Colleges & Campus News

New Aerospace Engineering Doctorate to Support U.S. Space Program

The growing aerospace industry requires an increased focus on space communication, imagery, launch services and space transportation.

By Gene Kruckemyer ’73 |
February 13, 2019

rocket launching

As new commercial space ventures develop in Florida and around the nation, UCF’s new doctorate in aerospace engineering to begin next fall harkens back to one of the university’s original missions: provide support to the U.S. space program.

The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is offering the new degree to provide the workforce to new companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and others that have opened facilities in the state. Plus, major research and development programs in the past few years have brought thousands of jobs to the region, such as Space Florida and Northrop Grumman.

“There are over 2,000 aerospace-related companies in Florida with many hiring for R&D [research and development] and also working on developing innovations never before explored,” says Associate Professor Seetha Raghavan, who will be involved with the program. “Such ventures point to the need for expertise related to high-level research offered by advanced level Ph.D. degrees.”

Students in the program will explore aerodynamics, propulsion, dynamics and control, structures and materials, and aerospace systems design. The curriculum will be interdisciplinary, including unique course offerings made possible by faculty collaborations between the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, its Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research, the College of Optics and Photonics, and the Townes Laser Institute.

Major breakthroughs in aeronautical and space technology the past few years show this field is making a big impact.

The growing aerospace industry is pioneering new technologies and is undergoing dynamic change driven by increasing demand in space communication, imagery, launch services and space transportation. Major breakthroughs in aeronautical and space technology the past few years show this field is making a big impact, such as NASA’s successful Mars InSight Lander and OSIRIS-REx mission for asteroid sampling, Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight, and China’s Yutu rover on the far side of the moon.

“This leadership in innovation must be supported by a workforce equipped with scholarship and research capacity at the graduate level,” Raghavan says.

For the fourth consecutive year, UCF has produced more graduates who are hired by aerospace and defense companies than any other university in the nation, according to Aviation Week Network. In addition, UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science enrolls the most aerospace engineering undergraduate students in the State University System.

“The Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. program provides a much-needed pathway to graduate education in the field and we are well positioned to increase the number of STEM graduates in the state and beyond,” Raghavan says.

Graduates of the program will be positioned to serve as aerospace engineers and technical leaders in the industry, faculty, and researchers at higher education institutions, national and government laboratories and elsewhere.

Visit the program website for more information. Prospective students can apply for the fall classes by July 1. Raghavan can be reached at seetha.raghavan@ucf.edu.