I am from metallurgical engineering background. I am doing PhD in mechanical engineering. I have an average of B+ in my undergrad advanced mathematics and programming courses. I have no past exposure to Non linear mechanics and Finite Element Analysis.

I am in the first semester of my PhD and I don't have the courses on Nonlinear mechanics and Finite element analysis being offered in my university for the next two years.

If I manage to self study the material from books and publish 2-3 papers on the application of the subjects in the next 5 years, will that be enough to show competency in the topics on my future career applications?

  • Also, keep in mind that you have already been accepted to this PhD project - which means that your supervisor and someone at the university's or department's admissions committee have looked at your skills and decided that you are sufficiently competent to attempt this, even without taking those courses.
    – juod
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 1:31

1 Answer 1


Reading "stuff" doesn't demonstrate competency, but publishing papers certainly does. If you can "use" something, and demonstrate it, then no one will really question whether you are capable of using it.

Don't worry about it, other than to worry about the difficulty of getting yourself to the point where publishers are willing to accept your papers. The rest will follow naturally.

I'll point out that professionals do this as a matter of course. If they need competency in a subject to publish, then they just do it. They wouldn't normally take a course (for credit) and wouldn't require any certification. Academic life is, among other things, a continuous path of study.

  • I'm surprised to see a mathematician offer this advice to a graduate student. What you say is true in a narrow sense, but in any theory / computation heavy area, lack of rigorous coursework in grad school can be a serious impediment to research for all but a handful of students. Commented May 3, 2020 at 15:41
  • 1
    @user_of_math, actually not, except initially as the learn to use what they have studied. Coursework is only a guide. The student needs to do the hard stuff. If we all depended on coursework for everything, then science (and math) could never expand. But learning difficult topics is, by definition, difficult. I hope I didn't suggest otherwise.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 15:46

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