May Q exams scheduled for week of May 20-24

May Q exams will be during the week of May 20-24 (hopefully May 20-23) unless unforseen scheduling problems arise. Fifteen of our PhD students will participate — let’s all do our part to help our colleagues as they prepare. If there will be mock Qs administered by SiGMA, now is perhaps the time to start planning for that.

My understanding is that we might be able to arrange for a SiGMA happy hour on the 23rd and have the Q exams completed by then, so the happy hour can be a celebration that Q exams are over. i will be endeavoring to manage Q scheduling to this end. Those interested in information about SiGMA activities should inquire with SiGMA officers.

Results of TA hours surveys


I list here a simplified and stylized description of the results of the TA effort survey. I am happy to discuss details with anyone who is interested.

General conclusions: full time TAs report mean workload at 14.5 hrs and max workload at 22 hours. These self-reported hours are not crazily out of line with grad school specs (15 hrs/20 hrs), but a fraction of TAs certainly quote self-reported workload above grad school specs. More report max hours above 20-25 hrs than report mean hrs above 15-20 hrs; however, I learned from interpretive questions (survey items asking students to interpret whether they find the TA policies in the grad fields to be in compliance with guidelines) that student perceptions of compliance are more closely tied to mean hours than max hours. I interpret this to mean that students are not really concerned if a single week has a heavy workload; rather, students are more concerned if mean workload is high. so I am focused on managing the mean.

data on half time TAs is interesting but difficult to comment on as the sample size is very small, so I have taken note of those results but am not reporting them in detail right now.

I was surprised to note the wide variety of tasks that students were asked to perform. almost all of the 7 tasks I listed were of equal importance when averaged over the population. I was concerned that everyone would report that they were grading papers all the time.

Action items: the data is a bit preliminary to take much action, and it was never expected that one survey would lead to an unambiguous call to action. I am using a weak (two-sample) Bayesian prior that mean and max TA hours are right at the edge of compliance; one survey isn’t enough to make me take detailed action but two or three would be. I will survey students at end of this term and again next term. This data will be reported to the faculty and I will make preliminary recommendations. I will also be seeing if there are trends related to specific classes or faculty.

student committees for searches have been finalized AND info re submitting evaluation forms

all –

Those who have filled out evaluation forms for the systems search should send the forms to Rob MacCurdy.

student committees for the two searches have been finalized. apologies for any errors:

systems (garcia, search chair):
rob maccurdy (student committee chair)
rodrigo zeledon
paul radecki
abdurrhaman gumus
mike schafer
boris kogan

aerospace (campbell, search chair):
rodrigo zeledon (student committee chair)
romy fain
mark mcclelland
karen chiang

in addition to talking to the faculty, of course, please feel free to contact these students, who should in many cases have detailed knowledge of the search. the student committees are attending the wednesday morning chalk talks in addition to the tuesday open colloquia.

Feb 14 faculty meeting highlights

Excerpts from Feb 14 Faculty meeting that are (a) suitable for public disclosure and (b) perhaps of interest to the broad student community follow.

Unlike meeting minutes, which are official and approved by faculty vote, this summary is mine alone and has not been vetted by a faculty vote.


Director M. Campbell announced that Laura Houghton officially joined MAE in a split administrative assistant/communication position. M. Ulinski is now MEng director and lab director.
Director M. Campbell discussed office and lab moves and presented tentative dates for this process.
Director M. Campbell provided a short update on the NYC campus. Hiring and searches started in all three hubs, with one to two MAE tenured faculty hires planned for Fall 2014.


Professor M. Campbell described the status of the Aerospace search, including applicants, Skype interviews and on-campus interviews.

Professor E. Garcia described the status of the Systems search, including applicants, Skype interviews and on-campus interviews.


Professor B. Kirby provided an update on the graduate admission process, including fellowship offers and planning for the Admit weekend on March 1-2. He announced that denial letters were scheduled to be sent on February 18.
Professor B. Kirby announced that he is working with Laura Houghton to develop a protocol for providing continuous web news items reflecting the faculty’s productivity. The objective is to have a steady stream of announcements on the MAE website requiring very limited faculty input.
Professor B. Kirby outlined a long-term plan covering recruiting strategies, grad students mentoring and wellness, grant programs, traineeship programs, and a codification of existing grad program policies.

faculty candidate seminar: Selva

Recall that two searches are ongoing: one for systems engineering (chaired by garcia) and one for aerospace (chaired by campbell).

We have our first faculty candidate visit for the systems engineering search next week. Daniel Selva, MIT, is here Tuesday & Wednesday, March 12-13.

The candidate’s public seminar will be presented at the MAE colloquium Tuesday March 12, 4:00 in B11 Kimball–we urge you to attend. Refreshments precede the seminar, at 3:30-3:55 in the Upson lounge.

FYI Dr Selva will give his “chalk talk” to the faculty wednesday morning (this meeting is for faculty only).

student committees have been assembled for each search. committee members will be announced in the near future.

students are encouraged to submit evaluations to the search committee

PhD admissions –outline and schedule

some folks have asked how admissions works. a rough outline of how we admit PhD students:

dec 15 – applications due
jan 7 – assoc director requests several different prioritized lists from several subsets of the faculty. assoc director also solicits from faculty estimates of how many students can be supported
jan 28 – assoc director admits students based on holistic evaluation of students plus predictions of yield, funding, etc.
feb 1 – mar 1 –marcia and judy arrange for travel, hotel, food, transport, and 100 other things for admit weekend
feb 1 – mar 15 — assoc director runs around generating fellowships and the like for admitted students
mar 1 – admit weekend
apr 15 – students decide

Web page updates

there are a few web page updates:

1. there is now a blog that shows departmental publications:
2. there is now a blog that shows departmental grants:
3. there is now a blog that shows student degree progress and events:
4. there is now a simple page highlighting grad students: this has a feed that shows the posts on and can include feeds from any student-driven blog e.g. student blogs for research groups or SiGMA.
5. publications and grants now feed to research web pages, e.g., or
6. students are encouraged to contact me or laura houghton with ideas for ways to add web content

Search updates

we have two faculty searches — one in space systems, one in systems engineering. roughly speaking, it appears that systems engineering will have interviews mid-mar to early april, whereas space will be early april to early may. professor campbell is chairing the space search and professor garcia is chairing the systems search

Admit weekend redux

The admit weekend seemed to go well; thanks to students for their participation.

Re the poster session: participation was good especially by admitted students. I liked the fact that alphabetizing by student last name mixed the topics up and encouraged more cross-pollination. Splitting up posters odd vs even did not work — best guess is that the timing of odd and even posters was either not communicated clearly or that instructions were ignored. Plan will be to communicate this early and often next time.