Mechanical Engineering PHD

Program Purpose


The purpose of the PhD program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is to provide a world-class education to students pursuing a doctoral degree, in an atmosphere enlightened by the principles of the gospel. Specifically, the purpose of this program is to produce graduates who:

  1. Eagerly pursue lifelong learning through study and faith in professional, religious and personal aspects of life.
  2. Understand the fundamental principles of mechanical engineering, and demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the principles related to the specific sub-discipline of mechanical engineering related to their thesis topic.
  3. Implement the fundamental principles of engineering through hands-on design and analysis, using modern engineering tools and practices, to solve complex, real-world engineering problems with high standards of personal and professional ethics.
  4. Demonstrate leadership in a specific sub-discipline of mechanical engineering through the development of new knowledge and practices.
  5.  Confidently present their intellectual efforts in a national or international technical forums of professionals in their area of expertise.
  6. Express faith in God and a desire to serve Him through lifelong service to family, church, profession and community.

These purposes are aligned with the four major educational goals listed in the mission statement of Brigham Young University and are consistent with the aims of a BYU education. The stated purposes are designed to be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and to lead to lifelong learning and service.

Curricular Structure

The PhD degree typically requires 4.5 years beyond the BS degree and must be completed within 8 years of enrollment in the PhD program.

For students with an approved MS, a minimum of 36 credit hours beyond the MS is required, which includes 18 hours of dissertation credit and 18 hours of graduate-level coursework. For students entering directly from the BS, a minimum of 54 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree is required, which includes 18 hours of dissertation credit and 36 hours of graduate-level coursework. 

In consultation with his or her advisor, PhD students develop a program of study during their first semester of PhD work. The program of study is selected from advanced courses offered in engineering, mathematics, physics, or other approved areas. The program of study is approved by each member of the student's graduate committee. Comprehensive qualifying exams must be taken within the first year of the PhD program. PhD students must submit and orally defend a written prospectus. PhD students must present an oral defense of their dissertation work, and it is expected that this work will result in peer-reviewed archival publications. Additional requirements include two semesters of residency and graduate seminar attendance for two semesters. 

Research activities associated with the PhD dissertation provide some of the most important learning experiences in graduate studies. Because research requires documentation and dissemination of results, it is a powerful means of maturing students in writing and other aspects of technical communication. Research offers students an exciting opportunity to make technological contributions to society as they extend the boundaries of knowledge. Graduate students work closely with faculty to present their work in the form of peer-reviewed publications and technical presentations.

This curricular structure is aligned with the mission of Brigham Young University and is consistent with the aims of a BYU education. The program objectives are designed to provide PhD students with the opportunity to engage in activities that are spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and to lead them to develop habits of lifelong learning and service.

 

Learning Outcomes


In-Depth Understanding of Fundamental Principles

Program graduates will develop an in-depth understanding of the fundamental principles related to a sub-discipline of mechanical engineering.

Courses that Contribute: ME EN 537 ME EN 625 ME EN 642 ME EN 734 ME EN 795R ME EN 799R
Linked to BYU Aims: Quantitative reasoning, Competence
Mastery of a Broad Range of Mechanical Engineering Topics

Program graduates will have demonstrated a mastery of a broad range of topics related to mechanical engineering, including applied mathematics, and an ability to study and learn independently.

Courses that Contribute: ME EN 625 ME EN 673 ME EN 734 ME EN 795R ME EN 799R
Linked to BYU Aims: Quantitative reasoning, Lifelong learning
Independent Research

Program graduates will have demonstrated the ability to perform independent research by completing a dissertation project which results in the creation of new knowledge and/or the advancement of the state of the art in a specific sub-discipline of mechanical engineering. The dissertation project may contain elements of design, experimentation and analysis and will require innovation and creativity.

Courses that Contribute: ME EN 537 ME EN 673 ME EN 799R
Linked to BYU Aims: Quantitative reasoning, Lifelong learning
Writing and Oral Communication

Program graduates will develop technical writing and oral presentation skills.

Courses that Contribute: ME EN 625 ME EN 795R ME EN 799R
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively
Ethical and Moral Standards

Program graduates will demonstrate a pattern of living consistent with high ethical and moral standards.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Character

Evidence of Learning


A variety of assessment tools based on both direct and indirect evidence are used to demonstrate that students who earn a PhD in Mechanical Engineering have achieved the stated outcomes.

Direct Assessment Tools

  1. Students must complete their required coursework with a B average or better. Each student's courses must be approved by their graduate committee. Student GPA in these courses is used as a direct assessment tool.
  2. Twice per year faculty members provide a written evaluation for each graduate student that they advise. Specific program milestones and performance are evaluated and feedback is provided to the student.
  3. Each student is required to pass a series of three qualifying exams, selected from eight offered exams which cover the core topic areas related to mechanical engineering. Successful completion of these exams requires the student to independently review and integrate an extensive body of knowledge.
  4. Each student is required to complete their dissertation prospectus within a year of passing the qualifying exams. The prospectus, which outlines the anticipated creation of new knowledge and/or advancement of the state of the art in the specific sub-discipline(s) of mechanical engineering related to their dissertation work, is approved by the graduate committee following an oral defense. 
  5. The dissertation, which documents the contributions made by the student, is approved by their graduate committee and publicly defended. 
  6. Each student's understanding of the governing principles and their ability to apply these principles is assessed by their graduate committee immediately following the dissertation defense.
  7. The ability of the student to contribute to conduct independent research within the chosen sub-discipline of mechanical engineering is assessed by his or her graduate committee immediately after the dissertation defense.
  8. The number of archival journal publications associated with each student's dissertation and the percent of graduates who present their work at national and international conferences are tracked.  The number of patents and provisional patent filings resulting from PhD dissertations is also tracked.
  9. The technical writing of each student is assessed by their graduate committee. The dissertation is critically reviewed and the dissertation defense is evaluated by the graduate committee.
  10. The graduate's oral presentation skills are assessed by his or her graduate committee immediately following the dissertation defense.  Additional assessments by the student's graduate committee chair are performed following presentation at technical conferences, department seminars, and/or graduate research competitions. 
  11. Compliance with the honor code is verified by the annual ecclesiastical endorsement.

Indirect Assessment Tools

  1. Exit surveys – Each graduating student completes an exit survey that provides information to improve the program. Questions include identification of strengths and weaknesses of their educational experience and a discussion of their future career plans.  
  2. External advisory board visits, surveys, and feedback - The external advisory board consists of highly respected mechanical engineering professionals from both industry and academia. The advisory board meets periodically with ME faculty, staff and students. A report summarizing their recommendations is submitted to the department chair following each visit.
  3. Alumni surveys - Department and university alumni surveys are collected periodically. In addition to specific questions related to department goals, the surveys ask open ended questions concerning topics such as: What can be improved in the department and curriculum?, What is the activity level of our alumni in professional organizations?, Where are the alumni employed?, and What additional education was obtained or is being pursued after graduation?
  4. Periodic academic department review - An academic department review is conducted every 6 years according to procedures established by the Office of Institutional Assessment and Analysis. In these reviews, the effectiveness of the MS program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is measured based on the achievement of faculty and students relative to program goals. The review involves both internal and external reviewers, including external reviews of recently completed thesis.

Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement


The graduate coordinator and department chair select areas from the assessment feedback, in which improvement is needed. Items of major significance are presented to the department and solutions are sought through department graduate committee meetings, faculty meetings or ad-hoc committee assignments.

Examples of recent improvements

The evaluation process for each graduate student has been improved by instituting regular (biannual) meetings between each graduate committee chair and the department graduate advisor collaborating on individual student progress, needs and goals.

Department fellowship funding criteria have been made more transparent and objective.

Graduate program visibility has been enhanced through increased attention to social media, improvements in the department website, and updating of printed literature.

Qualifying exams: All graduate faculty participated in a revision of the qualifying exams in which the qualifying exam policies were simplified and streamlined. The instructions for each topic exam were updated and clarified, exemplar past exams were added, and the number of exams was reduced from 4 to 3.  

Seminar presentation requirement: The seminar presentation requirement for PhD students was dropped in favor of increasing the quality and focus of the graduate seminar series for all graduate students in the department.  One of the considerations in this change, was the realization that virtually all of our PhD students are presenting their research at several national and international technical conference venues.

Direct to PhD streamline:  The pathway for highly qualified, highly motivated students to proceed directly to a PhD degree following their BS degree was streamlined to bring our program into alignment with national norms and to aid in recruitment of these students.