Aims and Scope of the Graduate Program
Mechanical engineering (ME) research and study are offered through the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering (MCE). The degrees of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Master of Science (M.S.) are offered. In general, students who intend to work full-time toward the Ph.D. degree as a final degree objective are admitted to the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Program. The M.S. degree is typically only awarded to students who pursue the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering at Caltech and who do not already have an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering.
The aim of the graduate program in mechanical engineering at Caltech is to prepare students for research and professional practice in an era of rapidly advancing interdisciplinary technology. The program combines individual depth of experience and competence in a particular chosen major specialty, with a strong background in the basic and engineering sciences. It strives to develop professional independence, creativity, leadership, and the capacity for continuing professional and intellectual growth.
ME Preparation for the Graduate Program
Entering graduate students are expected to have a thorough background in undergraduate mathematics, physics, and engineering. While a strong undergraduate program in mechanical engineering should provide a suitable preparation, students who have not specialized in mechanical engineering as undergraduates may also be admitted for graduate study. For example, an outstanding four-year undergraduate program in mathematics and sciences may provide a suitable background as well. The qualifications of each applicant will be considered individually, and, after being enrolled, the student will arrange their program in consultation with a member of the faculty.
ME Master’s Degree
The degree of Master of Science in mechanical engineering is only awarded to students who do not already have an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering. The degree will be awarded upon request by students who have fulfilled the requirements. Only in exceptional cases is there admission to the M.S. program as the final degree objective.
A minimum of 138 units of courses numbered 100 or above, which meet the required master’s program listed below, must be passed with a grade of at least C for completion of the master’s degree in mechanical engineering. All units must be taken for grades, except for courses offered only on a pass/fail basis. The M.S. degree in mechanical engineering is typically completed within the first two years of residency at Caltech.
Each student’s program must be approved by the adviser and option representative in mechanical and civil engineering before registering for the course.
Required Master’s Program
- Graduate mechanical engineering core (54 units). These units should provide a solid base for the student’s engineering interest. The courses should be selected from the Core ME subjects listed under the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Description and Requirements section.
- Mathematics, engineering, and research electives (54 units). Courses may be taken in Ae, AM, ACM, ME, MedE, MS, EE, ESE, APh, CDS, CS, ChE, and CNS, except seminar courses. Students are encouraged to take research units, ME 300, up to a maximum of 27.
- Free electives (27 units). Any course with a number of 100 or greater may be selected, except that research units and seminar courses can not be included.
- Graduate Engineering Seminar, AM/CE/ME 150 abc (3 units).
ME Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
The Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering is focused on research. Study and research programs for the Ph.D. degree are individually planned to fit the interests and background of the student. A comprehensive research project resulting in an original contribution to the field documented by a dissertation is required. A minimum of three academic years in residence as a graduate student are required by the Institute, and two or more additional years are usually needed for preparation of the thesis.
Advising and Thesis Supervision
An interim adviser is appointed for each student upon admission to a graduate degree in mechanical engineering. The interim adviser will serve as the primary mentor until the student finds a research adviser. It is the responsibility of the student to find an academic and research adviser within three terms of graduate residence at Caltech. In consultation with the adviser, the student must form a Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee within four terms of graduate residence at Caltech. This committee shall consist of at least three members of the Caltech professorial faculty, with at least two members from the faculty in mechanical and civil engineering. The committee shall meet as requested by the student. Further, the committee shall meet annually to review progress and to approve the registration of the student beyond the fifth year of graduate residence at Caltech.
The adviser and the Thesis Advisory Committee provide the majority of mentoring to the student. In addition, the option representative and other members of the faculty are always available to provide advice and mentoring on any aspect of research, progress toward the Ph.D., future careers, and other aspects of life in graduate school and as a professional scientist.
Admission to Candidacy
To be recommended for candidacy for the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering, the student must, in addition to meeting the general Institute requirements, do the following:
- Obtain the agreement of a professorial faculty member to serve as the students academic and research adviser before the end of the third term of graduate residence at Caltech. In consultation with the adviser, the student must form a Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee before the end of the fourth term. This committee shall consist of at least three members of the Caltech professorial faculty, with at least two members from the faculty in mechanical and civil engineering.
- Pass both subject and research components of the oral candidacy examination before the end of the eighth term of graduate academic residence at Caltech. If the student has chosen a subject minor, an examination on the subject of that program may be included at the request of the discipline offering the subject minor.
- Complete a minimum of 195 units of courses numbered 101 or above, that fulfill the required Ph.D. program listed below. All units must be taken for grades and passed with a grade of at least a C, except for courses offered only on a pass/fail basis. The course work towards the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering is typically completed within the first three years of residency at Caltech.
The faculty will evaluate the student’s research progress, class performance, adviser’s input, and oral candidacy exam results to determine whether a student will be admitted to or be able to maintain candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.
Required Ph.D. Program
- ME Core Subjects (54 units): Course work in core mechanical engineering subjects selected from the courses below. Pass with a grade of at least C, 36 units must be in a single track (Depth requirement). An additional 18 units must be from the courses below but can be in any track, including the chosen Depth track.
Thermal-fluid sciences: Ae/APh/CE/ME 101 abc, APh/MS 105 abc, APh/Ph 115, APh/Ph/Ae 116, Ae/ME 118, ME 119, Ae/ME 120, Ph 127 ab, ME/CE 163, ChE/Ch 164, ChE/Ch 165.
Mechanics of solids, structures, and materials: Ae/AM/CE/ME 102 abc, Ae/APh 104 abc, AM/CE 151, Ae/Ge/ME 160 ab, ME/CE 163, Ae/CE 165 ab, ME/CE/Ge 174, Ae/AM/MS/ME 213, Ae/AM/CE/ME 214, Ae 220, Ae/CE 221, ME/MS/AM 221, Ae/AM/ME 223, AM/CE/ME 252, ME/Ge/Ae 266 ab.
Robotics, Controls and Dynamics: CDS 112, ME/CS/EE 129, CDS 131, ME/CS/EE 133 ab, ME/CS/EE 134, CDS 141, CMS/CS/CNS/EE/IDS 155, ME/CS/EE 169, CDS 231, CDS 232, CDS 233, ME/CDS/EE 234 ab, ME/CDS 235 ab.
- Electives or Minor (54 units): Additional engineering or science courses with course number 101 or above, except seminar or research courses. ACM 100 can be taken as an elective with the advisor's approval. Pass with a grade of at least C, courses that are approved by the Thesis Advisory Committee. These courses are intended to provide further depth and incorporate breadth. These units can be used to satisfy a minor requirement in another option.
- Advanced mathematics or applied mathematics (27 units): Pass with a grade of at least C, chosen in consultation with adviser from the following list: ACM 101 or higher, CDS 232, Ma 108 or higher, Ph 129. The requirement in mathematics is in addition to the requirements above.
- Graduate engineering seminar (6 units): Six terms of AM/CE/ME 150 abc, within the 12 terms or 3 years in residence at Caltech.
- Research (54 units): Successfully complete at least 54 units of research and demonstrate satisfactory research progress.
Registration Beyond the Sixth Year of Graduate Residence
The annual approval of the Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee is necessary for registration beyond the twenty-fourth academic term of graduate residence at Caltech.
Thesis and Final Examination
The thesis examination will be given after the thesis has been formally completed. This examination will be a defense of the doctoral thesis and a test of the candidate’s knowledge in the specialized field of research. The format of the examination can be chosen from the following two options, by the student, in consultation with the students research adviser: (i) a public seminar presented by the candidate, with an open question period, followed by a private examination by the Examining Committee or (ii) a private presentation to the Examining Committee followed by the examination, with a public seminar on another date. The Examining Committee shall consist of a minimum of four voting members, three of whom must be Caltech faculty; two members must be from MCE. The Thesis Defense Committee shall be chaired by a committee member who is an MCE Caltech professorial faculty member and not the student’s adviser.
ME Subject Minor
A student majoring in another branch of engineering or another division of the Institute may, with the approval of the faculty in the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and the faculty in the students major field, elect mechanical engineering as a subject minor. The program of courses must differ markedly from the major subject of study or research, and must consist of at least 54 units of advanced courses (101 or above) approved by the faculty in mechanical and civil engineering.