Tips for AAE Graduate Students

Topics covered in this document:


  • AIAA papers back to 1986 can be found in the basement of the Potter Engineering Library. As you exit the stairwell, turn left and go to the far side of the room to find these papers.
  • AIAA papers and journal articles can be found online at, but you must be on a Purdue computer or must use a VPN connection on your personal computer to access journal articles and papers on the website.
  • Most IEEE papers and journal articles can be found online at Again, you must be on a Purdue computer or must use a VPN connection on your personal computer to access this site.
  • The website,, contains a link to "Electronic Journals Database," which is a large list of electronic journals. Purdue has full text access to some of these journals, such as the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.
  • At the site,, you can find a list of online databases to help you search for papers and articles. The "Aerospace & High Technology Database," "Compendex," and "Web of Science" seem to work particularly well for aerospace related material.
  • "Web of Science" includes a handy cited reference search. You can enter an author or paper/journal title, and the database search engine will return all articles that cite that author or paper/journal.
  • PowerPoint Presentation covering "Accessing the Purdue Library Databases and Online Journals"

Computer/Software/Printer/Network Issues 

  • Detailed Instructions for using Purdue computer resources off campas. Covers some of the same topics as items below.
  • In order to establish a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection to the Purdue network from your personal computer, look at the instructions at This type of connection maps your school network drives so that you can access them as if they are a drive on your personal computer. Also, a VPN will allow you to access electronic journal articles and papers as discussed above.
  • Certain software, such as Matlab, the Microsoft Office Suite, AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, and more, can be accessed from your home computer. Go to and, under the "Academics" heading, click "Distributed Academics Computing Services (DACS)."
  • Make an effort to learn software such as Matlab. You will be asked to use it sooner or later.
  • You can download certain software, such as Exceed, SSH Client, SecureCRT, Tecplot, and more onto your personal computer for free by visiting
  • Software that is normally expensive, such as the Microsoft Office Suite, Microsoft Windows XP, MathCAD, and others can be purchased at reasonable prices at the printing office on the main floor of the Purdue Memorial Union. For example, Microsoft Office can be purchased for around $13.
  • If you feel rusty on computer knowledge, ITAP gives free classes on all sorts of computer subjects throughout the semester. A list of classes, schedules, and sign-up forms can be found at
  • LaTeX is a high quality type-setting program and is a standard for typesetting math. See the LaTeX Intro(PPT) and the LaTeX Quick Start Guide(PDF) for help getting started.
  • ITAP is going to start charging for printing over a certain quota, but printing to ECN printers will still be free.
  • Color Printers: A good quality color printer resides in ARMS 2106. If in a bind, the ITAP computer lab in the MATH building has a color printer.
  • Only use color printers when color is needed; otherwise use black and white. Class notes can usually be printed in black and white.
  • Black & White Printers: A good quality black and white printer resides in ARMS 2106. Another good quality printer is in ARMS 3310.

Plan of Study 

  • Get your plan of study finished before you start your second semester. This is the current rule. Your plan of study is filed electronically. Go to, login, and click the "Academic" link, and then the "Graduate Student Database" link. A new page will appear, then click "Plan of Study Generator" to take a look at how you set up your plan of study.
  • You may make changes to your plan of study in the future once it is filed on the "Plan of Study Generator" website.
  • If you plan to take more classes than are necessary while pursuing your master's degree AND you plan to pursue a doctorate, only enter the classes necessary for your master's degree on your master's plan of study. Save the extra classes that you take during your master's for your doctoral plan of study. If you put those extra classes on your master's plan of study, you will not be able to use them toward your doctorate.
  • If you have a question regarding your plan of study, talk to your advisor and Linda Flack.

Preliminary Exam 

  • The preliminary examination is essentially a research proposal by the student to the advisory committee. In this context, students need to convince the advisory committee that they have identified a problem that is worthy of study and that they are capable of solving. Likewise, the examining committee should evaluate the proposal in the context that the student has presented a convincing argument that the topic is worthy of PhD study and that the student has the ability to complete it.
  • Note that this is not unlike the goals of a conventional research proposal where one attempts to convince a sponsor to provide financial resources for a research project. In this case, the student is trying to convince a sponsor (advisory committee) to support the research (where here "support" is permission to pursue a topic that could result in an academic degree when the thesis is completed).
  • The proposal document should not be a draft of the thesis as is often the case. Students must learn how to write a true PROPOSAL since they will be required to prepare many of them throughout their careers. Moreover, students need to learn to write concisely, since many sponsors also enforce strict page limits in formal RFP's. The written document should be limited to 25 pages as our current rules state.
  • Thus, the preliminary examination simulates the type of proposal activities that students will encounter later in their professional careers. With these parallels in mind, the preliminary proposal should contain:
    1. A clear statement of the problem and specific objectives (convince committee that definite goals are identified)
    2. Background to indicate why the thesis topic is important and an overview of some relevant work (convince committee that student is familiar with literature on the topic and will not be duplicating prior research unless for verification purposes)
    3. A concise description and discussion of the proposed approach (convince committee that student has identified a "solvable" problem and knows how to approach the problem)
    4. Some preliminary results obtained by the student (convince committee that he/she is capable of solving the problem with the proposed tools and that there is merit to the proposed approach)
    5. A research plan/schedule (convince committee that thesis can be completed in an appropriate length of time)
  • Faculty should continue to enforce the concept that the preliminary exam is a true research proposal - and not a dry run for a thesis defense to come later. The committee should be authorizing a PLAN for a research problem and not approving a "this is what I've done so far" type document. That review should come at the final defense, or at separate progress reports that the committee might wish to schedule after the preliminary examination.
  • See also the Preliminary Exam section of Rules and Guidelines.

International Students 

  • If you have questions regarding student visa status, you are better off asking International Student and Scholars (ISS). Rules regarding international students change sometimes, and your friend may not know about it.

Financial Aid 



  • Don't be afraid to talk to professors and get to know them. The more you get acquainted with your professors, the better off you will be.
  • Don't be afraid to talk to other students and staff in Armstrong Hall and make friends with them. There are many people here who are new as well, and they will welcome the chance to get to know you. There are also many people here who have been here for a while and who would be happy to become acquainted with you.
  • If you plan to write a thesis: Find an advisor in the first semester. Take a look at the professors' websites to find ones working on projects that interest you. Then talk to students to get an idea of what those professors are like and narrow down your search. Then talk to the professors themselves.
  • As a student, you have a free membership to the recreation center. Take advantage of this opportunity if you like to swim, lift weights, play basketball, racquetball, etc.
  • "Tips for Graduate Living," a booklet compiled by the Purdue Graduate Student Government, can be found at This booklet contains practical information concerning Purdue policies, what to do in Lafayette, housing, local transportation, health care, grocery stores, and much more.
  • Do your best to have a social life beyond schoolwork. Life isn't always about your work. For example, meet people, join a club, go to parties.
  • Most of important of all is to keep healthy. Your health is your wealth. Take multi-vitamins and vitamin-C as well. Drink plenty of water. Eat well. Exercise at least 3 to 4 times a week.
  • If you have any personal problems that need confidentiality, you can talk to Professor Lyrintzis or your advisor. You can also seek help from CAPS in PUSH (the Counseling and Psychological Services is a service area within Purdue University Student Health center).