MIT Aero Astro -

August 2014

In this issue:
1. Honors and awards
2. Comings and goings
3. In the picture
4. Newsbriefs






1. Honors and awards

Professor Hamsa Balakrishnan was selected by the Automatic Control Council as recipient of its 2014 Donald P. Eckman Award "for excellence in the control design, analysis, implementation, and evaluation of practical algorithms to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of air transportation systems."

Professor Dava Newman writes, "Our Man Vehicle Lab students made a great showing at our recent International Conference on Environment Systems conference in Tuscon, Arizona last week. We had ~13 MIT students present their research giving outstanding oral presentations, and the two poster award presentations below. AeroAstro was well represented by the MVL, many of Oli de Weck's students from the Strategic Engineering Research Group and even two students from Italy who will be visitors in the fall supervised by Jeff Hoffman" She notes:

  • Eddie Obropta won the Best Poster Award with his research titled,
    "Measuring the strain field of human skin at the elbow joint for mechanical counter pressure space suit development,” authored by Edward Obropta and Dava Newman
  • Alexandra Hilbert won Third Place for her research, “Human-Space Suit Interaction: Suit-Induced Pressures in the Shoulder Region," authored by Alexandra Hilbert, Allison Anderson, Pierre Bertrand, and Dava Newman

Recent PhD receipient Fabrice Kunzi has won the RTCA Jackson Award for his PhD thesis work. In collaboration with the FAA, his Master’s and Ph.D. projects were the development and flight test of the international standard and sample algorithm for the Traffic Situation Awareness ADS-B application (TSAA). TSAA will provide reliable conflict alerting for operations in the airport pattern and is intended as an upgrade to today’s legacy airborne conflict alerting systems such as TAS or TCAS I.

PhD candidate Giuseppe Cataldo is the recipient of the 2014 AIAA Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award for demonstrated excellence in his research and its impact in the space sciences.

Aviation Week has chosen undergrad and Space Systems Lab UROP student Raichelle Aniceto for its "Twenty20" list. The award, produced in partnership with Raytheon, "recognizes top engineering, math, science and technology students.  The program connects the next generation of aerospace and defense talent with established leaders who have created many of the 'firsts' driving innovation in the 21st century. "




2. Comings and goings

Chelsea (He) Curran has joined the department as technical instructor/MITx Fellow through the Office of Digital Learning. She's supporting content development and implementation of AeroAstro courses on MITx platform, and conducting engineering education research.

Boeing Assistant Professor Warren "Woody" Hoburg, is our newest faculty member. He holds a B.S. ('08) from AeroAstro; and M.S. ('11), and Ph.D. ('13) from UC Berkeley. Woody's research interests are aircraft configuration design, composite manufacturing, convex optimization, and operations research.

The department's long-time facilities and IT associate, Phyllis Collmore, who officially retired in 2009 and has tempted for the last few years with our fincancial staff, has finally decided to be retired full time. Phyllis came to MIT in 1982 and worked for a while in Civil Engineering before coming to AeroAstro. What is she doing now that she's left? In her words: "I promised to brush the old cat every day - she does shed a bit. I plan to paint regularly (on canvas, not walls) and finish up some household projects. I also plan to find out how to turn off auto complete on this iPad, although sometimes the end result can be more humorous than what was originally planned. Also must spend more effort to keep physically fit, something I have always encouraged my friends to do as well. I don't plan to live forever, but hope to enjoy my days and keep some fun in life."

Welcome to Jei Freeman, financial assistant. She comes to us from the Center for Materials Science and Engineering.

And, welcome to our new postdocs: Erica Antunes and Adriana Gama, postdoc fellows with Professor Wardle; Jayanth Mohan, postdoc associate with Professor Marzouk; and David Krejci, postdoc fellow with Professor Lozano.

Professor Debbie Nightingale writes, "After many wonderful and meaningful years at MIT, I would like to share with you that I have decided to move into the next phase of my life and career in order to pursue new opportunities outside of MIT. While at MIT I have had the opportunity to develop many methods and system approaches to enterprise architecting and transformation. These have yielded many exciting opportunities on the outside and I feel the time is right to spend more effort working with industry and government in applying these techniques to have even greater impact on critical sociotechnical problems. In a sense I have come full circle from my early careers in government and industry, greatly enriched by my experience at MIT." She will remain a member of the MIT community as a research affiliate in the School of Engineering.

Postdoc and alumn Dan Selva Valero has left the department and is now an assistant professor in Cornell's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.


3. In the picture


SSL cookout

The Space Systems Lab gang - faculty, staff, and students - poses at its annual cookout at the end of the last semester. And what is a cookout without a "hotdog" - in this case, Einstein, the lab mascot!


This past spring, grad student Emel Cankaya (right) went to the Media Lab to visit a friend who works there. Emel picks up the story: "Once I arrived there I saw a lot of men in suits. They were speaking Turkish to each other (I can speak Turkish as well). I was curious so I asked two of them where they were from and why they came to the MIT Media Lab. They said that they were the security of Turkish president Abdullah Gül and that he was visiting the Media Lab. So I asked whether I could meet him. They were very friendly. They brought me to the president and his wife and introduced me to them. The Turkish president, his wife and I had a chat about what I was doing at MIT and my ambitions (I want to become an astronaut). They told me that they were proud of me and that they like MIT."


AeroAstro Man Vehicle Lab undergrad researchers Sean Kropp (left) and Aaron Okello face off with two different methods of motion capture; Sean's requires special lighting and cameras in a lab environment while Arron's transmits data and can be worn in "natural" environments. In the background, Proffessor Leia Stirling and visiting student Niek Bekers monitor.


Rocket Team

MIT Rocket Team in a blast chamber about to test its design for a liquid bi-propellant engine with aerospike nozzle. Very few aerospike nozzle rockets have been flown - this one will fly in the 2015 Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. In the picture are (left) Prof. Paulo Lozano, (suited, standing and sitting) Ryan Webb, James Logan, (right side, clockwise from upper left) Eric Riehl, Sam Judd, Paulo Heredia, Ben Eysenbach Connie Liu, Matthew Vernacchia, Julia Crowley Farenga.


de Weck
de Weck




4. Newsbriefs

Professor Oli de Weck's talk "Humanity as a Multiplanet Species" was chosen as a TEDx Talk of the Week last month. You can watch it here.

Professor Dave Darmofal co-authored a NASA-funded report on envisioning computational fluid dynamics in the year 2030, specifically looking at what the possibilities are, what the challenges are to get there, and as well making specific recommendations to NASA for how it can help achieve the vision.  The report, "CFD Vision 2030 Study: A Path to Revolutionary Computational Aerosciences," was subject of the AIAA Aviation 2014 Conference.

AeroAstro grad student Luke Jensen and research engieer Brian Yutko wrote an article with the intriguing title, "Why Budget Airlines Could Soon Charge You to Use the Bathroom," for FiveThirtyEight (a subsidiary of ESPN). The story, which was the lead on FiveThirtyEight's website, is about how much fuel certain articles (olives, cellphones, laptops) cost airlines over their entire network. Thanks to Aaron Johnson for the heads-up.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson recently wrote about Virgin Galactic's AeroAstro intern Barbara Schloss in his personal Linkedin blog.

AA students Abhi Butchibabu and Luke Jensen have produced a terrific video explaining to kids how different kinds of engines work. They did it for MITK12 Videos, homecooked STEM videos made by MIT students.

Professors Dava Newman and Jeffrey Hoffman have been named the new co-directors of AeroAstro's Man Vehicle Lab.

Centennial Symposium agenda posted

Throughout 2014 AeroAstro is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first aeronautics class and the nation’s first aeronautical engineering graduate program. The high point of this celebration is the October 22-24 Centennial Symposium which will feature some of the most illustrious names in aerospace reflecting on past achievement, celebrating today’s innovative research and education, and offering their perspective what lies ahead. High points of the Symposium range from a panel of Apollo astronauts to an address by SpaceX/Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk. AeroAstro students, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend the Symposium free of charge.

The Symposium agenda (subject to updates) is posted at All will receive an official invite in coming weeks.

First aeronautics class, from the 1913-1914 MIT course catalogue.

First aeronautics class, from the 1913-1914 MIT course catalogue. (MIT Archives)


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