Three students working on a project

Current Graduate Students

This page contains important information related to your graduate degree. Refer back to it regularly as you progress through your degree. If you have additional questions or need clarification, you are encouraged to reach out to your advisor, the graduate coordinator or the graduate director.

Current Students

One of the most important relationships during your time as a graduate student is with your advisor. All faculty advisors have different approaches to mentoring their students, but in general your advisor serves as your mentor, supervisor and colleague. It is the student’s responsibility to identify an advisor. If you have not connected with a faculty advisor prior to starting your graduate degree, your top priority during your first semester is identifying an advisor. Below are the recommended steps to identifying your advisor:   

  1. Review the faculty page to identify a faculty member whose research area aligns with your interest. 

  1. After identifying 2-3 potential advisors, review faculty member CVs, personal websites and publications to better understand their research area. 

  1. Request a meeting with potential advisors to further discuss both your interests and theirs. 

Remember, you will be working closely with your faculty advisor for the next several years. In most cases, you will form a life-long professional relationship. Therefore, it is important that you give careful consideration to the selection of your advisor. If you need help or advice during this process, reach out to the graduate director at  


The plan of study is an online tool to help manage and document your degree progress. It includes degree information, degree milestone dates (for doctoral students), a list of committee members and your personalized curricular plan. Your plan of study must be updated every semester and approved by your advisor prior to being able to enroll in classes (including thesis and dissertation hours) for the following semester. The initial and final submissions of your plan must be signed by your entire committee and the graduate director. All other semesters require approval only from your advisor and graduate director. You can view example course schedules here.

Initial Submission 


For the initial submission of your plan of study, you are required to fill out the entire plan to the best of your ability. This includes your complete course schedule to meet the program’s credit hour requirements and estimated dates for degree milestones (i.e. Master’s students should list at least a total of 30.25 credit hours and Doctoral students 66.5).  

Note that this schedule is not set in stone, which is why you are asked to update it every semester. Since graduate courses are not offered every semester (or every year in some cases), you are encouraged to look at KU’s schedule of classes  to get a sense of when classes are typically offered to determine how they will fit in with your schedule. You should also work with your advisor to identify the most appropriate courses for your degree plan. Finally, each course must be labeled Core, Depth, Breadth, Research, Elective or Undefined. The following guidelines should be used when  labeling the courses: 

  • Core: Math courses or AE 712 

  • Depth: Courses related to your research or study area 

  • Breadth: Courses not directly related to your research area 

  • Research: Thesis/Project (AE 895) or Dissertation (AE 996) hours 

  • Elective: Courses that will not count towards degree 

  • Undefined: AE 690

Please visit the degree page to review your degree course requirements. 


Your committee consists of faculty members that will ultimately decide whether you pass your final defense. Committee members and your primary advisor can provide guidance on your research strategy and methods. They are a resource for you! You will need to identify a committee prior to the initial submission of your plan of study. For Master students, this includes your advisor and two additional faculty members from the department. For Doctoral students this includes your advisor, three faculty members from the department and one faculty member from outside the AE department. We highly recommend working with your advisor to identify potential committee members, but it is the student’s responsibility to reach out to faculty to request they be on their committee. This process can take time, so students are encouraged to identify their committee at least two months prior to the end of the first semester. 

Degree Milestones 

Doctoral students are required to identify degree milestones which include: 

  • Comprehensive Exam Component 

  • Qualify Exam 

  • Research Skills Requirement 

  • Residency Requirement 

  • Responsible Scholarship 

The research skills requirement provides students with skills that support their dissertation research. Examples of how the research skills requirement can be met include: 

  • If the student has highly theoretical research, then taking a course with a significant experimental  

  • If the student’s research is highly experimental, then taking a course with a significant theoretical component  

For more information on the research skills requirement and the other degree milestones, please review the Doctoral degree pages. 

Subsequent Submissions 

You are required to update your plan of study every semester. Your advisor and the graduate director must approve your plan before you are able to enroll in classes for the next semester (this includes thesis/project and dissertation hours). Below is a list of items to double-check to ensure your plan of study is approved on first submission:  

  • Is your estimated date of graduation correct? 

  • Do you have the required number of semesters of AE 690 (one for Master’s and two for Doctoral)? 

  • Do you have the minimum required credit hours listed in your course list?  

  • Are the courses categorized appropriately?  

  • Have you discussed updates to your plan of study with your advisor?  

  • Are your degree milestone dates, including the date of your qualifying and comprehensive exams, up to date? (Doctoral students only) 

  • Do you have the minimum required number of hours for Core, Depth, Breadth, and Research? (Doctoral students only) 

When you are ready to defend your thesis, project or dissertation, it should be a mutual decision between you and your advisor. When preparing your document, it is recommended you review university formatting and submission requirements. Your advisor and the graduate coordinator are good resources to help guide you through the defense process. The following outlines the general process and things to know while preparing your defense:  

One Month Prior 

  • Reach out to your committee to schedule a defense date and time. It can be difficult to find a time when all faculty committee members are available, which is why you are encouraged to start this process early.  Plan on scheduling an hour and a half time slot. Many students use online scheduling tools like or 

  • Once you have identified a time that works for your committee, you will need to notify the graduate coordinator that you are ready to schedule your defense. At least three weeks prior to your defense, fill out a defense notification form which can be found on the graduate forms page.  The graduate coordinator can answer any questions you have with regards to this process and will assist in reserving a room for your defense. 

  • Make sure you are aware of university deadlines for handing in all materials 

Two Weeks Prior 

  • Send your committee the final version of your thesis or dissertation document at least two weeks prior to the defense. Failure to provide the document to your committee 10 business days prior to the defense will result in needing to reschedule the defense to a later date. You may continue to make minor edits to the document after you send it to your committee, but it is important that your committee receive the most up -to -date version of the document. 

  • When sending your committee your document, we recommend that you confirm the time and location of the defense. Outlook meeting invites are encouraged to ensure the defense gets in your committee’s calendar. If any of the participants are attending virtually, determine which platform you will use. Then create and share the virtual meeting. 

One Week Prior 

  • Students are encouraged to have a draft of their presentation a week before the defense to allow adequate time to practice. You should not only think about what you are going to say, but also practice out loud. Usually, it is obvious when students have practiced versus when they have not. Your presentation should take no more than an hour to ensure that there is adequate time for follow-up questions. 

The Day Prior 

  • Send an email reminder to your committee with the time and place of your defense. 

  • Print copies of your presentation if you would like to provide them to the committee.   

  • Practice your presentation one last time. 

  • Spend a relaxing evening with friends and/or family and go to bed early. 

The Day of Your Defense 

  • Typical dress code for a defense is business attire. 

  • Arrive to campus well in advance of your defense. 

  • Meet with the graduate coordinator to get access to the room and borrow any necessary presentation technology.   

  • Verify your presentation is in working order. 

What to Expect 

  • Most defenses are scheduled for 1.5 hours. This allows for about an hour of presentation time and 30 minutes for questions. 

  • Defenses are open to the public. You are welcome to invite friends, family and colleagues to your defense. 

  • When it is time to start your defense, your advisor will introduce you and your research topic. The floor will then be yours. 

  • Your audience is allowed to ask questions throughout the presentation, so be prepared to field questions. Some students may need to consider moving through some material quickly to make sure you don’t go over time. All committee members must be present for the entire duration of the defense. Therefore, it is important that the defense is completed during the scheduled time. 

  • At the end of your presentation, your advisor will ask questions for from the audience.  

  • After all questions have been asked, your advisor will ask the audience to leave with the exception of the committee. The committee will then continue to ask questions or provide comments to the student.  

  • Once the committee has completed their questions, the student will be asked to leave while the committee discusses their decision on the outcome of the defense (honors, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory).  After the committee has decided the outcome, they will ask the student to return to the room to notify them of the decision. 

After you pass your defense 

  • First, congratulations on passing your defense! Meet with your advisor directly after your defense to discuss any edits that need to be made to your documentation. 

  • All committee members will need to sign a coversheet. Students are often encouraged to bring this cover sheet with them to the defense, so committee members can sign directly after the decision has been made. Otherwise, you will need to schedule a later date for your committee to sign the coversheet. Once you have gotten all the committee members’ signatures, turn in your cover sheet to the graduate coordinator. 

  • After you have completed all required edits of the document, meet with your advisor to make sure the document is ready to submit. 

  • Submit a final electronic version of your document to the ETD Administrator (ProQuest) website

During your final months as a graduate student, you will be very busy preparing for your defense, accepting your dream job offer, and planning for the next stage of life. Make sure you are staying on top of what you need to do to graduate. Please review university information on preparing to graduate and deadlines for the semester you wish to be considered for graduation. An overview of those tasks is provided below: 

  • Apply to graduate. You are encouraged to do this several months before you are ready to defend. 

  • Review and complete your graduations checklist. Master’s students can find information here. Doctoral students can find information here

  • Order your regalia 

  • Schedule and complete your defense. 

  • RSVP for the graduation ceremony (usually an email will be sent out weeks before graduation) 

  • Submit your final thesis/dissertation

  • Check-in with the graduate coordinator to make sure you’ve met all requirements for graduation. 


This is my first semester as a graduate student and I feel lost, what should I be doing? 

Graduate school is a big adjustment from your undergraduate experience, so this is a perfectly normal feeling. You may find that your freedom to explore topics independently can be a little overwhelming. In addition, if you have a GTA or GRA position, you have additional expectations. Here’s a list of recommendations of things you should focus on in your first semester of graduate school: 

  • Identify an advisor. If you didn’t establish an advisor before you started your program, this should be your top priority. Your advisor serves as your mentor, supervisor, and colleague and plays a critical role in your graduate success. 

  • Once you establish an advisor, meet with them regularly. Your advisor will help identify what tasks to focus on and assist in planning timelines for completing those tasks. Often times, it is beneficial to establish semester goals to help focus your efforts. 

  • Focus on course work and building your skillset. The main reason for getting a graduate degree is learning new skills. Your advisor does not expect you to have all the necessary skills you need to be successful in research on day one. You need time to build these skills, and your first semester is a good time to focus on this while you are still navigating research topics. 

  • Get involved and socialize. The University of Kansas is going to be home for the next few years. It is important that you build a community. You will find you will need to lean on them during the hard times in your graduate career. We encourage students to get involved in university groups, activities and the Lawrence community. Get to know other students working in your lab and make sure to attend the AE bi-weekly grad brown bags! 

I’m having an issue with my computer or access to IT resources, what do I do? 

You can submit a help ticket to the School of Engineering IT office here. Once you’ve submitted a help ticket, someone from the IT office will contact you. 

Where can I get funding to attend a conference? 

The first place to start is speaking with your advisor. If your conference work is related to their funded research, they most likely already have funding set aside for travel. In addition, the Graduate Engineering Association (GEA) sets aside a modest amount of funds to support student conference travel. Keep an eye out for GEA emails or check out the GEA website for updates. 

I’m thinking of switching advisors, what do I do? 

There is a myriad of reasons for switching advisors. However, the switch must be agreed upon by both your current advisor and the new advisor. You will need to discuss the switch with both parties. If you need help navigating this process the graduate coordinator and the graduate director are good resources. Once both advisors agree to the switch, email the graduate coordinator notifying them of the change. The previous advisor, the new advisor and the graduate director must be copied on this email.  

I’m struggling with writing my thesis or dissertation, are there resources to help me? 

Absolutely! In addition to speaking to your advisor about your struggles writing your document, the KU Writing Center is a great resource. At the KU Writing Center, trained peer consultants are available to help you brainstorm, draft, and revise your projects.  In person and online appointments are available. If you are simply struggling to sit down and write, the Writing Center hosts write-ins to help you do just that.