Where can I learn more about general exams?
Once I have passed the general exams, what is the next step?
You need to prepare and defend a thesis proposal to your committee, typically around 6 months after passing the general exams. A copy of your thesis proposal should be on-file in the Academic Office, E40-367.
What is the residency requirement?
The ESD doctoral program is residential. This is based on the theory that a lot of learning happens by being a member of the community of scholars and researchers at MIT. Beyond the minimum institute requirements of 4 academic semesters, the ESD faculty expects that you will normally be at MIT during your entire doctoral program. Students seeking exceptions, for field work or other reasons, need to prepare a nonresident petition and submit it to the ESD Academic Office.
How many credit units may I take if I have a Graduate Assistantship?
The number of units a graduate assistant can take is limited. The principle is that students must leave
room for the work for which they are getting paid.
or equivalent unit at MIT sets its own rules for the limitation
on the number of units. For ESD, these limits are:
- RAs and
TAs may register for up to 54 units/year, including up to 33
units/semester without petitioning the graduate committee, and
may petition to take up to a maximum of 36 units in one semester
- The average
number of units/semester over the student's graduate program
must not exceed 27
of thesis or research do not count as part of the total
If the student
is on a part-time assistantship, these numbers can be prorated
with the agreement of the supervisor.
many credit units may I take if I do not have a Graduate Assistantship?
may take a “full load” which is normally considered
to be around 45 to 50 MIT units of subjects. [Note: 3 MIT units
correspond to 1 unit at most North American universities.] Some
people may take more if they have particularly good backgrounds
in the basics for their subjects. Others may find themselves fully
loaded with fewer units, for example if they are not used to taking
classes in English, have been away from school for many years,
or are studying new material.
should consult with their advisors to discuss this issue.
that the perspective of the International
Student Office (ISO) is shaped by visa regulations, which change periodically. They require
international students to take a “full load” but, in this
context, the number of total units is considerably less (around
36 units, but consult with ISO for exact details).
Am I allowed to take classes outside of ESD?
Yes. You may take subjects anywhere within MIT and may also cross-register, in your research area, at Harvard University.
What is the role of the ESD Education Committee?
The ESD Education Committee is responsible for oversight and coordination of all of ESDís academic programs, but its primary role has been the supervision of ESDís doctoral program. Therefore, the chair of the Education Committee functions as the PhD Program head. Academic coordination and logistics are handled by the staff of the ESD Academic Office.
ESDís current Education Committee (formed September 2013) is:
- Munther Dahleh (ex officio)
- Richard de Neufville
- Frank R. Field, III
- Richard Larson (chair)
- Nancy Leveson
- Noelle Eckley Selin
- Yossi Sheffi
- Jessika Trancik
ESD Academic Office (E40-367, 617-253-1182, or esdgrad at mit dot edu):
- Elizabeth Milnes, Academic Administrator
- Arlyn Hertz, Admissions and Catalog Coordinator
How is my academic performance evaluated?
The ESD Faculty review each student's progress and program at the end of the academic year to make sure that each student is progressing satisfactorily. The faculty will usually consider, but are not limited to, the following: studentís milestone and program duration; program start; estimated graduation date; GPA; performance in ESD.83, ESD.86, ESD.87, and 6.431/6.041; general exam results; committee membership; domain; methodology; [draft] dissertation title; committee meeting info; COUHES info; long-form status update from the chair/supervisor; long-form status update from the student.
While the focus of the PhD Program is research, you are still required to maintain a strong GPA:
- cumulative GPA must be at or above a 4.7
- semester GPA must be at or above 4.0
- you should receive no grades lower than a B-
- grades of C, D, F, O and U are unacceptable
If you are experiencing academic difficulties, you are encouraged to meet with the ESD Academic Office to discuss resources and options.
my dissertation use a standard format?
Yes. Go to the MIT Libraries web site for thesis specifications.
What needs to be done to organize the defense?
Use the Doctoral Defense Worksheet to help organize your defense and graduation.
Where do I find the Application for Advanced Degree?
To graduate you must fill out the degree application found online at WebSIS. To avoid late fees, apply during the first week of any term in which you may graduate. Removing yourself from the degree list can happen relatively late in the term without fees. You also have the flexibility to make changes to your dissertation title, without a late fee, until about 6 weeks before grades are due.
should I defend?
The standard advice is to give yourself 2 to 4 weeks after you defend to make the recommended changes to your dissertation. Your committee probably has a better idea of what is appropriate in your case. With their advice in mind, please schedule your defense with time to spare.
Defenses should usually be scheduled as follows:
graduation – April to early May
September graduation – July to early August
February graduation – early December to mid-January
Who judges my dissertation defense?
You defend your dissertation to the ESD Faculty. An ESD Defense Chair will be present to act as the moderator of the defense proceedings, and as the representative of the ESD Faculty. The defense chair is a tenured member of the ESD Faculty who is not serving on your committee and who does not have a conflict of interest. Contact the Academic Office to find out who is eligible to represent ESD at your defense.
else attends the defense?
The ESD Community is invited to your dissertation defense. Members of the MIT community are also welcome, as are your invited guests.
What is the format of my defense?
A defense typically takes 1.5 or 2 hours. First, the defense chair calls the defense to order. The committee chair or supervisor will introduce you. You then present for about 40 minutes (with no interruptions during the presentation except for quick clarification questions). Afterward, questions are invited in three rounds: 1) committee members, 2) faculty and senior research/teaching staff, 3) all attendees. After the questions, everyone except the committee, faculty, and senior research/teaching staff are asked to withdraw. The committee and faculty, etc., remain and deliberate about the defense results and revisions (if any). Your committee chair/thesis supervisor then notifies you of the result.
anyone, other than my committee, see my dissertation in advance?
* While revising your draft is fully expected up until the point you submit the final version to the Academic Office, a "complete draft" has all chapters, sections, indices, appendices, figures, tables, etc. fully populated with actual content. Only the acknowledgements section can remain blank or incomplete.
Yes. Two weeks prior to your defense post a complete draft* of your dissertation for the ESD faculty (and doctoral students) to review. You should personally ensure that each of your committee members and the defense chair have a complete draft in-hand a minimum of 10 days before the defense. Other ESD Community members may contact the Academic Office to request a copy of your draft for preview. Once your draft is posted, inform the Academic Office and forward them a text-based version of your abstract. This will prompt the Academic Office to announce your defense to the ESD Community.
What dissertation-related materials do I need to submit so that I can graduate?
Submit the following to the ESD Academic Office: two unbound archival copies that comply with library thesis specifications (plus the UMI form), plus one additional unbound copy if you started in TPP, and an electronic version for the ESD Academic Office.
In addition, upload your dissertation directly to DSpace