Skip to Main Content

The University of Tennessee
Energy Science and Engineering PhD Program

Frequently Used Tools:

Climate Sensitivity and Abrupt Climate Change
Simulations show deglaciation during Earth's most recent period of natural global warming.

Energy Science and Engineering

Graduate Student Examinations

Examination requirements for students who are pursuing a concentration in Energy Sciences and Engineering are required to follow the examination procedures of their respective degree programs (i.e. Mechanical Engineering, Physics, etc.). For the Energy Science and Engineering doctoral program, three examinations are required as part of the doctoral program: a qualifying examination, a comprehensive examination, and a defense of dissertation examination. 

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is developed, administered, and graded by the faculty (or designated subset of the faculty) of the PhD program under the coordination of the CIRE director and tests the student’s general knowledge related to the course requirements. In case of failure, the candidate may appeal to retake the examination through the CIRE Graduate Education Committee within 30 days of notification of the result. If the appeal is granted, the student must retake the examination at the next offering. The result of the second examination is final.

Comprehensive Examination

Timing: The comprehensive examination must be taken no later than the end of the second year following entrance into the PhD program and prior to admission to candidacy. The timing is late enough in a student’s academic program to permit most of his or her graduate course work to be covered on the examination, and early enough to permit modification of the student’s program based on the results of the exam.   

Prerequisites for the Exam: Two requirements must be satisfied before a student takes the comprehensive examination:

  1.  A written dissertation proposal, approved by the major professor, must be submitted to each of the members of the student’s doctoral committee two weeks prior to the exam.
  2. Each member of the student’s doctoral committee must agree that the student is ready to take the comprehensive exam. In order to satisfy each member of the committee that he or she is ready for the exam, the student may be required to perform satisfactorily on either written or oral tests as prescribed by the committee member. The committee member will communicate to the major professor when he or she is satisfied that the student is ready to take the comprehensive exam. 

Format:  The comprehensive examination will consist of two parts:

  1. A one-day to two-day open book written examination will be given at an agreed-upon date. This exam will be made up by the members of the doctoral committee at the request of the student’s major professor, and the exam will be administered by the major professor. 
  2. Approximately three to six weeks after the written examination, the student will be required to defend his or her dissertation research proposal to the committee. An oral examination will be given. In addition, the student may be further examined in an oral examination on subject matter similar to that covered on the written exam.

Once the comprehensive examination is passed, the student should file for and be admitted to candidacy. At the discretion of the doctoral committee, supplemental reexaminations for the comprehensive examination and/or proposed dissertation research may be required. In case of failure, the candidate may not apply for reexamination until the following semester. The result of the second examination is final.

Defense of Dissertation Examination

A doctoral candidate must pass an oral examination on the dissertation. The dissertation, in the form approved by the major professor, must be distributed to the committee at least two weeks before the examination. The examination must be scheduled through the Office of the University Registrar at least one week prior to the examination and must be conducted in university-approved facilities. The examination is announced publicly and is open to all students and faculty members. The defense of the dissertation will be administered by all members of the doctoral committee after completion of the dissertation and all course requirements. This examination must be passed at least two weeks before the date of submission and acceptance of the dissertation by Graduate Student Services. The major professor must submit the results of the defense by the dissertation deadline.


ORNL and UTK logos

Contact Information

Lee Riedinger
Professor of Physics
Director of Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education

Wanda Davis
Assistant to the Director

322 Perkins Hall
1506 Middle Drive
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville, TN 37996