Course Requirements

The Robotics Master’s (M.S.) degree program requires completion of 30 credits of letter-graded coursework including directed study for three (3) to six (6) credits. Ph.D. programs have very similar course requirements. Ph.D. students earn a Masters degree as part of their Ph.D. program. To complete the Ph.D., students will typically complete a minimum of six (6) additional credits to satisfy specific course requirements. The Rackham Residency requirement states that at least 18 of the 36 course credits required for a Ph.D. be earned at the University of Michigan, for those entering with M.S. degrees from other institutions.

The robotics program classifies most of its courses as belonging to one of three core subdisciplines:

  • Sensing – Includes computer vision, mapping, signal processing
    • Reasoning – Includes planning, multi-agent coordination, machine learning, artificial intelligence
    • Acting – Includes control, kinematics, dynamics, mechanical, bio-mechanical systems design, manipulation, real-time systems

Note: For a list of approved courses go to: http://robotics.umich.edu/acedmic-program/

The following table summarizes robotics program course requirements. The “Other Electives” course set is quite general and should be discussed with a student’s advisor and documented on the student’s course plan. Some suggested math and robotics courses hosted in traditional departments are listed at: http://robotics.umich.edu/academic-program/requirements-obtain-ph-d-m-s-robotics/robotics-possible-elective-courses/

Course/Category Description Requirement
ROB 501 Math for Robotics 3 credits
ROB 550 Robotic Systems Laboratory 4 credits
Breadth One course from each core area: sensing, reasoning, acting 3 courses (9 credits)
Cognate One technical course from outside the core areas 4 credits
Directed Study Research supervised by a robotics faculty member 3+ credits
Other Electives (PhD only) 400 level or higher (approved by a faculty advisor) 3+ credits

1st Year Students

All first-year M.S. and Ph.D. robotics students are advised to take three (3) courses in the first (fall) semester: Math for Robotics (ROB 501), Robotic Systems Laboratory (ROB 550), plus a third course related to their primary area of interest. In the second term, students are advised to take two (2) courses, e.g., from other breadth areas, plus a directed study course.

Each student is strongly encouraged to meet with his/her research advisor or the graduate chair soon after arrival on campus to discuss course options. The goal of this meeting is to develop a course plan that satisfies course requirements and student interests. It is expected that each student will identify and meet with a (directed study) research advisor by the beginning of their second term.

Qualification Process (Ph.D.)

A major milestone for Ph.D. students is to pass the qualifying exams, which advances the student to Ph.D. candidate status. The qualification process is comprised of a review of academic performance, technical qualifying exam, and a research preliminary exam. A Ph.D. student is considered to have adequate performance in coursework if his/her grade-point average is 3.5 or above. Both components of the exam are typically completed after three semesters in the program.

Technical Qualifying Exam

This is an oral exam in which the student is examined by two faculty members. The faculty will examine the student’s understanding of technical fundamentals gained from ROB 501 and ROB 550 coursework.

Research Preliminary Exam

The student delivers an oral presentation describing a research problem. Following the presentation (which may focus, for example, on a literature review, a replication study, or original research), two faculty members will question the student on their understanding of their subject.

Thesis Proposal and Defense (Ph.D.)

Ph.D. students must propose, write, and defend a thesis on an original research topic. At least a year prior to the final thesis defense, the student must defend a proposal to the Ph.D. committee.