The 2021 J. William Uhrig and Anastasia Vournas Distinguished Short Course Series is presented by Anna-Maria Rivas McGowan

Anna-Maria Rivas McGowan


This short course provides an overview of design and innovation at the systems level for complex systems that are common in aerospace engineering and other disciplines. System design innovation includes thoughtfully considering the large-scale and diverse needs of the human systems that the design serves as well as harnessing the collective wisdom of interdisciplinary team of those who do the system design and development. Inherent couplings between engineering and non-engineering fields such as economics, policy, urban planning, organization science, anthropology, and many others offer opportunities for innovation as well as challenges. Example methods will be introduced with an opportunity to apply them to sample problems. As design thinking implementation at the corporate level has gained an enormous amount of traction, an introduction to design thinking will also be provided with example methods incorporated throughout the lectures.

This course consists of six (6), 50-minute lectures, including interactive sessions to gain experience applying the material.


Dr. Anna-Maria Rivas McGowan is the Agency Senior Executive for Complex Systems Design at NASA. She serves as a Senior Technical Advisor to the Agency exploring cutting-edge methodologies in research, design, development, and operations of complex systems including human, organizational, and engineering challenges.

Dr. McGowan’s leadership and research incorporates quantitative and qualitative methods to integrate fields external to aerospace (such as the social sciences) with engineering approaches to improve aerospace system performance and broader societal impacts. As a design strategist, she uses design research and organization science to increase innovation and mission achievement.

Dr. McGowan has over 31 years of experience in aerospace, conducting research and managing large projects in diverse areas including design science, advanced and morphing aircraft, adaptive structures and materials, systems engineering, aeroservoelasticity, and organization science. Dr. McGowan’s roles have included: Journal Associate Editor, NASA Senior Project Manager, DARPA Agent, NSF Visiting Scientist, NATO Consultant, International Short Course Instructor, Flight Test Leader, Wind-Tunnel Test Engineer, Senior Researcher in engineering and behavioral science, University Lecturer, and NASA Spokesperson. Her career has advanced innovation for commercial and military systems through integrating ground-breaking technologies and methodologies with cross-disciplinary and collaborative approaches. She has taught short courses and presented guest lectures in several countries, and served as a consultant to national laboratories, major industries, and government agencies across the US. Dr. McGowan has a B.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University, M.S. in Aerospace Engineering/Engineering Mechanics from Old Dominion University, and Ph.D. in Design Science from the University of Michigan. Dr. McGowan is an AIAA Associate Fellow and received the AIAA Sperry Award; alumni awards from Purdue, Old Domin

In her spare time, Dr. McGowan is an outdoor enthusiast and traveler and enjoys serving in schools, diverse communities, and churches locally and internationally. Her personal travels often take her to Trinidad where her family and culture originate.