Students applying for a Spring 2022 start should have their materials submitted by EOD Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

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 2-3 fellows for Spring – Summer 2022.  Faculty advisors will be responsible for securing support for subsequent semesters.

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 AY2021-22 (including Summer 2022) is based on the FAFSA 2021-22 form

Faculty Involved & Faculty Responsibilities:

Professor Penny Axelrad is the Program Director of the fellowship 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 continued financial support for the student through completion of studies (not to exceed 5 years, and subject to the student making satisfactory progress in the PhD program).
  • 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. 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), please seek guidance from a CU financial aid counselor to ensure that the FAFSA form was completed correctly.
    2. Submit, in a single PDF, to Penny Axelrad:
      • A Personal Statement that explains your research and longer-term career goals, and how the GAANN Fellowship would help you achieve those goals (max. one page, 12-point font, single spaced)
      • Your Resume or CV;
      • A letter of endorsement from your faculty advisor.
      • In your email, 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 Penny Axelrad.