Pitt | Swanson Engineering
MS Final Examination (Defense)

Upon discussions with the research adviser that the MS thesis is done, the student forms an MS thesis committee in consultation with the adviser.  The committee must consist of the MS research adviser and at least two other faculty members from the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department. The committee may also include members from other University departments and members external to the University. The student should discuss with the adviser who would be best to be on this committee based on their expertise. The research adviser serves as the committee chair.

The student should set up a time for the MS thesis exam allowing approximately two hours duration in consult with the committee. The student should give the committee copies of the written thesis at least three weeks before the defense unless the members agree to accept it closer to the time of the exam.

For this exam, the student makes a presentation—usually about 20-30 minutes in length if uninterrupted—covering the main conclusions of the dissertation research. The organization of the presentation may vary somewhat but often includes the following:

  1. Introduction and Background
  2. Research Objectives
  3. Results and Discussion
  4. Conclusions

The committee may interrupt the presentation to ask questions or request a clarification. At the end of the presentation, the committee chair asks each committee member in turn if they have additional questions which they usually do. The committee may ask questions based on the material in the thesis and in fields related to the research. At the end of the exam, the student and all visitors are asked to leave and the committee discusses the results of the exam and votes to pass or fail. If a student passes, the student finalizes the thesis taking into account all requests by the committee for changes and receives the MS degree. If the student fails, the student can repeat the exam once.