1. Introduction: What is the MEng Thesis?


The thesis requirement gives students an opportunity to develop and demonstrate their ability to carry out and document a reasonably comprehensive project requiring considerable initiative, creative thought, and a good deal of individual responsibility, and it is the most important part of the MEng degree. The thesis may be a design project, an analytical paper, or experimental work of a technical nature.  The scope of the MEng thesis may vary, but for a student taking classes and/or working as a Research or Teaching Assistant, the thesis usually takes between one and one and a half years, so that starting it as an undergraduate is vital for finishing MEng in a single graduate year, and advisable even if you're expecting to take a year and a half to finish MEng.  The thesis should be completed in no more than three graduate terms, not including summers.  Students are expected to begin work on their thesis no later than the beginning of their graduate program, and to work on it every term until it is completed.  Deciding to take classes first and do the thesis later does not work and is not acceptable.

MEng theses normally involve one or more of the following:

  • Design of a system followed by construction, test, and evaluation;
  • Formulation of an analytical or computational model of a system or process, simulation of the model, and comparison with actual data;
  • Development of a computer program that might:
    • simulate a real system (e.g. Artificial Intelligence);
    • aid in a diagnostic procedure;
    • provide sophisticated, real-time analysis of measured data;
    • develop and analyze a theory or theorem which is an abstraction or idealization of an actual process or system;
    • apply some of the standard methods (of communication theory or control theory, for example) to aid in understanding of a process or system.
  • Experimental study of physical phenomena.

Ordinarily the thesis is an individual effort; however, group projects are possible if the work of the individuals can be evaluated separately. Separate thesis documents must be submitted.

The research supervisor is found and the project is normally begun during the senior year or the summer after it, and completed during the graduate year. Work may be begun while the student is an undergraduate (for pay or for credit as UROP or SuperUROP), but the bulk of the thesis work should be done and registered for under 6.ThM while the student is classified as a graduate student. Unless you are in the 6-A Program, you must do your research at MIT, not at a summer or part-time job for which you received pay. Students may use a thesis topic which suggested itself during their summer jobs, but they must have an MIT supervisor and do their work at MIT or one of the MIT-affiliated research labs (Draper, Lincoln, MGH/Harvard Medical, etc.).


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