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Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)

[ MAS-AESE courses | undergraduate program | courses | faculty ]

180 Engineering Building II
Warren College

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at UC San Diego offers graduate instruction leading to the MS and PhD in engineering sciences with a designated specialization in each of the following areas: aerospace engineering, applied mechanics, applied ocean sciences, engineering physics, and mechanical engineering.

In fall 2007, a new PhD specialization was introduced: computational science. Computational science seeks to gain understanding principally through the analysis of mathematical models on high performance computers. It is a blend of applications, computations, and mathematics. It is a mode of scientific investigation that supplements the traditional lab and theoretical models of acquiring knowledge. This is done by formulating mathematical models whose solutions are approximated by computer simulations.

The computational science specialization leverages the strength of the existing mathematics, science, and engineering departments. PhD students must demonstrate advanced undergraduate-level proficiency in numerical analysis and in computer algorithms and data structures.

For more information, please contact the MAE Graduate Affairs Office at

Admission to the graduate program is in accordance with the general requirements of the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs. Applicants are judged competitively. Based on the candidate’s background, qualifications, and goals, admission to the program is in one of two categories: MS or PhD. The MS designation is reserved for students currently interested in obtaining an MS but who at a later time may wish to continue in the doctoral program. Admission to the PhD program is reserved for qualified students whose final aim is a doctoral degree. An MS can be obtained during the PhD program. Policies for possible changes in status are given under “Master’s Degree Program” below.

More information on admission to our graduate program is available on the department website:

Nonmatriculated students may seek enrollment in MAE courses via UC San Diego’s Extension’s Concurrent Enrollment program but an extension student’s enrollment in an MAE graduate course must be approved by the instructor.

Five-Year BS/MS Program

Undergraduates in the MAE department who have maintained a good academic record in both departmental and overall course work are encouraged to participate in the five-year BS/MS program. Participation in the program will permit students to complete the requirements for the MS within one year following receipt of the BS. Complete details regarding admission to and participation in the program are available on the department website:

Admission to the Program

Students must submit an application for the BS/MS program by the program deadline during the spring quarter of their junior year. Applications are available on the department website: No GREs are required for application to the BS/MS program. A GPA of at least 3.0 both overall and in the major and strong recommendations are required to be considered for admission to the program. Students are encouraged to visit the MAE website or contact the MAE Student Affairs website for additional details and requirements.

In the winter quarter of the senior year, applications of students admitted to the program will be forwarded by the department to the UC San Diego Graduate Division. Each student must submit the regular graduate application and fee prior to the application deadline for their application to be processed. Students who have been accepted into the BS/MS program will automatically be admitted for graduate study beginning the following fall provided that they maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.0 through the winter quarter of the senior year. Graduate courses or up to twelve units of upper-division courses taken during the senior year that are not used to satisfy undergraduate course requirements may be counted toward the thirty-six units required for the MS.

Admission for graduate study through the BS/MS program will be for the master of science degree only. Undergraduate students wishing to continue toward the PhD must apply and be evaluated according to the usual procedures and criteria for admission to the PhD program.


Students in the five-year BS/MS program must complete the same requirements as those in the regular Plan I or Plan II MS program as detailed below. All requirements for the BS should be completed by the end of the senior (fourth) year, and the BS awarded prior to the start of the fifth year. Courses taken in the senior year may be counted toward the BS requirements or the MS requirements, but not both. Students must have received their BS before they will be eligible to enroll as graduate students in the department.

Master’s Degree Program

The MS program is intended to extend and broaden an undergraduate background and/or equip practicing engineers with fundamental knowledge in their particular fields. The degree may be terminal or obtained on the way to the PhD. The degree is offered under both the Thesis Plan I and the Comprehensive Examination Plan II (see “Graduate Admission: Master’s Degrees”). A strong effort is made to schedule MS level course offerings so that students may obtain their MS in one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study.

MS Time Limit Policy: Full-time MS students are permitted seven quarters in which to complete all requirements. While there are no written time limits for part-time students, the department has the right to intervene and set individual deadlines if it becomes necessary.

Master’s Plan I—Thesis Defense

This plan of study involves both course work and research, culminating in the preparation of a thesis. A total of thirty-six units of credit is required: twenty-four units (six courses) must be in course work, and twelve units must be in research (MAE 299). The student’s program is arranged, with prior approval of the faculty adviser, according to the following policies:

  1. Course work must include at least sixteen units (four courses) of MAE 200-level courses.
  2. Units obtained in MAE 205 or 299 may not be applied toward the course work requirement.
  3. No more than a total of eight units of MAE 296 and 298 may be applied toward the course work requirement.
  4. No more than twelve units of upper-division 100-level courses (engineering-based or technically serious) may be applied toward the course work requirement.
  5. Only four units from the ENG series may be applied to the degree.
  6. Twelve units of MAE 299 must be taken to fulfill the research requirement.

The thirty-six units are arranged into three areas of specialization, organized as follows:

  • Specialization 1: Three courses (four units each course)
  • Specialization 2: Three courses (four units each course)
  • Research Requirement: Twelve units of MAE 299

The two areas of specialization must be chosen from the list below of MAE research areas.

Current MAE Research Areas

  • Applied and Solid Mechanics
  • Material Sciences
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Thermal Sciences
  • Engineering Physics
  • Dynamics Systems and Controls
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Biomechanics
  • Design

Students should reference the MAE Graduate Course Structure which is posted on the department website ( to see which courses fall into which of the research areas.

Students must maintain at least a B average (3.00 GPA) in the courses taken to fulfill the degree requirements. All required courses for a degree must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of MAE 299 research units, which may be taken as S/U only. A thesis based on the research is written and subsequently reviewed by the thesis adviser and two other faculty members appointed by the dean of Graduate Studies. The review is normally an oral defense of the thesis.

Comprehensive Examination—Plan II

This plan of study involves course work only and culminates in a comprehensive examination. A total of thirty-six units of credit (nine courses) are required. The department maintains a list of courses on the department website ( for each specialization area from which the thirty-six units of course work must be selected. Each specialization area identifies five courses that include a Comprehensive Examination component. Students must earn a passing grade on three Comprehensive Examination components to satisfy the Comprehensive Examination requirement. 

Students must maintain at least a B average (3.00 GPA) in the courses taken to fulfill the degree requirements. All required courses for a degree must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of MAE 299 research units, which may be taken as S/U only.

Change of Degree. Upon completion of the requirements for the MS, students admitted as MS only or MS candidates are not automatically eligible for admission to the PhD program. MS only candidates who subsequently wish to pursue a doctorate must submit an application for a change in status to their examining committee. If the recommendation is positive and the request approved, the student must submit a general petition for graduate students to effect the change of status. In addition, the examining committee may recommend that the examination satisfy one of the three topics required in the departmental qualifying examination for the doctorate.

MS candidates who subsequently wish to pursue a doctorate must also submit an application for a change in status to their examining committee. In this case, a special examination is not required. The application, however, must be approved and signed by an MAE faculty member who expects to serve as the student’s PhD adviser. When the request is approved, the student must submit a general petition for graduate students to effect the change of status. If the student elects the comprehensive examination plan for the MS, this examination may be used not only to fulfill the requirement for the MS, but also to satisfy one of the three topics required in the departmental qualifying examination for the doctorate. In fact, the MS examination may be part of the doctoral examination.

Master of Advanced Studies

Architecture-Based Enterprise Systems Engineering

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers the master of advanced studies (MAS) degree in architecture-based enterprise systems engineering. The degree requires forty-two units of work and a capstone team project. For full-time students with an adequate background in engineering, all the requirements can be completed within four quarters of full-time study.

Final Project Capstone Requirement, No Thesis

In the AESE program, an “alternative plan” requirement is satisfied by a three-unit capstone project requirement.

Required Courses

Students entering the MAS program in computer science for a degree in architecture-based enterprise systems engineering will undertake courses in engineering and management.

This program requires nine four-unit core courses totaling thirty-six units, three team project courses (one unit each for a total of three units), and one capstone team project course of three units for a total of forty-two units.

All courses must be completed with an average grade of B and no grade below B–. The courses required of all students are as follows:

  • MGT 291. Essentials for Business Practice
  • MGT 406. Leadership Skills, Values, and Teamwork in Technology Firms (Workshop)
  • AESE 241. Decision and Risk Analysis
  • AESE 261. Managing Stakeholder Relationships (Workshop)
  • AESE 278A. Complexity and Large-Scale Systems
  • AESE 278B. Enterprise Architecting
  • AESE 278C. Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis
  • AESE 278D. Engineering Essentials for Open, Distributed Systems (Workshop)
  • AESE 278E. Patterns for Enterprise Architecting
  • AESE 279A. AESE Quarterly Team Project (taken fall, winter, spring quarters; one unit each)
  • AESE 279B. AESE Capstone Team Project (final project; summer; three units)

Students are required to execute a project with an adviser while enrolled in AESE 279A-B.

For more information on the MAS program, please visit

Doctoral Degree Program

The MAE PhD program is intended to prepare students for a variety of careers in research and teaching. Therefore, depending on the student’s background and ability, research is initiated as soon as possible. In general, there are no formal course requirements for the PhD. All students, in consultation with their advisers, develop course programs that will prepare them for the MAE Departmental Qualifying Examination and for their dissertation research. However, these programs of study and research must be planned to meet the time limits established to advance to candidacy and to complete the requirements for the degree. Doctoral students who have passed the Departmental Examination may take any course for an S/U grade, with the exception of any course that the student’s Departmental or PhD Qualifying Examination Committee stipulates must be taken in order to remove a deficiency. It is strongly recommended that all MAE graduate students take a minimum of two courses (other than research) per academic year after passing the Departmental Qualifying Examination. Specific details in this regard can be obtained from the MAE Student Affairs Office.

Doctoral Examinations: An MAE PhD student is required to pass three examinations. The first is a Departmental Qualifying Examination (DQE) that is intended to determine the candidate’s ability to successfully pursue a research project level appropriate for the doctorate. This first exam must be taken within the first six quarters of registration as a graduate student. The DQE is an oral examination by a committee of three persons (two of which must be in the MAE department) and is based on material taught over thirty-six of course work as described on the department website. Students should work with their faculty adviser and their DQE committee members to identify suitable courses that will prepare them to make meaningful research contributions. The course plan must be approved by the faculty adviser and the DQE committee members.

Students should reference the MAE Graduate Course Structure which is posted on the department website ( to identify courses in relevant research areas.

Obtaining an MS: Doctoral students may obtain the MS by completing the thirty-six units of course work requirements described on the MAE website and by passing the PhD Department Qualifying Examination (DQE).

Teaching Experience is required of all MAE PhD students prior to taking the PhD Qualifying Exam. The teaching experience is defined as lecturing one hour per week in either a problem-solving section or regular lecture for one quarter in a course designated by the department. The requirement can be fulfilled by teaching assistant service or taken as a course for academic credit (MAE 501). Students must contact the Student Affairs Office to plan for completion of this requirement.

The PhD Qualifying Examination is the second examination required of MAE PhD students. In preparation for the PhD Qualifying Examination, students must have completed the Departmental Qualifying Examination and the Departmental Teaching Experience requirement, obtained a faculty research adviser, and have identified a topic for their dissertation research and have made initial progress. At the time of application for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral committee responsible for the remainder of the student’s graduate program is appointed by the Graduate Council. The committee conducts the PhD Qualifying Examination, during which students must demonstrate the ability to engage in dissertation research. This involves the presentation of a plan for the dissertation research project. The committee may ask questions directly or indirectly related to the project and general questions that it determines to be relevant. Upon successful completion of this examination, students are advanced to candidacy and are awarded the candidate in philosophy degree (see “Graduate Admission” section in this catalog). The Dissertation Defense is the final PhD examination. Upon completion of the dissertation research project, the student writes a dissertation that must be successfully defended in an oral examination and public presentation conducted by the doctoral committee. A complete copy of the student’s dissertation must be submitted to each member of the doctoral committee approximately four weeks before the defense. It is understood that the copy of the dissertation given to committee members will not be the final copy, and that the committee members may suggest changes in the text at the time of the defense. This examination may not be conducted earlier than three quarters after the date of advancement to doctoral candidacy. Acceptance of the dissertation by the Office of Graduate Studies and the university librarian represents the final step in completion of all requirements for the PhD.

There is no formal foreign language requirement for doctoral candidates. Students are expected to master whatever language is needed for the pursuit of their own research.

PhD Time Limit Policy. Precandidacy status is limited to four years. Doctoral students are eligible for university support for six years (engineering physics, seven years). The defense and submission of the doctoral dissertation must be within seven years (engineering physics, eight years).

Evaluations. In the spring of each year, faculty advisers evaluate each doctoral student’s overall performance in course work, research during the past academic year, and prospects for financial support for the next year. A written assessment is given to the student. If a student’s work is found to be inadequate, the faculty adviser may determine that the student cannot continue in the doctoral program and will recommend dismissal to the dean of Graduate Studies.

Joint Doctoral Program with San Diego State University

The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego participates in a joint doctoral program with the Graduate Group in Applied Mechanics at SDSU. The program leads to the degree of doctor of philosophy in engineering sciences (applied mechanics). Participants in the program are required to spend one year enrolled at UC San Diego; their dissertation research is carried out under the supervision of an SDSU faculty member. Information regarding admission may be obtained from the departmental Student Affairs Office.

PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with Specialization in Multiscale Biology

As of fall 2010, the UC San Diego campus is offering a new PhD specialization in multiscale biology that will be available to doctoral candidates in participating programs that span four divisions: Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Jacobs School of Engineering, and Health Sciences at UC San Diego.

The PhD specialization is designed to allow students to obtain standard basic training in their chosen field within the biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and health sciences with training in integrative and quantitative analysis across multiple scales of biological organization from molecule to organism in health and disease into their graduate studies. It trains a new cadre of PhD scientists and provides a unique interdisciplinary education at the interfaces between the biological, medical, physical and engineering sciences.

The specific objectives of this program are

  1. Focused collaboration across nine graduate degree programs at UC San Diego to train a new generation of cross-disciplinary scientists
  2. State-of-the-art interdisciplinary training through a new technology-centered hands-on graduate laboratory course curriculum
  3. Novel emphasis on research aimed at integrative and quantitative analysis across multiple scales of biological organization from molecule to organism in health and disease

Students in the specialization are required to take at minimum three laboratory courses and serve as a TA one course. Courses offered are as follows:


Course Numbers


Contributing Programs or Departments




BENG 283
CHEM 28/
BIOM 283

Supramolecular Complex Characterization

Chemistry and Biochemistry, Bioinformatics

Komives (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Bafna (Computer Science and Engineering)



BENG 276
CHEM 276
MATH 276

Numerical Analysis for Multi-Scale Biology

Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mathematics, Bioengineering

McCammon (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Holst (Mathematics), Sejnowski (Biological Sciences) McCulloch (Bioengineering)



NEU 260
CHEM 260

Light and Electron Microscopy of Cells and Tissues

Neuroscience, Chemistry and Biochem­istry, Molecular Pathology, Biology

Martone, Sosinsky, Ellisman (Neurosciences), Baker (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Hanein (Pathology)



BENG 278
RAD 278

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Radiology, Bioengineering

Wong, Buxton, Frank, Liu (Radiology), Dale (Neurosciences)



PHYS 245 BGGN 265

Optical Imaging of Structure and Function in Excitable Systems

Physics, Neurosciences, Radiology, Bioengineering, Medicine, Biology

Kleinfeld (Physics), Wang (Biological Sciences), Berns (Bioengineering)



BENG 277 BIOM 287

Tissue Engineering

Bioengineering, Biomedical Science, Pediatrics, Pharmacology

Sah, Christman, Varghese (Bioengineering), Nigam (Pediatrics), Evans (Pharmacology)



BENG 260 BGGN 260


Bioengineering, Biology

Cauwenberghs (Bioengineering)


Prospective students must apply and be admitted into the PhD program in mechanical and aerospace engineering described previously. (For more information, see the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Graduate program and/or the Interfaces Graduate Training Program administered within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 4010 York Hall, Revelle College.)