Frequently Asked Questions

How do I join SiGMA?

Are you a graduate student in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell*? You ARE a member of SiGMA! SiGMA is simply the graduate students of our department coming together to make cool things happen, have some fun, and get to know each other! Come to SiGMA events! Have an idea? Contact the SiGMA committee to make it happen. We want to hear from you, meet you, and learn from you!

*Or a non-MAE/TAM student advised by MAE/TAM faculty.


When are SiGMA meetings and who should attend?

SiGMA meetings take places on a regular schedule, once every few weeks. This schedule will change at the beginning of each new semester, so we encourage you to take a look at the Event page for the most up-to-date information. All MAE graduate students are welcome to attend, whether you just want to know what the committee is planning or you have an idea or suggestion you would like the committee to hear.


When are SiGMA committee elections?

Elections for Sigma chair positions are currently held in mid-April. Every grad student is encouraged to come forward for a position and to vote. The election process is currently very simple. A week in advance we will send out an email to the graduate student body asking for names of people that would like to be considered for a committee position and informing everyone when the elections will take place. On the day of elections we ask that those interested in a position tell us in 5 minutes why they are interested in a given position. A vote is then cast by those in attendance and the candidate with the majority of votes wins. No previous experience is necessary, so if you have any interest, apply! Those elected take over their positions in late May.


How do I join a SiGMA committee?

In addition to the SiGMA chair positions, we need many other students to take a smaller role serving on Sigma committees. We have committees for Outreach and Professional Development. Specifically in Professional Development we need someone to organize the SiGMA seminar series, many people to help organize SGRS, and people to help put together career panel events, etc.


I’m interested in helping, but I’m not sure how?

If you want to help but you aren’t sure how much time you can commit or you aren’t sure what you are interested in, feel free to attend any or all of the SiGMA committee meetings (see the Events page for current meeting schedule). The Events page also includes volunteer opportunities such as helping set up social events, or volunteering at Outreach events.


What is GPSA FC and why does it sponsor so many of our events?

GPSA FC stands for Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Finance Commission. It is a committee of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly that gets about 35% of your activity fee every year. The GPSA FC takes that money and reallocates it to events and programs being hosted by graduate and professional student groups all across campus. You can find out more about the GPSA at their website. SiGMA receives some of its funding through the GPSA FC and sends four Field Representatives (2 ME, 1 AE, 1 TAM) to the GPSA general body meetings as part of the conditions for receiving that money. If being a Field Representative on the GPSA sounds interesting to you (or you would just like to know more), just send the executive board an email.


Key people to know?

  • Graduate Field Administrator (ME, AE, TAM fields) – Dr. Marcia Sawyer (mjs14)
  • Associate Director for Graduate Affairs – More info at DGS blog.

What is Slack and how do I join the SibleyPhD channel?

Slack is a “cloud-based team collaboration tool” (thanks Wikipedia) which is basically a message board organized into topics (“channels”). It can be a lot quicker than emails for contacting some people (mainly Kirby), and it provides a searchable database of useful info. It can also be used to create private groups/channels.

Anyone with a Cornell NetID can join the slack at Questions about Slack admin can be directed to Prof. Kirby.

Questions about the Ph.D. academic program?

The specific rules of the Ph.D. academic program change frequently, so it is best to contact Marcia, or Prof. Hernandez directly. Alternatively Prof. Hernandez’s blog is a resource he updates regularly, which contains most of what you might need to know about program requirements. Of course, you should also talk to your advisor about anything specific to you.


MS Student?

Cornell MAE just added the brand new M.S. program, so unfortunately we don’t know much about the details of the program. We know two things: (1) The requirements are different from the PhD program, thus no Q exam and different course requirements (2) As an M.S. student you cannot get funding. If you do have any questions, contact Marcia Sawyer (mjs14). Be aware that your group members may not be aware of the M.S. program yet, so take their comments with a grain of salt.


How do I get access to rooms in Upson hall?

You can request card access to rooms in Upson hall through this form . Simply select Mechanical Engineering and complete the form. Under advisor you can select your academic advisor, or Emily Minturn who, among other things, manages room reservations in Upson.

Note that for many rooms card access can only be granted per semester.


Have a question we didn’t answer?

If you have a question not covered here that you think would be relevant to other SiGMA members please let us know by contacting Josh (jm2555). If you have more specific questions we encourage you to contact Marcia Sawyer (mjs14), who will be happy to help you out!