Our PhD program requires a commitment of typically five years and consists of coursework, a preliminary examination, and original research guided by one or more faculty advisors that culminates in a dissertation and defense.
The program is fully-funded, which means that, subject to satisfactory progress, the student receives full coverage of tuition and fees, as well as a stipend. These funds come from a combination of faculty research funds, departmental fellowships, and instructional funds if the student assists in teaching during certain terms. Students are encouraged to apply for outside funding, particularly merit-based fellowships, as having external support will typically provide the student with more flexibility in projects.
Regardless of the ultimate source of funding, the student is advised by a faculty member who supervises and guides the research. These faculty advisors participate in the admissions process by selecting students that are appropriate for available projects. Therefore, every student admitted into the PhD program has already been selected for a project by one or more faculty members.
Prospective students seeking admission are encouraged to review the research of the faculty and initiate contact to assess the availability of potential research projects.
The following information pertains to students admitted into the PhD program.
A master’s degree is not required to be admitted to the PhD program. Our graduate program is very selective and only approximately 10% of the PhD applicants to our program are admitted. Learn about the academic background of students admitted .
The PhD degree requires a sound background in fundamental aerospace engineering courses which is assessed by the preliminary examination. The PhD dissertation requires a student to demonstrate the ability to pursue and solve an original research problem, which implies the ability to carry out independent research.
Rackham recognizes the value of intellectual breadth in graduate education and the importance of formal graduate study in areas beyond the student’s field of specialization. Cognate courses are those that are in a discipline or area different from a student’s field of study but are related or connected with some aspect of this field. All cognate coursework must be approved by the graduate program.
The cognate requirement may be satisfied in two ways:
The College of Engineering’s Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship program is designed to engage students to be able to recognize, address, and resolve ethical issues in classroom, professional and research settings. The program consists of four mandatory two-hour workshops each offered 10 times per year. The student must complete all four workshops before advancing to candidacy.
The preliminary examinations (prelims) are oral examinations that cover material taught in the five courses (noted above in “Preliminary Examination coursework”). See a full description of the prelim policies: Department of Aerospace Engineering Doctoral Degree and Preliminary Examination Policies and Procedures (PDF).
The exam will be administered in 30 minutes per selected course and will cover all five courses. The preliminary examinations are given twice each academic year in early December and early May. To sign-up complete the Preliminary Examination Sign-Up Form (PDF).
One faculty member per course will be appointed to serve in the student’s PEC. Each of the three groups (Gas Dynamics, Structures and Materials, and Flight Dynamics and Controls) will decide which faculty members will sit on the PEC for each student.
The Preliminary Examination Committee decision incorporates:
There are three possible outcomes for each student: Pass, Fail with invitation to retake the following semester, and Fail with no retake. All PEC decisions are final.
Candidacy can occur once the student:
Doctoral research is carried out under the supervision of a faculty advisor and a dissertation committee; the dissertation committee should normally be formed within one year after the student has achieved doctoral candidacy status. The student should expect to meet with her/his dissertation committee immediately after it is formed and at least on an annual basis up to the PhD defense.
Each student must initiate research activity with his/her advisor in the first year of graduate study at U-M. In order to complete the PhD degree, the student must carry out original and publishable research, present the results in a written dissertation, defend the dissertation at a final oral defense, and complete the final post-defense (see Rackham’s Dissertation Handbook for additional details). The defense presentation represents the culmination of the student’s research and is given to the committee and other faculty and students. The student must be able to clearly and concisely present his/her research and must be able to answer questions from the committee and others in attendance.