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Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering

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Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The program normally includes 60 credit hours of course work beyond the B.S. and the equivalent of 15 hours on a dissertation. A minimum of 15 hours must be distributed in aerodynamics, structures and materials, dynamics and controls, design, and propulsion, with a minimum of 1 course in each area. An additional minimum of 15 hours of specialization is required in one area. At least 15 hours of graduate-level mathematics beyond the B.S. are required. Credit hours earned in completing a master’s degree can be used to satisfy a portion of these when appropriate. Unique situations can be accommodated with the approval of the graduate adviser and the candidate’s major professor.

In addition to general rules and regulations, a student must meet departmental Ph.D. requirements. After 2 semesters following the completion of M.S. requirements (or at a comparable level for non-M.S. students), the student is evaluated. To be allowed to continue for the Ph.D., the student must

  1. Have a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 in M.S. course work,
  2. Pass a qualifying examination, and
  3. Submit a Plan of Study.

The qualifying examination tests breadth of knowledge and determines the student’s ability to formulate mathematical representations of real physical situations. The examination covers mathematics and 3 of these 5 areas:

  • Aerodynamics,
  • Astronautics,
  • Structures and materials
  • Dynamics and controls, and
  • Propulsion.

A student is allowed only 2 attempts to pass this examination.

After passing the qualifying examination, the aspirant forms an advisory/dissertation committee. This committee must have 5 members, including at least 1 from a department other than aerospace engineering. The committee approves the aspirant’s program and administers the comprehensive examination and the formal oral defense of the dissertation.

Transfer students admitted with M.S. degrees must take the qualifying examination and prepare a Plan of Study after the first semester but before the end of the second semester.

When the aspirant has completed most of the course work and satisfied the responsible scholarship, residency, and Foreign Language or Other Research Skills (FLORS) requirements, he or she must take the comprehensive examination. The first part must consist of a written research proposal outlining in some detail the work to be done for the dissertation. The second part is an oral examination in which she or he must defend the research plans and demonstrate competence in her or his particular and related areas. Upon passing the comprehensive examination, the aspirant becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. The dissertation committee directs preparation of the dissertation and approves it. A formal oral and public defense of the dissertation is required before the candidate’s committee, any other interested members of the Graduate Faculty, and the general public.

Before being admitted to the comprehensive examination, the aspirant must satisfy the department’s basic research skills, residency, and responsible scholarship requirements. The research skill requirement provides the aspirant with a research skill distinct from, but strongly supportive of, the dissertation research. One research skill is required. Possible research skills include foreign language, computer science, mathematics, statistics, specific laboratory skills, and specific skills in the physical or biological sciences. The foreign language skill can be obtained by taking a 2-course sequence in the selected language or demonstrated by passing an examination. The selected research skill must be listed on the Plan of Study form. A separate statement attached to the Plan of Study must list the work to be completed to obtain the research skill. The responsible scholarship requirement serves to ensure that students are trained in responsible research practices. Aspirants can satisfy the responsible scholarship requirement by enrolling in 2 semesters of AE 690 Professional Development for Graduate Students. This course covers ethical behavior for graduate students, intellectual property and technical writing.

Note: Contact your department or program for more information about research skills and responsible scholarship, and the current requirements for doctoral students. Current Lawrence and Edwards Campus policies on Doctoral Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship are listed in the KU Policy Library.

Candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfy the university’s general requirements for the degree. A Plan of Study must be approved by the student’s major professor, examining committee, and departmental graduate studies committee.


Some examples of experimental and computational courses are

Experimental Courses

  • AE 705 Structural Vibrations and Modal Testing
  • AE 730 Advanced Experimental Fluid Dynamics
  • AE 732 Introduction to Flight Test Engineering
  • CE 721 Experimental Stress Analysis

Computational Courses

  • EECS 744 Digital Signal Processing I
  • ME 861 Theory of the Finite Element Method
  • MATH 781 Numerical Analysis I
  • MATH 782 Numerical Analysis II
  • MATH 783 Applied Numerical Methods for Partial Differential Equations

Note: Courses taken to satisfy the Research Skills requirement may not satisfy doctoral degree course requirements; it is up to the student’s academic and department adviser and should be included on the Plan of Study.

2 consecutive semesters, excluding summer sessions, must be spent in resident study. During the period of residence the student must be involved full time in academic pursuits, which may include up to half-time teaching or research.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access,, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.