Every doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is expected to attain a level of mastery in an area of mechanical engineering, and must therefore choose a field and take the most advanced courses offered in that field. Candidates are assigned a faculty adviser whose task is to help choose a program of courses, provide general advice on academic matters, and monitor academic performance. Candidates also choose a faculty member in the pertinent area of specialization to serve as their research adviser. This adviser helps select a research problem and supervises the research, writing, and defense of the dissertation.


Qualifying Exam: The exam consists of a written exam covering a number of areas of Mechanical Engineering. A candidate who fails the examination may be permitted to repeat it once in the following year. Typical Time of Completion: Two semesters after matriculation. Exam given in May.

Master of Science (MS): Doctoral students are expected to either matriculate into the doctoral program with a master’s degree or earn one on course to their doctoral degree. Typical Time of Completion: Two to three semesters after matriculation.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil): Doctoral students should apply for the M.Phil. after completing the following requirements: passing the doctoral qualifying exam, accumulating six residence units, and earning 30 credits beyond the M.S. degree. M.Phil degrees are awarded three times a year—in October, February, and May. Students must submit an M.Phil. application by email to Mel Francis. Deadline dates for submitting the application may be found at https://gsas.columbia.edu/student-guide/dissertation/dissertation-dates-and-deadlines Typical Time of Completion: Four semesters after MS. 

Research Proposal: Doctoral students present a research proposal which identifies a specific problem to investigate to a three-person faculty committee. The committee considers whether the proposed problem is suitable for doctoral research, whether the plan of attack is well formulated and appropriate to the problem, and whether the student is adequately prepared. Typical Time of Completion: No later than six semesters after passing the Qualifying Exam.

Defense and Deposit of Dissertation: Doctoral students prepare and defend a dissertation to a five-person faculty committee consisting of at least three members from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and at least one member whose primary appointment is outside the department. Students must submit a defense application by email to Mel Francis no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled defense. Dissertation Dates and Deadlines may be found at: https://gsas.columbia.edu/student-guide/dissertation/dissertation-dates-and-deadlines

Program Requirements

  • 30 credits beyond master’s degree (a combination of research and course credits, in consultation with advisor)
  • GPA of 3.2 or better in graduate courses
  • 4 semesters of graduate seminar MECE E9500 (must attend a minimum of 4 seminars in each semester of seminar registration)
  • Completion of all milestones
  • Completion of two semesters teaching experience, each equivalent to 20 hours/week effort

Application Information

Read about application requirements and apply online on the Graduate Student Affairs site.

Graduate Programs Policies

Visit the Office of Graduate Student Affairs site to learn more about our academic policies and procedures for Doctoral programs.