than seven working days prior to the date of the final examination.

The final examination must be completed in accordance with the schedule provided in the Graduate School Academic Calendar. This examination is concerned primarily with the research work of the student as embodied in the dissertation, but it may be much broader and extend over the candidate’s entire field of study. The intention of the final examination is to verify that the candidate has a satisfactory grasp of the major subject as a whole and has a general acquaintance with the fields of knowledge represented by the course of study. The final examination is entirely oral and is open to the public.

A candidate who fails the oral examination may:

  1. upon recommendation of the committee and approval of the Graduate Dean, be granted a second examination* after a lapse of at least one semester or
    [*Failure in the second examination disqualifies the candidate from obtaining the degree.]
  2. be terminated from the program

If the final examination is to be held during the summer or the dissertation is to be completed during the summer, the student must register for 1 credit hour during the summer session in which the final examination will be held or the dissertation will be completed. In order to graduate in the summer the student must have filed the Application for Degree (Diploma) by the posted deadline.

The form and style of the dissertation must comply with the regulations given in the Guidelines for Preparing a Thesis or Dissertation. These guidelines also contain detailed information on the thesis-approval process and binding. Candidates are encouraged to consult with the graduate editor on format, deadlines, and procedures before final typing.

The dissertation must be submitted to the graduate editor on or before the deadlines posted in the Graduate School Academic Calendar. The dissertation is not complete until copies have been accepted for binding by the binding section staff and until the microfilm agreement form has been completed and received in Branson Library.