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MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

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Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The students, faculty, and staff in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) share a passion for air and space vehicles, the technologies that enable them, and the missions they fulfill.

Aerospace is an intellectually challenging, economically important, and exciting field, offering unique opportunities for students and researchers to contribute to the future of exploration, transportation, communication, and security. The department's mission is to prepare engineers for success and leadership in the conception, design, implementation, and operation of aerospace and related engineering systems. It achieves this through its commitment to educational excellence, and to the creation, development, and application of the technologies critical to aerospace vehicle and information engineering, and the architecture and engineering of complex high-performance systems.

The department has a tradition of both strong scholarship and of contributing to the solution of "industrial-strength" problems. Its reach within aerospace extends to high levels of policy and practice. The MIT AeroAstro community includes a former space shuttle astronaut, a former fighter pilot, former leaders of industry, a former secretary and three former chief scientists of the Air Force, a former NASA associate administrator, 15 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 14 fellows of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and two Guggenheim Medal recipients.

Several years ago, working closely with its student, alumni, industry, government, and academic stakeholders around the world, AeroAstro developed and implemented a landmark educational initiative for its degree programs, known as CDIO. The CDIO initiative reflects the department's belief that its graduates must be knowledgeable in all phases of the aerospace system life cycle: conceiving, designing, implementing, and operating. The department adopted a new form of undergraduate engineering education, motivating its students to master a deep working knowledge of the technical fundamentals while giving them the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to lead in the creation and operation of products, processes, and systems. In addition, it reformed its teaching methods, redesigned its curriculum, and performed a $20 million state-of-the-art reconstruction of its teaching laboratories. AeroAstro's academic program and facilities now serve as models for more than 90 engineering schools on four continents.

The reconstruction of the teaching laboratories resulted in the creation of the Learning Laboratory for Complex Systems. The Learning Laboratory provides enhanced opportunities for hands-on learning experiences closely integrated with the department's curriculum. The Learning Lab's Arthur Gelb Laboratory features a modern machine shop, composites fabrication facility, electronics design lab, and large team projects area with equipment for student projects. The Robert C. Seamans Jr. Laboratory is a community study area with meeting and discussion rooms, and an extensively IT-equipped design/conference room. The Design Studio, which replicates facilities at major aerospace companies, provides IT and software resources to support concurrent team engineering sessions and distance learning. The Gerhard Neumann Hangar includes low-speed and supersonic wind tunnels, computers equipped with flight simulation applications, engineering hardware displays, and workspace for large-scale student projects.

AeroAstro students, faculty, and staff work with each other, with colleagues across MIT, and with institutions around the world. These linkages enable them to tackle challenging multidisciplinary problems and to amplify their contributions. As a result, the department is connected, busy, global, hectic, open, collegial, and fun. Faculty and students are engaged in hundreds of research projects under the auspices of the department's laboratories and centers. Many research activities in other MIT laboratories and centers are open to AeroAstro students as well. See the Research Laboratories and Activities section below for more information.

Graduates with an aerospace engineering degree find careers in commercial and military aircraft and spacecraft engineering, space exploration, air- and space-based telecommunication industries, teaching, research, military service, and related technology-intensive fields such as transportation, information, and the environment. The comprehensive technical education, with its strong emphasis on understanding complex systems, is also excellent preparation for careers in business, law, medicine, and public service.

In looking toward future challenges and opportunities in the aerospace field, the department has identified eight areas in which it is committed to building and strengthening its ability to make important contributions: space exploration; autonomous systems; environment; communications and networks; computation, design, and simulation; air transportation; large-scale complex systems; and advancing engineering education. By striving for excellence in the underlying core disciplines and emphasizing the collaborative problem solving required for tackling the complex, multidisciplinary problems that characterize this industry, AeroAstro is positioning itself to respond to these and future opportunities.

Sectors of Instruction

The department's faculty are organized into three sectors of instruction. Typically, a faculty member teaches both undergraduate and graduate subjects in one or more of the sectors.

Information Sector
Most of the aerospace systems of the future will either revolve around or critically depend upon information technology, and all will exploit information technology to an increasing extent. The missions of many aerospace systems are fundamentally centered on gathering, processing, and transmitting information. Examples where information technology is central include communication satellites, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and satellites, planetary rovers, global positioning satellites, the air transportation system, and integrated defense systems. Other aerospace systems also must rely on information technology–intensive subsystems to provide important onboard functions, including navigation, autonomous or semi-autonomous guidance and control, cooperative action (including formation flight), and health monitoring systems. Furthermore, almost every aircraft or satellite is one system within a larger system, and information plays a central role in the interoperability of these subsystems.

Faculty members in the Information Sector teach and perform research on a broad range of areas, including guidance, navigation, control, autonomy, communication, networks, and real-time mission-critical software and hardware. In many instances, the functions provided by aerospace information systems are critical to life or mission success. The complex nature of an aerospace system can either be simplified by the use of information technologies or can become significantly more complicated through the misuse of information technologies. Hence, safety, fault-tolerance, verification, and validation are significant areas of inquiry. Ongoing research in this sector includes command and control of multiple unmanned/autonomous vehicles, space and airborne communication systems and networks, and software development methods for flight and mission-critical systems, investigation of air traffic management, and application of control to smart systems.

The Information Sector has strong linkages to the department's Aerospace Systems Sector, particularly on issues related to how humans interact with aerospace vehicles. Other common interests include the safety aspects of large, mission-critical software systems, the design and operation of ground and air transportation systems, and the design and operation of satellite systems. The sector also has linkages with the Vehicles Technology Sector through a common interest in research on unmanned aerial vehicles. Moreover, the sector has strong links to the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and the Engineering Systems Division through joint teaching and collaborative research in communication, networks, control, robotic systems, optimization, numerical techniques, and algorithms.

Aerospace Systems Sector
This sector is responsible for instruction and research in systems engineering, a discipline that denotes the methodologies used in the architecting, design, manufacture, and operation of the highly complex and demanding systems in the field of aeronautics and astronautics. The sector consists of faculty members with research specialties in this area, as well as faculty affiliates who contribute to the full disciplinary strength of the department.

The systems approach considers all factors important to the performance, economic viability, manufacture, acceptability, and operation of engineering systems—technical, social, environmental, production, financial, and safety aspects—and attempts to find optimal or best-value trade-offs among them while considering risk and uncertainty. The systems engineer must deal simultaneously with these factors, whether the objective is the transport of passengers in commercial aircraft, orbital communications, or the exploration of space, among others.

This sector addresses traditional vehicle design issues integrated with other issues, including environmental impact, how humans interact with aerospace vehicles, and information-related aspects. Safety, fault-tolerance, verification, and validation are also significant areas of inquiry. Ongoing research in the sector includes investigation of air traffic management, distributed satellite systems, environmental impact of aerospace systems, enterprise architecture, integrated design of space-based optical systems, micro-gravity research into human physiology, and software development methods for flight and mission-critical systems.

Students interested in systems engineering should develop a strong background in some of the disciplines that support systems analysis, such as probability, statistics, optimization, operations research, manufacturing, and economics. Research labs associated with the activities of this sector include the Man Vehicle Laboratory, Space Systems Laboratory, Lean Advancement Initiative, International Center in Air Transportation, Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment. Operations Research Center, and the System Safety Research Laboratory. Many of the department faculty in this sector are also associated with the Engineering Systems Division.

Vehicle Technologies Sector

The design of an aerospace vehicle requires not only depth in a number of disciplines, but also the ability to integrate and optimize across these disciplines so the result is greater than the sum of the individual parts. For the former, the vehicle sector faculty represent, in both research and teaching, a broad suite of disciplines ranging across the fields of computation, fluid mechanics, propulsion, materials, and structures. For the latter, there is strong interest in, and many successful examples of, collaborations that bring these different disciplines together to solve important problems beyond the reach of a single faculty member.

The research footprint of the sector spans from fundamental engineering science to design techniques to the rigorous engineering of complex vehicle components and systems. One specific embodiment of such “intellectual vertical integration” has been the development of a first-principles conceptual design procedure for advanced aircraft. There is also substantive research engagement with industry, both in sponsorship of projects and through collaboration.

Topics of current interest include aviation and ground transportation climate and air quality impacts; computational design and simulation of fluid, material, and structural systems, including computational aerodynamics as well as, more broadly, numerical methods, optimization, and uncertainty quantification for large-scale engineering systems: composite materials and structures, including nano-engineered composites; simulation of the dynamic deformation and failure response of materials, with application to concepts and material for force protection, physics of plasma, and electrospray space propulsion with particular application to microthrusters; turbomachinery and internal flows in fluid machinery; gas turbine engines; and aero-acoustics. Beyond these topics, there is outreach and interest in leveraging our skills into applications that lie outside the traditional boundaries of aerospace.

Research laboratories affiliated with the sector include the Aerospace Computational Design Laboratory, Gas Turbine Laboratory, Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, Nano-Engineered Composite Aerospace Structures Consortium, Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, Space Propulsion Laboratory, and Technology Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Structures.

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Undergraduate Study

Undergraduate study in the department leads to the Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (Course 16), or the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Course 16-ENG) at the end of four years.

Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering/Course 16
[see degree chart]

This program is designed to prepare the graduate for an entry-level position in aerospace and related fields and for further education at the master's level; it is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, The program includes an opportunity for a year's study abroad.

The formal learning in the program builds a conceptual understanding in the foundational engineering sciences and professional subjects that span the topics critical to aerospace. This learning takes place within the engineering context of conceiving-designing-implementing-operating (CDIO) aerospace and related complex high-performance systems and products. The skills and attributes emphasized go beyond the formal classroom curriculum and include: modeling, design, the ability for self education, computer literacy, communication and teamwork skills, ethics, and— underlying all of these—appreciation for and understanding of interfaces and connectivity between various disciplines. Opportunities for formal and practical (hands-on) learning in these areas are integrated into the departmental subjects through examples set by the faculty, subject content, and the ability for substantive engagement in the CDIO process in the department's Learning Laboratory for Complex Systems.

The curriculum includes the General Institute Requirements described in the section on Undergraduate Education in Part 1 and the departmental program. The departmental program includes a fall-spring-fall sequence of subjects called Unified Engineering, subjects in dynamics and principles of automatic control, a statistics and probability subject, a subject in computers and programming, professional area subjects, an experimental projects laboratory, and a capstone design subject. The program also includes the subject Differential Equations.

Unified Engineering is offered in sets of two 12-unit subjects in two successive terms. These subjects are taught cooperatively by several faculty members. Their purpose is to introduce new students to the disciplines and methodologies of aerospace engineering at a basic level, with a balanced exposure to analysis, empirical methods, and design. The areas covered include statics, materials, and structures; thermodynamics and propulsion; fluid mechanics; and signals and systems. Several laboratory experiments are performed and a number of systems problems tying the disciplines together and exemplifying the CDIO process are included.

Unified Engineering is usually taken in the sophomore year, Statistics and Probability in the spring of the sophomore year, and the subjects Dynamics and Principles of Automatic Control in the first term of the junior year. Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python and Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science can be taken at any time, starting in the freshman year, but the fall term of the sophomore year is recommended.

The professional area subjects offer a more complete and in-depth treatment of the materials introduced in the core courses.  Students must take four subjects (48 units) from among the professional area subjects, with subjects in at least three areas. Students may choose to complete an option in Aerospace Information Technology by taking 36 units from a designated group of subjects specified in the degree chart.

Professional Area Subjects in the four areas of Fluid Mechanics, Materials and Structures, Propulsion, and Computational Tools represent the advanced aerospace disciplines encompassing the design and construction of airframes and engines. Topics within these disciplines include fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, heat and mass transfer, computational mechanics, flight vehicle aerodynamics, solid mechanics, structural design and analysis, the study of engineering materials, structural dynamics, and propulsion and energy conversion from both fluid/thermal (gas turbines and rockets) and electrical devices.

Professional Area Subjects in the four areas of Estimation and Control, Computer Systems, Communications Systems, and Humans and Automation are in the broad disciplinary area of information, which plays a dominant role in modern aerospace systems. Topics within these disciplines include feedback, control, estimation, control of flight vehicles, software engineering, human systems engineering, aerospace communications and digital systems, the way in which humans interact with the vehicle through manual control and supervisory control of telerobotic processes (e.g., modern cockpit systems and human centered automation), and how planning and real-time decisions are made by machines.

The capstone subjects serve to integrate the various disciplines and emphasize the CDIO context of the AeroAstro curriculum. They also satisfy the Communication Requirement as Communication-Intensive in the Major (CI-M) subjects. The vehicle and system design subjects (16.82 and 16.83) require student teams to apply their undergraduate knowledge to the design of an aircraft or spacecraft system. One of these two subjects is required and is typically taken in the second term of the junior year or in the senior year. The rest of the capstone requirement is met by one of three 18-unit subjects or subject sequences: 16.621 and 16.622 Experimental Projects I and II; or 16.821 Flight Vehicle Development; or 16.831 Space Systems Development. These sequences satisfy the Institute Laboratory Requirement. In 16.821 and 16.831 students build and operate the vehicles or systems developed in 16.82 and 16.83. In 16.621/16.622, students conceive, design, and execute an original experimental research project in collaboration with a partner and a faculty advisor.

To take full advantage of the General Institute Requirements and required electives, the department recommends the following: 3.091 for the chemistry requirement; the ecology option of the biology requirement; a subject in economics (e.g., 14.01) as part of the HASS Requirement; and elective subjects such as 16.00 Introduction to Aerospace and Design, a mathematics subject (e.g., 18.06, 18.075, or 18.085), and additional professional area subjects in the departmental program. Please consult the department's Academic Programs Office (Room 33-208) for other elective options.

Bachelor of Science in Engineering/Course 16-ENG
[see degree chart]

Course 16-ENG is an engineering degree program designed to offer flexibility within the context of aerospace engineering and is a complement to our Course 16 aerospace engineering degree program. The program leads to the Bachelor of Science in Engineering as recommended by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. (The department will be seeking accreditation by ABET as an engineering degree.) Depending on their interests, Course 16-ENG students can develop a deeper level of understanding and skill in a field of engineering that is relevant to multiple disciplinary areas (e.g., robotics and control, computational engineering, mechanics, or engineering management), or a greater understanding and skill in an interdisciplinary area (e.g., energy, environment and sustainability, or transportation). This is accomplished first through a rigorous foundation within core aerospace engineering disciplines, followed by a six-subject concentration tailored to the student's interests, and completed with hands-on aerospace engineering lab and capstone design subjects.

The core of our 16-ENG degree is very similar to the core of our 16 degree, specifically including 16.001-16.004 Unified Engineering (described above), 18.03/18.034 Differential Equations, the programming subject 6.0001 Computer Science Programming in Python and 6.0002 Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science, and either 16.06 Principles of Automatic Control or 16.07 Dynamics.

A significant part of the 16-ENG curriculum consists of electives (72 units) chosen by the student to provide in-depth study of a field of the student's choosing. A wide variety of concentrations are possible in which well-selected academic subjects complement a foundation in aerospace engineering and General Institute Requirements. Potential concentrations include aerospace software engineering, autonomous systems, communications, computation and sustainability, computational engineering, embedded systems and networks, energy, engineering management, environment, space exploration, and transportation. The AeroAstro faculty have developed specific recommendations in these areas; details are available from the AeroAstro Undergraduate Office and on the departmental website. However, concentrations are not limited to those listed above. Students can design and propose technically oriented concentrations that reflect their own needs and those of society.

The student's overall program must contain a total of at least one and one-half years of engineering content (144 units) appropriate to his or her field of study. The required core, lab, and capstone subjects include 102 units of engineering topics. Thus, concentrations must include at least 42 more units of engineering topics. In addition, each concentration must include 12 units of mathematics or science.

The culmination of the 16-ENG degree program is our aerospace laboratory and capstone subject sequences. The capstone subjects serve to integrate the various disciplines and emphasize the CDIO context of our engineering curriculum. They also satisfy the Communication Requirement as CI-M subjects. The specific options available to students are identical to the Course 16 degree program (see the description of this program for additional details on the laboratory and capstone sequences).

Double Major

Students may pursue two majors under the Double Major Program outlined in the section on Undergraduate Education in Part 1. In particular, some students may wish to combine a professional education in aeronautics and astronautics with a liberal education that links the development and practice of science and engineering to their social, economic, historical, and cultural contexts. For them, the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Program in Science, Technology, and Society offer a double major program that combines majors in both fields. For a detailed description of that integrated degree program, refer to the description of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society in Part 2.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The following programs exist to broaden the opportunities available to undergraduate students.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

To take full advantage of the unique research environment of MIT, undergraduates are encouraged to become involved in the research activities of the department through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Many of the faculty actively seek undergraduates to become a part of their research teams. Specific areas of research opportunity are outlined in the section Research Laboratories and Activities below. For more information, contact Marie Stuppard in the AeroAstro Academic Programs Office, Room 33-202, 617-253-2279,

Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program

The Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) is a program sponsored by the School of Engineering and administered through the Office of the Dean of Engineering. Open to all School of Engineering sophomores, this program provides students an opportunity to develop engineering and business skills while working in industry, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. UPOP consists of three parts: an intensive one week engineering practice workshop offered during IAP, 10-12 weeks of summer employment, and a written report and oral presentation in the fall. Students are paid during their periods of residence at the participating companies and also receive academic credit in the program. There are no obligations on either side regarding further employment. For more information, please see

Summer Internship Program

The Summer Internship Program provides undergraduates in the department the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom in paid professional positions with employers throughout the United States. Students are offered individual career advising as well as seminars on resume writing, interviewing, and the job-search process. Some students may receive academic credit for their work experience by participating in a three-part educational process including preparation activity, the work experience, and reflection/evaluation activities when they return to school in the fall.

Year Abroad Program

Through the MIT Global Education Office, students can apply to spend the junior year abroad. In particular, the department participates in the Cambridge University-MIT Undergraduate Exchange (CME) program. In any year-abroad experience, students enroll in the academic cycle of the host institution and take courses in the local language. They plan their course of study in advance; this includes securing credit commitments in exchange for satisfactory performance abroad. A grade average of B or better is normally required of participating AeroAstro students. For more information, contact Marie Stuppard ( Also refer to Undergraduate Education in Part 1 for detailed information on the CME program.

Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium

MIT leads the NASA-supported Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium (MASGC) in partnership with Amherst College, Boston University, Bridgewater State University, Harvard University, College of the Holy Cross, Framingham State University, Holyoke Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Northeastern University, Olin College of Engineering, Roxbury Community College, Smith College, Tufts University, University of Massachusetts (Amherst, Dartmouth, and Lowell), Wellesley College, Williams College, Worcester State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Boston Museum of Science, the Christa McAuliffe Center, the Clay Observatory, the Maria Mitchell Observatory, the Five College Astronomy Department, and many aerospace companies and laboratories throughout the United States. The program has the principal objective of stimulating and supporting student interest, especially that of women and underrepresented minorities, in space engineering and science at all educational levels, primary through graduate. The program offers a number of activities to this end, including sponsorship of undergraduate research projects, support for student travel to present conference papers, a January internship at the Kennedy Space Center, a spring undergraduate seminar on modern space science and engineering, an annual public lecture by a distinguished member of the aerospace community, and summer workshops for precollege teachers. An important function of the program is coordinating placement of students in summer positions in industry and at NASA centers for summer academies and research opportunities. MASGC also participates in a number of public outreach and education policy initiatives in Massachusetts to increase public awareness and inform legislators about the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math education in the state. For more information, contact the program coordinator, Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, Room 33-202, 617-258-5546,


For additional information concerning academic and research programs in the department, suggested four-year undergraduate programs, and interdisciplinary programs, contact the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Academic Programs Office, Room 33-208, 617-253-2279,

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Graduate Study

Graduate study in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics includes graduate-level subjects in Course 16 and others at MIT, and research work culminating in a thesis. Degrees are awarded at the master's and doctoral levels. The range of subject matter is described in the section Sectors of Instruction; subjects are listed in the online MIT Subject Listing & Schedule, The section Research Laboratories and Activities provides an overview of research interests. Detailed information may be obtained from the Department Academic Programs Office or from individual faculty members.

Entrance Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, applicants to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics should have a strong undergraduate background in the fundamentals of engineering and mathematics as described in the section Undergraduate Study.

International students whose language of instruction has not been English in their primary and secondary schooling must pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 100 out of 120, or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a minimum score of 7 out of 9 to be considered for admission to this department. TOEFL waivers are not accepted. No other exams fulfill this requirement.

All applicants to the graduate program in Aeronautics and Astronautics also must submit the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test results.

New graduate students are normally admitted as candidates for the degree of Master of Science. Admission to the doctoral program is offered to students who have been accepted for graduate study through a three-step process:

  1. Passing performance on the field exam (FE). The standard for passing the FE is the demonstration of superior intellectual ability through skillful use of concepts, including synthesis of multiple concepts, in foundational, graduate-level material in a field of aerospace engineering.
  2. Passing performance on the research evaluation (RE). The standard for passing the RE is the demonstration of a superior ability to solve research-oriented problems, with guidance, in a field relevant to aerospace engineering.
  3. Granting of admission to the doctoral program through a faculty review consisting of an examination of the student's achievements, including an assessment of the quality of past research work and evaluation of the student's academic record in light of the performance on the FE and RE.

The FE and RE examination is offered once each year, during the January Independent Activities Period. Students who wish to be considered for the doctoral program must take the FE and RE before the fourth term following initial registration in the graduate program.

The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics requires that all entering graduate students demonstrate satisfactory English writing ability by taking the Graduate Writing Examination offered by the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Program. The examination is usually administered in July, and all entering candidates must take the examination electronically at that time. Students with deficient skills must complete remedial training specifically designed to fulfill their individual needs. The remedial training prescribed by the CMS Program must be completed by the end of the first Independent Activities Period following initial registration in the graduate program or, in some cases, in the spring term of the first year of the program.

All incoming graduate students whose native language is not English are required to take the Department of Humanities English Evaluation Test (EET) offered at the start of each regular term. This test is a proficiency examination designed to indicate areas where deficiencies may still exist and recommend specific language subjects available at MIT.

Degree Requirements

All entering students are provided with additional information concerning degree requirements, including lists of recommended subjects, thesis advising, research and teaching assistantships, and course and thesis registration.

Degrees Offered

Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics

The Master of Science (SM) degree is a one- to two-year graduate program with a beginning research or design experience represented by the SM thesis. This degree prepares the graduate for an advanced position in the aerospace field, and provides a solid foundation for future doctoral study.

The general requirements for the Master of Science degree are cited in the section on General Degree Requirements for graduate students in Part 1. The specific departmental requirements include at least 66 subject units, typically in graduate subjects relevant to the candidate's area of technical interest. Of the 66 units, 42 units must be in H-level subjects, of which at least 21 units must be in departmental subjects. To be credited toward the degree, graduate subjects that are not H-level must carry a grade of B or better. In addition, a 24-unit thesis is required beyond the 66 units of coursework. Full-time students normally must be in residence one full academic year. Special students admitted to the SM program in this department must enroll in and satisfactorily complete at least two graduate H-level subjects while in residence (i.e., after being admitted as a degree candidate) regardless of the number of subjects completed before admission to the program. Students holding research assistantships typically require a longer period of residence.

In addition, the department's SM program requires one graduate-level mathematics subject. The requirement is satisfied only by graduate-level subjects on the list approved by the department graduate committee. The specific choice of math subjects is arranged individually by each student in consultation with their faculty advisor.

Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science

AeroAstro offers doctoral degrees (PhD and ScD) that emphasize in-depth study, with a significant research project in a focused area. The admission process for the department's doctoral program is described previously in this section under Entrance Requirements. The doctoral degree is awarded after completion of an individual course of study, submission and defense of a thesis proposal, and submission and defense of a thesis embodying an original research contribution.

The general requirements for this degree are given in the section on General Degree Requirements for graduate education in Part 1. A detailed description of the program requirements are outlined in a booklet titled The Doctoral Program, available on the department website. After successful admission to the doctoral program, the doctoral candidate selects a field of study and research in consultation with the thesis supervisor and forms a doctoral thesis committee, which assists in the formulation of the candidate's research and study programs and monitors his or her progress. Demonstrated competence for original research at the forefront of aerospace engineering is the final and main criterion for granting the doctoral degree. The candidate's thesis serves in part to demonstrate such competence and, upon completion, is defended orally in a presentation to the faculty of the department, who may then recommend that the degree be awarded.

Interdisciplinary Programs

The department participates in several interdisciplinary fields at the graduate level, which are of special importance for aeronautics and astronautics in both research and the curriculum.

Biomedical Engineering

The department offers opportunities for students interested in biomedical instrumentation and physiological control systems where the disciplines involved in aeronautics and astronautics are applied to biology and medicine. Graduate study combining aerospace engineering with biomedical engineering may be pursued through the Bioastronautics program offered as part of the Medical Engineering and Medical Physics PhD program in the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) via the combined Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

Students wishing to pursue a degree through HST must apply to that graduate program. At the master's degree level, students in the department may specialize in biomedical engineering research, emphasizing space life sciences and life support, instrumentation and control, or in human factors engineering and in instrumentation and statistics. Most biomedical engineering research in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics is conducted in the Man Vehicle Laboratory.

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Computation for Design and Optimization

The Computation for Design and Optimization (CDO) program offers a master's degree to students interested in the analysis and application of computational approaches to designing and operating engineered systems. The curriculum is designed with a common core serving all engineering disciplines and an elective component focusing on specific applications. Current MIT graduate students may pursue a CDO master's degree in conjunction with a department-based master's or PhD program. For more information, see the full program description under Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs in Part 3, or visit

Computational Science and Engineering

The Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) program allows students to specialize at the doctoral level in a computation-related field of their choice through focused coursework and a Doctoral Thesis through a number of participating host departments. The CSE program is administered jointly by the Center for Computational Engineering (CCE) and the host departments, with the emphasis of thesis research activities being the development of new computational methods and/or the innovative application of computational techniques to important problems in engineering and science.

For more information, see the full program description under Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs in Part 3, or visit

Flight Transportation

For students interested in a career in flight transportation, a program is available that incorporates a broader graduate education in disciplines such as economics, management, and operations research than is normally pursued by candidates for degrees in engineering. Graduate research emphasizes one of the four areas of flight transportation: airport planning and design; air traffic control; air transportation systems analysis; and airline economics and management, with subjects selected appropriately from those available in the departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Economics, and the interdepartmental Master of Science in Transportation (MST) program. Doctoral students may pursue a PhD with specialization in air transportation in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics or in the interdepartmental PhD program in transportation or in the PhD program of the Operations Research Center (see the section on Graduate Programs in Operations Research in Part 3).

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Leaders for Global Operations

The 24-month Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program combines graduate education in engineering and management for those with two or more years of full-time work experience who aspire to leadership positions in manufacturing or operations companies. A required six-month internship comprising a research project at one of LGO's partner companies leads to a dual-degree thesis, culminating in two master's degrees—an MBA (or SM in management) and an SM from one of seven MIT engineering programs, some of which have optional or required LGO tracks. For more information, visit

System Design and Management

The System Design and Management (SDM) program is a partnership among industry, government, and the university for educating technically grounded leaders of 21st-century enterprises. Jointly sponsored by the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, it is MIT's first degree program to be offered with a distance learning option in addition to a full-time in-residence option. For more information, see the program description under Engineering Systems Division or visit

Technology and Policy

The Master of Science in Technology and Policy is an engineering research degree with a strong focus on the role of technology in policy analysis and formulation. The Technology and Policy Program (TPP) curriculum provides a solid grounding in technology and policy by combining advanced subjects in the student's chosen technical field with courses in economics, politics, and law. Many students combine TPP's curriculum with complementary subjects to obtain dual degrees in TPP and either a specialized branch of engineering or an applied social science such as political science or urban studies and planning. For additional information, see the program description under Engineering Systems Division or visit

Fellowships, Research and Teaching Assistantships

Financial assistance for graduate study may be in the form of fellowships or research or teaching assistantships. Both fellowship students and research assistants work with a faculty supervisor on a specific research assignment of interest, which generally leads to a thesis. Teaching assistants are appointed to work on specific subjects of instruction.

A special relationship exists between the department and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. This relationship affords fellowship opportunities for SM and PhD candidates who perform their research as an integral part of ongoing projects at the Draper Laboratory. Faculty from the department maintain close working relationships with researchers at Draper, and thesis research at Draper performed by Draper fellows can be structured to fulfill MIT residency requirements. Further information on the Draper Laboratory can be found in the section on Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3.


For additional information concerning admissions, financial aid and assistantships, and academic, research, and interdisciplinary programs in the department, contact Beth Marois, Room 33-202, 617-253-0043,

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Research Laboratories and Activities

The department's faculty, staff, and students are engaged in a wide variety of research projects. Graduate students participate in all the research projects. Projects are also open to undergraduates through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Some projects are carried out in an unstructured environment by individual professors working with a few students. Most projects are found within the departmental laboratories and centers listed below. Faculty also undertake research in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Draper Laboratory, Laboratory for Information and Decisions Systems, Lincoln Laboratory, Operations Research Center, Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, as well as in interdepartmental laboratories and centers listed in the introduction to the School of Engineering. Refer to the section on Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3 for more detailed descriptions.

Aerospace Computational Design Laboratory

The mission of the Aerospace Computational Design Laboratory (ACDL) is to lead the advancement and application of computational engineering for design, optimization, and control of aerospace and other complex systems. ACDL research addresses a comprehensive range of topics, including advanced computational fluid dynamics and mechanics, uncertainty quantification, data assimilation and inference, surrogate and reduced modeling, and simulation-based design techniques. For more information, visit

Aerospace Controls Laboratory

The Aerospace Controls Laboratory investigates estimation, learning, and control systems for modern aerospace applications, with particular attention to distributed, multivehicle architectures. Example applications involve cooperating teams of UAVs, identifying different flight patterns, and detecting or compensating for faults during flight. The research goal is to increase the level of autonomy in these systems by incorporating higher-level decisions, such as vehicle-waypoint assignment and collision avoidance routing, into feedback control systems. Core competencies include optimal estimation and control, optimization for path-planning and operations research, receding-horizon/model predictive control, and advanced machine learning techniques. For more information, visit

Gas Turbine Laboratory

The mission of the Gas Turbine Laboratory (GTL) is to advance the state-of-the-art in fluid machinery for power and propulsion. Research is focused on advanced propulsion systems, energy conversion, and power, with activities in computational, theoretical, and experimental study of loss mechanisms and unsteady flows in fluid machinery, dynamic behavior and stability of compression systems, instrumentation and diagnostics, advanced centrifugal compressors and pumps for energy conversion, gas turbine engine and fluid machinery noise reduction and aero-acoustics, and novel aircraft and propulsion system concepts for reduced environmental impact.

Examples of current research projects include a new modeling approach for rotating cavitation instabilities in rocket engine turbopumps, a unified approach for vaned diffuser design in advanced centrifugal compressors, a methodology for centrifugal compressor stability prediction, improved performance return channel design for multistage centrifugal compressors, investigation of real gas effects in supercritical CO2 compression systems, modeling instabilities in high-pressure pumping systems, aeromechanic response in a high performance centrifugal compressor stage, ported shroud operation in turbochargers, manifestation of forced response in a high performance centrifugal compressor stage for aerospace applications, return channel design optimization using adjoint method for multistage centrifugal compressors, a two-engine integrated propulsion system, propulsion system integration and noise assessment of a hybrid wing-body aircraft, fan-inlet integration for low fan pressure ratio propulsors, aerodynamics and heat transfer in gas turbine tip shroud cavity flows, secondary air interactions with main flow in axial turbines, compressor aerodynamics in large industrial gas turbines for power generation, turbine tip clearance loss mechanisms, and flow and heat transfer in modern turbine rim seal cavities. For more information visit

International Center for Air Transportation

The mission of ICAT is to contribute to improving the safety, efficiency, environmental performance, and effectiveness of air transportation worldwide by education and the use of information technologies. Current areas of research interest include: advanced Air Traffic Control and Management (ATM, ATC) systems; satellite based Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) systems in mature and developing world regions; advanced flight information systems; airline management; and operations (both flight operations and operations research). ICAT works closely with the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment and the MIT Transportation Initiative. For more information, visit

Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment

The Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment addresses a major challenge facing the aviation industry today: understanding and reducing aviation’s environmental impacts. The lab advances our knowledge of how aviation impacts the environment and collaboratively develops mitigation strategies. Research thrusts include evaluating the climate and air quality impacts of aircraft emissions, including quantifying the impact of airport emissions on near-airport air quality, aircraft cruise emissions on global air quality, and contrails on regional climate; developing tools to enable designers, policymakers, and researchers to evaluate policy and design decisions’ environmental implications, including a quantitative understanding of uncertainty; environmentally optimizing both ground and en route operations, including developing and testing procedures for minimizing ground fuel burn, computing the air quality impacts of controller decisions in real-time, and developing metrics for the environmental performance of aircraft; assessing potential alternative jet fuels that can reduce adverse climate and air quality impacts, involving assessing the life-cycle environmental impacts of alternative fuel production and use, as well as broader environmental and economic implications.

Among other activities, the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment hosts the headquarters of the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction (PARTNER), an FAA Center of Excellence with participation from 12 universities and 50 industry and government organizations. For more information, visit

Man Vehicle Laboratory

The Man Vehicle Laboratory's goal is to optimize human-vehicle system effectiveness by improving our understanding of human physiological and cognitive capabilities with emphasis on aerospace vehicle applications. Research is interdisciplinary, utilizing techniques from manual and supervisory control, estimation, signal processing, robotics, biomechanics, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, sensory-motor physiology, human factors, and biostatistics. Current projects are sponsored by NASA, the National Space Biomedical Institute, the US Navy and the Federal Railway Administration, the MIT-Portugal Program, and the MIT Skoltech Initiative. Research addresses spatial orientation, posture and locomotion in altered gravitation environments; physiological and human factors aspects of EVA and artificial gravity systems; human automation task allocation in planetary landing and robotic control; failure detection, fatigue, and circadian effects on complex task performance; aircraft cockpit and locomotive displays and controls; and systems design of exploration class missions. For more information, visit

Space Systems Laboratory

The Space Systems Laboratory's mission is to develop the technology and systems analysis associated with small spacecraft, precision optical systems, and International Space Station technology research and development. The laboratory encompasses expertise in optics, adaptive optics, space environment effects, structural dynamics, control, thermal, space power, software development, and systems. Major activities include the development of small spacecraft systems and the distribution of function among satellites. In addition, technology is being developed for spaceflight validation in support of a new class of space-based telescopes which exploit the physics of interferometry to achieve dramatic breakthroughs in angular resolution. The objective of the laboratory is to explore innovative concepts for the integration of future space systems and to train a generation of researchers and engineers conversant in this field. For more information, visit

System Safety Research Lab

Increasing complexity and coupling as well as the introduction of new digital technology are introducing new challenges for engineering, operations, and sustainment. Researchers in the System Safety Research Lab (SSRL) are designing system modeling, analysis, and visualization theory and tools to assist in the design and operation of safer systems with greater capability. To accomplish these goals, a system's approach to engineering is applied that includes building technical foundations and knowledge and integrating these with the organizational, political, and cultural aspects of system construction and operation.

While the main emphasis is aerospace systems and applications, SSRL research results are applicable to complex systems in such domains as transportation, energy, and health. Current research projects include accident modeling and design for safety; model-based system and software engineering; reusable, component-based system architectures; interactive visualization; human-centered system design; system sustainment; and organizational factors in engineering and project management.

Technology Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Structures

The Technology Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Structures (TELAMS), formerly known as TELAC, has provided leadership in advancing the knowledge and capabilities of the composites and structures community through education of students, original research, and interaction with the community at large. The laboratory's emphasis on composite materials has led to research topics ranging from a basic understanding of composite materials to their behavior in specific structural configurations, with the ultimate objective of gaining a sufficient understanding of their properties and how those properties interact to determine the behavior of laminates and structures. This includes multiscale modeling and simulation of the mechanics of advanced materials used in the aerospace industry. For more information, visit

Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel

The largest on the MIT campus, this wind tunnel has a 7x10-foot cross-section, and is capable of steady flow speeds up to 200 mph. The facility is used for graduate and undergraduate instruction and research, as well as testing for outside companies. Active research and educational programs include aerodynamics of airplanes and space vehicles and the simulation of wind loads on architectural structures. Recently, the tunnel has been involved in aerodynamic test programs for Olympic athletes and sporting equipment such as bicycles and skis. For more information, visit

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Faculty and Staff

Faculty and Teaching Staff

Jaime Peraire, PhD
H. N. Slater Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Department Head

Eytan Modiano, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Associate Department Head


Richard Binzel, PhD
Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and Aeronautics and Astronautics

Edward Crawley, ScD
Ford Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
President, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology
(On leave)

David Darmofal, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Olivier L. de Weck, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Codirector, Center for Complex Engineering Systems at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and MIT

Mark Drela, PhD
Terry J. Kohler Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Emilio Frazzoli, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Edward Greitzer, PhD
H. N. Slater Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Steven Hall, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Chair, MIT Faculty

R. John Hansman, Jr., PhD
T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Director, International Center for Air Transportation

Wesley Harris, PhD
Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Daniel Hastings, PhD
Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Director, SIngapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology

Jeffrey Hoffman, PhD
Professor of the Practice of Astronautics

Jonathan How, PhD
Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Paul Lagacé, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems

Nancy Leveson, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems

Robert Liebeck, PhD
Professor of the Practice of Aerospace Engineering

David Mindell, PhD
Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Director, Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and Society

David Miller, ScD
Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Dava Newman, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Director, Technology and Policy Program
Director, MIT Portugal Program

Raúl Radovitzky, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Associate Director, Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies

Zoltan Spakovszky, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Ian Waitz, PhD
Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Dean, School of Engineering

Sheila Widnall, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Institute Professor

Karen Willcox, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Codirector, Center for Computational Engineering

Brian Williams, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Moe Win, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Associate Professors

Hamsa Balakrishnan, PhD
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Steven Barrett, PhD
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Paulo Lozano, PhD
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Youssef Marzouk, PhD
Class of '42 Career Development Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Nicholas Roy, PhD
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Russell Tedrake, PhD
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Brian Wardle, PhD
Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Aeronautics and Astronautics

Assistant Professors

Kerri Cahoy, PhD
Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Warren Hoburg, PhD
Boeing Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Sertac Karaman, PhD
Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Julie Shah, PhD
Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Leia Stirling, PhD
Charles Stark Draper Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Qiqi Wang, PhD
Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Senior Lecturer

Rudrapatna Ramnath, PhD


Peter Belobaba, PhD
Torin Clark, BS

Technical Instructors

Todd Billings
Richard Perdichizzi
David Robertson

Research Staff

Senior Research Engineers

Charles Oman, PhD
Choon Tan, PhD

Principal Research Engineer

Robert Haimes, MS

Principal Research Scientists

Peter Belobaba, PhD
Ngoc-Cuong Nguyen, PhD
Alvar Saenz-Otero, PhD

Research Engineers

Steven Allmaras, PhD
Arthur Huang, PhD
Claudio Lettieri, PhD
Rebecca Masterson, PhD
Alan Midkiff, PhD
William Swelbar, MBA
John Thomas, PhD
Alejandra Uranga Cabrera, PhD

Research Scientists

Andrew Liu, PhD
Robert Malina, PhD
Alan Natapoff, PhD
Raymond Speth, PhD

Research Specialist

Paul Bauer, BS

Professors Emeriti

Eugene Covert, ScD
T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

John Deyst, Jr., ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Steven Dubowsky, ScD
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

John Dugundji, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Alan Epstein, PhD
Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Shaoul Ezekiel, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Electrical Engineering, Emeritus

Walter Hollister, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Jack Kerrebrock, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

James Mar, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Manuel Martínez-Sánchez, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Earll Murman, PhD
Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, Emeritus

Amedeo Odoni, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Civil and Environmental Engineering, Emeritus

Thomas Sheridan, ScD, D (hon)
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering and Applied Psychology, Emeritus

Robert Simpson, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Leon Trilling, PhD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Wallace Vander Velde, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Emmett Witmer, ScD
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus

Laurence Young, ScD
Apollo Program Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Emeritus
Professor of Heath Sciences and Technology, Emeritus


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