Seminar for First-Year MAE Ph.D. Students

MAE6949  - Fall 2012
Cornell University

This course is aimed at introducing new PhD students the research program in the Sibley School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. The course has two objectives: (a) help students and faculty identify mutual research interests, and (b) help students develop research planning and writing skills.

Time and Place

Fridays, 11:45am-1:30pm, Upson Hall Lounge

Course Staff and office hours

Instructor: Hod Lipson. Office hours: most Tuesdays + Thursdays, 4-6pm, Upson 242, or by appointment (see calendar)

All incoming PhD students in ME, AE or TAM fields must register for this class. If this class overlaps with another class you need to take, please register anyway and let Lipson know. Attend only the portion of this class that does not overlap with your conflicting class. You must hand in all class assignments even if you cannot fully attend.

Web page:

Tentative Schedule (dates may shift during the semester)

Date Topic Assignments due
August 30
Faculty presentations  
September 7
Faculty presentations Two research summaries (upload to CMS)
September 14
Faculty presentations Two research summaries (upload to CMS)
September 21
Faculty presentations Two research summaries (upload to CMS)
September 28
Faculty presentations Two research summaries  (upload to CMS)
October 5
No Meeting - Fall Break List of fellowships (upload to CMS)
October 12
Writing Fellowship Proposals (Lipson, Miller, Campbell) Recommended reading: How To Choose a Good Scientific Problem
October 19
Technical writing (Peck) Faculty Signature Form  (bring to 107 Upson)
October 26
Panel Proposal #1 (upload to CMS)
November 2
Scientific Writing and Ethical Pitfalls (Kirby) Recommended reading: Communication Skills
November 9
The Ins and Outs of Publishing (Lipson) Proposal #2 (upload to CMS)
November 16
Oral presentations (Lipson) Advisor Selection Form (107 Upson)
November 23
No Meeting - Thanksgiving Recommended reading: Managing Up
November 30
Wrap Up Announcement of Advisor Matches

Assignments  (due dates listed above)

Faculty research summary. Choose any eight faculty in your field, and summarize their research (two per week). For each faculty, write up a 300-word outline, in your own words, of the main research activities of the faculty member, and a list of three or four questions or comments you may have on this work. Upload your submission to CMS, each week, as a two separate PDF files. Include your full name, date, and NETID at the top of each file and the name of the faculty member whose work you are describing. Be resourceful. Don't just look at the faculty's home page - have a look at the titles of their recent papers, their research group page, and Google them to see what else they're up to. The summaries will be provided to the faculty. They serve to help you understand faculty activities and help faculty to identify potential students.

Research proposals. A 1000-word research proposal (plus pictures and references) . Develop your own proposal on a topic of your choice. Choose a faculty member with appropriate research interests to serve as your mentor. This will be a good way to test your compatibility with that faculty. The second proposal must be written with a faculty member who is different than the one with which you wrote the first proposal. You can use these proposals as a basis for your fellowship applications. Copying from external sources is not allowed - see academic integrity notice below.

List of fellowships. Each students must identify fellowships that they are eligible for, and their deadlines. International students should identify international fellowships, domestic fellowships that permit international applicants, and fellowships from their home country.


This is a pass/fail course. To pass, you must submit all 7 assignment documents on CMS (Four pairs of research summaries, one fellowship list, and two proposals). 

Academic Integrity

This course follows the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity. Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit is expected to be the student's own work. Collaboration is allowed , but you cannot copy all or part of someone else's work --- regardless of whether that copy is on paper or on-line. Violations of the rules will not be tolerated.

Each student must write their own essays independently in their own words. Copying and pasting from online sources is not permitted. While students are encouraged to discuss ideas and concepts, they must not share text, jointly write text, or copy text from another source.