Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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1992-2006 The Department Moves into the 21st Century


In 1992, Pat Sethna retired and Professor William Garrard became Department Head. Garrard received his BS in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1967. Despite having never taken a course in aerospace engineering, Garrard had a strong interest in the field and did his Ph.D. thesis on satellite attitude control. Garrard worked with the Honeywell Systems and Research Center in Minneapolis as a consultant and further developed his interests in the application of advanced control theory to control of aerospace vehicles. Garrard hired a number of new faculty members including Graham Candler and Krishnan Mahesh in computational fluid dynamics; Demoz Gebre, and Berenice Mettler in aerospace systems; and Ryan Elliott in solid mechanics. Garrard also revitalized the required undergraduate design sequence by hiring Andrew Vano who had extensive experience with NASA and Bellanca Aircraft. Garrard also revitalized the Industrial Advisory Board in order to make the curriculum more relevant to engineering practice and responsive to the needs of employers of our graduates.

During the 1990s, many of the faculty hired in the 1950s and early 1960s retired. Most of these had a theoretical mechanics orientation, and were replaced by faculty members with much more applied interests. Some of the remaining senior faculty members, realizing that national priorities for research favored more practical work, changed the focus of their research. The result was a large increase in funded research in the Department. In fact, the research dollar per faculty member in the AEM Department became one of the highest of all the engineering departments at the University of Minnesota. Research in computational fluid mechanics and hypersonics, experimental fluid mechanics, smart materials, and aerospace systems flourished.

During this period many of the younger faculty hired in the late 1980s and early 1990s received tenure and promotion first to associate and then to full professor. The faculty received a number of honors and awards and the Department had one of the largest number of McKnight Professorships of any academic department at the University of Minnesota despite its small size. The Department received its first named professorship during this period based on a generous gift from Russell Penrose. Professor Joseph was the first Penrose Professor followed by Professors James and Candler.

In 1995 the National Research Council (NRC) published its first ranking of Doctoral Programs in Aerospace Engineering. The Department ranked 12th which was a respectable showing; however, the quality of the faculty's research resulted in the Departmental ranking moving to 4th in the next ranking in 2011.

When Garrard stepped down in 2006, the Department was not only noted for its traditional strengths in fluid mechanics but also in mechanics of materials and in aerospace systems particularly in guidance, navigation and control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

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Last Modified: 2015-01-06 at 14:07:52 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation