Dissertation Timeline Umich Wolverine

Before the Oral Defense

View your committee on Wolverine Access to verify that it is correct. This can be found on your unofficial transcript or the “View My Committee Information” link under Student Business: Academic Records. If adjustments need to be made, have your program submit a reviseddissertation committee form immediately. It is recommended that you complete this step at least 6 months prior to the defense.

At least three weeks prior to the oral defense, register online for a pre-defense meeting. Choose either the group pre-defense meeting (an in person meeting with other students and OARD staff) or the remote (e-mail) pre-defense meeting option. When registering, you will provide your name; program; U-M identification number; defense date, time, and location; and information about your committee members, including e-mail addresses.

Begin viewing your committee on Wolverine Access three days prior to your defense to confirm all members have submitted their evaluation. (All members must complete an evaluation before OARD can authorize the defense.) After confirming all evaluations have been received, your Oral Report form (that all members must sign at the defense) will be available to print through the online evaluation system. Be sure that a copy of that form is taken to the oral defense and signed by the committee members.

Register for a Pre-Defense Meeting
PLEASE NOTE: You must register at least three weeks before the date of your defense.

After the Oral Defense

Submit all of the required content revisions and corrections to your committee chair for approval.

Arrange for a post-defense meeting that must take place before the doctoral deadline. If the final deadline is exceeded, you will be required to enroll in the full term in which degree requirements are completed and pay tuition for 8 credit hours.

Remote Option

Send an e-mail to oard.staff@umich.edu, providing your name, program and U-M identification number. In the subject line of the e-mail, please use “Rackham Post-Defense Remote Option.” An OARD staff member will e-mail you the link and instructions to submit the complete, final, correctly formatted digital copy of the dissertation which will be the official copy of record. You will need to copy and paste the text of your abstract during the online submission (note that special characters cannot be accommodated and the word limit is 550).

Individual Meeting Option

Register for your Individual Meeting.

Register for a Post-Defense Meeting
Please allow at least two working days for a response.

Before Attending the Post-Defense Meeting

During the Post-Defense Meeting

  • Submit a complete, final, correctly formatted PDF copy of the dissertation (to be the official copy on record in the University Library’s Deep Blue digital archive). You will be prompted to copy and paste the text of your abstract during the online submission. (Please note that special characters cannot be accommodated).
  • After you submit the dissertation online, an OARD staff member will perform a final format check of your dissertation. If format revisions are required, you will need to make the corrections and re-upload the dissertation.
  • Verify that your committee Chair has submitted the Final Oral Examination Report and the Certificate of Dissertation Committee Approval to Rackham OARD.
  • Students are encouraged to submit the final digital copy of their dissertation to ProQuest the world’s largest permanent archive of doctoral dissertations. Abstracts of dissertations submitted to ProQuest are listed with the Library of Congress collections and are published in Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • OARD can provide certification of degree completion at your request after all requirements have been met.
  • If the final deadline is not met, you must register and pay for an 8 hour enrollment in the term the final degree requirements are completed.
  • Your diploma and transcript will not be issued if monies are owed. Verify your financial status with the Student Financial Services (phone (734) 764-7447). Diploma information may be found at the Registrar’s website.

The PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) consists of two components: the Research Core Curriculum (RCC) (formerly GCC) and the Research Fundamentals Exam (RFE).

Research Core Curriculum (RCC) Exam

The goal of the RCC is to ensure proficiency in technical topics both within and outside of the student's primary research area.

All PhD students must take four Research Core Curriculum (RCC) courses in the first two semesters. Typically students will enroll in two Research Core Curriculum courses in the first term, however some exceptions exist where students will only enroll in one or will opt to take three. During the second term of study, the remaining Research Core Curriculum courses are taken. Change-of-program students should refer below.

The RCC consists of four 500+ level graduate courses that satisfy the following course distribution requirements:

  • At most, three may be in the student’s research area
  • At least one must be outside of the student’s research area
  • At most, one may be from a department other than Mechanical Engineering. Note: Multiple cross-listed courses in the RCC plan will prompt additional consideration by the Graduate Program Committee (GPC)

In consultation with their research advisor a student should develop and submit a RCC plan. If a student does not have a research advisor, the student should submit a preliminary RCC plan by the Friday before the first day of classes. The ME Graduate Chair will then work with the student (if necessary) to arrive at a satisfactory plan. An RCC Plan is comprised of the following components:

  • A list of the four courses on which the RCC will be based (a list of all ME graduate-level courses scheduled for the Fall and Winter terms is located here).
  • A short (3-4) sentence statement that specifies how the courses fit into the student's current or intended research plan (this can be general if the student does not yet have a research advisor).
  • The approval of the student’s research advisor and/or the ME Graduate Chair.

The GPC will review and (if appropriate) approve RCC course plans based on their accordance with the course distribution requirements specified above and their academic rigor. The GPC will monitor the historical record of GPAs for courses selected on the RCC, and may ask a student to revise the student's RCC plan if the plan is judged to be insufficiently rigorous.

RCC plans may need to change after the start of the semester or between the first and second semester of the RCC. Typical circumstances that may necessitate a revision include course cancellations and a change in the student's research area and/or research advisor. Revised RCC plans require GPC approval. Requests for modifications to RCC plans should be submitted via the RCC form prior to the deadlines listed below in order to give the GPC sufficient time to review the request before the add/drop deadline.

Fall 2017September 25, 2017
Winter 2018January 22, 2018

GPC approval is required for dropping a course after the above dates and will only be given in rare circumstances. Changes in research area and/or research advisor are not sufficient reasons for dropping an RCC course.

Evaluation of the RCC (for those who entered the PhD program after Winter 2014): The grades students receive in RCC courses will be averaged to determine an RCC GPA. The GPA is based on Rackham's new 4.0 scale where A+ = 4.3 , A = 4.0, A- = 3.7, and B+ = 3.3. The RCC GPA will be used to determine the outcome of the RCC and will follow these guidelines:

RCC GPARCC OutcomeRFE Stipulation
≥ 3.7Pass Unconditionally--
≥ 3.5 - < 3.7Conditional PassStrong RFE Pass*
< 3.5Fails Unconditionally**--

*Note: A student must demonstrate proficiency by performing very well on the RFE (as judged by the RFE examiners) to pass the PhD qualifying examination. The student has two tries on the RFE to perform very well.

**Note: The student may petition the GPC to take an additional course in the third semester if that course grade could increase the overall GPA (of all five courses) to at least a 3.5 (or a 6.5 via the old Rackham 9.0 scale).

Petitions for a deviation from the above guidelines due to rare and extenuating circumstances can be made to the GPC. There are no course retakes in the RCC.

Change-of-Program Students. The GPC will evaluate the prior courses taken by a change-of-program (i.e. MSE to PhD) student to determine which (if any) courses may be eligible to include in an RCC plan, thus reducing the total number of RCC courses required to be taken after the student enters the PhD program. In some cases, a student's previously completed coursework may satisfy the RCC entirely; thus, the student would not be required to take any additional coursework.

Research Fundamentals Exam (RFE)

The RFE is an oral examination to test the student's potential to conduct independent research at the PhD level along with her written and oral communication skills. There are four primary objectives:

  1. Assess the depth of knowledge in the area of research specialization and the ability to relate this to research, 
  2. Assess the ability of the student to propose an interesting and relevant problem for PhD research
  3. Test ingenuity, creativity, and problem-solving skills, and 
  4. Assess written and oral communication skills and the ability to respond to questions.

Students who have a research advisor and have successfully completed the RCC coursework or who have successfully petitioned are eligible to apply for the RFE. Students must have a 3.5 GPA or higher to take the RFE. If a student does not have this GPA, he is required to submit a petition form to the graduate chair for consideration to take the RFE.

PhD students who successfully complete the RCC coursework must take the RFE the following semester. Change of Program students must take the RFE within one year. It is not mandatory for Change of Program students to take the RFE in their first semester as a PhD student.

Exams are held in the first two weeks of November (fall) and last two weeks of March (winter). The RFE is an oral exam lasting for 45 minutes which is structured with a 15 minute presentation followed by 30 minutes of question and answer with two faculty members.

Sample RFE Presentation

The RFE is organized by research subject areas as listed below:

Dynamics & VibrationsSolid Mechanics
Fluid MechanicsThermodynamics and Combustion
Heat Transfer 

Registration. Eligible students must register their intent to take the RFE to the Academic Services Office. The online registration form is announced to students via email in the first two weeks of each Fall and Winter semester. In addition, students are responsible for submitting an electronic document with the following elements:

  1. Bio-sketch using NSF fellowship application format, 
  2. Research abstract describing research: the purpose of the research being examined, key related research, research hypotheses, research methodology, and results to date. The abstract should be formatted with 11 point font, single spacing, one-inch margins, and be a maximum of 2 pages. These two pages include citations and bibliography.
  3. A list of RCC courses with discussion of how the RCC courses match the RFE topic and future research plans (less than 200 words).

Examiners. Two faculty are selected by the Graduate Program Committee to act as examiners for each RFE thematic area. A student's research advisor cannot be an examiner. The research advisor is not allowed to be present during the RFE.

Grading. Students are evaluated on a scale ranging from excellent to poor in each of the following areas:

  1. Synthesis of course material in research problem context.
  2. Input to research project.
  3. Research conduct and methodology.
  4. Research outcomes.
  5. Communication.

A sample grade sheet with more information about grading criteria can be found here.

All areas are considered when determining the student's examination outcome (pass/fail). The two examiners will produce a written report to the Academic Services Office indicating if the student has passed or failed the RFE with specific reasons for their decision.

Communication of Results. The result of the RFE is communicated by the Academic Services Office to the student by way of individual email. Successfully completing the RFE does not mean a student passes the RCC.

Retaking the RFE. Only one repeat is permitted and must be taken no later than the next offering of the RFE after the original RFE. Students will automatically be sent a registration email for the next available RFE session.

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