Feb 06, 2023  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

College of Engineering

Dr. Joseph C. Slater, Dean
Dr. Vahid Motevalli, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation

Department and Program Information


The College of Engineering offers programs leading to the degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering. The Master of Science is offered with majors in chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, engineering management, and mechanical engineering. The Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering is an interdisciplinary degree program under the direction of the advisory committees formed for each major.  The Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering offers specialization in chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering.

Each M.S. and Ph.D. student has an advisory committee of faculty members which helps to guide the student’s studies and progress toward completion of degree requirements. The chairperson of the committee, who must be a faculty member from the department in which the student is majoring, has special responsibility to assist the student with development of an individualized program of study and appropriate research goals.

The College operates two (2) State of Tennessee supported Centers of Excellence: Center for Manufacturing Research (CMR) and Center for Energy Systems Research (CESR).  In addition, the Cybersecurity Education, Research, and Outreach Center (CEROC), established in 2016, has begun to receive State support since July of 2017.  All of these centers support laboratories and facilities to support research and education in their respective areas.  For additional details, refer to the College of Engineering website under “Research and Innovation”. 

Financial aid is available through individual departments and centers in the form of teaching or research assistantships. Full assistantships pay tuition and fees plus a monthly stipend. Partial assistantships, which pay a prorated share of tuition, fees, and a monthly stipend, are sometimes awarded. 

Master of Science Admission Requirements

An applicant for admission to any of the MS programs offered by the departments of the College of Engineering is expected to have earned a BS degree from an approved program, or its equivalent. Admission is decided based on a multi-parameter criterion that can include the following items to be evaluated by the department:

  • undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale,
  • GRE® General Test (GRE) scores with Quantitative greater than or equal to 50%; Verbal greater than or equal to 33%; Analytical Writing greater than or equal to 33%. Students with BS degrees in related fields from TTU are not required to take the GRE.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation that demonstrate strong evidence for success in the graduate program.
  • Availability of appropriate faculty to serve as research advisor(s).
  • Participation in undergraduate research.
  • Post-BS degree professional experience relevant to planned degree of study.
  • Publications in peer reviewed journals and/or award-winning presentations in technical conferences.
  • International students must score at least 550 (213 computer-based or 79 internet-based) on the TOEFL or a minimum base score of 6.0 on the IELTS. 

Based on the level of satisfaction of the above criterion, the department will either recommend admission to Full Standing, Provisional Standing, or Special Standing, or deny admission. Standing status may be changed to Full Standing after the student satisfies the requirements specified by the department at the time of admission.

Note:  all MS degree programs, except Engineering Management, offer the Fast Track program to qualified applicants from the TTU BS program.  See department details to find out more about Fast Track.  

Master of Science Degree Requirements

A master’s degree is a certification that the recipient is able to read with understanding and apply with profit the literature of his/her field. The general requirements for an MS degree are the same for all departments: development and completion of a program of study which includes a minimum of 24 semester hours of course credits and at least six (6) semester hours of thesis. All pertinent regulations of the Graduate School apply.

Listed below are College of Engineering regulations that are clarifications of, or additions to, those promulgated by the Graduate School. Additional information can be found in the listings of the individual departments.

Advisory Committee

Every master’s student is required to have an advisory committee having a minimum of three (3) members. The student is responsible for identifying, in consultation with the departmental chairperson, a faculty member who is willing to chair his/her advisory committee. In consultation with the chairperson of the committee, the student is responsible for identifying at least two (2) other faculty members who are willing to serve on his/her committee. Advisory committees may include more than three (3) members. If desired or required, two (2) members of the committee may serve as co-chairs of the committee rather than the committee having one (1) chair. If a student is not able to identify a sufficient number of faculty who are suitable and willing to serve on his/her advisory committee, the student will be advised by the departmental chairperson that he/she should either change his/her area of research interests to more closely match those of the available faculty or consider selecting another major. Failure to be able to form a committee is cause for transfer to non-degree status. Further regulations concerning the membership, appointment and responsibilities of a student’s advisory committee are given in other sections of the catalog, including the sections on “Organization of the Graduate School” and “Degree Requirements.”

Thesis/Comprehensive Examination

A thesis is required for all MS degrees in the college of engineering, except the MS in Engineering Management.  All five MS degrees in the college also offer a non-thesis option. 

A candidate for a master’s degree must submit a thesis in writing and orally present and defend the thesis to his/her advisory committee. The meeting at which the thesis presentation and defense occurs also serves as the time for the student’s final oral comprehensive examination over any or all aspects of the student’s master’s program. On the form on which the chairperson of the student’s advisory committee reports the results of the thesis defense, the chairperson also reports the results of the comprehensive examination, including a brief synopsis of the examination.

Limitations on Graduate Assistantships

A master’s student may receive support during the first two (2) calendar years after initial enrollment. This time limitation does not imply a student will receive support during his/her first two (2) years. Whether or not a student receives support depends on the availability of funds and the suitability of the student to carry out the responsibilities associated with the support. Support beyond the stated limits, regardless of source of funding in the College of Engineering, requires justification, which must be reviewed and approved by the Associate Dean of Engineering Research an Innovation prior to the implementation.  (See College of Engineering website for the exception request form.)

Doctor of Philosophy Admission Requirements

A graduate program leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Engineering is offered by the College of Engineering. When applying for admission, a student must state on the application the specialization area of study for which admission is requested.

The basic admission standards for the Ph.D. program are the same as for the MS programs, except that, additionally, an applicant is expected to have completed an MS degree in an academic area appropriate to the proposed area of study and to have earned an MS GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

Though the general requirement for admission to the Ph.D. program is a master’s degree in an appropriate discipline, students with a bachelor’s degree may be admitted to the Ph.D. program directly on exceptional basis, provided the applicant has a record of excellent academic performance in an appropriate engineering program undergraduate program. The applicant’s test scores, personal recommendations, and relevant work experience must indicate a high potential for success in doctoral studies and research. In addition, factors such as appropriateness of the applicant’s research objectives to the research interests of the program faculty, availability of faculty to supervise the applicant’s research, and prior research accomplishments of the applicant will also influence the admission decision.

Fulfilling the minimum requirement does not guarantee admission; an applicant who does not meet the above minimum, but appears to have reasonable potential for success as a Ph.D. student, may be admitted to provisional standing. His/her status may be changed to full standing after satisfying requirements specified by the Associate Dean of Engineering for Graduate Studies and Research, in consultation with the appropriate departmental chairperson, at the time of admission.

If admitted in provisional standing at either the MS or Ph.D. level, the student must remove all deficiencies and apply for reclassification to full standing prior to the completion of 15 graduate hours.

Sometimes a master’s-level student takes more graduate-level courses than are required for the degree because the student is expecting to continue on to the Ph.D. program and hopes to use the extra courses to satisfy the Ph.D. coursework requirement. When this is the case, the student can request when registering for the course(s) that the course(s) be “banked” for the Ph.D. program. If the student lacks no more than 12 semester hours on the master’s degree, he/she may accumulate a maximum of nine (9) semester hours which may be applied toward the Ph.D. When this is the case, the student’s advisory committee must initiate approval via memo with consensus of the departmental chairperson, dean of the college, and the Director of Graduate Studies. Banked courses then show up on the student’s transcript as courses taken for the Ph.D. rather than being shown as a part of his/her M.S. program. Banking course does not guarantee admission to the Ph.D. program, or, if admitted, that the student’s Ph.D. advisory committee will approve the course as part of the student’s Ph.D. program of study.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. is a research degree. The minimum requirements for a Ph.D. degree in the College of Engineering stated below are the same for all departments. Each department may include additional degree requirements for students pursuing specialization in that department.


Students Admitted with a Master’s Degree

1.    A minimum of 48 credits of course work and doctoral research and dissertation as follows:

A.    A minimum of eighteen (18) credit hours of course work beyond the master’s degree, including six (6) credit hours of 7000-level courses acceptable to the student’s advisory committee. Additional six (6) credit hours of either graduate level course work or research experience as per the policy of the student’s major department. No 5000-level courses are to be used to meet the minimum requirements of course work.

B.    A minimum of twenty four (24) credit hours of doctoral research and dissertation built upon the student’s course of study and making a significant contribution to the state of knowledge or to the art of the engineering profession, is required; not more than nine (9) credit hours may be earned in a particular semester.

2.    Residence of four (4) semesters beyond the master’s degree, with at least two (2) semesters in continuous residence, is required. All requirements, including the dissertation, must be completed within a period of eight (8) consecutive years.

3.    Maintenance of a minimum quality point average of 3.0 and adherence to the general regulations of the College of Graduate Studies are expected.

All students in the program must follow a plan of study and research developed in conjunction with an advisory committee, satisfactorily complete a comprehensive examination, achieve candidacy, and satisfactorily defend their dissertation.


Students Admitted Directly from the Bachelor’s Degree into the Ph.D. Degree Program

A student admitted with a bachelor’s degree on exceptional basis must successfully complete a qualifying examination based mostly on undergraduate materials before the end of the second semester of enrollment. Students with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from ABET-accredited programs are exempted from this examination. Other students without such a degree, or M.S. students without an ABET-accredited B.S. degree, switching to direct Ph.D. will have to take a qualifying exam through a formal process established by the department. The process should include at a minimum an examination of the student’s fundamental knowledge managed by the Graduate Committee of the department.

Based on the student’s performance on the qualifying examination, the student may be (i) permitted to continue in the doctoral program, or (ii) advised to transfer to an M.S. degree program in an appropriate discipline in the college, or (iii) recommended for termination from the graduate program of the college.

If permitted to continue in the doctoral program, the student, as described elsewhere in the catalog, will select a research advisor, form an advisory committee, and submit a program of study satisfying the following requirements.

The program of study should have a minimum total of seventy two (72) credit hours of academic work, consisting of course work and dissertation work, beyond baccalaureate work, subject to the following:

• The program of study should include a minimum of forty two (42) credit hours of appropriate graduate level course work consisting of a minimum of six (6) credit hours at the 7000-level and a maximum of nine (9) credit hours at the 5000-level, acceptable to the student’s advisory committee.

• It should also include an additional six (6) credit hours of either graduate level course work or research experience as per the policy of the student’s major department.

• A minimum of 24 credit hours of doctoral research and dissertation, built upon the student’s course of study and making significant contribution to the state of knowledge and the art of the engineering profession, is required; no more than nine (9) credit hours may be earned in a particular semester.


Students Admitted Directly from the Bachelor’s Degree into the Ph.D. Program Earning a Non-thesis M.S. en route

All conditions stated above for the students admitted directly into the Ph.D. program apply. In addition:

Nine (9) credit hours will count toward the non-thesis M.S. degree and toward the Ph.D. degree. If the departmental non-thesis M.S. requires a three (3) credit hour non-thesis project course, those three (3) credit hours can be counted as three (3) credit hours of dissertation research toward the Ph.D. degree. Six (6) credit hours of M.S. coursework can be counted toward the Ph.D. coursework. If no project course is required for the non-thesis M.S., then nine (9) credit hours of M.S. coursework can be counted toward the Ph.D.

Limitation on Graduate Assistantships

It is expected that a full-time, post master’s Ph.D. Engineering student should be able to achieve candidacy within the first three (3) calendar years after enrollment, and a direct admit Ph.D. Engineering student after four (4) calendar years. If candidacy is not achieved within the aforementioned periods, a student must request and receive approval for an extension of assistantship following the College of Engineering’s established procedure. An extension may be granted by the Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Innovation. This limitation is regardless of student funding or the source of support for the student.