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Required Examinations for PhD Students

Doctoral Qualifying Examinations:

These examinations are meant to test the understanding of essential undergraduate-level material in Aerospace Engineering. They are required of all students seeking a Doctoral degree, and are to be taken at the earlier of the following two deadlines: during the first Fall or Spring semester after a student has completed 18 graduate credit hours at MSU (only hours completed after admission to the PhD program shall be counted); or during the first Fall or Spring semester after a student has completed one third of his/her program of study.

Each student has to select three topics among those listed below. At least two of the topics have to be in different major areas. Students who have completed the courses indicated in parenthesis below, or their equivalents, should be well prepared to pass the topic examinations. A student may choose one topic in each area.

  1. Solid Mechanics area:
    • Aerospace Structural Analysis (ASE 3223)
    • Aerospace Structural Design (ASE 4623)
    • Mechanics of Materials (EM 3213)
    • Vibrations(EM 3413)
  2. Fluid Mechanics area:
    • Incompressible Aerodynamics (ASE 3313)
    • Compressible Aerodynamics (ASE 4343)
    • Aircraft Propulsion (ASE 4413)
    • Spacecraft Propulsion (ASE 4443)
  3. Flight Mechanics area:
    • Aircraft Attitude Dynamics (ASE3123)
    • Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics (ASE3823)
    • Aerospace Controls (ASE 4123)
    • Introduction to Orbital Mechanics (ASE 3813)
  • Examination Rules:
    • These examinations are to be conducted by an Examination Committee appointed by the Department Head, with membership drawn from the Faculty within the Department. The Chair of the Committee shall have a Level 1 appointment to the Graduate Faculty at MSU.
    • These examinations shall be offered once each Fall/Spring semester, during the fifth and sixth weeks of classes.
    • Each topic examination shall be in a written format, and its duration shall be two hours. All examinations in one of the major areas above shall be offered on the same day; the examinations for each major area shall be scheduled in different days. Each student must take all three examinations in the same semester.
    • The Examination Committee shall be responsible for grading all examinations. After the Committee’s final review of the scored exam, a pass/fail determination shall be made in each topic, separately, for each student. Any grade appeals shall follow the University procedures (detailed in the Graduate Bulletin), with the Examination Committee Chair serving as the Instructor of Record for this purpose.
    • A student who fails one or more topics is required to take the failed topic examination(s) the next time it is offered or the student may successfully complete the course(s) the next time it is offered by receiving a grade of B or better. Failure to pass the topic examination(s) on the second attempt or to successfully complete the topic course(s) after having failed the topic exam(s) will result in dismissal from the doctoral program.
Approval of Dissertation Topic:

Each student shall submit a written proposal for doctoral research to his/her Doctoral Committee. The proposal shall outline significant preliminary findings to date, the proposed avenue of research, and a research plan with key milestones. The proposal is due no later than the tenth week of the first Fall or Spring semester after a student completes 10 graduate research hours (only research hours completed after admission to the PhD program shall be counted). Early submission of this proposal is encouraged, in order for the Committee to be in a position to be more effective in directing the research efforts of the student. Within four weeks of the submission to the Committee, an oral defense of the proposal shall be scheduled by the Chair of the Doctoral Committee (the defense shall be closed to the general public: only the student and all departmental Faculty who are members of the Graduate Faculty shall be admitted. An observer from the Graduate School may also be present, at the request of the student). The outcome of the oral defense shall be the formal approval/disapproval of the dissertation topic by the Doctoral Committee. If the dissertation topic is conditionally approved, the Chair of the Doctoral Committee shall have the responsibility of ensuring that the conditions are satisfied before granting final approval. If the dissertation topic is rejected, the student shall have one more chance to submit a new written proposal, not earlier than six months after the first submittal. A second rejection shall result in dismissal from the doctoral program. The dissertation defense shall not be scheduled before at least one calendar year has passed from the date of the formal approval of the dissertation topic.

Doctoral Candidacy Examination (DCE):

The role of the Doctoral Committee shall be predominant after the student has passed his/her Qualifying Examination. In addition to the Doctoral Committee, the Department Head and the Graduate Coordinator shall have an ex-officio participation in the administration of the DCE examination. In the following, the Examination Committee will indicate the Doctoral Committee augmented by the Department Head and the Graduate Coordinator. As stated in the University Graduate Bulletin, this examination may be taken only after the student has completed or is within 6 hours of completing his/her course work, and has the dissertation topic approved.

  • Examination Rules:
    • The Candidacy Examinations shall be composed of a written and an oral part. In special circumstances, and only with the unanimous consent of the Examination Committee, the written part of the examination can be eliminated.
    • The written examination shall be conducted only on those courses/topics that are closely related to the candidate’s proposed research. The Examination Committee shall prepare the examination, and its format and length shall be at the discretion of the committee.
    • Following the written examination there shall be an oral examination, open to the entire departmental Faculty, resulting in the formal granting of Candidacy status upon the student by the Examination Committee. A student who fails this examination cannot apply to take another until four months have elapsed from the date of the original examination. Two failures of this examination shall result in dismissal from the doctoral program.


Important Note:

The information on this page details the Departmental guidelines for the Qualifying Examinations, the procedure for obtaining approval of the dissertation topic, and the Preliminary/Comprehensive Examination (denoted as Candidacy Examination in this document). It is meant to complement the general guidelines published in the Graduate Studies Bulletin of Mississippi State University. Please refer to the Bulletin for more background material on these examinations.