PhD Program Policies

Approved by the Department of Mechanical Engineering,  30 April, 2009.

These policies govern the operation of the PhD programs in Mechanical Engineering and in Advanced Materials and Manufacturing.

A. PhD Comprehensive Exam

The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to determine if the candidate has a sufficiently strong background in their research field and in related areas of fundamental engineering principles to conduct PhD level work. The comprehensive will focus primarily on the student’s research field and related areas of knowledge. Questions in the comprehensive exam should test fundamental principles and knowledge in the undergraduate fields related to the candidate’s field of research, and can also include knowledge gained from relevant graduate courses and from the candidate’s early preparation for their thesis work. In keeping with the idea of a “comprehensive” exam, it should be fairly broadly based, and not concentrate exclusively on knowledge directly related to the thesis topic.

The following regulations govern the comprehensive:

1. The comprehensive is an oral examination of approximately two hours duration.

2. The examining committee can return one of three verdicts:

(a) Pass – the student can proceed in their program.

(b) Supplemental exam – the student generally shows a satisfactory background for PhD work, but has a weakness in a particular area. In this case the committee may assign a written supplemental exam in that area, and may recommend particular reading or study to strengthen the student’s background in preparation for the supplemental. If the committee is then satisfied with the student’s performance in the supplemental, the mark will be revised to a Pass; otherwise, it becomes a Fail. The supplemental must be completed within two months of the initial attempt at the examination.

(c) Fail – the student shows insufficient knowledge of the field to proceed with the PhD program.

3. If the comprehensive examination is failed, it may be repeated once only. Failure of the second attempt at the comprehensive will result in withdrawal from the program.

4. The syllabus for the comprehensive examination is set by the student’s advisory committee and is conveyed to the student in writing. This syllabus should include a list of topics and directions as to which courses or textbooks should be reviewed in preparation for the exam.

B. PhD Proposal Exam

The purpose of the thesis proposal is to determine whether the candidate has acquired sufficient knowledge of the intended thesis topic area to formulate and carry out a viable PhD research plan. The following regulations govern the PhD proposal:

1. The candidate shall prepare a written research proposal of not more than 50 pages in length which contains the following elements:

    • introduction and outline of the problem;
    • a critical survey of the literature related to the thesis topic, assessing the current state of the field, and showing how the proposed thesis topic fills the knowledge gap revealed by the literature survey;
    • an outline of the work proposed for the thesis, including the major tasks required, the methodologies employed, and a rough schedule of work. The choice of methodologies and the tasks proposed should be justified by reference to the literature.
    • The proposal may also contain the results of preliminary research work if the student wishes, although it does not have to.

2. The written proposal must be given to the advisory committee a minimum of two weeks before it is examined.

3. The proposal examination consists of an oral presentation and defence of the written proposal before the advisory committee.

4. The advisory committee can return one of two verdicts:

(a) Pass: the student can proceed in their thesis research. To be granted a pass, the candidate must, through the written proposal and the oral examination

    • demonstrate a critical knowledge of relevant recent literature in the field, including a sound understanding of the fundamental principles and the important phenomena, methodologies (experimental, computational, etc.) and conclusions;
    • demonstrate that the proposed research plan is feasible;
    • demonstrate that they are capable of independent work.

(b) Fail: the student has insufficient knowledge and preparation to proceed further with their thesis research.

A majority of examiners including the supervisor must agree on the verdict; i.e. the supervisor must be in agreement with the verdict.

5. If the proposal examination is failed, it may be repeated once only. Repeating the examination will require submission of a new research proposal document. Failure of the second attempt at the proposal examination will result in withdrawal from the program.

6. The comprehensive examination must be passed before the proposal can be submitted or examined.

C. Deadlines

The comprehensive examination must be attempted before the end of the fourth semester of registration in the PhD program. If the examination committee requires a supplemental examination, it must be attempted within two months of the initial examination. If the comprehensive is failed and attempted again, the second attempt must be made before the end of the next semester following the initial attempt (i.e. at the latest before the end of the fifth semester of registration in the program).

The proposal must be submitted and the proposal examination attempted before the end of the fifth semester of registration in the PhD program. The comprehensive examination must be passed before the proposal can be submitted. In the event of a delay caused by a second attempt at either the comprehensive examination or the proposal examination, both requirements must be completed by the end of the sixth semester of registration in the PhD program (24 months).

D. Committees

The advisory committee comprises the supervisor plus a minimum of two other professors, one of them from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Carleton University. This acts as the examining committee for the proposal.  The examining committee for the comprehensive comprises three examiners from the student’s field of research (broadly defined), and the thesis supervisor, who chairs the committee but is not allowed to vote. At least one of the examiners must be from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa; the remaining two will normally also be members of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies of the University of Ottawa, although exceptions may be made if necessary with the approval of the graduate studies officer in order to secure a person in a particular area of expertise.

The final examining committee for the thesis will normally consist of the advisory committee plus the external examiner (“external” meaning from outside the University of Ottawa or Carleton University), plus one other professor from the University of Ottawa. This latter will usually be from Mechanical Engineering, but may be from another department. The final decision on the composition of this committee rests with the FGPS in each individual case.

E. Course requirements

The course load for the PhD will be maintained at the present level of 3 courses, with the understanding that the Department (through the graduate officer) can assign additional courses on admission to the program to students who show particular deficiencies in their background.

F. Seminar requirements

The seminar requirements for the PhD program are:

  • attendance at a total of 15 seminars;
  • presentation of a seminar on the candidate’s work.

The candidate will be continuously registered in the seminar course until they have completed the requirements. Professors and students attending the seminars will fill out evaluation forms for each seminar. If the candidate fails to give a satisfactory seminar as judged by the results of this evaluation they will have to repeat the seminar until a satisfactory performance is achieved.

A similar regulation is proposed for an MASc student, except that attendance is required at only 10 seminars.

G. Direct Transfer to PhD Program from an MASc Program

The current regulations regarding the transfer of students from the MASc program to the PhD without first completing the MASc thesis will be maintained. These are as follows:

1. All qualified students holding a Bachelor’s Degree who apply directly for admission to the PhD program will first be admitted to the MASc. program.

2. To qualify for application to the PhD program, a student must have:

    • (a) Completed at least two semesters of full-time registration in the MASc program.
    • (b) Completed at least four graduate courses while registered for the MASc program and have maintained an average of at least A (9.0).
    • (c) Demonstrated the ability to execute independent and original PhDlevel research.

3. The application for transfer to the PhD program must be made in writing, through the student’s supervisor, to the Graduate Officer of the Department. The application must include:

  • (a) A short report written by the applicant detailing:
    • (i) the research topic
    • (ii) a literature survey
    • (iii) progress of the research to date, given in sufficient detail to allow the committee to judge the research aptitude of the applicant.
    • (iv) an outline of the proposed PhD research program. Such must show a continuity of his/her current research to the proposed PhD program.
  • (b) Presentation of the research to date at a regularly scheduled Department seminar.
  • (c) The recommendation and approval of the MASc supervisor. The student may not change research supervisor in transferring from the MASc to the PhD.

4. A student who transfers from the MASc to the Ph.D. program must complete:

  • (a) the residency requirements specified in the Graduate Calendar: a minimum of nine semesters of full-time registration from the date of first registration for the MASc (i.e. the combined residency requirements for an MASc and a PhD);
  • (b) all course requirements for both the MASc and the PhD (i.e. 5 + 3 = a total of 8 courses);
  • (c) seminar requirements for both the MASc and the PhD;
  • (d) all other Senate and Department requirements for the PhD degree.

5. The deadlines for the comprehensive examination, thesis proposal, and program completion shall be with respect to the date of transfer into the PhD program.


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