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ACADEMIC PROGRAM INFORMATION

DISSERTATION AND DEFENSE

ACADEMIC PROGRAM INFORMATION

What are the program milestones?
You should progress through the following stages at roughly the specified time:

  • First and second semester: doctoral committee formation and research topic selection
  • First through ~fifth semester: coursework
  • ~Second through seventh semester: research, including data collection, analysis, etc.
  • End of second semester: program form
  • End of third or fourth semester: general exams
  • Fourth or fifth semester: thesis proposal
  • ~Sixth semester: program form audit
  • ~Sixth through seventh semester: writing
  • ~Seventh through eighth semester: defense and job search

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What are the academic requirements for doctoral students?
The doctoral program requirements (effective Summer 2008) place formalized emphasis on depth in domain / context and methodology, as well as mastery of fundamental and applied engineering systems concepts. You and your committee must construct a doctoral program using the Doctoral Program Form (and, as appropriate, Independent Studies Form) as your guide, which includes the following:

  • Fundamental Engineering Systems Thinking
    • ESD.83 the ESD Doctoral Seminar
    • ESD.86 Models, Data & Inference for Socio-Technical Systems
    • ESD.87 Social Science Concepts & Methods Subject
  • Applied Engineering Systems Thinking
    • One or two subjects that build upon your fundamental ES knowledge and extend it to application
  • Depth in Domain / Context
    • Three advanced, doctoral-level subjects or equivalent in a domain / context
  • Depth in Methodology
    • Three advanced, doctoral-level subjects in an established methodology – preferably cumulative
  • Electives
    • Relevant subjects that round out a substantial program of at least 150 graduate level units

You should review your program form with your faculty mentor or committee chair prior to registering for each semester. The approved Doctoral Program Form must be submitted to ESDís Academic Office, E40-367, a few weeks before the end of your second regular term (normally about May 10). Subsequent changes must be approved first by your Committee Chair and then submitted to the Academic Office.

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How are students in the ESD PhD Program advised?
All admitted doctoral applicants are matched with a faculty mentor in their research area at the time of admission. A mentorís role is to help inform your decision to attend, and then guide you through the first semester or two in the program. A mentor will advise you on obtaining funding, selecting classes, becoming oriented to the program, exploring the relevant research opportunities at MIT and ESD, and forming a doctoral committee. Once your doctoral committee is identified (particularly the committee chair!) the advising role moves over to your doctoral committee.

Bear in mind, an advising relationship cannot exist without the consent of both parties. If something is not working with your mentor, your chair, your supervisor, your committee, (or any other member of the MIT community for that matter) then talk to someone about it! The Academic Office and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education are a good place to start.

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Who should be on my doctoral committee?
Your committee should be composed of the experts who can best guide and support the original research you are undertaking.

The division specifies that a minimum of 2 MIT faculty members serve on your committee, including the committee chair who must also be an ESD faculty member. At least 3 of your committee members must hold research-based doctoral degrees. You may have up to 5 members depending on the academic support you need. Most committees are made up of 3 members, including the chair.

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Who can chair my doctoral committee? Who can supervise my research?
The Committee Chair must be an ESD faculty member. Joint, dual, and full ESD faculty members are equally eligible to chair ESD doctoral committees. The chair is accountable to the ESD faculty for a studentís progress. Most of the time, the chair is also your primary supervisor for research and thesis-writing. However, in some cases, you and your committee may agree to split the chair and supervisor roles, so that the majority of the research and thesis-writing supervision can be provided by a doctoral committee member who is not a member of the ESD faculty. In all cases, the supervisor should have a research-based doctoral degree and an academic or research appointment in a relevant academic unit.

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How do I develop my doctoral curriculum?
You should work with your faculty mentor to develop your in-depth program of study and to assemble your doctoral committee. By the end of your first year in the doctoral program, you should have submitted a solid draft of your program as well as a list of your initial committee members (due about May 10). This is accomplished by completing the program form.

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How often should I meet with my committee?
At least once a semester. In practice, most committees will meet more frequently, at either your request or at the prompting of any of your committee members.

Bear in mind that at the end of each academic year the ESD Faculty will review each student's progress. Frequency and quality of committee meetings often prove to be one of the most informative measures of progress.

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Where can I learn more about general exams?
Here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Each Department 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
  • Units 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.

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How many credit units may I take if I do not have a Graduate Assistantship?
You 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.

Students should consult with their advisors to discuss this issue.

Note 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).

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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.

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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

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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.

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DISSERTATION AND DEFENSE

Should my dissertation use a standard format?
Yes. Go to the MIT Libraries web site for thesis specifications.

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What needs to be done to organize the defense?
Use the Doctoral Defense Worksheet to help organize your defense and graduation.

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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.

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When 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:

June graduation – April to early May
September graduation – July to early August
February graduation – early December to mid-January

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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.

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Who 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.

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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.

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Should anyone, other than my committee, see my dissertation in advance?
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.

* 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.

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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

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October 2013

 

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