Doctoral Degree

Doctoral Program Objectives

AeroAstro's doctoral program objectives are:

  • to produce original research and technologies critical to the engineering of aerospace vehicles, information, and systems
  • to educate future leaders in aerospace research and technology

Doctoral Program Student Learning Outcomes

Upon graduation, our doctoral students will have:

  • a strong foundation in analytical skills and reasoning
  • the ability to solve challenging, engineering problems
  • an understanding of the importance and strategic value of their research
  • the ability to communicate their research with context and clarity

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

These degrees, for which the requirements are identical, are for students who wish to carry out original research in a focused field, and already hold a master’s degree. AeroAstro offers doctoral degrees in 12 fields. A description of general MIT doctoral requirements appears in the MIT Course Catalogue.

Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science requirements

  • English evaluation Test (for non-native English-speakers if not previously satisfied at MIT)
  • Technical writing requirement (pdf 20K) if not previously satisfied at MIT
  • Qualifying Field Exam, taken within three terms of entering the department. (See below for more information.)
  • Completion of Research Process and Communication (RPC) Course
  • Formation of a thesis committee and first meeting within 2 regular terms of admission to the doctoral program
  • Five graduate-level subjects in the major concentration and three graduate level subjects for the minor concentration, as approved by the student's thesis committee
  • Math requirement (pdf 82K)
  • Minimum cumulative 4.4 grade point average
  • Term-by-term thesis (16THG) registration and progress evaluation
  • Thesis proposal and defense within 2 regular terms of admission into the doctoral program (See below for more information.)
  • Successful thesis submission and defense within 4 regular terms of passing the thesis proposal defense

See the AeroAstro Doctoral Program Guide (pdf 88K) for additional guidelines and the PhD Quick Guide for a complete overview.

Doctoral Qualifying Field Exams

A student seeking entrance to the department's doctoral program must take one of these field exams, which are offered annually in January. Information about the doctoral program and the doctoral qualifying process can be found in the department's Doctoral Program Guide. Field Exam Descriptions (pdf 180K) describes the exam contents. 

Following are questions used in past field exams:

Thesis proposal and defense examples

Following are a few examples of successfully written and defended thesis proposals by doctoral candidates within Aero Astro. These may be downloaded and examined as part of your preparation for the Thesis Proposal Defense, a required part of our doctoral program.

  • Xun Huan - A Bayesian Approach to Optimal Sequential Experimental Design Using Approximate Dynamic Programming - 2013 - Proposal - Defense
  • Whitney Lohmeyer - Space Environment Impacts on Geostationary Communications Satellites - 2013 - Proposal - Defense
  • Maria de Soria Santacruz Pich - Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron Waves for RBR Applications - 2013 - Proposal - Defense

For more information about AeroAstro graduate degree programs, email