Before completion of a doctoral degree, you must have your dissertation accepted for defense by your review committee.​ The dissertation defense may occur before or after the final electronic submission of the written dissertation to the Graduate School, but must take place prior to the end of the final semester of enrollment.

Students must then pass a dissertation defense, which is a final examination on the dissertation and related topics. In the defense, students are expected to explain their research clearly and concisely, and to discuss how it relates to other research in the field. This is an opportunity for recognition of completed doctoral work. It is also an opportunity for discussion and formal evaluation of the dissertation.

Requirements for Your Dissertation Defense

All required forms should be submitted on time according to the following deadlines:

  • To the Department: The Doctoral Examination Report should be submitted to the graduate advisors at at least three weeks prior to the defense.
  • To the Committee: The written dissertation should be sent as a single pdf file by email to all members of the defense committee, as well as to the graduate advisors at, at least two weeks before the defense. This deadline is intended to allow the defense committee sufficient time to review the dissertation and to formulate questions and feedback. Prior to the defense, students should contact all members of the committee to assess their areas of interest and concerns. This will help students anticipate any questions that will be asked. 

Students must be registered as full time, regular degree-seeking students at CU for a minimum of five dissertation hours during the semester in which they pass the examination. The examination is conducted by a committee appointed by the chair of the major department and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School and consists of at least five people:

  • One committee member must be outside the student’s major department
  • Three of the membersmust be mechanical engineering faculty

The chair and outside member of the committeemust have regular or tenured Graduate Faculty appointments. The other committee members must have either regular or special Graduate Faculty appointments. More than one dissenting vote disqualifies the candidate in the final examination. The committee chair and amajority of the committee must be present on the Boulder campus for the examination. 

Students should coordinate scheduling the examination with the committee and should schedule the examination for two hours. The examination is wholly oral and open to the public for the first portion of the examination. 

Students must prepare and present a professional oral presentation that summarizes the dissertation. This presentation should be 45-50 minutes in length and delivered to the examination committee. The oral presentation portion of the examination is open to all students and faculty. Questions are entertained at the end of the presentation. 

The final part of the examination is closed to only the student and the examination committee. During this portion, questions are entertained that cover the field of concentration and related fields. More than one dissenting vote among the committee constitutes an unsatisfactory exam. A student who fails the exam may attempt it once more after a period of time determined by the committee.

How to Succeed in Your Dissertation Defense

Stay calm and listen carefully. The examination may at times be more like a conversation. You will be asked questions, and you may also ask some questions. There will probably be conversations among committee members.

Committee members may even disagree with you or challenge your ideas. It is a good idea to pause to collect your thoughts if you are unsure of a question. Also, repeat the question to make sure you understand it. Know what to say when you don't know the answer to a question. You are not expected to know all the answers and it is better to acknowledge that you don't know the answer than to try to fake it.