The Specialized Qualifier courses must total at least 48 units.
You may also download the Research Qualifier in single-page PDF sheets:
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at two of the many students who failed the test. The first is Theo de Winter, who left MIT after failing the qualifying exam to start the Magnetic Corporation of America. At one point, his company had 200 employees, developing superconductors for the then-new MRI industry. De Winter sold his company to Johnson & Johnson and for the past 20 years has had a successful academic career as a professor at Boston University -- all without a PhD.
Even more spectacular is the case of Nam P. Suh, who received his SB and SM from the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, but then twice failed the PhD qualifier. Suh left MIT to work for United Shoe Machinery Corporation, a struggling shoe manufacturer that could not compete with foreign imports. Suh single-handedly saved the company from oblivion by diverting its manufacturing to plastics. Eventually, Suh completed his PhD at Carnegie-Mellon. He subsequently became a professor at University of South Carolina, where he also “reorganized” the College of Engineering. In a twist of poetic justice, he returned to the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, and was until recently the Department Head, a position he held for ten years.
Non Thesis Track Qualifying Exam for Non-Thesis Students
The PhD qualifying exams at MIT vary from department to department in terms of scope, format, style and success rate. However, the spectacular failure of the system in the Department of Mechanical Engineering demands special attention from the administration -- and special scrutiny by potential applicants for the PhD program in Mechanical Engineering (ME).The most troubling aspect of this enigmatic process is that success on the exam is highly dependent on factors other than a student’s academic abilities. Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, the ME Department Head, frankly states that the working relationship between a student and his advisor is as important as passing the qualifier. (As will be shown in subsequent articles, a student’s advisor must also have a good relationship with his peers in order for a student to qualify). To pass, a student needs a faculty member to strongly advocate him/her in the faculty results meeting. (Apparently, the ME faculty meets immediately following the exams to review each student, identified by a photo flashed on a slide.)The ME qualifying exams take place twice a year, in January and May. A doctoral student can take the qualifier up to three semesters from commencement of the PhD program. Most students wait the full three semesters, as familiarity with the MIT curriculum is necessary to pass. Those who fail the test can take it for the second -- and last -- time a semester later. Because a second failure is final, it is possible for a graduate student to find himself out on the street a full two years after beginning the program. In fact, it is not only possible, but also highly probable. The failure rate, guarded closely by the department, is estimated to be as high as 35 to 50 percent. Potential PhD applicants deserve to have more information about the qualifying process and their chances for success before applying for the ME doctoral program.Let’s look at one way an exceptionally bright student could fail the qualifier as a result of the thesis presentation. Students do not normally have control over their thesis topic; his or her advisor almost always conceives it. In many cases, the chosen topic is highly speculative and sometimes even bizarre. A naÏve but daring student may be enticed by a professor’s promises and commence research on one of these topics before funding is available, particularly if the professor is initially enthusiastic.