Aerospace Engineering, Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Program Description

The program emphasizes balance in aerospace science and technology, both basic and applied, to prepare students for the diverse opportunities at the frontiers of research, in contemporary industrial development, and in government agencies. The faculty is particularly strong and active in aerospace vehicle dynamics and feedback control, wind energy, celestial mechanics, the Global Positioning System, and spacecraft systems engineering, as well as in basic aerosciences including transonic flows, turbulence, nonequilibrium gas dynamics, unsteady and vortical flows, combustion processes, transport processes in microgravity and chemical kinetics. (see field description for more detail).

The Ph.D. program provide advanced levels of training suitable for students pursuing careers in research and development, education, or government service. The field does not admit students into an M.S.-only degree program; applicants may apply for the Ph.D. program with a bachelor's degree. Ph.D. students must take a qualifying examiniation in addition to the examinations required by the Graduate School. Typically the qualifying exam is taken at the end of the first semester for students entering with a Master's degree and at the end of the first two semesters for those entering with a Bachelor's degree. Teaching experience for two semesters is required of Ph.D. students.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-5250

107 Upson Hall
Cornell Unversity
Ithaca,New York 14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • aerodynamics
  • aerospace systems
  • biomedical mechanics
  • dynamics and control
  • materials and structures
  • propulsion
  • thermal sciences


2015-2016 $29,500

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 15; no spring admissions.

Requirements Summary:



The following proficiencies are expected from students receiving a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. A student receiving a Ph.D. should:

1.      Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline

  •   Think originally and independently to develop concepts and methodologies
  •   Identify new research opportunities within one’s field

2.      Demonstrate advanced research skills

  •  Synthesize existing knowledge, identifying and accessing appropriate resources and other sources of relevant information and critically analyzing and evaluating one’s own findings and those of others
  •  Master application of existing research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills

3.      Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship

  •  Keep abreast of current advances within one’s field and related areas
  •  Commit to professional development through engagement in professional societies, publication, and other knowledge transfer modes
  •  Create an environment that supports learning—through teaching, collaborative inquiry, mentoring, or demonstration

4.      Demonstrate professional skills

  •  Advance ethical standards in the discipline
  •  Communicate in a style appropriate to the discipline
  •  Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively

Assessment for the Ph.D. Degree

The ability of Ph.D. students to meet the above stated proficiencies is measured using the following metrics and evidence:

1. PhD dissertation, as assessed by the committee and approved by the thesis approval form upon completion of the evaluation proficiences 1,2,3)

2. Dissertation defense (B exam) and presentations, as assessed by the
    committees, and reported on the B exam form (addresses proficiencies 1,2,4)

3. Admission to candidacy (A exam) and presentations, as assessed by the
committees, and reported on the A exam form (addresses proficiencies 2,4)

4. Qualifying exam, as assessed by the qualifying exam committee, and summarized by a report from the Q exam committee chair to the DGS (addresses proficiencies 2)

5. Publication of scholarly articles, as tracked by the students and the field during the annual review, measures the ability of students to make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline (addresses proficiencies 3, 4)

6. Participation and presentation at professional meetings, as tracked by the students and the field during the annual review, develops the students ability to make presentations, give and receive feedback (addresses proficiencies 3, 4)

7. Grade point average in courses taken, as tracked by the registrar, measures the proficiency of technical skill acquired (addresses proficiencies 2)

8. Teaching evaluations, as tracked by the field, measures the student's commitment to teaching (addresses proficiencies 2)

9. Time to Degree, as tracked by the graduate school, measures the number of
semesters from matriculation to graduation (addresses proficiencies 1,2,3)

10. Residency units, as tracked by the student advisors and the graduate school each semester, measures the satisfactory progress of each student towards completion of a degree (addresses proficiencies 1,2,3). Annual graduate field reviews, as tracked by the field, assesses student's general progress towards completing the PhD objectives in a timely manner and identifies any systematic obstacles to graduations (addresses proficiencies 1,2,3)

11.Graduate and alumni survey, administered by the field, asks graduating students and alumni how well learning outcomes were achieved, how effective was the teaching and what can be improved (addresses proficiencies 1,2,3)

12. Improvement

The data listed above (reports, grades, and lists) are tracked by the field members, field administrator, registrar, and the graduate school and compiled for each individual student and for the entire field. The loop is closed in the following ways:

  • The chair of each student’s committee monitors each student’s overall progress towards completion of the PhD objectives, and provides feedback to the student as necessary
  • The director of graduate studies monitors the overall status of the field and adjusts policies and strategies, in consultation with field members
  • The field meets in an annual meeting to discuss data and identify action items for improvement of student learning and of collection of data.