Lyle School of Engineering - Doctor of Philosophy Degree
General requirements for the Ph.D. degree include the following components:
1) total academic credit, 2) residence requirements, 3) course requirements,
4) preliminary counseling examination, 5) qualifying examination, 6)
admission to candidacy, 7) dissertation, 8) final examination and 9) supervisory committee. A
student admitted to a doctoral program is expected to have been awarded a Master’s
degree in the same or a closely related program or to earn such a Master’s degree
during the course of the program.
The following sections define and discuss these general requirements.
The Lyle School of Engineering requires for the Ph.D. degree a minimum academic credit of 54 term credit hours earned in coursework beyond the baccalaureate
degree or 24 term credit hours earned in coursework beyond a Master’s degree, in
addition to 24 term credit hours earned in dissertation work. There must be a minimum of 24 term credit hours of graduate coursework and a minimum of 24 term
credit hours of dissertation work, none of which have been nor can be applied to
any other degree. The student’s supervisory committee determines the precise
amount of course credit to be required, subject to the approval of the department
chair and the associate dean. A student who is actively working on his or her dissertation must be enrolled in dissertation study each term until completion of all
requirements for the Ph.D. degree.
The term “residence requirement” refers to the minimum number of required
academic credits a student must complete while properly enrolled at SMU. The residence requirement is 30 term credit hours of graduate credit, normally the last 30.
The Ph.D. degree is given in recognition of the highest attainment in a specific
field. It requires novel, high-quality research work recognized and accepted by
other scholars in the field. Due to this need for timeliness, all requirements for the
Ph.D. degree must be satisfied within five years after the date the qualifying
examination is passed. If such period has expired without successful completion
of the Ph.D. degree, the associate dean, in consultation with the thesis adviser and
the department chair, may ask the student to retake the Ph.D. qualifying examination or may disallow the student from further study.
Upon admission of each student into the program, the associate dean, on the
recommendation of the department chair, appoints a faculty adviser. The faculty
adviser is responsible for providing the student with advice on a proper plan of
study on fundamental courses in the discipline to prepare for the preliminary
counseling examination, which is designed to establish the academic strengths and
weaknesses of the student. If required by the department, the individual department
determines the format of the preliminary counseling examination. The background
expected for this examination is similar to that of a Master’s level, and the final
examination for the Master’s degree may substitute for this exam for students who
complete Master’s degrees at SMU. Depending on the results of the preliminary
counseling examination, one of the following three actions is taken: 1) the student
is allowed to take advanced courses for the Ph.D., 2) the student is disallowed from
further study at SMU or 3) remedial action in areas of academic weakness is
Every student who is admitted to the Ph.D. program must form a supervisory
committee with the approval of the dissertation director, the department chair and
the associate dean. Because the chair of this committee normally will also be the
student’s dissertation director, the student should decide upon a general area of
the dissertation before requesting the appointment of a supervisory committee. It
is essential that the student do this quickly because there are no assurances that
graduate work completed before the appointment of the committee will be accepted
as part of the Ph.D. program.
The minimum academic coursework of 54 term credit hours should include a
major as well as a minor area of investigation. The individual departments identify
specific course requirements for these areas. As a general guideline, at least 12 term
credit hours are required for the minor, which should be in an area providing
breadth as well as support to the major field of investigation.
For a Ph.D. program, qualifying examinations and the dissertation are paramount.
Course requirements are identified to facilitate the student’s training toward the
qualifying examination. Of the 24 term credit hours required in coursework
beyond a Master’s degree, 12 term credit hours must be taken at SMU. Generally, up
to 12 term credit hours of graduate courses may be transferred into the Ph.D. program
from an institution approved by the Graduate Division, provided that such courses
1) were completed in the five years prior to matriculation, 2) were taken toward a
Ph.D. degree and 3) received grades of B- or higher. The request to transfer credit must
be made using appropriate forms during the term of matriculation to the Graduate
Division. Grades of courses transferred for credit are neither recorded nor used in
computing GPAs. Acceptance of transfer credit requires approval of the student’s faculty
adviser, department chair and the associate dean. Transfer of any credit for courses
taken at other institutions after admission to SMU is not normally permitted.
These examinations must be taken after the student has completed some of the
advanced coursework in the major and minor fields of investigation.
Each department within the Lyle School of Engineering specifies the formats,
schedules and areas for the qualifying examinations. The student should contact
his or her department for these requirements.
This examination process is comprehensive in scope, covering the student’s
entire academic career, and includes the major and minor areas planned for the
Ph.D. degree. It is conducted by the supervisory committee with the aid of faculty
members drawn from the major and minor areas of concentration and consists of
both written and oral parts. As part of the oral examination, the student will be
required to discuss the proposed dissertation topic. This is desirable because a
student’s program of study should be supportive of his or her intended dissertation
research. Successful performance on the examination results in a recommendation
that the student be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The committee
may believe that, while a student passed the major parts of the examination, his
or her performance disclosed weaknesses requiring further coursework. The committee may then modify the student’s plan of study to include specific additional
courses before he or she may be recommended for admission to candidacy.
Should the student fail the examination process, the supervisory committee may
recommend a re-examination, subject to approval by the department chair and the
associate dean. The right of re-examination is not automatic; rather, it is a special privilege recommended in those cases in which the supervisory committee believes
a student has the necessary potential but needs some additional preparation.
A graduate student does not become a candidate for the Ph.D. degree until the
formal application for candidacy has been approved. Such admission requires the
approval of the student’s supervisory committee, the department chair and the
associate dean. The approval is based upon 1) passing the qualifying examination,
2) the academic record of the student as attested by a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0 = A),
3) selection of a tentative title for the dissertation and 4) the student’s overall fitness
as judged by the supervisory committee. The formal application for candidacy
should be submitted as soon as these four requirements have been met, as judged
by the supervisory committee.
The dissertation format must follow the Guidelines for Preparation of Theses
Each student is also expected to submit articles for publication
in reputable journals and conferences appropriate to the field of research.
The most clearly distinguishing characteristic of a program leading to the Ph.D.
degree is the requirement that the candidate write a dissertation embodying the
results of a significant and original investigation. The dissertation is expected to
be a mature and competent piece of writing and must make a significant and novel
contribution to the engineering or applied science discipline. The work it reports
may be basic scientific research, engineering research or creative design. The
progress of the student toward the Ph.D. degree is monitored closely by the thesis
adviser and the supervisory committee, with an annual report to the department
chair. In the event a student is judged by the supervisory committee not to be
making satisfactory progress, he or she will be placed on probation for one term,
at the conclusion of which his or her progress will be reevaluated. Should the
progress be found unsatisfactory, the student will be suspended.
Upon successful completion of the dissertation defense, the dissertation director
must sign the abstract original, and all faculty members attending the final examination must sign the original half-title page of the dissertation. After the dissertation
has been checked and approved by the Lyle School of Engineering examiner, the
dissertation is uploaded electronically to the SMU/UMI submission website. One
extra copy of the abstract signed by the adviser and one copy of the original half-
title page with signatures must be delivered to the director of Graduate Student
Experience before the final examination period in a regular term and before
examinations in a summer term.
Dissertation Research in Industrial Laboratories
Under special circumstances, some students may be permitted to undertake their
dissertation in industrial laboratories in the Dallas-Fort Worth area or elsewhere.
This situation may arise when the research requires special laboratory facilities
that are not available at SMU but that are available elsewhere. Such an operation
creates special problems for both the University and the company, particularly
when the dissertation research is also the student’s work assignment as an employee
of the company. From the viewpoint of the school, the principal requirement is
that the particular research on which the dissertation is to be based be undeniably
the individual work of the student. The second requirement on which the school
must stand is that the dissertation results be available for free dissemination via
open publication, whatever those results may be.
To minimize difficulties arising out of these requirements, the Lyle School of
Engineering has adopted the following regulations:
- The chair of the student’s supervisory committee must be a member of the
resident tenured or tenure-track faculty of the school.
- The student may register for dissertation-research credit only after appointment of a dissertation director by the department chair, subject to the approval
of the associate dean.
- The supervisory committee must approve the specific character of the work
to be conducted, the conditions under which it is conducted and the time
schedule for completion. It is expected that the supervisory committee shall
have access to the student’s experimental apparatus, and the chair of that
committee shall join with the dissertation director in meeting at intervals
with the student at the scene of the research to evaluate the process and the
conditions under which the research is carried out.
- The dissertation director has the responsibility to ensure that the student’s
work is identifiably the student’s own and that needed equipment belonging
to SMU will not be diverted from the dissertation research by the company
except in cases of extreme need.
The membership of the supervisory committee is selected by the student in
consultation with the dissertation director. After the student has obtained the written consent of those selected, he or she must obtain the written endorsement of the
department chair before transmitting the list to the associate dean for official
certification. The supervisory committee is made up of at least five members.
Three resident tenured or tenure-track faculty members are drawn from the student’s
department, as well as one resident tenured or tenure-track faculty member from
each minor field. The chair of the supervisory committee shall be a resident tenured
or tenure-track member of the school faculty and shall normally be the dissertation
director and a member of the student’s department. Thus, a minimum of four
members must be resident tenured or tenure-track faculty of Southern Methodist
University. The supervisory committee should be constituted as early as possible
after the student has begun doctoral work and normally before the completion of
15 term credit hours of work beyond the Master’s degree (or 45 term credit hours
of work beyond the baccalaureate degree). The associate dean is an ex officio
member of all supervisory committees and should be notified in writing, at least
one week in advance, of all meetings of such committees. The associate dean may,
at his or her own discretion, reconstitute any supervisory committee.
The duties of a supervisory committee shall be:
- To assist the student in interpreting all regulations governing the degree
sought. This duty does not absolve the student from the sole responsibility
to remain informed concerning these regulations.
- To meet immediately after its appointment for the purpose of passing on the
qualifications of the student, to discuss and approve a plan of study, and to
set a tentative time schedule for the qualifying examination.
- To discuss and approve the dissertation project proposed by the student and
the plans for implementing it.
- To participate in the qualifying examination.
- To convene whenever needed during dissertation research to review procedure,
progress and expected results, and to develop suggestions for the remainder
of the work. The supervisory committee may be convened by either the chair of the supervisory committee or the associate dean of Graduate Studies. The
supervisory committee may suggest discontinuation of the student if sufficient
progress toward the Ph.D. degree has not been achieved.
- To conduct the final examination.
Upon completion of all other requirements, a final examination of the candidate
will be announced, registered with the Graduate Division and subsequently con-
ducted by the supervisory committee. The candidate must make six unbound copies
of the complete draft version of his or her dissertation available to the Graduate
Division for distribution to the members of the supervisory committee at least
three weeks prior to scheduling of the final examination. This examination, which
is conducted orally, must enable the committee to satisfy itself that the dissertation
is an original piece of work, either in research or creative design; that it has been
carried out in keeping with the highest standards of investigation and reporting;
and that it makes a contribution to knowledge that is of value to the engineering
profession or scientific community. Satisfactory performance on this examination
is the last requirement to be met for the Ph.D. degree.
The degree may be awarded at the end of the term in which the final examination is passed, but the prospective candidate should note that at least one academic
year must elapse between the passing of the qualifying examination and the conferring of the degree.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Lyle School of Engineering may be
pursued in areas that do not belong strictly to any one department but nevertheless
are of interest to some faculty members of the school. In such cases, the composition of the supervisory committee will be made flexible in order to allow for the
interdisciplinary nature of the program, with the single restriction that at least
three of the five members of the supervisory committee are tenured or tenure-track
faculty members in the Lyle School of Engineering.