Master's Degree Guidelines

INTRODUCTION

The following information is provided as a guide in the pursuit of a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering, Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, or Manufacturing Engineering, including the general process and description of major requirements. This information should be considered a guide - the requirements for the degree are spelled out in the Graduate Catalog, the legal document which should be a reference for all graduate students.

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ENROLLMENT IN THE UNIVERSITY

Advising

For registration at the University in the first semester, you should attend the "new student orientation" and follow up by coming to ETC 5.218 to be assisted in the registration process by the Graduate Coordinator. You will be provided with registration materials, and an explanation of the registration process. You must be assisted by a faculty member in your technical area from whom you will obtain advice on particular courses to take in your technical field. Most technical areas have a set of core courses that you must take in your degree program.

After the first semester, you will generally be advised by your research advisor or some other faculty member in your technical area. You should obtain from the Graduate Office a registration advising form that lists your proposed schedule for the semester that the advisor will sign. This completed form must be returned to the Graduate Office in order to have the advising bar removed and proceed with the registration process. Please be aware that some courses are "restricted courses" and require an additional form to be filled out and signed in order to register. These forms can be found on the fifth floor literature rack outside the Chairman's suite.

Financial Aid

Several types of financial aid are available to continuing students on a competitive basis. Criteria for these awards are your incoming GPA and GRE, your performance at the University of Texas, and recommendations from the faculty.

Fellowship: A few fellowships are available through the Department for exceptionally qualified individuals. The Graduate Advisor solicits candidates from continuing students, and the awards are made by a fellowship committee.

Teaching Assistantship (TA): Teaching assistants are selected from applications submitted in each technical area. These applications are available from the area administrative assistants. The monthly stipend is paid by the University at the end of each month. Foreign students must pass an English Assessment Test and attend an Orientation in order to teach.

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA): Graduate research assistantships (GRA's) are awarded by individual faculty members who have obtained research contracts and grants from sources generally outside the Department. Interested students should talk to the faculty about the availability of this support. Graduate research assistantships are not offered through the Graduate Office.

Arrangements for a GRA should be made prior to the semester in which it is to be effective. If you accept a teaching assistantship, you cannot change to a GRA after the first day of classes. GRA stipends are paid at the end of each month.

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PROGRAM AND SCHEDULE OF WORK

Alternative Programs

Masters students have three alternatives for the MSE degree program: 30 credit hours including thesis, 33 hours including report, and 36 hours with no thesis and no report. The rules concerning the content of the course work hours are described in the Graduate Catalog. If you are considering obtaining a PhD, it may be possible to begin immediately on the PhD program. The Graduate Advisor can provide the details of this option.

The selection of a program is your decision, however, the choice may be restricted by your acceptance of a GRA or by your selection of a research supervisor. If you accept a GRA, the no-thesis/no-report option is not available without written agreement of the faculty member providing the GRA. The selection between the thesis or report option will be made in consultation with your research advisor. Some faculty members will only supervise thesis research.

Courses in the Program

The Graduate School requires that the masters program include at least 18 hours of major courses and at least 6 hours of supporting. A grade average of at least B must be obtained for both of major and supporting courses individually. The technical areas of the department may impose additional restrictions on MS programs such as course requirements, numbers of major and supporting courses, and prerequisites. The Graduate Advisor enforces these requirements if they are printed and made available to the student.

Supporting courses

Some students get in trouble with too few supporting course hours. Supporting courses need not all be in the same subject area and they may include Mechanical Engineering courses, but they must be outside the technical area you pursue.

Undergraduate courses

You may take up to nine hours of undergraduate courses in your degree program. No more than six hours can be counted in either the major or the supporting courses.

Planning Your Program

It is good to plan your program early in your academic career with the help of a faculty member in your technical area. Remember that most graduate courses are offered at most once a year and some are offered even less often.

Time to complete the degree

Most M.S. students enter in the Fall semester. The schedule below shows a possible plan for completing the MSE with the thesis option that requires approximately one calendar year plus a long semester (admission in September and graduation in December of the following year).

A typical schedule would be. *

Fall: 9 hrs. courses + seminar (Researching to select a topic)
Spring: 9 hrs. courses + 3 hrs. Thesis A
Summer: 3 hrs. courses and work on Thesis B
Fall: 3 hrs. courses + 3 hrs. Thesis B

*Some graduate students take longer that 1.5 years to complete the degree. Students accepting GRA or TA appointments will generally find it necessary to take a reduced course load to balance teaching or research responsibilities and classroom requirements and thus have their time in residence extended.

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SELECTING A RESEARCH TOPIC

If you have a GRA you will no doubt write your thesis or report on the project that funds your GRA and thus will effectively select your thesis "topic area" early. Otherwise, selection of a topic will normally be made near the end of the first semester. Some time should be spent during the first semester searching for a topic. This is normally accomplished by talking to several faculty members in your technical area to get suggestions. A topic is chosen by common consent of the student and a particular faculty member with the faculty member agreeing to supervise the work. Inform the Graduate Advisor's office when you have selected a topic and supervisor. In addition to a supervisor (first reader) a second reader is required. Be sure to ask a professor's permission before listing him or her as a second reader.

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ADMISSION TO CANDIDACY

During the second to last semester you are in residency you should "apply for M.S. candidacy". (The graduate school would like this in the last semester, however, the forms should be filled out early so any problems can be corrected.) The application consists of identifying your supervisor (first reader) and second reader, and specifying the courses (major and minor) you have completed or will take to meet the degree requirements. This form is now available online.  Information and links are available here: http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/pdn/candidacy.html. Some technical areas require a formal proposal for a thesis topic prior to application to candidacy, while others do not. In any case it is to the student's advantage to develop a well defined description of the scope of the proposed work (preferably written) that is agreed upon by the student and his thesis advisor.

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THESIS AND REPORT WORK

The scope and schedule of work on the thesis or report will depend on the particular topic and faculty advisor involved.

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WRITING THE THESIS OR REPORT

While this will vary considerably with different faculty members, there are several suggestions that can be made:

  • Writing a thesis or report that is acceptable to you and to two faculty members will undoubtedly take longer than you expect. Start early, plan ahead and work hard. One should expect a minimum of two months of full time effort for writing, faculty approval, final typing, and binding. This assumes that all the analytical, computational, and/or experimental work is completed at the time the writing begins.
  • Before starting the writing phase it is imperative that a very detailed thesis outline be developed - a minimum of 4 or 5 pages with the outline detailed to the second level of subheading below the chapters, followed by brief description, phrases or subjects to emphasize important considerations.
  • While it may be advisable to provide your advisor with one section (or chapter) for review to determine his level of expectation, the quality of the first draft provided to your advisor should be complete to the point that if it were acceptable to him you could word process it in final form. This means among other things: title, table of contents, list of figures and tables, logically developed, fully referenced, correct grammar & punctuation, figures and tables sequentially numbered and titled, data or analysis and results fully assessed, etc. While the format will vary depending on the topic, the candidate and the thesis advisor, the draft should be complete. While the writing style, within the restraints of logical development and good grammar, is yours, you should not expect your advisor and/or reader to write your thesis or report for you.

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IMPORTANT DEADLINES AND FINAL PAPERWORK

*The actual deadline dates for these items are printed in the course schedule. The deadline dates are inflexible.

Information and links are available here: http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/pdn/candidacy.html

Master's Data Sheets, Theses or Reports submitted to the Graduate School according to the
rules listed on guidelines from the Graduate School.

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GOING ON TO THE DOCTORAL PROGRAM

You must complete the appropriate forms if you plan to continue from a Master's to a PhD. Please go to the Graduate Office in ETC 5.218 for these forms.

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RULES AND SUGGESTIONS FOR ME MASTER'S DEGREE STUDENTS

The primary guide to the rules for the Graduate School is The Catalog of the Graduate School. These rules are supplemented by the rules of the University and rules imposed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Mechanical Engineering Department. The University and the Graduate school allow some latitude to the Department regarding rules, however, our rules in ME are always more restrictive. The Graduate Advisor has the responsibility to interpret the rules in specific cases. The technical areas within ME also have rules and procedures enforced by the Graduate Advisor.

We do not mean to be all inclusive in the list of items below. The list includes situations where
we have observed difficulties before. Read the Graduate School Catalog, talk with the evaluators in the Graduate School Office (MAI 101), talk to the faculty in the academic areas, talk with the ME Graduate Coordinator (ETC 5.128), or ask the ME Graduate Advisor (ETC 5.128) if you need clarification.

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Registration and Courses

  • Each semester, you are advised in your academic area concerning courses. A faculty member from the area must sign a form listing your proposed courses. You obtain final approval of registration materials in the ME Graduate Office.
  • If you are a continuing student, you should always pre register. If you do not pre- register or if your registration is canceled (due to non- payment), you will be handled last during the regular registration time, after new students are processed.
  • You must enroll for a graduate level course in every semester in which you are active.
  • If you are a full time student, you must enroll for at least nine credit hours in each long semester (Spring and Fall).
  • The research course (ME 380M) and the seminar courses (ME 397K and ME 197K) may be used to fulfill your minimum enrollment requirement, but they do not count toward your graduate degree.
  • You may add or drop ME and other department's courses via TEX during the first four class days. You may drop ME courses during departmental add/drop period (from 4th until 12th class days) in the ME Graduate Office. If you need to add/drop any other department's courses, you must go to that department to do so.
  • You must take thesis and master's report courses for a letter grade.

Check the course schedule for the last possible date to change the grade status (CR/NC or
letter grade).

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Teaching Assistants (TA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA)

  • In order to be appointed for a TA or GRA you must have a 3.0 GPA. Also, you may not have:
    * more than two X's (incomplete) -or-
    * more than one X and one I (permanent incomplete).
  • Two I's are not allowed.
  • If you are appointed as a TA or GRA, you must register, and remain registered, for 9 credit hours during the Fall and spring semesters. For summer semesters, you need to be enrolled for three or six hours depending on the specific appointment.
  • The different academic areas (Mechanical Systems and Design, Thermal and Fluid Systems, OR/IE, etc.) of the ME Department staff have TA positions in undergraduate courses. If you are interested in being a TA, you must contact the appropriate area.
  • When you are appointed as a TA, you cannot withdraw to accept a GRA after classes begin.
  • An international student who is a TA must be certified as competent in the English language. The certification is done by the Graduate School (see Graduate Coordinator).
  • Graduate research assistants (GRA's) are assigned by faculty members holding research grants or contracts. If you are interested in a particular research program, you must contact the faculty member directly.
  • You cannot be appointed as a teaching assistant and/or graduate research assistant for more than twelve long semesters.

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Master's of Science in Engineering Program

  • You must choose between three alternatives for the MS degree: 30 hours including thesis, 33 hours including report, and 36 hours with no thesis/no report. The rules concerning the content of the course work hours are described in the Graduate Catalog.
  • The academic areas of the department may impose additional restrictions on MS programs such as course requirements, numbers of major and minor courses, and prerequisites. The Graduate Advisor enforces these requirements if they are printed and made available to the student.
  • If you accept a GRA, the no thesis/no report option is not available without agreement
    of the faculty member providing the GRA.
  • In your next to last semester in the graduate program apply for "admission to M.S. candidacy". Get the Graduation Packet from the Office of Graduate Studies, MAI 101. This form comes in a packet with very important deadline information.
  • Although courses are generally not taken on a CR/NC basis, it is permitted by the Graduate School to take twenty percent of your course work on a CR/NC basis.
  • Only course work taken within the last six years can count toward your MS degree.
  • If you remain in the MS program on a full time basis for more than 21 months, your progress will be reviewed by a subcommittee of the Graduate Studies Committee. The purpose of this review is to suggest ways to hasten your progress.
  • File a Degree Candidate Card in the semester you plan to graduate (during the first week in the semester). If you happen not to graduate, a new card must be filed in the next semester and every "last" semester you may have.
  • You must be enrolled in the ME department during the semester in which your degree
    requirements are completed. *If writing a thesis, you must be enrolled in 698B in the
    semester in which you plan to graduate. *If writing a report, you must be enrolled in
    398R in the semester in which you plan to graduate.

Masters Program of Work

Worksheet - Proposed Program of Work for the Master’s Degree (PDF file)

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