Dr. Steve Shepard, Peter Pierre (Advisor)
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The Mechanical Engineering (ME) program at The University of Alabama (UA) offers the Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME) degree via two routes. Traditional students complete this degree in the main campus setting (MA). In addition to taking classes, students are expected to either complete a research thesis (24 class hours) or pass a comprehensive exam (30 class hours). There is also a distance learning (DL) option that is for students located with the borders of the United States or serving on a U.S. military installation. Note that the distance program involves students taking the same courses, completing the same assignments, and completing assessments via the same exams as the on-campus students. Because each distance course operates synchronously with a corresponding on-campus course, distance students should carefully plan course loads each semester and consider assignment and exam schedules. The non-thesis program is recommended for students pursuing the degree via distance.
The remainder of this section provides some general information related to the MSME program at UA. Applicants and current students are directed to the official University of Alabama Graduate Catalog for more detailed information and specific official policies. Nothing described here supersedes the graduate catalog.
For detailed information on admission requirements and required application documentation for the MSME program, please refer to the official section in the UA Graduate Catalog.
Current Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (AEM) undergraduate students at The University of Alabama that meet the admissions requirements for the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) are able to start their MSME while still in the undergraduate program. AMP allows undergraduate students to simultaneously count up to 9 hours of graduate coursework toward both the undergraduate and graduate degrees. Note that AMP is available to both main campus (MA) and distance learning (DL) students currently enrolled in the ME and AEM undergraduate programs at UA.
While applications are evaluated on a rolling basis and there are no formal deadlines, applicants interested in applying for assistantships or being nominated for a fellowship should apply for admission early. For example, internal fellowship nominations typically start in early January for the following academic year. Applicants must be admitted before they can be considered for these funding opportunities. International applicants should also consider the time needed to obtain a travel visa from the country of origin after being admitted. That process can often take two to six months and must be completed so that students can arrive on campus prior to the first day of class.
The MSME degree can be completed in one of two routes:
The second option is recommended for distance learning (DL) students. For more details on the official MSME curriculum, please see the appropriate section of the UA Graduate Catalog.
UA offers a special program where students may complete their MSME and MBA degrees at the same time with a slightly reduced number of overall hours when compared to completing the degrees separately. Students interested in the Dual MSME/MBA Program must apply to each degree program separately and the two applications are reviewed for admission separately by each respective program. Please contact the ME Graduate Program Director for more information on this program. Note that this program is also available to AMP students.
Many unconditionally admitted full-time (MA) MSME graduate students seek some form of financial assistance through a fellowship or graduate assistantship. Assistantships and fellowships generally include a monthly stipend, tuition, and health insurance. Because the admissions process is separate from the financial assistance application process, applicants are encouraged to read this section to learn about different funding options and how to pursue them. Due to the nature of these opportunities, only main campus (MA) students completing an MSME thesis are eligible for assistantships and fellowships.
Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) are awarded by individual professors with funded research. Applicants should communicate directly with a faculty member in the applicant’s area of study interest concerning the availability of GRA positions and a potential match. Visit the department web site for additional information about research areas. Funding is not considered during the admission process.
The ME Department also offers Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) for students assisting faculty members with undergraduate courses and laboratories. GTA awards are determined by the ME Department Head. There are a very limited number of GTA positions each semester and those are typically reserved for current PhD students, though there may be exceptions. It is also necessary to work with a faculty member to inquire about the possibility of obtaining a teaching assistantship. A university-wide requirement for all GTAs is that they should either have English as their native language or have successfully completed an English language proficiency course and passed an English language proficiency exam administered by UA’s English Language Institute. The English language proficiency exam and course process typically require at least one semester.
MSME students supported by assistantships are expected to follow the Plan I Thesis Option, as described in the Graduate Catalog.
Half-time assistants must register for at least six credit hours of graduate credit during the semester. In addition, assistants are expected to perform 20 hours of work per week as part of their position. Accepting an assistantship implies an obligation on the part of the student. Students supported by an assistantship are expected to fulfill their roles as students, meeting all academic requirements, as well as carrying out teaching and/or research assignments. Students who do not maintain good academic standing, as defined in the UA Graduate School, are not eligible for assistantships. Assistantships may also be terminated for unsatisfactory performance of the assigned research and/or teaching duties.
Domestic students may be eligible for student loans and other financial aid and should visit the UA Financial Aid Office website to learn more about these options.
Additional support is available in the form of fellowships, available from The University and other funding agencies. Applicants are encouraged to visit the Graduate School and Mechanical Engineering websites to learn more about these opportunities, application requirements, and deadlines. Some professional societies also offer assistance to new graduate students. Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply for fellowships like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the DoD SMART Scholarship, the Alabama Space Grant Consortium Fellowship, and UA’s Graduate Council, National Alumni Association, and McNair Fellowships. Note that most of these have early application deadlines and some require interaction with and support from a nominating faculty member.
Graduate courses are those with numbers in the 500-level and 600-level. 500-level courses are intermediate-level courses and are often associated with MSME-level work. 600-level courses are advanced-level courses and are often associated with PhD-level work. However, both MSME and PhD plans of study can contain both 500- and 600-level courses. Graduate courses are listed in the Graduate Catalog.
It is acceptable to take a limited number of graduate-level courses from other engineering departments (e.g. AEM or MTE) as part of the primary program of study. However, if more than a couple of these classes are to be considered as part of an ME degree program, it may be necessary for the faculty advisor to submit a petition to the graduate registrar noting the reasons for such an exception.
Courses taken for graduate credit generally cannot be repeated. This includes audited courses. Required courses can be repeated for credit if the student makes a D or F grade with the recommendation of the Department Head and the Dean of the Graduate School.
Note that 400-level courses are generally not acceptable for meeting MSME degree requirements. There are strict exceptions to this rule as described in the graduate catalog, such as requiring approval for a 400-level course prior to enrollment. Students interested in pursuing this option are required to work with their advisor as well as contact the ME graduate program director well in advance of pursuing this option. 400-level courses cannot count toward a graduate degree retroactively once enrolled without advanced approval.
Graduate student offices are typically reserved for those conducting research and/or assisting with teaching duties. The location of graduate student office space for main campus (MA) students is coordinated through the ME Department. Graduate student offices are located in the South Engineering Research Center, the North Engineering Research Center, Hardaway Hall, and in other nearby buildings. Graduate students with questions regarding student office space should contact their faculty advisor.
The successful completion of a graduate degree in ME at UA will require at least some interaction with a faculty advisor. However, it is not necessary to have such an advisor prior to enrolling. For the first semester, students are encouraged to take graduate-level courses that are of interest. MSME students may also take courses that satisfy the math requirement (see the official curriculum requirements). After classes start, students are then encouraged to interact with faculty members that conduct research in the student’s area of study interest. The goal is to find a faculty member who will provide advice on coursework, chair the comprehensive exam (MSME non-thesis degree), or direct the research and thesis (MSME thesis degree). Students planning to complete a thesis should focus on finding an advisor in order to begin their research as soon as possible.
The Mechanical Engineering department conducts assessment of its graduate programs as part of the SACS Accreditation process. Part of that process includes the direct evaluation of graduate-student-provided material. For one assessment, each graduate student prepares a Course Portfolio to present to their MSME committee. This Course Portfolio is typically a short group of slides summarizing the learning outcomes in 3 to 4 graduate-level courses taken during the program. Electronically fillable forms that are used as part of the program assessment are available to faculty members. These assessment forms must be completed by the entire advisory committee and submitted by the committee chair to the ME Graduate Program Director after the completion of the MSME Thesis presentation or after completion of the Comprehensive Exam. Please contact the graduate program director if you have questions on this process.
For additional information about mechanical engineering graduate programs, contact Dr. Steve Shepard.