Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
The mission of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is to educate leaders in engineering and applied sciences through a rigorous graduate program that defines the frontiers of knowledge in our field, and prepare them for careers in academia, industry, and government. Our program emphasizes achieving fundamental understanding in a broad range of topics, a deep understanding in a particular area, and excellent communications skills. The majority of outstanding technical problems in today’s science and engineering require a multi-disciplinary approach, and our department has a strong tradition in defining and pursuing new research areas at the intersection of engineering, physics, chemistry, biological sciences, and applied mathematics.
We offer exciting opportunities for graduate study in areas as diverse as propulsion and energy sciences, fluid mechanics, materials science, biomechanics and biomaterials, dynamics and control, robotics, underwater vehicles, flight sciences, astronomical instrumentation and space optics, computational and experimental fluid mechanics, lasers and applied physics, propulsion, and environmental technology. In addition, Princeton University is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research, and students are encouraged to sample the opportunities provided by other departments within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as well as allied departments and programs outside the Engineering School.
There are normally about 100 students in residence selected from a diverse pool of applicants from around the world. The size of the student population ensures a close association between each student and a faculty adviser that continues from arrival to the completion of the degree program.
The department offers two separate degree programs: Master of Science in Engineering (M.S.E) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Applicants interested in the Ph.D. program may apply directly to that program; a master’s degree is not required.
Ph.D. applicants are required to select a research area of interest when applying.
As a candidate for the doctoral program, the student, in consultation with a faculty adviser and the student's Ph.D. committee, develops an integrated program of study in preparation for a comprehensive general examination. After passing the general examination, the student prepares a dissertation displaying technical mastery of the field and the contributions to the advancement of knowledge, followed by a public presentation of the material to the technical community. Candidates in this program are required to complete a minimum of 10 courses throughout their enrollment. Eight of these courses must be completed in the first three semesters. Candidates are also required to be an assistant in instruction (teaching assistant) for a minimum of three semesters after passing the general examination. The Ph.D. program typically lasts five years and includes full financial support. In addition, all admitted Ph.D. students are automatically considered for the prestigious Wu and Upton Fellowships.
With the permission of the Departmental Graduate Committee and the Graduate School, students in good standing in the Ph.D. program may transfer to the M.S.E. program to satisfy newly realized goals, provided they have not already been awarded the incidental M.A.
Each candidate is expected to demonstrate competence in certain core subjects to the satisfaction of the department as a whole. Students are expected to take 10 courses over the period of enrollment. Before standing for the general examination, students are expected to complete eight courses for a grade, one of which may be MAE 503 Directed Research. At least two of the courses must be in mathematics and four must be in the student’s primary area of research. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Approved courses from other departments may be taken, and members of these departments may be invited to participate in the general examination.
Research with an Adviser
Students are expected to conduct research under the supervision of a faculty adviser for three semesters before standing for the general examination. Students are expected to match with advisers by the end of the second term of enrollment.
Pre-Generals Committee Meeting
Approximately two months prior to the general exam, the student must meet with the student's Ph.D. committee to discuss the topics the student will be expected to be familiar with for the general exam. Prior to this meeting, the student must prepare a two-page extended abstract that summarizes the research conducted so far, and plans for the research going forward. The main objectives of this meeting are to inform the committee about the research area the candidate is working in and the candidate’s progress to date; to give the candidate feedback about the extended abstract and the content of the seminar to be given for the research component of the general exam; and for the committee to agree on a set of topics the student will be expected to be familiar with for the subject component of the general exam. These topics could involve specific courses, books, and/or research papers.
In many cases, the Ph.D. committee will recommend that the student conduct an interview with one or more faculty members, before taking the general exam. The purpose of this interview is to explore, in depth, the student’s knowledge of a subject area, to prepare the student for the general examination, and to identify areas where further study may be necessary.
The Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is a certification that the graduating student is well versed in the fundamentals of the student's chosen field; is capable of performing creative, independent research; and has the ability to effectively communicate ideas to a broad audience. The general examination procedure exercises the department's responsibility for determining a student's potential to satisfactorily complete a Ph.D. and simultaneously encourages the student to review and consolidate material from various courses and research activities. The general examination process consists of two components: the research component, consisting of a 30-minute presentation with an open question period; followed by the subject component, a 90-minute oral examination covering the broader subject area related to the student's research. The general exam is normally taken in January of the second year.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully passes the general examination.
Please note, students admitted to the Ph.D. program who do not wish to complete the program may be considered for an M.S.E. degree with approval from the department and the Graduate School. Ph.D. students who have already been awarded the incidental M.A. are not eligible to earn an M.S.E.
It is a requirement for students to teach a minimum of three (3) half-time assistant in instruction assignments in order to qualify for their Ph.D.
After successful completion of the general exam, the balance of the program is spent on dissertation research, teaching obligations, and additional courses. Candidates meet with their Ph.D. committee each year to review their research progress.
The culmination of the Ph.D. program is the writing of a thesis on a research topic explored by the student and a presentation of this work in a final public oral examination. The thesis must contain significant and original contributions to the advancement of a field of knowledge. Upon acceptance of the dissertation by the departmental faculty, candidates are admitted to the final public oral examination.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
Candidates for the M.S.E. program complete eight courses for a grade. One of these courses may be MAE 503 Directed Research. Students are also expected to write an acceptable thesis. The thesis is central to the program and is considered an integral aspect of graduate education in the field. It is the culmination of prior training and research and is expected to address a realistic and important problem. The thesis must be presented in good literary form and be written in good English. The technical quality is also expected to be high and differs from that expected for the Ph.D. only in the quantity of material presented. The M.S.E. program typically covers two years. The number of master’s students admitted each year is limited.
Candidates for this program generally provide their own financial support.
To qualify for the M.S.E., each student must complete all Graduate School requirements, and complete a minimum of eight courses selected in consultation with the faculty adviser. One of these course may be MAE 503 Directed Research. Students must achieve a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
A thesis is required of all master’s candidates and is the culmination of the student’s program of research conducted under the supervision of a faculty adviser. The M.S.E. thesis must be judged to contain material of publishable quality, presented in correct scholarly form, and written using good English.
Howard A. Stone
Director of Graduate Studies
Craig B. Arnold
Edgar Y. Choueiri
Mikko P. Haataja
Chung K. Law
Naomi E. Leonard
Michael G. Littman
Clarence W. Rowley
Robert F. Stengel
Howard A. Stone
Marcus N. Hultmark
Michael E. Mueller
Daniel M. Nosenchuck
Daniel J. Cohen
Jesse D. Jenkins
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.