Department of

Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering at Penn State


Aerospace engineers develop leading-edge technology and integrate it into aerospace vehicle systems for exploration, infrastructure, and defense applications. The mission of the Department of Aerospace Engineering is to advance knowledge, and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate challenging, fundamental problems in aerospace science and technology in a collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while providing our students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse community of scholars. We prepare our students for responsible, rewarding professional careers and continuing personal growth. Additionally, we serve the various extensive communities to which we belong, in ways suited to our individual abilities and interests.

Latest News

Penn State named top talent supplier

by aerospace and defense firms

August 26, 2016

For the fourth time in six years, Penn State topped the list of preferred suppliers of engineering talent to the aerospace and defense industry, according to the Aviation Week 2016 Workforce Study.

Read the full story here.

Department welcomes new faculty member

August 24, 2016


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Department of Aerospace Engineering is excited and proud to welcome Alan R. Wagner as its newest faculty member.

Wagner comes to Penn State as an assistant professor, having previously been a social robotics researcher at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), where he worked in the Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory. He will also be affiliated with, and co-funded by, the Penn State Rock Ethics Institute.

“The field of aerospace engineering is replete with topics that demand ethical thinking from our students, and the advent of autonomous drones brings new challenges. We are delighted to have recruited Dr. Wagner to Penn State—his research in the ethical dimensions of human-robot socialization and its applications to interactions between pilots and unmanned aerial vehicles fits very well with the future we see,” said George Lesieutre, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and former head of the aerospace engineering department. “We believe he will have a real impact on the ethics community on campus, helping to address broader questions related to what decisions humans should allow robots to make on our behalf.”

In this newly created, highly interdisciplinary position, Wagner will primarily focus his research on developing the theoretical underpinnings necessary for human-robot social relations and the design and creation of systems which can interact with people pro-socially as they relate to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in search-and-rescue and humanitarian missions.

He will also focus on helping policymakers understand the ethical ramifications of developing such systems and integrating ethics into the aerospace engineering curriculum.

“I’m absolutely excited about this opportunity—to explore the combination of aerospace engineering, UAVs, and ethics—which is something that hasn’t ever been done at Penn State but is quickly becoming a critical societal issue,” said Wagner. “My goal is to positively influence the development of robots that can not only interact with humans, but are also capable of representing, reasoning, and developing relationships with others in a variety of environments.”

Wagner’s research borrows heavily from social psychology, behavioral economics, and artificial intelligence, focusing on higher, cognitive aspects of human-robot socialization. His recent work has focused on the development of a framework based on social psychological and game theory that allows a robot to computationally represent its social interactions with a human, which has led to insights into higher social phenomenon such as trust, deception, and stereotyping, as well as computational methods that allow a robot to reason about whether a situation demands trust or warrants deception.

“Knowing when and whether to trust robots and how much autonomy to give them are questions that will become increasingly important to society,” said Philip J. Morris, interim head of aerospace engineering and Boeing/A.D. Welliver Professor of Aerospace Engineering. “I am pleased that aerospace engineering and the Rock Ethics Institute combined resources to establish Alan’s position to provide valuable insight into interactions between humans and machines.”

Wagner’s research has been featured in Scientist Magazine, Popular Science, The Wall Street Journal, Science, and on CBS News. His work was ranked 13th in TIME magazine’s Top 50 Inventions of 2010.

He has also earned several awards within the human-robot interaction community, including the Best Paper Award at RO-MAN 2007, the 16th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication; the Air Force Young Investigator Award; and GTRI's Innovative Research Award.

Wagner, who is originally from North Olmsted, a suburb of Cleveland, OH, received his doctoral degree in computer science from the Georgia Tech in 2009. He earned his master’s degree in computer science from Boston University in 2001 and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northwestern University.

As an avid skier and hiker, Wagner is looking forward to living in State College and making the traditional hike up Mount Nittany. He’s also part of a unique club of “highpointers” whose goal is to climb the highest point of each U.S. state.

Graduate student leads team to victory

in aerospace engineering design contest

July 26, 2016


Penn State graduate student Davide Conte recently led a team of international graduate students to a sweep at the 2016 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Forum in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Read the full story here.

Aerospace engineering students

receive VFF scholarships

July 26, 2016

American Helicopter Society (AHS) International recently awarded Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) scholarships to seven Penn State aerospace engineering students.

Read the full story here.

Aerospace alumni graduate from USNTPS

July 22, 2016

Alumni Ryan Hedges (’10 AERSP) and U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Allen D. Wold (’03 AERSP) recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as part of Class 149. Maj. Wold also received the Syd Sherby Leadership Award, presented to the student who displays exemplary leadership in the class.

Read the full story here.

University use of unmanned

air vehicles resumes

July 22, 2016

Unmanned air vehicles are flying again at Penn State for research, teaching and public service under the auspices of the Office for Research Protections. A new UAV program will ensure compliance with Federal Aviation Administration rules and puts in place an insurance, registration and procedural infrastructure to govern the outdoor operation of unmanned air systems at the University.

Read the full story here.

Aerospace alumna named first female

commander of the 919th

Special Operations Group

June 17, 2016


Col. Regina Sabric (B.S. ’95), a 20-year military veteran and senior pilot, recently took the helm as the first female commander of the 919th Special Operations Group during a change of command ceremony at Duke Field, FL.

Read the full story here.

Aerospace doctoral candidate named

top-5 winner in research pitch competition

June 16, 2016


Graduate student Jessica Morgan was recently named a top-5 winner at the 2nd annual Millennium Café Pitch Competition held at the Millenium Science Complex on May 17.

Approximately 50 students had two minutes or less to introduce their research in a manner that was understandable and inspiring to a diverse panel of judges.

Morgan’s presentation, titled “Noise Reduction of Military Aircraft,” focused on reducing military aircraft noise to mitigate hearing loss and compensation costs for military personnel.

Morgan is advised by Professor Emeritus Dennis McLaughlin.

Will drone racing drive

advancements in technologies?

June 14, 2016


Associate Professor Jack Langelaan’s article titled “How might drone racing drive innovation?” was recently published by The Conversation.

Read the full article here.

Yamamoto receives ONR grant for scalable

manufacturing of polymer nanocomposites

May 20, 2016


Namiko Yamamoto, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, was recently awarded a $376,599 grant from the Office of Naval Research to develop scalable manufacturing of polymer nanocomposites. The goal of her research is to develop a scalable manufacturing capability of hierarchical 1D-patterned nanocomposites that will enable bulk application of multifunctional polymer-nanocomposites in aerospace structures.

Click here to read the complete news release.

Aerospace engineering alum receives

Navy’s Lead Tester award

May 19, 2016


Tom Briggs, a 1990 aerospace engineering graduate, won the 2015 Department of the Navy Test and Evaluation Award for Lead Tester.

Briggs was nominated for the award, but said he had no idea that a nomination had been submitted on his behalf. Each nomination is vetted first at the squadron level, then at the division level, then through the command level before the selections are made.

Nominations are submitted from across the different Naval Systems Commands and from Navy and Marine Corps Operational Test Agencies, he said.

Briggs said he believes he was nominated because of the work he does with his team and the F-35 test program at Patuxent River.

His responsibilities with the F-35 Test Team are to keep the engineering corps of approximately 225 flight test engineers ready to plan for, execute and report on all aspects of F-35 flight testing for the Navy and Marine Corps.

He said his team is preparing to take two F-35C aircraft on board the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73) for testing this summer, and also to take two F-35B aircraft across the country to go to sea and test aboard the USS AMERICA (LHA-6) in the fall. The team continues shore-based tests with new aerial refueling tankers and continues to meet the necessary test objectives for the Naval services to get the most capability out of this design.

“There have been a lot of late hours, weekends and holiday time spent at work, away from our homes and families,” Briggs said. “Our integrated team of civil servants, contractors, military members and foreign partners works together to perform high risk flight tests, keep a positive attitude, and tackle the day-to-day challenges posed by a program of this size. Being a part of a team that does so many amazing things every day can make anyone look good.”

Since graduating from Penn State, Briggs said he has been fortunate enough to land a job in the flight test field. It is a field where he had wanted to work from the time he took his first flight test class at Penn State with Hugh Smith, professor of aerospace engineering.

He started working at the Carrier Suitability Flight Test Department at Patuxent River right after graduation. In the years that followed, he ran flight test programs aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, tested aircraft in Finland and has participated in flight tests aboard the United Kingdom’s HMS INVINCIBLE.

He completed a year of training and flying at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, obtained a master’s degree in engineering management, and had the good fortune to work with some of the most talented and hardworking engineers in the country, he said.

Briggs took a side journey in 1991 to try to fly for the Navy, but had a medical disqualification and could not be a pilot. However, while he was pursuing that, he said he met his wife, Wendy. They have been married for 22 years and have two children, Katie, 16, and Jack, 13.

He said he is incredibly blessed to have a family that supports the work he does and the long hours it takes to do it.

Briggs also said he was initially surprised when he received a text message from his Chief Test Engineer congratulating him on his selection for the Lead Tester Award, and he has been extremely humbled by the good wishes from both his current team and colleagues he worked with over the course of his career.

Click here to read the official press release.




April 20, 2016


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Daniel R. Streeter has been selected as the student marshal for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the Penn State College of Engineering spring commencement ceremony on May 6. Streeter will receive a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering.

He has chosen Colonel Eugene L. McFeely, Commanding Officer, Penn State Air Force ROTC, to be his faculty escort at the ceremony.

Streeter is the son of Carol Streeter of Knoxville, PA, and Todd Streeter of Westfield, PA. He is a 2012 graduate of Cowanesque Valley High School in Westfield.

A member of Scabbard and Blade (2015-2016), a collegiate military honor society, Streeter received the American Legion Scholarship Excellence Medal in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He was the recipient of the Air Force ROTC Scholarship and the Leonhard Scholarship for Scholastic Excellence. He was named to the Dean’s List every semester.

He worked as a continuous improvement engineering intern for TE Connectivity, where he improved lean manufacturing practices and preventive maintenance to decrease scrap and downtime.

Streeter Studied abroad in Shanghai, learning Mandarin Chinese, during the summers of 2012 and 2013. He has also been a Vice Wing Commander with Air Force ROTC.

Following graduation, Streeter will serve as an Operations Research Analyst for the U.S. Air Force.

College of Engineering student marshals are selected for their outstanding academic achievement and contributions to engineering student life.

Shaw named student marshal for

spring 2016 commencement

April 19, 2016


Matthew J. Shaw will be the student marshal for the aerospace engineering baccalaureate degree program at the Penn State College of Engineering spring commencement ceremony on May 6. Shaw will receive a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering.

He has chosen David Spencer, professor of aerospace engineering, to be his faculty escort. College of Engineering student marshals are selected for their outstanding academic achievement and contributions to engineering student life.

Shaw is the son of Mary Ann and Michael Shaw of North Huntingdon, PA. He is a 2012 graduate of Norwin High School in North Huntingdon.

A Schreyer Scholar, Shaw completed an honors thesis titled “Experimental Evaluation for Collision of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with Aircraft Lifting Surfaces.”

He holds membership in the Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Engineering Honor Society (vice president, 2015-2016) and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society (corresponding secretary, 2015-2016).

Shaw was the recipient of the Boeing Company Scholarship, Tau Beta Pi Scholarship, Leonhard Scholarship, Pennsylvania Ready to Succeed Scholarship, Alumni Scholarship Award, Aero Pioneers Class of 1944 Scholarship and the Blue and White Scholarship.

His academic honors include the President’s Freshman Award, the President Sparks Award and the Penn State Greater Allegheny Faculty Award for Academic Excellence in Engineering. He was also a Penn State Greater Allegheny Honors Student.

Shaw’s internship experience includes B/E Aerospace Inc., where he worked as a flammability certification engineering intern researching testing trends for articles subject to FAA flammability certification testing; and Cleaveland Inc., where he served as a development engineering intern constructing and designing test setups, and also as a summer intern in the sub-assembly department.

His undergraduate research experience at Penn State includes leading the design and fabrication of a human-powered airplane project with other aerospace seniors, as well as a two-wheeled self-balancing vehicle project; assisting in the research of metacognitive learning in physics classrooms; and assisting with biodiesel production.

Shaw’s extracurricular activities included Penn State Greater Allegheny Lion Ambassadors (2012-2014), intramural soccer (2013-2014) and membership in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Penn State chapter (2016).

Following graduation, Shaw will intern at Pratt & Whitney, where he will work on aerospace controls for aircraft engines. He will then pursue a graduate degree in aerospace engineering at Penn State.

Heller earns engineering alumni society's

Staff Innovation Award

April 19, 2016


Austin (Kirk) Heller, systems administrator in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, has been named recipient of the 2016 Penn State Engineering Alumni Society (PSEAS) Staff Innovation Award.

The Staff Innovation Award recognizes a full-time staff member who has worked for the College of Engineering for at least two years and has used creativity appropriately to develop new and/or improved processes, methods, systems, products, or services and encouraged others to do the same. A recipient makes innovation a priority among team members and encourages reasonable and calculated risk taking to achieve unit goals.

Individuals are nominated by engineering staff, students, faculty, and administrators. All nominations are reviewed by a committee, appointed by the dean, which is comprised of PSEAS representatives and the director of alumni relations.

Heller, a Penn State alumnus (B.S. EE ’01), joined the aerospace engineering staff in September 2005. Prior to joining the Department, he was a programmer with MPM Technologies, Inc., where he wrote code that analyzed data from materials stress testing equipment.

His responsibilities within the aerospace department include managing the Department’s high performance Linux clusters, working with them from their conception to implementation; maintaining the Departmental servers, as well as faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate computers; and providing assistance in programming, teaching Labview and courses on Linux basics and Beowulf cluster design and methodology.

All PSEAS award winners will be formally recognized and presented with their awards during a reception on April 27 at the Nittany Lion Inn. For a full list of 2016 PSEAS award winners, click here.

Aerospace Engineering graduate students

take home honors at 2016 CERS


Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduate students Philip B. Mainwaring and Jason Reiter took home first and second place in the Afternoon Paper/Oral Presentations category at the 13th annual College of Engineering Research Symposium (CERS).

CERS is an annual student-initiated, student-run symposium featuring research papers, oral and poster presentations and an ‘Art in Science’ competition from the engineering disciplines. First- and second-place awards were given for paper/oral presentations.

First-, second- and third-place awards were given for poster presentations and Art in Science submissions.

First-place paper/oral presentation winners received $250, first-place poster winners received $150, and the first-place Art in Science winner received $150.

A list of second- and third-place winners is available on the

CERS website.

News Archive - Read past news stories

Hammond Building

Morris named interim head
of aerospace engineering

John Johns

Philip J. Morris, Boeing/A.D. Welliver Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Penn State, has been appointed interim head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, effective immediately.

Read the full story here.

Aerospace Highlights

Penn State students get second win(d) in Collegiate Wind Competition 2016

2015 DBF Team


Competing against 11 teams from universities across the nation and Puerto Rico, the Penn State team, comprised of 21 students from various majors, earned a big “W” in the Big Easy as the competition’s overall winner, claiming its second consecutive title. The team also grabbed first place in the Business Plan and Turbine Testing contests. Read the full story here.