graduate students

Resources and all required forms for the Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department Graduate Programs are available from the Graduate Education Department website for current students.

Degree Requirements

You are required to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 for the courses listed in your Formal Study Plan to receive your MS degree. Courses that are not explicitly listed below need to be approved by the ME Department graduate coordinator. More details regarding Cal Poly graduate degree requirements are available from the Graduate Education Department Catalog page for degree requirements or the Graduate Education Department website.

Categories for Required Courses

ME 599 Design Project (Thesis)Design project is conducted for a committee of three faculty members OR substitute with all 500 level courses selected from the recommended Restricted Courses (see below) or approved alternatives and a comprehensive examinationMinimum of 9 units
Approved Math CoursesCourses from MATH, STAT or CSC with at least one 500 level course (courses from outside Cal Poly are subject to approval); ME 501 and/or ME 540 can also be used, but then cannot also be counted towards your recommended Restricted Courses8 units
COURSE TITLE (Typical Quarter Offered)UNITS
ME 501Continuum Mechanics and Elasticity (Fall)4
ME 503Inelastic Stress Analysis (Winter)4
ME 504Finite Element Analysis (Spring)4
ME 506System Dynamics (Spring)4
ME 507Mechanical Control System Design (Fall and Spring)4
ME 517Advanced Vibrations (Spring)4
ME 518Machinery Vibration and Rotor Dynamics (Winter)4
ME 540Viscous Flow (Winter)4
ME 541Advanced Thermodynamics (TBD)4
ME 542Dynamics and Thermodynamics of Compressible Flow (Fall)4
ME 552Advanced Heat Transfer I (Fall or Winter)4
ME 553Advanced Heat Transfer II (Fall or Winter)4
ME 554Computational Heat Transfer (Spring)4
ME 556Advanced Heat Transfer III (TBD)4
ME 579Fluid Power Control (TBD)4
400-levelME or CENG coursesMaximum of 12 units
500-levelME or CENG coursesMinimum of 4 units

Working and Final Study Plan

During your first and last quarters in the graduate program you need to submit your Working Study Plan and Final Formal Study Plan, respectively. The first one is tentative and the second one will be used to insure you have met the MS degree requirements and to determine your GPA for the graduate program. For the Course Option, list Prof. Shollenberger as your advisor and if needed select a class to list as 1 unit to make the total number of units add up to 45. If you are taking the Thesis Option list the Chair of your thesis committee as your advisor. List Prof. Shollenberger for the Graduate Coordinator for both options. 

Seminar Class (ME 563)

A Seminar Class is offered each fall quarter and unless you have a course conflict you are expected to enroll in ME 563 for both the Course and Thesis Options. This class is offered in the fall to allow graduate students coming from another university an opportunity to meet some of the professors and to learn about their ongoing research projects. There will also be some presentations from external researchers. Finally, it is a chance for you to meet some of your fellow graduate students. Note that this class is not used to meet your degree requirements and is not to be listed on your Formal Study Plans.

Continuous Enrollment Requirement

Until you completely finish all degree requirements and a thesis is uploaded, you must be continuously registered as a graduate student (except for summer quarter). Therefore, if you are finished with all your required classes, but are continuing to work on a thesis, you must continually register for 1 unit of the course GS-S597 through the Extended Education Department until you are done, regardless of whether or not you are on campus. If you plan on completing your thesis during the summer quarter, it is required that you register for GS-S597 for the summer quarter. More details regarding continuous enrollment are available on the Graduate Education Department website.

Course Option

The all course option requires a minimum of 45 units of classes (typically 12 courses) and a final comprehensive exam. Because most of the graduate classes at Cal Poly are 4 units, your total number of units completed will typically be 48. Thus, on your Formal Study Plan (see item above under Degree Requirements) you need to list one of your classes as 1 unit to make the total number of units add up to 45. The comprehensive exam will be administered during the final quarter of study at Cal Poly and will be graded as either pass or fail. A list of students that need to take the exam will be compiled during the beginning of each quarter. To request to be added to this list please contact the ME Graduate Coordinator.  Exam questions based on at least five 500 level ME classes (or 400 level ME level classes if needed) will be administered as a take-home exam during the 7th week of classes. 

Thesis Option

The thesis option requires 36 units of classes (typically 9 courses) and 9 units of ME 599 (Design Project). The 9 units of ME 599 are typically broken up (for example, 3 units for 3 consecutive quarters), but the exact distribution shall be determined by the graduate student based on registration needs (where 8 units are required to be a full-time graduate student).

thesis committee consisting of 3 members will be formed by the graduate student. To initiate the process, the student must meet with Cal Poly faculty members to identify a project that matches both the graduate student’s chosen area for research and/or development and the faculty members area of expertise. Example project sources include the following: a faculty member’s ongoing research, a research project a student would like to initiate based on their interests, continuation of a senior project, or a project based on a student’s internship/co-op position.

The chair of the thesis committee must be a Cal Poly ME Department tenure track faculty member. The graduate student must enroll in their thesis committee chair’s section of ME 599 (except if the faculty member is on leave, then they must enroll in the ME Department Chair’s section of ME 599) that can be found using Class Search. The other two members of the committee may be either a Cal Poly ME Department tenure or non-tenure track faculty member. One member of the committee may be from outside the Cal Poly ME Department, but must be qualified to provide technical supervision for the chosen thesis topic. 

Members of the thesis committee will be responsible for advising the design project. At the beginning of the project, the graduate student and thesis committee chair will meet to agree upon a thesis topic that is appropriate for Master’s Thesis level work. The graduate student shall then write a short “Statement of Work” that includes the following: design project title, graduate student name, dates of performance, thesis committee members, abstract, background, objectives, major milestones with schedule, and deliverables. This document should be reviewed and accepted by all thesis committee members. During the project the graduate student shall meet regularly with the thesis committee chair to review project progress and receive guidance. In addition, the graduate student should seek technical support from the other committee members as needed.

At the end of the design project, the thesis committee will be presented with a defense of the culminating Master’s Thesis report. An announcement for the thesis defense shall be posted by the graduate student and provided to the ME Graduate Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the event that includes the following: design project title, graduate student name, thesis committee members, location, date, and abstract. 

Deadlines, guidelines for the Master’s Thesis format, and forms are available from the Graduate Education Department website for Master’s Thesis.


The ME Grad Lab (Building 13, Room 106) has a conference table, sofas, and 16 desks, some with computers, that are available for graduate student use on a first come, first-serve basis. At the beginning of each quarter, all registered graduate student ID’s are configured to allow access. Please contact the ME Graduate Coordinator if you have difficulty accessing the lab.


Dr. Kim A. Shollenberger, Graduate Coordinator
Mechanical Engineering Department
Building 13, Room 251
Cal Poly State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0358
(805) 756-1379

For questions about the program, please come to Prof. Shollenberger’s office hours listed on her webpage: