Braun named 2018 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Bobby Braun (’87 AERSP), Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), has been named a 2018 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus by the Penn State College of Engineering.

The Outstanding Engineering Alumni (OEA) Award recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement. It rewards outstanding alumni for their success in their field and for the impact they have had and will continue to have on society and their profession. Established in 1966, the award is the highest honor bestowed by the College.

Braun, along with the College’s other 11 OEA Award recipients, will receive his award at a ceremony on April 23 at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.

“This recognition means a great deal to me because I respect the Penn State engineering community so much,” said Braun. “It’s a thrill and an honor to be included amongst this distinguished group of engineering alumni.”

In his role at CU Boulder, Braun is responsible for developing the leadership strategy and managing the operations of the college, including its education of more than 6,800 students across 18 academic programs. His plan for the college includes accelerating its research impact, embracing its public education mission, increasing its global engagement and enriching its professional environment. He is strongly focused on impacting the lives and careers of future engineers who will create the advances society needs.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to grow cutting-edge research programs, mentor young people and provide educational experiences for students from all walks of life,” said Braun. “Engineering is a career path that can greatly impact people’s lives. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time and energies.”

Braun, who joined the CU Boulder faculty in 2016, also serves as the college's first Smead Endowed Chair of Space Technology, a position that recognizes leadership, creativity and technical excellence in space systems.

Prior to CU Boulder, Braun was a faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) for 13 years. He joined Georgia Tech in 2003 as the David and Andrew Lewis Associate Professor of Space Technology, becoming a full professor in 2009. In 2012, he founded the Center for Space Technology and Research, an interdisciplinary organization that integrated space science and technology research across the university, including the colleges of science, engineering, computing and liberal arts.

Following graduation from Penn State, Braun began a 16-year career at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. While there, he contributed to the design, development, test and operation of multiple space flight systems including the Mars Pathfinder mission, which landed the Sojourner Rover on Mars in 1997. He has contributed to every Mars lander since.

Through NASA education programs, Braun earned a master’s degree in astronautics from the George Washington University and a doctoral degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University.

From 2010-2011, Braun served as NASA’s first chief technologist in more than a decade. He led the creation of a broad spectrum of space technology development efforts and contributed to formulation of a 21st century strategy for our nation’s space program’s future. This activity spanned all 10 NASA Centers, industry and academia, and included the establishment of technology partnerships between NASA and other government agencies.

Braun has received numerous honors and awards from the aerospace community during his career, including the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (1996, 1998), the NASA Group Achievement Award (1997 [4], 1998, 2000, 2004, 2010, 2013), the NASA Inventions and Contributions Team Award (2006, 2008), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Lawrence Sperry Award (1999), the NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2011), the AIAA von Kármán Lecture in Astronautics Award (2011), the Alvin Seiff Memorial Award (2012) and the American Astronautical Society Space (AAS) Technology Award (2014).

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and served as chair of its U.S. Frontiers of Engineering program in 2015, 2016 and 2017; an AIAA Fellow; an AAS Fellow; vice chair of the National Academies Space Studies Board; and was editor in chief of the AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets.

Braun became interested in aerospace when, as an 11-year old living 20 minutes from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, he had the opportunity to be onsite the day the first U.S. spacecraft successfully landed on another planet.

“I was already fascinated with aerospace, but seeing such a large, ambitious and exciting project come to fruition—to me, that was precisely what I wanted to work on,” said Braun.

A native of Rockville, Maryland, Braun credits his Penn State education for his career success.

“Penn State gave me the foundational knowledge I’ve used in everything I’ve done in my career,” said Braun. “Without that background, it’s clear I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Braun has remained active with Penn State and the Department of Aerospace Engineering. He was a member of the aerospace engineering Industrial and Professional Advisory Council from 2008-2012, was the College’s commencement speaker in spring 2012 and was the keynote speaker for the College of Engineering Research Symposium in March 2016.

Braun resides in Boulder with his wife, Karen. He has three children: Zack, Allie and Jessica.


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Chris Spallino

Bobby Braun, 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award

Bobby Braun, 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award

“This recognition means a great deal to me because I respect the Penn State engineering community so much,” said Braun. “It’s a thrill and an honor to be included amongst this distinguished group of engineering alumni.”



The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 15th and our graduate programs are ranked 15th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569