2005 Outstanding Aerospace Engineer awards

Andrea M. Chavez


Director of Manufacturing and Test Operations ~ Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation

"My education at Purdue opened many doors for me and primed me for an awe-inspiring and very gratifying career. It not only prepared me technically, but taught me that a strong work ethic combined with solid character and inspiration can overcome any obstacle—that a rural Indiana girl can go to a world-renowned engineering university with no training in chemistry or physics and set forth on a path to train astronauts to perform out-of-this-world maneuvers, to open the eyes of the world to cosmic events never seen before, to have a smashing impact on a brilliant comet, and to contribute to the security of our nation. Thanks to Purdue for its role in making dreams come true."

Andrea M. Chavez (B.S.A.A.E. '88) is director of manufacturing and test operations at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation (BATC), Boulder, Colorado. In this role she oversees several functions, including fabrication, assembly, integration, test operations, support facilities and equipment, calibraton, and process applications and control. She joined the corporation in 1995 and has held various positions, including several as an engineering manager within specific areas.

Prior to BATC, Ms. Chavez served Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, from 1989-95. In her final role there, she was facility manager for the Pyrotechnics Test Facility, Propulsion and Power Division, Thermochemical Test Branch. Among her many honors, Ms. Chavez received the BATC Outstanding Contribution Award, Management Category in 2001. She has also been recognized with the NASA Outstanding Performance Award four times, the NASA Sustained Superior Performance Award twice, and the NASA JSC Group Achievement Award three times. She earned her master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Houston in 1994.

Thomas S. Gates


Head, Mechanics of Structures and Materials Branch ~ NASA Langley Research Center

"Working in the area of engineering research and technology development often requires undertaking open-ended assignments that can take unexpected directions and working toward goals that are not explicitly defined. Success in such an environment can be attributed to many things, but clearly the two most critical items related to success are the qualities of those people whom you work with and your personal background or experience that you can use to facilitate the problem-solving process."

Thomas S. Gates (B.S.A.A.E '81, M.S.A.A.E. '83, Ph.D. '89) holds the position of head, Mechanics of Structures and Materials Branch, NASA Langley Research Center. His NASA activities have focused on basic and applied research in the area of multi-scale modeling and test, mechanics of materials, and constitutive model development for advanced materials, including nanostructured materials, polymers, and polymeric composites. Specifically, his area of interest has been the formulation of new analysis methods and associated test techniques for characterizing the time, rate, environmental, and temperature-dependent mechanical response of aerospace materials and structures. His current research topics include multi-scale modeling, nanotechnology, aging, accelerated test methods, and long-term durability.

Dr. Gates has written 40-plus peer-reviewed journal publications and 90 conference papers. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Composite Materials and Experimental Mechanics while appearing as a guest editor f or Composites Science and Technology. He is an associate fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics and an active member of both the Society of Experimental Mechanics and the American Society for Composites.

Debra L. Haley


Executive Director ~ Development and Fielding Systems Group, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

"An education in engineering is a valuable foundation for successfully pursuing many career options. The skills and disciplines I developed at Purdue for solving problems, thinking analytically, and applying new technology have been invaluable in my 27-year career as a civilian in the Air Force. These skills and disciplines, combined with leadership, perseverance, and integrity, enable the engineering professionals to improve the quality of life for so many."

Debra L. Haley (B.S.A.A.E '78), a member of the Senior Executive Service, is director, Development and Fielding Systems Group (DFSG), Electronic Systems Center, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The DFSG focuses on providing information technology solutions to help its Air Force customers achieve unsurpassed combat capability, manage transformational change, and improve combat effectiveness.

In 1978 Ms. Haley began her Air Force career as a project engineer in the Aero Propulsion Laboratory at Wright-Patterson. She has also held positions with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Commerce, and the state of Ohio. Before she was assigned to the DFSG, she was associate director for investment strategy in Air Force Research Laboratory where she directed the investment strategy from near to far-term science and technology totaling more than $2 billion annually. Ms. Haley also dedicates time to championing Air Force careers to the workforce.

She has received the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award (1997), the International Excellence in Information Technology Award from the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (2002), and the Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Award (2002).

Stephen A. Rizzi


Senior Research Engineer ~ NASA Langley Research Center

"Engineering research is an important element for sustaining the nation's technical leadership. The challenges we collectively face going forward are in balancing our long-term vision with short-term constraints. Collaboration amongst industry, academia, and government will help us turn our visions into reality."

Stephen A. Rizzi (M.S.A.A.E. '85, Ph.D. '89) is a senior researcher, Structural Acoustics Branch at NASA Langley Research Center. His research interests include sound synthesis, virtual acoustic simulation, nonlinear structural dynamics, and acoustic fatigue. He has served as the sonic fatigue group leader since 1991, performing and directing structural acoustic research supporting the National Aerospace Plane, High Speed Research, Vehicle Systems, Next Generation Launch Technology, and Constellation Advanced Development programs.

From 1995-99 he served as agency lead for the Structure/Cabin Noise Flight Experiment on the Russian Tu-144LL. Since 2000 he has pioneered a new research avenue to develop simulation tools for acoustic engineering applications, supporting the Intelligent Synthesis Environment and Quiet Aircraft Technology programs.

Dr. Rizzi is an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) as well as a member of the Acoustical Society of America and the Society for Experimental Mechanics. He has authored or co-authored 80-plus peer-reviewed publications, conference papers, and technical reports. His awards include the AIAA Hampton Roads Section Allan Taylor Memorial Award (2002), the NASA Group Achievement and Turning Goals Into Reality awards (2000), and the AIAA Outstanding Section Award (1994).

William E. Schmitendorf


Associate Dean for Academic Affairs ~ School of Engineering, University of California, Irvine

"The biggest influence on my professional career was my Ph.D. advisor, Professor Steve Citron. He taught me to think systematically and thoroughly when attacking a problem. He was never too busy to spend time with me, discussing my research. I tried to follow his model in advising my own students and also follow his example of giving clear and stimulating lectures when in the classroom."

William E. Schmitendorf (B.S.A.E. '63, M.S.A.E. '65, Ph.D. '68) is currently a professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering and associate dean for academic affairs with the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

He began his teaching career at Northwestern University in 1967 and remained there until 1988 when he joined the faculty at Irvine. During his time at Northwestern he also served as chair of engineering sciences and applied mathematics. He spent two sabbatical leaves at the University of California, Berkeley, where he did research on differential games with Professor George Leitmann. While he was chair at UCI, an aerospace engineering program was initiated and accredited, and the name of the department was changed to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Schmitendorf became a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in 1990. He is also a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The recipient of several teaching awards from Northwestern University (including the Technological Institute Teaching Award), Dr. Schmitendorf has published 75 journal papers and 60 conference papers. His professional interests include control theory and applications.

Richard E. Van Allen


Director, Space Systems Division ~ Microcosm, Inc.

"It is critical to prepare engineers to be able to communicate much better than I have observed during my career—both written and verbal—and also to learn how to work well in team environments."

Richard E. Van Allen (B.S.A.A.E. '68, M.S.A.A.E. '69, Ph.D. '77) is manager of Microcosm's Space Systems Division. His responsibilities include directing work in designing mission architectures, mission and systems engineering, mission analysis, autonomy, and orbit and attitude control systems. He manages the company"s base of activities in the Earth-orbiting and interplanetary mission arenas. The Earth-orbiting mission category includes both rendezvous and inspection missions at low Earth orbit and geosynchronous Earth orbit. Dr. Van Allen is also heavily involved in new business activities associated with each of the above areas.

Prior to joining Microcosm, he worked at Aura Systems, Inc., managing multiple commercial and government programs associated with electromagnetic devices. Prior to his work at Aura Systems, Dr. Van Allen worked at Hughes Aircraft Company in the Space and Communications Group, Advanced Government Programs Directorate. He served as manger of the Mission Requirements Laboratory where he oversaw multiple classified space-mission analysis studies and performed detailed technical analyses. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Van Allen performed management and analysis tasks associated with navigating the two Voyager spacecraft on their outer-planets missions.