PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics

The PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (TAM), in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, is one of the only of its kind in the world, offering a rigorous curriculum with structured core and breadth required courses. These course requirements ensure all TAM graduate students develop a strong and broad foundation in mechanics as well as applied mathematics. The TAM PhD requires a research-based qualifying exam presentation; most students enter the program after completing a BS degree, and then earn a non-thesis MS degree after completing their required graduate courses. An outline of the steps toward completion of the TAM PhD is presented below.

Stage 1: MS or its equivalent

Click here for information on getting your MS degree in ME or TAM.*

A student who has earned a Master of Science degree from another institution may be admitted directly to the second stage of the doctoral program.  If any coursework is transferred, the transferred coursework cannot be used to reduce the Graduate College residency requirement of 64 hours for the doctorate.

Stage 2: Qualifying Exam, PhD Coursework, Preliminary Examination**

Coursework and Qualifying Exam****

All core and breadth requirements must be satisfied before the Qualifying Examination is scheduled.***

Scheduling the TAM PhD Qualifying Examination

MSE 492 Fundamentals of Laboratory Safety is required and students are expected to complete the course within their first academic year.   Students who completed an MS at UIUC and took this course as part of the MS do not need to repeat it.

Preliminary Examination

Scheduled approximately one year after the qualifying exam. To schedule your exam, download the Guidelines for, and the administration of, the Doctoral Preliminary Examination and the Doctoral Final Examination. Students should submit Form A (for Preliminary Examination) to the MechSE Graduate Office (166 MEB) at least 3 weeks prior to the approximate exam date. Form B, along with an electronic copy of the proposal should be submitted to the MechSE Graduate Office at least one week prior to the exam.

Stage 3: Thesis and Final Examination

Thesis Focus

32 hours (minimum) of TAM 599 Thesis Reseach will count toward degree requirements.

Doctoral Dissertation Defense

Scheduled approximately one year after the preliminary exam.

Final Examination

The student must present and defend the thesis itself in an hour-long presentation open to the general public. STUDENTS are responsible for preparing the Thesis/Dissertation Approval (TDA) Form. They should print three original copies of the form to bring to the exam. All information required on the form should be entered by the student before printing off the form. The only handwritten item on the form will be the signatures of the Committee Members. To schedule your exam, download the Guidelines for, and the administration of, the Doctoral Preliminary Examination and the Doctoral Final Examination. Students should submit Form C (for Final Examination) to the MechSE Graduate Office (166 MEB) at least 3 weeks prior to the approximate exam date. Students must submit Form D, along with an electronic copy of the abstract at least two weeks prior to the exam. This will allow time for the announcement to be published in MechSE e-week.

Other Requirements

In addition to the courses, examinations, and other preparation cited above, every doctoral student must:

• Present a seminar

  • The subject is normally (but not necessarily) related to the doctoral thesis topic
  • Students may present through the "MIG," "BIG," or "TAM Fluid Seminar" series. The date should be scheduled with the respective seminar coordinators as early as possible, but no later than 3 months before the semester in which the seminar is to be given. Students should present the completed TAM Seminar Presentation Request Form to the Graduate Programs Office as soon as a presentation has been scheduled.
  • The date is normally within a month or two of the Preliminary Examination, but can be earlier

• Complete a one-semester teaching appointment.

  • The appointment must be as a lecturer, discussion group leader, or laboratory assistant—grading assignments are not acceptable
  • The opportunities should be explored with the Student Affairs Coordinator

Residency requirement: The University of Illinois requires that 64 hours must be from courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign campus or at other locations approved by the Graduate College for resident credit.
*A student entering with a MS degree is credited with 32 hours of coursework, leaving 64 hours to be completed at Illinois.
**Formal acceptance of a student into the doctoral program in TAM requires stage 2 status and a favorable faculty assessment based in part on the defense of a scholarly work, such as a MS thesis or research paper.
***A maximum of 4 hours of ME 597 Independent study may be applied toward the 500-level coursework requirement.
****Coursework applied toward the degree must be approved by the Associate Head for Graduate Programs.

Seminar Requirement

Continuous registration in TAM 500 is required until completion of the final exam. Seminar credit cannot be counted toward coursework requirements. Students are required to attend a minimum of 4 seminars in the semester.  The seminar schedule is e-mailed to students at the beginning of each semester.

Students enrolled in a course that conflicts with ME 590 or TAM 500 still need to register for ME 590/TAM 500 and are required to attend alternate seminars. 

To complete seminar registration with a conflict:

1. Request a registration override by contacting the Undergraduate Programs Office at mechse-ug-adviseatillinois [dot] edu.  Include your name, UIN, and the course you are enrolled in that is in conflict with the seminar.

2. You will receive an email when the override is entered.

3. You must register for TAM 500 after the override is entered.

To receive credit for alternate seminars:

1. Alternate seminars include ME 591 MIG, ME 591 BIG, TAM 539, and other seminars in Engineering, Math, or Physics.

2. Download the Attendance Verification Form and have it signed by the seminar host (not the speaker), and return it to GPO no later than 5 business days after the date of the seminar.  If an attendance verification form is not received, you will not receive credit for attending.


Contact Info

Graduate Programs Office
166 MEB
1206 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 244-3416
mechse-gradatillinois [dot] edu

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