Graduate Handbook

KU Department of Aerospace Engineering Graduate Handbook

Department Chairperson 
Richard Hale 
C.E. and M.J. Spahr Professor

Department Graduate Advisor 
Emily Arnold
Associate Professor 

Department Graduate Program Manager Amy Borton 
Administrative Office 
2120 Learned Hall


The purpose of this handbook is to present in one document all material needed to plan and monitor your graduate program. The handbook includes requirements for four graduate degree programs as well as any associated rules and procedures.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering offers traditional Master of Science (MSAE) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhDAE) programs which emphasize original analytical and experimental research. In addition, two unique programs are offered: the Master of Engineering (MEAE) and the Doctor of Engineering (DEAE), which emphasize system design and management. All these programs provide an excellent preparation for employment in industry or in private and government laboratories. The doctoral programs also prepare for an academic career in teaching and research.

Graduate course work is available in the following areas of aerospace engineering:

  • aerodynamics
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • propulsion
  • structures
  • flight testing
  • flight dynamics controls
  • aircraft design
  • spacecraft design
  • orbital mechanics

Graduate courses are taught by faculty with a strong background in graduate education and in industry and government laboratory experience. All faculty are currently active in funded or unfunded research in their areas of expertise. Department research programs are typically funded by: NASA, DOD, DOE, NSF, FAA, and the Aerospace industry.

Richard Hale

C.E. and M.J. Spahr Professor and Chair


Section 1: Department Overview

1.1 Department History

The current department has its origin in the formation of a Department of Aeronautical Engineering on January 2, 1941. The first degree program was the Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering (BSAE). Until that time the degree program had been an option under the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

In 1961 the name of the department was changed to Aerospace Engineering. Graduate programs leading to the Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (MSAE) and Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering (PhDAE) degree plans were established soon thereafter. During 1962-1967 the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering were merged but in 1968 the department, once again, became independent under its current name.

In 1968 the Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering (MEAE) degree plan was added followed in 1969 by the Doctor of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering (DEAE) degree plan. Also in 1968 approval was sought to form the Flight Research Laboratory (FRL). Approval was granted in 1969.

In 1970 a short course program was established. The Aerospace Engineering Short Course Program is currently directed by Stacy Cordell and operates as a unit of the KU Continuing Education Division.

This program offers more than 50 public and in-house short courses per year in the US and abroad. The program offers a wide range of courses tailored specifically to the needs of industry and government organizations.

In 1980 the department began offering several space science and engineering courses.


1.2 General Description of the Department

The graduate programs build on the nationally and internationally recognized Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (BSAE) program. Many students from abroad are in the BSAE program. At the undergraduate level students can pursue minor specializations in airplane design, spacecraft design or propulsion system design as well as theoretical, computational and experimental studies in aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, control systems and flight test.

Detailed descriptions of the four graduate programs: MSAE, MEAE, PhDAE and DEAE are available in Sections 4 & 5.


1.3 Aerospace Engineering Faculty

Emily Arnold, Associate Professor (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

Ronald Barrett-Gonzalez, Professor (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

Brina Blinzler, Assistant Professor of Practice (Ph.D, The University of Akron, Ed.D. Chalmers University of Technology)

Haiyang Chao, Assistant Professor (Ph.D., Utah State University)

Mark Ewing, Associate Professor (Ph.D., Ohio State University)

Richard Hale, Professor, C.E. and M.J. Spahr Professor and Chair (Ph.D., Iowa State University)

Cheng Huang, Assistant Professor, (Ph.D., Purdue University)

Brian Kaplinger, Assistant Professor, (Ph.D., Iowa State University)

Shawn Keshmiri, Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor, (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

Craig McLaughlin, Associate Professor (Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder) 

Ray Taghavi, Professor and Associate Chairperson (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

ZJ Wang, Spahr Professor (Ph.D., University of Glasgow) 

Huixuan Wu, Associate Professor (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University)


Section 2: Application Requirements

2.1 Application Materials Needed

In order for applications to be complete, the following materials must be submitted online with the application by the posted deadline:

  • 1 official transcript from each post-secondary school
  • Three letters of recommendation on university letterhead
  • Resume or CV
  • Official GRE score report (optional)
  • Official TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE score report (international students only)
  • Statement of Financial Resources (international students only)

DO NOT send:

  • Paper documents, unless requested
  • Certificates or transcripts not related to post-secondary schooling
  • Conference papers, journal articles, or other reports

* Please note: All application materials must be received before any kind of decision is made. Documentation sent in addition to that requested above is not required and may be destroyed.


2.2 Admissions Deadlines

Our department priority deadlines for admission are:

Fall Admission: December 1 (all applicants)

Spring & Summer Admission: September 15 (all applicants)

For full consideration for fellowships, scholarships and research/teaching assistantships, applications should be received by the priority deadlines.


2.3 Application Document Specifications

Application Fees

Domestic: $65

International: $85


If admitted, official transcripts must be sent for all applicants. In order for transcripts to be considered official, they must be sent directly from the institution either by mail or e-mailed directly to the university. KU does not consider transcripts that come from applicants or that have been in the applicant's possession as official. Your official transcript must be received – sent directly from your institution – before any admissions decisions will be made. Degree conferral transcripts must be received by the end of your first semester of graduate enrollment to be eligible to continue enrollment. The official transcript must show that your undergraduate degree has been conferred. KU Students may upload their Advising Report downloaded from the myKU Portal.

Letters of Recommendation

Recommenders will receive instructions on submission at the time the application is submitted, this includes the recommendation form and instructions for uploading documents. Please use full first and last name of all recommenders. Recommendation letters must be on university/company letterhead. Recommendations must be submitted through this process. Letters uploaded by the applicant are not valid.

GRE Requirements

GRE score reports are optional, but highly encouraged for financial awards. Preferred scores are a minimum of 50% on the Verbal and Analytical sections of the GRE and 85% on the Quantitative section. GRE scores must be received by the University directly from ETS. Student copies or copies provided by the student are not official.

Non-English Speaking Students

An official copy of an applicant's English proficiency standardized test scores (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE) must be received before the application will be considered for admission. Scores must not be more than two years old prior to the semester of first enrollment. Test scores must be sent directly from the testing agency to the University in order to be considered original. Student copies, or copies submitted by students are not official.

Statement of Financial Resources

As a part of the application process, all international students must submit credible evidence of financial support for the first year of study. Financial documents must be less than 6 months old, indicating the type and amount of currency in US dollars. Details about acceptable financial support and cost of attendance.


2.4 Contact Information

Graduate Admissions
KU Visitor Center
1502 Iowa St
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
785-864-3140 Website:


KU Aerospace Engineering Graduate Program
1530 W. 15th Street
2120 Learned Hall Lawrence, Kansas, 66045
785-864-2960 Website:


2.5 Admission Standards

Students who wish to apply for admission to Aerospace Engineering graduate program must have, as a minimum, a BSAE degree or a BS degree in a closely-related field from a university or college with a program equivalent to the KU BSAE program. Students applying with either a BS degree from an aerospace engineering program that is not equivalent to the KU BSAE program, or a BS degree from a non-aerospace engineering program may have to make-up certain undergraduate AE courses at the discretion of the department graduate advisor. Such students will be admitted provisionally until a plan of study for make-up courses is completed.


2.5.1 Regular Admission

Master’s program regular admission requires an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.

Doctoral program regular admission requires an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 and a GPA of 3.5 for courses taken as part of a master’s program.


2.5.3 English Proficiency Requirement

Non-native English speakers must demonstrate English proficiency in areas of reading, writing, and listening to gain admission to a graduate program. Information regarding English proficiency requirements can be found here. English proficiency requirements for admission are not the same requirements for student employment.


2.5.4 Permit to Re-Enroll

The Permit to Re-enroll form is for individuals who have enrolled in their graduate program in the past year. The permit to re-enroll form is NOT available to a student who:

  • Was dismissed from a program at KU
  • Was voluntarily discontinued (formally withdrew) from a graduate program;
  • Completed the graduate degree program
  • Most recently enrolled as a non-degree-seeking graduate student without a program or school-level affiliation

Before completing the permit to re-enroll form, students should contact the AE graduate program manager directly to confirm availability of the permit to re-enroll.

Students returning from an approved Leave of Absence will be returned from leave by their department; such students are not required to use the Permit to Re-enroll.


2.5.5 Transfer Credit for Graduate Courses

At the discretion of the department and the Graduate Division, up to nine hours of graduate credit taken at a regionally-accredited graduate school may be transferred and applied to a KU master’s degree plan if the credits were taken prior to the final semester of enrollment at KU. Only coursework graded 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale) can be transferred.

No graduate credit may be transferred toward a doctoral degree, but the department may take relevant prior graduate work into consideration.

Students with a BSAE from KU and an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher may petition for reduction of the degree requirements of up to 6 credit hours for their MSAE, MEAE, PhDAE, or DEAE. These 6 hours come in the form of technical electives, AE courses 700 and higher, taken to satisfy the KU BSAE degree requirements. This can be done by submitting an Application for Reduction of Hours.


Section 3: Departmental Guidelines

3.1 Definition of a Full-time Graduate Student

The minimum enrollment required for a full-time graduate student is 9 hours. If a student is employed as a GTA or GRA full-time enrollment is 6 hours.

International students may not work more than 50% FTE (20 hours weekly) during the academic year due to Visa restrictions.


3.2 Course Numbering System

The course numbering system used by the Department of Aerospace Engineering is:


100 – 299; Courses designed for freshmen and sophomores

300 – 499; Courses designed for sophomores, juniors and seniors

500 – 699; Courses designed primarily for juniors and seniors. May also be taken for post-baccalaureate credit

700 – 799; Courses designed primarily for post-baccalaureate students. Open also to undergraduates for undergraduate credit.

800 – 899; Courses designed primarily for doctoral students



3.3 Course Guidelines

· Courses numbered below 500 will not be counted towards the graduate student’s GPA or required hours for degree, even if required to make-up any deficiency

· Courses numbered 500-599 will count towards the graduate student’s GPA, but will not count towards required hours for the degree, even if required to make-up any deficiency with the exception of MATH 590, Linear Algebra · Graduate mathematics courses are considered those taken at the 600 level and higher, with the exception of MATH 590, Linear Algebra

· AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is the only mathematics-intensive engineering course that will help fulfill the graduate mathematics requirement

· There are limitations on the number of special problems hours (AE 790 and/or AE 892) a student can take for credit towards degree.

• Masters students may take up to 3 hours of AE 790, Special Problems in Aerospace Engineering for Masters students.

• Doctoral students may take up to 6 hours of special problems. Doctoral special problems hours can be either all AE 892, Special Problems in Aerospace Engineering for Doctoral students, or a combination of AE 892 and AE 790, if AE 790 was taken as a masters student.


3.4 Responsible Scholarship

All graduate students are required to take AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Studies. Masters students must take 1 semester of AE 690. Doctoral students are required to take 2 semesters of AE 690. AE 690 is not offered every semester, so it is advised that students enroll in the first sections available. Students that do not meet the responsible scholarship requirement prior to their last semester may be required to take an alternate course of at least 3 hours to fulfill the requirement.


3.5 Financial Aid

Where possible the department offers financial support to graduate students. Financial support may be offered in the following forms:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA): GTA positions include a stipend, tuition waiver, and other benefits
  • Graduate Research Assistant (GRA): GRA positions include a stipend, possible tuition waiver, and other benefits
  • Fellowship: The department strives to provide approximately equal total compensation for GTA and GRA positions

*Important note: acceptance into the graduate program does not guarantee financial aid.

To be considered eligible for a GTA or GRA position or a Fellowship, applications must be received before the priority application deadline. Applicants will be contacted if they have been selected for such support.

GTA and Fellowship appointments are made by the department chair following a review and recommendation by the faculty.

GRA appointments are made by individual faculty members who have funded research projects. Students interested in applying for a GRA appointment are advised to contact the faculty member(s) directly who work in the area of interest.

In order for GTA’s or GRA’s to be eligible for in-state tuition, their semester appointments must be equal to 40% or more.


3.5.1 GTA and GRA Eligibility

GTA and GRA eligibility requirements are different than those required for admission. Additional information about eligibility can be found here.

The Board of Regents policy on spoken English competency for graduate teaching assistants requires that non-native speakers of English demonstrate English proficiency. Non-native speakers of English must achieve a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK (Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit), a score of 22 on the iBT (Internet-based TOEFL), or an 8 on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), and that the student must be interviewed by three institutional representatives to determine sufficient English proficiency. More information may be found in the Kansas Board of Regents Policy on Spoken English Language Competency of Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants.


3.6 Plan of Study

A Plan of Study must be completed and approved no later than the end of the student's first semester in residence. The Plan of Study serves as a record of the student's intentions, an indicator of the likely time-to-degree, and as an official acknowledgement of the advisor's and committee member's approval of the student's study plans. The form can be accessed and changed by the student subsequent to initial approval, but any changes must be approved by the advisor.


Information included as part of the Plan of Study is:

  • Committee – MEAE students are only required to have an advisor, MSAE students are required to enter at least 3 committee members, and doctoral students are required to enter at least 5 committee members
  • Proposed area of research (not required for MEAE)
  • Proposed semester of graduation
  • Proposed sequence of courses through the semester of graduation
  • Proposed qualifying exam date (doctoral students only)
  • Proposed date of residency completion (doctoral students only)
  • Proposed date of research skills completion (doctoral students only)
  • Proposed date of comprehensive exam (doctoral students only)
  • Proposed date of responsible scholarship completion (doctoral students only)


When completing the plan of study, the following course types should be used:

  • AE 690 – Undefined
  • Thesis & dissertation hours – Research
  • Courses that fulfill the math requirement – Core
  • Make-up courses – Deficiency
  • Masters students: Depth for all other classes

The online Plan of Study must be updated each semester in order to enroll. Detailed course descriptions are in the catalog.

The department of Aerospace Engineering requires that all students update their plan and have it approved each semester before the enrollment hold is lifted. The first time the plan is submitted, it must be approved by the full committee, subsequent times only need to be approved by the committee chair and departmental graduate advisor. The final semester of enrollment, the plan must also be approved by the full committee.

New AE students should have their plan completed and approved by the end of their first semester in order for their hold to be removed and enroll in the second semester. In outstanding circumstances, the first semester requirement may be waived by the AE graduate program manager.

The plan should include all courses through time of graduation. This includes any pre-requisite courses that may be required, as well as any hours taken in addition to the minimum required hours. Permission for enrollment in special problems courses (AE 790 & AE 892) or thesis and dissertation hours (AE 895 & AE 996) will not be automatically granted unless they are included in your approved plan of study.

It is wise that students complete their plan of study in a timely manner. If the plan is not submitted and approved before the beginning of the semester, students could incur late enrollment fees.


3.7 Leave of Absence

A Leave of Absence may be granted upon request to the graduate program in advance of leave. A leave of absence may be granted in extraordinary circumstances (e.g. cases of illness, emergency, financial hardship, military leave), to pursue family responsibilities, or to pursue full-time activities related to long-range professional goals.

Appropriate documentation related to these extraordinary circumstances may be requested from the student directly. Evidence of progress towards degree will also be a determining factor in the decision to grant an exception. Students must receive approval from their advisor before submitting a leave of absence request to the AE graduate program manager.

The time taken for a leave of absence does not count against the student’s time to degree. However, if the total time for the leave extends more than five years, the student will lose the student's place in the program and must reapply for admission.


3.8 Thesis, Dissertation and Project Report Publication Guidelines

The University of Kansas has adopted the electronic submission method for theses and dissertations, effective December 2005. To learn more about the theses and dissertation preparation and electronic submission, visit the Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.


3.9 Academic Misconduct

The AE Department regards academic misconduct as a very serious matter. Students who violate conduct policies will be subject to severe penalties, up through and including dismissal from the School of Engineering. Please refer to the University Senate Rules and Regulations policy and the Rules and Regulations of the School of Engineering for specific guidelines about actions considered to be academic misconduct and the repercussions of such action.

These actions include, but are not limited to disruption of classes, threatening an instructor or fellow student in an academic setting; giving or receiving of unauthorized aid on examinations or in the preparation of notebooks, themes, reports or other assignments; knowingly misrepresenting the source of any academic work; unauthorized changing of grades; unauthorized use of University approvals or forging of signatures; falsification of research results; plagiarizing of another’s work; violation of regulations or ethical codes for the treatment of human and animal subjects; or otherwise acting dishonestly in research.

Section 4: Masters Program


4.1 Outline of Typical Master’s Program

An outline of a typical Master’s program in Aerospace Engineering is as follows: 

Upon arrival, the student selects or is assigned a major advisor based upon the student’s area of interest.  The major advisor assists the student in selecting courses for the first semester.

  1. If the student hasn’t decided on a specific area of interest, the department graduate advisor will assist in choosing courses for the first semester
  • During the first semester, the major advisor assists in:

    1. The preparation of a plan of study (section 3.6)
    2. The formation of an initial thesis or project committee
    3. Defining an area of thesis or project research for MS students
  • Each semester the student updates the plan of study
  • During the 3rd semester MS thesis student begins research and writing of final thesis
  • During the 4th semester Students
    1. Submit their final plan of study for full committee approval
    2. MS project students complete their project & project report and MS thesis students conclude their research and complete their thesis
    3. The MS thesis or project report is approved by the committee
    4. After approval, the student schedules their defense
    5. Apply to graduate in Enroll & Pay
  • After scheduling their defense, the student
    1. Completes the Exam Defense Notice form and submits it to the AE graduate program manager at least 2 weeks prior to the defense
    2. Begins the master’s degree checklist
    3.  Updates the plan of study and submit it for final committee approval
    4. Defends the thesis or project before the student’s master’s committee, other faculty, students, and invited guests
  • After the defense, the student
    1. Turns in completed documents to the AE graduate program manager

      • Master’s degree checklist completed through the 4th check box for Requirements for Graduation
      • Engineering Career Center Graduation Report form
      • Signed Tile Page and Acceptance Page
    2. MS thesis students complete the final 3 items on the degree checklist
    3. Sends a pdf copy of the final thesis or project to the AE graduate program manager

If a student enters the Aerospace Engineering master’s program without an equivalent BSAE background the department graduate advisor may require the student to enroll in selected undergraduate courses in AE and achieve a grade of C or higher in each, to achieve BSAE degree equivalency.  Such “make-up” courses do not count toward the MSAE degree.  All coursework, including undergraduate “make- up” courses, will appear on the transcript, but only graduate courses will be included in the GPA. 


4.2 Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (MSAE) 

4.2.1 MSAE General Description

The Master of Science program in Aerospace Engineering (MSAE) is a program in which students conduct original work related to Aerospace Engineering.

The Master of Science (M.S.) program in Aerospace Engineering (AE) has 2 options.

  • The Thesis Option requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate work.  The course work includes 6 hours earned in the satisfactory completion of a thesis.
  • The Project Option requires a minimum of 30 hours of graduate work.  The course work includes 3 hours in the satisfactory completion of a project (AE 895, M.S. Thesis or Project). 
  • Students must take at least one semester of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE 690 course. Graduate mathematics courses are considered those taken at the 600 level and higher, however, Master’s students may also use no more than 1 mathematics course (up to 3 hours) at the 500 level to meet degree requirements. All AE courses other than AE 690 must be 700 level and above.

The candidate must pass a final oral examination in which the thesis or research project (results of the independent investigation) is defended and the candidate demonstrates a working knowledge in aerospace engineering.

Plan of Study

Before the end of the first semester of graduate study the student must complete an online Plan of Study which includes the following information:

1. A committee chair (advisor) and at least two committee members

2. Proposed area of research

3. Proposed sequence of courses through the semester of graduation

4. Proposed semester of graduation


4.2.2 Thesis or Project Committee 

As part of the Plan of Study a student is required to form a thesis or project committee with a minimum of three Graduate Faculty, a minimum of two must be AE faculty members. Additional committee members may be selected by the student from either AE or other School of Engineering faculty members. The chair of the committee must be an AE faculty member.

The majority of committee members serving on a master’s student oral examination committee must be tenured/tenure-track faculty holding regular or dissertation graduate faculty status in the candidate’s department/program of study.  Tenured/tenure-track faculty who are appointed as courtesy faculty within the program/department are considered (for the purposes of committee composition) to be faculty of that program/department. 

Beyond the majority requirement, additional members may hold any graduate faculty status, including regular, dissertation, or special status.  This third member can be, but need not be, a member of the candidate’s department/program or approved professional master’s degree programs, the committee may be composed as described above, or any number of the committee members may be professors of the practice, clinical faculty, or research faculty in the department/program.  For the approved professional master’s degree programs, the committee chair can hold any graduate faculty status.  As long as the conditions above are met, the committee may include more than three members. 

The master’s committee chair must hold regular or dissertation status.  While master’s committees are not required to have a co-chair, the student or the committee members may decide to select a co-chair.  The co-chair can hold any graduate faculty status.

Substitutions of the committee chair (and/or co-chair) are prohibited after the committee has been approved by the Graduate Division of the school/college.  If a committee chair (and/or co-chair) needs to be replaced, the revised committee must be approved by the Graduate Division of the school/college in advance of the exam.

Substitutions of the committee members are permitted as long as the new members hold regular or dissertation graduate faculty status.  Special members can be added after the committee has been approved by the Graduate Division of the school/college, but these additions must be approved be the Graduate Division of the school/college in advance of the exam.


4.3 Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering (MEAE)

The Master of Engineering (ME) program in Aerospace Engineering (MEAE) is a program which emphasizes systems design and management skills and procedures rather than the more analytical emphasis of the MSAE program.

4.3.1 MEAE General Description 

The minimum course requirements for the ME degree are: 

  • At least 30 credit hours of graduate-level courses; which shall include either 3 or more credit hours in aerospace design or at least 3 and up to 6 semester hours of approved management courses.
  • Students must take at least one semester of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.
  • No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE 690 course. All AE courses other than AE 690 must be 700 level and above.
Plan of Study

Each student selects or is assigned a faculty advisor in their first semester. Unlike the M.S. degree, the M.E. degree does not require a three-person committee. The student will work with their faculty advisor to develop a formal Plan of Study that includes a sequence of courses though the semester of graduation that are consistent with the student’s academic background and identified degree goals. All plan of study changes in subsequent semesters are approved by the student’s graduate advisor and the department graduate advisor. The Plan of Study also identifies the intended graduation semester.

4.3.2 Completion of MEAE

The MEAE degree does not require a full committee, only a graduate advisor. All plan of study changes are approved by the student’s graduate advisor and the department graduate advisor.

Upon completion of all coursework, the student’s plan of study must meet final approval and the student must complete the ME Completion Form and submit it to the AE graduate program manager.

Section 5: Doctorate Program

"Under Construction"