Master of Science-Thesis Program Requirements

The Master of Science-Thesis (MST) is a research-oriented degree. The Thesis requirement reflects the research orientation of this degree. The research work associated with an MST should involve close collaboration with the student’s advisor and committee. The thesis typically represents at least two years of research. A student who intends to pursue the Ph.D. degree at a later stage is encouraged to pursue the MST rather than the Master of Science, Non-Thesis degree because of its research orientation.

Additional information on MS student policies can be found on the University’s Graduate School website.

Course Requirements
A minimum of 30 Total Credit Hours

  • Minimum of 21 credit hours in courses relevant to the student’s academic program (graded B- or better)
    • Majority of course credit hours must be in ME EN (6000 or above)
      • Minimum of 3 credit hours in ME EN classes at the 7000 level
      • Remaining credit hours from Math, Science, or Engineering (including ME if desired)
      • Students following established MS tracks (e.g., Robotics) may deviate from the majority of credits in ME EN based on the track’s requirements
    • No more than 3 credit hours of Independent Study (ME EN 6950)
      • An Independent Study with a student’s MS advisor must be separate from their thesis topic and must be approved by the department’s Graduate Committee
    • No more than 3 Seminar credit hours
    • Note: a student’s research advisor or supervisory committee may require additional course credit hours
  • Minimum of 9 credit hours of ME EN 6975, MS Thesis Research (graded CR/NC)
    • All additional research credit hours must be ME EN 6975
  • Additional course guidelines
    • No more than 9 non-matriculated credit hours graded B or better
    • No more than 6 transfer credits hours graded B or better
    • Only courses in engineering, mathematics, and science are acceptable
    • The student must obtain an overall GPA of at least 3.0 from all courses used on their Program of Study

Additional Program Requirements

  • Formation of the MS Supervisory Committee
  • Successful completion of an approved research program
  • Successful Oral Defense of the MS Research
  • Successful approval of a written Thesis

Faculty Advisor
Each student should have a faculty advisor at the time of admission. If not, the student must select an advisor by the end of the first semester of MS degree work. The advisor oversees the MS student’s program, gives recommendations for selecting courses, and supervises the thesis research. Without petitioning the department and the Grad School, the advisor must be a tenured/tenure-track faculty member within the department.

Supervisory Committee
By the end of the student’s second semester, a three-member Supervisory Committee is selected. The chair of this committee is the student’s permanent advisor. The committee chair selects the other members of the committee in consultation with the student. The Graduate Committee may make recommendations regarding committee membership. The Supervisory Committee must be approved by the department’s Director of Graduate Studies and the Grad School. Without petitioning the department and the Grad School, the majority of the committee must be tenure-line faculty members from the department. Failure to form a supervisory committee by the end of the student’s first year will result in the student being placed on probation for failure to make due progress.

*Note: Students may submit a petition for exception to policy for either the chair of the committee or the majority, but not both.

Program of Study
The Program of Study and thesis work is completed under the direction and approval of the supervisory committee. The committee chair (usually the student’s advisor) should assist the student in planning the Program of Study and should encourage breadth by selecting of one or more courses outside of the department in areas such as basic mathematics, science, and other engineering topics. The cumulative GPA of courses listed on the program of study must be greater than or equal to a 3.0 with no grades lower than B-.

Preliminary Program of Study Approval
By the end of their first semester, the student must:

  • Obtain and fill out the MS Thesis Preliminary Program of Study form.
  • Select graduate courses after consultation with their temporary or permanent advisor.
  • List all taken and planned classes on the form that are to count toward the MS, including research hours.
  • Obtain signature approval from their advisor and then submit the form to Graduate Advising.

The Graduate Advisor will obtain approval from the Director of Graduate Studies before filing the form in the student’s departmental records. If the form is not approved, the Graduate Advisor will return the form to the student.

Final Program of Study Approval
Upon registering for their final course(s), the student must:

  • Obtain and fill out the MS Thesis Program of Study form.
  • List all classes that are to count toward the MS, including research hours.
  • Gather signature approval from their committee members, and then submit the form to Graduate Advising.

The Graduate Advisor will input the information from the form into the electronic records system via CIS. The Director of Graduate Studies will electronically approve the Program of Study.

Thesis and Oral Defense
The final checkpoint in the MS program is the thesis defense, which is given in the student’s last semester. This defense is open to the public and is an in-depth explanation of the student’s MS research. The defense is the final examination in the MST program. It can be broken down into three parts: a written exam, a public oral exam, and a closed oral exam.

Written Thesis
The thesis manuscript serves as the written portion of the exam. The thesis’ contents, results, and conclusions associated with the student’s MS research are provided to the supervisory committee for their review and evaluation at least 2 weeks prior to the oral defense. For formatting and organization of the manuscript, please follow the manuscript guidelines outlined by the Graduate School. At a minimum, the thesis must:

  • Include a thesis summary that is a succinct description of a student’s accomplishments and the deliverables achieved.
  • Reflect an understanding of the current and past state of knowledge in the chosen research area through a comprehensive literature review of the subject
  • Clearly state the goals of the research and justify its value to the engineering and scientific community
  • Demonstrate a fundamental and original contribution, which significantly advances engineering science in the chosen area of research

Oral Defense Format
The student will coordinate the required public announcement and scheduling of the defense with the Graduate Advising Office. The chair of the student’s committee will also chair the defense. The chair will at a minimum:

  • Open the defense session by introducing the student and their research topic.
  • Announce any specific rules pertaining to the defense (e.g., hold questions until the end of the presentation).

The defense begins with the student’s presentation of their MS research for approximately 45 minutes. The student will be evaluated on presentation skills as well as the content. Members of the audience must be allowed ask the student relevant questions. After the public question-and-answer session, the audience will be excused. After the open portion of the exam, the closed oral exam begins. The committee may pursue additional discussion and questions with the student. The acceptability of the research effort, the content and conclusions of the thesis , and the student’s oral defense are considered along with other factors, as appropriate. The committee then dismisses the student and votes to determine whether the student passes the exam. The chair then meets with the student to inform him/her of the committee’s decision, and the reasons for that decision.

The outcome of the thesis defense is reported on the MS-Thesis Report of the Final Oral Exam form.

  • The student will receive a “Pass” on the defense if the majority of the committee members concur.
  • The student will receive a “Pass with Corrections” if the majority of the committee requires minor changes to the student’s Thesis but do not feel that the student needs to publicly defend their research again. In this case, the committee will also decide if the chair or the entire committee needs to verify that the requested changes have been made.
  • The student will receive a “Fail” if the majority of the committee requires changes to the Thesis and agree that the student must publicly defend their research again.
  • The chair of the committee must return the completed form to Graduate Advising within one week of the defense.

Manuscript Approval
The last step to confer an MS degree is formatting and submitting the department approved thesis to the Thesis Office.

  • Once the committee approves the thesis content and the student has passed their oral defense, they must obtain department approval by providing Graduate Advising with:
    • their manuscript
    • signed approval and defense forms
    • a Grammarly report showing that no major grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors are in the manuscript
  • The student’s Graduate Advisor will indicate any required changes to the thesis’ formatting
  • The student must complete all required changes before submitting it to the Thesis Office.
  • Once the manuscript is uploaded to the Thesis Office’s submission system, all committee members and the department chair will provide their electronic approval of the thesis.
  • Once any Thesis Office corrections are finished, the student must then work with the Thesis Office to submit their manuscript to ProQuest (or USPACE) for online viewing.
  • The thesis must be approved by Thesis Editor no later than eight months from the date of the oral defense. This eight-month deadline includes thesis corrections, supervisory committee approval, department chair approval, and final approval by the Thesis Office. If this requirement is not met, any prior approvals of the thesis will be voided, the student will have to re-register for at least one thesis credit, and re-defend the thesis.
  • After each of these steps is completed, the student will be cleared for graduation. Please note that a student is not considered “graduated” for merely passing the defense. The thesis must also successfully pass corrections and be published before a degree may be awarded.

Residency Requirement
At least one year of the MS program must be spent in full-time academic work at the University of Utah. This means that for two consecutive semesters, the student must be registered for 9 or more credit hours.

Time Limits
A maximum time of four years is allowed for completion of the MS degree. If the student requires additional time, the student’s advisor must submit a petition to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Dean of the Graduate School requesting an extension with a plan for completing the program.

Students can monitor their degree progress and milestones by logging into CIS, locating the Graduation panel under their Student Information, and clicking on “Graduate Student Summary.” It is the responsibility of the student to monitor and ensure the correctness of their online records.