Students applying for a Fall 2020 start should have their materials submitted by EOD Wednesday April 15, 2020.

Smead Aerospace welcomes applications from PhD [or PhD-seeking] students for our GAANN Fellowship Program in Critical Aerospace Technologies.

GAANN (Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need) is a program supported by the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of PhD graduates in areas identified as critical to U.S. interests and to help diversify the aerospace workforce.

Our project is open to PhD students in all aerospace research areas who intend to pursue careers in research labs, aerospace and defense sector industries, or academia. The program can fund 7 fellows for up to 5 years.

Selection is based on academic excellence, professional interest in pursuing a career in academia or research, and eligibility (see requirements below). GAANN Fellows will receive tuition benefits, a competitive stipend, and support for conference travel, mandatory fees, books, and other educational needs.

Key components of the program for GAANN Fellows include:

  • Tailored curriculum of graduate courses;
  • Work closely with faculty mentors to learn research fundamentals and new, rapidly developing technologies;
  • Build skills through joint and individual research projects, including collaborations with government and industry experts;
  • Receive supervised training in effective teaching practices for mentoring and classroom teaching.


The United States faces a critical need in the aerospace and defense sector for professionals with advanced degrees in aerospace engineering and related fields. Today’s high-tech, interconnected society is ever more reliant on satellites and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for our national security, economic development, and scientific advancement. Advances in GPS and Earth observation from low and high altitudes have revolutionized our understanding of the Earth and human activity, their impact on each other, how we communicate, and how business gets done. The coming wave of mega-constellations and commercial drone activities will further expand the impact of complex aerospace technologies on daily life.

Such dramatic shifts have created a national need for PhD graduates who can expertly navigate and lead in these disciplines – to define how UAS will operate in the national airspace system; to reliably predict the behavior of complex systems operating in extreme conditions; to protect communication links and mission critical software from interference; to design spacecraft, UAS, and new mission concepts to provide services for disaster response, detect hazards in the environment, and explore space.

Our project seeks to increase and diversity the number of U.S. PhD graduates entering the workforce, with expertise in the critical aerospace technologies needed to maintain U.S. global leadership and support regional aerospace needs in Colorado and New Mexico.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Only PhD students are eligible
  • You are (1) a US Citizen or national, (2) a Permanent Resident of the US, or (3) you can "Provide evidence from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that [you] are in the United States for other than a temporary purpose with the intention of becoming a permanent resident."
  • You have financial need based on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Form
    • Financial need eligibility for AY2019-20 (including Summer 2020) is based on the FAFSA 2019-20 form
    • Financial need eligibility for AY2020-21 (including Summer 2021) is based on the FAFSA 2020-21 form
    • To be considered beyond the current academic year (AY), we recommend you fill out both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 forms at the same time.

Faculty Involved & Faculty Responsibilities:

Professor Penny Axelrad is the Program Director of the fellowship, Lewis Groswald is the Project Manager, and the following department faculty are also involved (faculty advisors are not limited to these professors):

The list above does not preclude other faculty from being involved, but if you are interested in applying for the GAANN Fellowship and being advised by a faculty member not listed here, you will need check with the faculty member to ensure they can perform the duties required of GAANN Fellow advisors before applying.

Faculty Responsibilities:

  • Provide vision for your fellow's studies and ensure your GAANN Fellow has a clear and feasible research plan;
  • Provide financial coverage (from one semester to 2 years, depending on the student) after the initial 3-year GAANN award is expended through completion of studies;
  • Provide a supervised teaching experience and work with the GAANN Fellow to complete their teaching component of the fellowship;

    How to Apply for the GAANN Fellowship in Smead Aerospace

    1. Apply to the PhD program in Smead Aerospace (see Deadlines & Fees here, read our FAQs here). Graduate application fees are waived by the College of Engineering and Applied Science for domestic PhD applicants with a cumulative undergraduate GPA greater than 3.4 who apply by November 15, 2019.
    2. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As part of the packet that you submit directly to us (see step 3 below), include your expected family contribution information. Please read the information below before finalizing your FAFSA application. [Note: FAFSA forms are submitted via the official US Government website, which then shares the information with the University of Colorado Boulder--you do not need to submit your FAFSA forms through this page or share them with department faculty or staff).
      • After completing your FAFSA, if the resulting evaluation shows a high Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is most likely for incoming students, please seek guidance from a CU financial aid counselor to ensure that the FAFSA form was completed correctly.
    3. Submit, in a single PDF, to GAANN Project Manager, Lewis Groswald:
      • A Personal Statement that explains your research and longer-term career goals, and how the GAANN Fellowship would help you achieve those goals (max. two pages, 12-point font, single spaced)
      • Your Resume or CV;
      • Your faculty Letter of Endorsement (if you are an incoming student, this would be the faculty member who would be your faculty advisor);
      • In your email to Lewis, please confirm that you have filed the relevant FAFSA form for the academic year(s) you are applying for. 

    If you have any additional questions about the Fellowship or application process, please contact Lewis Groswald: