PhD study

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is internationally renowned for its high-quality research. The expertise of our staff covers a wide range of specialist areas and our mission is to carry out research in fundamental science through to practical industrial applications.


The department was rated in the top five in the UK for Research Excellence in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014).

Our research looks at some of today’s most challenging issues such as renewable energy, alternative fuels, strong and lightweight aerospace materials, advanced manufacturing and the mechanics of the human body.

Much of the research undertaken by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is carried out by our postgraduate students as part of their PhD programmes. The department's current postgraduate research students are working on a wide range of projects, and they are vital to our success in research.

Our students come from both the UK and overseas and typically have a first degree in engineering, or a related subject such as physics or mathematics.

Research activities in Mechanical Engineering are divided into six main themes, which together encompass the wide range of research undertaken in the department:

The department includes a number of internationally renowned research centres which draw together research on a common theme and work to promote high profile research.

How to study

There are a number of different avenues to explore if a PhD sounds interesting to you. A number of studentships are provided to academics within the department, so it’s always worth asking what’s currently available.

Some larger research grants provide extra support for PhD positions, in which case your PhD would directly feed into the overall outcomes of the project, and in some cases, industrial companies will pay for you to do a PhD in their strategic areas.

Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) are one of the main ways by which EPSRC provides support for Doctoral Training to address skill shortages in UK priority areas.

An Engineering Doctorate is similar to a PhD, but over a longer period of time, and includes a close relationship with an industrial sponsor and a variety of formal training specific to your project.

Student conducting experiment in a lab

EPSRC-funded centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues, and future challenges, by creating new working cultures, building relationships between teams in universities and forging lasting links with industry.

As well as providing a supportive and exciting environment for students the technical programme is supplemented by a transferable skills training programme offering students a variety of personal and professional development opportunities.

Whichever route you decide on, you will be part of a vibrant research community within the department and the University and will have access to world-class training and facilities. If you need help deciding on the best option for you, try speaking to academics working in the areas you’re most interested in and see what’s on offer.


Each student is allocated an appropriate research supervisor, who will manage the research programme and give help and advice on a regular basis. Initially, students are admitted onto a MPhil degree and after one year their work is assessed, in most cases allowing the student to upgrade to a PhD.

It normally takes three years of full-time study to complete a PhD, although students can choose to study on a part-time basis. Joint PhD study with another institution is also possible.

Not only do our students achieve a high level of expertise in their chosen field, but they also gain a wide range of generic skills, from modelling techniques and advanced software skills, through to project management and entrepreneurial skills.

During that time students develop their own research profiles, attend conferences and publish research papers. Examination is by submission of a thesis and oral viva.

Doctoral Development Programme (DDP)

While students undertake their PhD studies they also carry out a programme of personal development through the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP). The DDP is tailored to a student's individual needs and helps them progress through their research studies by identifying existing skills and providing opportunities to acquire new skills and experience.

As part of the DDP, each student is given a training plan, reflecting four key areas:

  • Generic skills needed to become a high-level professional
  • Subject-specific advanced training
  • Subject-specific craft skills
  • Broad scholarship and wider engagement within the full community of scholars (eg networking, dissemination of knowledge, conferences, demonstrating impact and public value of research)

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.