Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
PhD Program Policies
Approved by the Department 30 April 2009
Amended version approved by the Department 28 February 2017
These policies govern the operation of the PhD programs in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
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 examination is an oral examination that is normally the first part of a
combined session with the proposal examination (described below). The total duration of this
combined exam is approximately three hours.
2. The advisory 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
– 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 defense 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
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 examined.
The comprehensive exam and proposal exam 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 exam may proceed. 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).
The advisory committee comprises the supervisor plus a minimum of two other professors from the
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Carleton University.
The final thesis examination board is comprised as per the FGPA Thesis Examination Policy at
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 requirement for the PhD program is:
– attendance at a total of 15 seminars
– presentation of a seminar on the candidate’s work
A seminar course code will be created, and the candidate will be continuously registered in this
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
G. Direct Transfer to PhD Program from an MASc Program
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
(b) Completed at least four graduate courses while registered for the MASc program and have
maintained an average of least B+ (9.0)
(c) Demonstrated the ability to execute independent and original PhD level 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
research to the proposed PhD program.
(b) Presentation of the research to date at a regularly scheduled Department seminar.
(c) The recommendation of 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 PhD 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 PhD;
(d) all other Senate and Department requirements for the PhD degree.
5. The deadlines for the PhD Comprehensive Exam, PhD Proposal Exam and program completion shall be with respect to the date of transfer into the PhD program.