What to Expect

Graduate Students: What to Expect

Academics

The academics and expectations for Graduate Students are quite different from undergraduate study.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics is  dedicated to educating graduate students in the diverse disciplines represented within its degree programs of aerospace engineering and mechanics. Graduate study enables a student to develop in-depth knowledge in one or more specialized fields, apply their knowledge of physics, engineering, computer science, and various other disciplines to create new and improve upon existing technologies by doing original research. In addition, your graduate study will teach you how to work independently and think critically about one’s own work and that of others. AEM faculty will help you reach these goals by offering challenging courses, organizing research seminars, encouraging informal discussions, and providing guidance during all stages of your research and coursework.

If you have any questions on the graduate program, feel free to contact Professor Gebre, Director of Graduate Studies or email us a aem-dgs@umn.edu.

FAQs

Graduate Research Group photo

Masters of Science, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

Master Degree Requirements

The M.S. Degree offers three plan options. Plan A emphasizes research and preparation of a thesis, Plan B emphasizes a project, and Plan C is a coursework-only option recommended for working professionals.

Students will select from either Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C. If a student chooses Plan A, they then will write a thesis, which enables them to register for up to 10 credits for their research work. Plan B is accomplished mainly through coursework with a final three credit individual project. Plan C is coursework only.

M.S. Plan A

The M.S. Plan A degree is the research option and requires completion of a master’s thesis. The Plan A requires a minimum of 30 credits, which includes at least 20 course credits plus 10 credits of thesis research. If a minor is designed, a minimum of 6 credits must be taken in a single field outside the major field. A research project is normally derived from a student’s duties as a graduate research assistant and typically from a funded proposal idea developed by the graduate adviser. Students can also propose an independently conceived research idea, then develop, and refine the research plan in consultation with the graduate adviser. 

M.S. Plan B

The M.S. Plan B degree is the project option and is typically pursued by students intending to continue their Ph.D. degree. The Plan B option requires a minimum of 30 credits, which includes at least 27 course credits. The course work is selected in consultation with a faculty adviser. In addition, the student must demonstrate ability to work independently and present the results of such work effectively by completing one or more project papers.

M.S. Plan C

The M.S. Plan C degree is the coursework-only option and is recommended for working professionals who wish to pursue a Master’s degree on a part-time basis but can also, be used by students intending to continue on for a Ph.D. degree. The Plan C requires completion of a minimum of 30 course credits. At least 2 courses at the 8XXX level must be completed. The student must complete a minimum of 100 hours of project work in increments of 40 hours per project or greater. The projects are to be performed as part of specific courses in aerospace engineering and mechanics that comply with the M.S. Plan C project requirements

Of the coursework completed, a first-year graduate student usually takes at least one comprehensive sequence in basic engineering science. Students may choose more advanced and more specialized courses after they have covered the fundamentals. 

Incoming students who have not covered basic aerodynamics, airplane dynamics, structures, and propulsion in their undergraduate programs are required to make up this material in addition to completing the 30-credit graduate program.

Outside the major credits, many students include courses in mathematics in their programs. Courses offered by the Mechanical Engineering Department in heat transfer and propulsion are also appropriate in aerospace engineering programs.


Doctor of Philosophy Degrees

 Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. program requires approximately two years of course work, but the heart of the Ph.D. program is the thesis research. The first year of the Ph.D. program is similar to the master's program, and most Ph.D. students receive their master's degree. By the end of the first year, the student has chosen an adviser.

The second year is devoted to more advanced courses and beginning research. Subsequent years include some course work with increasing focus on research. The time required to complete a research project is uncertain, but students who enter with a bachelor's degree usually finish the M.S. and Ph.D. program within four to six years. A more complete list of the degree requirements is available.

Students typically emphasize one of three fields of study: fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, or aerospace systems and control. However, graduate students can, and often do, conduct research in topics that span more than one of these fields and/or involve other departments in CSE or other colleges at the University of Minnesota.


Typical First Year Course Sequence Field of Study 

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Aerospace Systems and Controls

The aerospace systems and controls concentration focuses on the development and design of systems with complex dynamics and techniques. The typical first year course sequence builds the foundational knowledge for advanced work in aerospace systems. A typical first-year fall course schedule would include Intermediate Dynamics (AEM 5401) and Linear Systems Optimal Control (AEM 5321/EE 5231). Students who have not taken a course in classical controls should also take Automatic Control Systems (AEM 4321 / EE 4231).  Note: AEM 5321 focuses on state-space methods while AEM 4321 primarily focuses on frequency domain / transfer function methods.These complementary courses provide preparation for the material covered on the Controls preliminary examinations in the spring. The material covered on the Dynamics prelim is covered in AEM 5401.

Fall Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8400 – Aerospace Systems Seminar
  • AEM 5401 – Intermediate Dynamics
  • AEM 5321/EE 5231 – Linear Systems Optimal Control
  • AEM 5451 – Optimal Estimation
  • AEM 8442 – Navigation & Guidance Systems

Add two prep courses (if not previously taken):

  • AEM 4303 - Flight Dynamics and Control
  • AEM 4321 / EE 4231 - Automatic Control Systems

The typical first-year spring course schedule would include Robust Control Systems (AEM 8421/EE 5235) and Advanced Dynamics (AEM 8411).  A variety of more advanced classes can be taken after the first year with several options listed below.

Spring Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8400 – Aerospace Systems Seminar
  • AEM 8421/EE 5235 – Robust Control Systems
  • EE 8215 – Nonlinear Systems
  • CSCI 5521 – Intro to Machine Learning
  • CSCI 5552 – Sensing/Estimation in Robotics
  • AEM 8411 – Advanced Dynamics

Students are also required to sign up for both semesters for the AEM department seminar (AEM 8000) and the graduate systems seminar (AEM 8400).  Most graduate researchers will present at least once a year in the 8400 seminar series. This provides an opportunity to improve presentation skills and obtain valuable feedback from other students and professors.

Solid Mechanics and Materials (Aerospace Structures and Advanced Materials)

The solid mechanics and materials concentration focuses on material engineering needs. The typical first year course sequence builds on the foundational knowledge for solid mechanics and materials, specifically regarding aerospace structures and advanced materials. A typical first year schedule would include:

Fall Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8500 – Solid Mechanics and Materials Seminar
  • AEM 5401 – Interim Dynamics
  • AEM 5501 – Continuum Mechanics
  • MATH 5615H – Honors Analysis I

Spring Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8500 – Solid Mechanics and Materials Seminar
  • AEM 5503 – Elasticity
  • AEM 8511 – Advanced Continuum Mechanics
  • AEM 8411 – Advanced Dynamics
  • AEM 8531 – Fracture Mechanics
  • MATS 8003 – Electronic Properties
  • MATH 5616H – Honors Analysis II

Fluid Mechanics (Experimentalist)

Fluid Mechanics concentration focuses on the theory and application of fluid flows relative to mechanical engineering. The typical first year course sequence builds on the foundational knowledge for fluid mechanics that incoming students already have. A typical first year schedule would include:

Fall Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8201 – Fluids I
  • AEM 5401 – Interim Dynamics
  • AEM 5253 – Computational Fluids
  • CEGE 8521 – Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Spring Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8202 – Fluids II
  • AEM 8271 – Experimental Fluids
  • AEM 8211 – Turbulence I
  • AEM 5651 – Aeroelasticity
  • AEM 5247 – Hypersonic Aerodynamics
  • BMEN 5311 – Advanced Biomed Transport Processes
  • CSCI 5561 – Computer Vision
  • MATH 5651 – Prob-Stat Theory

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Computational Fluid Dynamics concentration focuses on the numerical study of steady and unsteady fluid motion and includes the fundamental mechanics of fluids. Specifically, it is used to study how fluids behave in complex conditions. The typical first year course sequence aims to build upon the foundational knowledge for computational fluid dynamics. A typical first year schedule would include:

Fall Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8201 – Fluids I
  • AEM 8231/ME 8361 – Molecular Gas Dynamics
  • AEM 5253 – Computational Fluids
  • AEM 5401 – Interim Dynamics
  • MATH 8401 – Model and Applied Math

Spring Semester:

  • AEM 8000 – Seminar: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
  • AEM 8202 – Fluids II
  • AEM 5247 – Hypersonic Aerodynamics
  • AEM 8251 – Volume Methods
  • AEM 8211 – Turbulence I
  • CEGE 8572 – Computational Env. Fluid Dynamics

Research

The U of M consistently ranks among the top 10 of public research universities and remains among an elite group of public institutions in the US. The AEM department has built broad expertise in the core foundations of aerospace engineering and mechanics: fluid dynamics, solid mechanics and materials, and aerospace systems. Our faculty is active and our research is in strong demand; in 2018 AEM had over $8.9 million in sponsored research expenditures. AEM research ranges from the design of hypersonic aircraft to the discovery of new active materials with unprecedented properties; from new control algorithms for drones to the discovery of MRI methods for measuring fluid flow in the respiratory system. Our research guides our undergraduate and graduate teaching and inspires our students. Our fundamental scientific approach to all our areas of teaching and research catalyzes an unmistakable atmosphere of collegiality in AEM.

In addition, AEM researchers have ongoing global collaborations at the Universities of Antwerp, Bonn, Carleton (Canada), Kiel, KU Leuven, Melbourne, Queensland, Canberra, Oslo, Oxford, Tel Aviv, the Ecole Centrale and Ecole Polytechnique, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; at research institutions such as the European Space Agency, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Sztaki), the Laboratoire de Mecanique des Solides (Paris), the Max Planck Institute on Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig), the Norwegian Institute of Technology, the Advanced Institute of Italy (SISSA), the von Karman Institute for Fluid Mechanics (Belgium) and SYNTEF Energy Research (Norway). AEM researchers also currently lead the NSF sponsored KIM project (400 members in 29 countries) and “The Rise of Data in Materials Research” (participants from Belgium, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK).

Learn More about our Research

What can you do with a Graduate degree?

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Life Outside the Classroom

Campus Activities

If you are inspired by a big challenge, you've come to the right place! Set on the banks of the Mississippi River and surrounded by a vibrant metropolitan community with agricultural roots, the U of M's Twin Cities campus is a place for seekers in all fields. Read more on Arts and Culture; Student Groups and Activities; Recreation and Wellness; and Getting Around:

Twin Cities Attractions

The Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area strikes a great balance between city-cool and eco-friendly, and between history and hip. Discover the Twin Cities through attractions like the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota History Center, Guthrie Theater, Mill City Museum and the the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Explore the possibilities.

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Transportation

Light Rails & Bus

Metro Transit provides easy access to the Twin Cities area via a light rail system and bus system. The new Green Line offers a 15-minute ride from the East Bank campus to downtown Minneapolis. The Green Line also shares five downtown Minneapolis stations with the Blue Line, which offers fast, quiet light-rail service to 19 stations between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America.   Metro Transit also provides bus service to many areas throughout the Twin Cities Learn more on Light Rails & Bus schedules, maps and fares.

Biking

Enjoy biking in one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Nice Ride Minnesota is a nonprofit bike sharing system, and anyone can become a member. Simply take a bike when you need one, and return it to any station in the system when you arrive at your destination. It's fast, easy, and affordable. Visit Nice Ride Minnesota for more information about the Twin Cities' public bike sharing program.

Visit the UMN Parking & Transportation website for more on bikes and scooters.