MEAM MSE Course-Specific Policies

MEAM Seminar Requirement

Full-time MEAM MSE students and Accelerated Master’s students must attend two semesters of the MEAM Seminar Series. The MEAM department seminars help expand the scope and learning for MEAM MSE students:

  • The seminar provides an opportunity to learn about state-of-the-art research and issues in MEAM, including outside of students’ specific or direct research interests.
  • The seminar provides an opportunity for students to get acquainted with people from other institutions and companies.
  • The seminars are an excellent opportunity to get together as a department. Students can meet peers as well as faculty members.

MEAM 6990: MEAM Seminar

MEAM 6990 recognizes students’ attendance at the MEAM Seminar Series. MEAM 6990 is a zero (0) credit course that does not count towards a student’s full-time status or the MEAM MSE program’s 10 CU requirement. There are no tuition or fees assessed for this course.

MEAM 6990 is graded Satisfactory (S)/Unsatisfactory (U) and recorded on a student’s transcript. To earn an S grade, the student must attend at least 70% of the departmental seminars and complete mini-essays for at least three of those seminars. For example, in a term in which there are 12 seminars, the student will need to attend at least 9 seminars to obtain an S grade. The three mini-essays can be spread over the semester (approximately one a month). Students may select which seminars they write the mini-essays about.

Students may attend and count up to two seminars outside of MEAM’s Seminar Series. To be counted, a non-MEAM seminar must be part of an established Penn seminar series that is focused on engineering, science, mathematics, computation, or another technical discipline. Students may also count attendance at MEAM PhD and Master’s defenses towards MEAM 6990 with prior approval. A mini-essay must be completed for each non-MEAM seminar, and these may count towards the mini-essay requirement. There are no exams for this course.

Under special circumstances, i.e., in the case of a conflict with a course, the student may waive the seminar requirement for a particular semester by petition to the Master’s Program Chair. Part-time students (students completing the MEAM MSE degree in over 2 years, or a dual degree in more than 3 years) are exempt from the Seminar Requirement, although they are encouraged to attend the seminars.

EAS 8960: Professional Master’s Career Development

For international students, EAS 8960: Professional Career Development may be used to substitute one semester of MEAM 6990. EAS 8960 counts towards a student’s full-time status but does not count towards a student’s 10 CU requirement. The course does not have a tuition cost but does have administrative fees associated with it. EAS 8960 is typically taken in the student’s third (second-to-last) semester of study. EAS 8960 may not be taken during a MEAM MSE student’s final semester of study.

MEAM MSE Thesis Option

While the majority of MSE students complete an entirely coursework-based degree, there is also an option to complete a thesis during the MSE degree program. This option is open only to top MSE students and is subject to the availability of advisors with suitable research projects. Students doing a thesis typically complete the MSE in 2 years. Objectives of an MSE thesis project can include the following:

  • To advance the state-of-the-art in research.
  • To solve new problems with existing tools.
  • To develop a new instrument or measurement technique, or a computer program for analysis or advanced design.

MEAM 5970: Master’s Thesis Research

Students may take MEAM 5970 for up to three semesters, although the typical length is 2 semesters. MEAM 5970 can be counted towards up to two (2) of the MEAM Electives requirement. One, two, or three units of MEAM 5970 may be taken in sequence, not simultaneously. Students should expect to take at least two semesters for the project and thesis writing. MEAM 5970 is graded by the student’s thesis advisor. Students doing a thesis cannot count independent study courses (MEAM 5990) as a part of their 10 course units requirement.

MSE Thesis Proposal & Committee

Students who choose to write a thesis must choose an advisor and a suitable thesis topic during their second semester of graduate study. The thesis advisor must be a member of the MEAM Graduate Group. If the identified thesis advisor is not the same as the student’s faculty advisor, the student may request the Master’s Program Chair (via the Master’s Program Coordinator) change their faculty advisor to their thesis advisor. 

The student must work with their thesis advisor to produce a written thesis proposal. The proposal should contain a statement of the objective of the work, a literature review, a description of the scope of the study, and an outline of the proposed final document. The thesis advisor will evaluate and approve the proposal, or make recommendations if revisions are necessary. After the proposal is approved by the thesis advisor, the Graduate Program Coordinator will then forward the proposal to the Master’s Program Chair and the Graduate Group Chair for approval.

The student must obtain approval of the thesis proposal at least three (3) weeks before the start of the semester in which they will take MEAM 5970 and begin the Master’s Thesis research.

The student and thesis advisor will approach at least one additional Penn faculty member, ideally from the MEAM Primary Faculty and the MEAM Graduate Group, to join the Thesis Committee. The student will recommend the faculty member(s) to the Graduate Group Chair, who will in turn approve and appoint them to the Thesis Committee. One of the Thesis Committee members will be appointed to serve as the Thesis Committee Chair. The Thesis Committee Chair should be a member of the MEAM Graduate Group. The thesis advisor may not serve as the Thesis Committee Chair.

The Thesis and Defense

The thesis must be prepared and submitted following the general SEAS and University of Pennsylvania guidelines. When the thesis has been approved by the thesis advisor, a copy of the thesis must be given to each member of the Thesis Committee for review. The student should allow for at least two weeks for the review. If the Committee feels that the thesis is suitable for presentation, the student may then proceed to the thesis defense. A public announcement of the presentation must be posted at least two weeks prior to the presentation.

The thesis defense is a public presentation of the work, after which the Thesis Committee will give final approval or disapproval. A typical thesis defense uses the following structure:

  • Thesis presentation
  • Public Q&A
  • Closed-door Q&A with just the student and the Thesis Committee
  • Closed-door deliberation by the Thesis Committee
  • Discussion and Decision between the student and the Thesis Committee

After the student successfully defends their thesis and completes any requested revisions recommended by the Thesis Committee, the final thesis must be signed by the thesis advisor and the MEAM Graduate Group Chair. Formatting requirements for the thesis can be found in the Penn Engineering Graduate Student Handbook. The finalized thesis must be submitted to the Office of Academic Services (OAS) and to the MEAM Graduate Program Coordinator by email. The thesis must be submitted by the University-specified date prior to commencement. Failure to follow the above schedule and requirements will result in a delay in awarding the student’s degree.

Independent Study

Independent study courses (MEAM 5990) can accommodate special interests of the students that are not served through Penn Engineering’s regular course offerings. They create opportunities for research projects and mentoring relationships between students and faculty. The student needs to identify the faculty supervisor, topic, and project scope during the semester prior to the one in which they intend to take the independent study.

MEAM 5990: Independent Study

MEAM 5990 may only count towards the General (Free) Elective requirement, and students may only take a maximum of two independent study courses towards their MEAM MSE degree. The faculty supervisor must be a primary member of MEAM’s faculty. If the faculty supervisor is not a primary member of MEAM’s faculty, the student may request to do an independent study in the supervisor’s primary department.

Prior to the semester in which the student wants to take the independent study, the student and the faculty supervisor must develop a proposal:

  • The first section of the proposal should describe the objectives, scope, content, and schedule of the independent study.
  • The second section should state how the independent study will be evaluated and how the student will be graded.
  • The proposal should be signed by both the student and the faculty supervisor and then be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator, who will convey it to the Master’s Program Chair for approval.

The independent study proposal must be approved by three (3) weeks before the start of the semester in which the independent study will commence.

The following guidelines will help maintain the academic rigor of an independent study course:

  • An independent study course should require a comparable amount of work to that of a regular course, about 9 hours a week, or a total of 126 hours per semester.
  • The student and faculty supervisor should meet on a regular basis – we recommend at least once a week. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule these weekly meetings.
  • An independent study course’s schedule should require steady work, ideally by setting assignments or progress checks throughout the semester. The student should not expect to be able to cram a semester’s worth of work into a few days of intensive work at the end of the semester.

The independent study will conclude after the faculty supervisor submits a final grade for the course. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that these guidelines are followed. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in the student not receiving credit for the independent study course.