Department History

photo of wind tunnel in 1985

The first degrees in aeronautical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin were granted in the Mechanical Engineering Department in 1927. By 1942 the Department of Aeronautical Engineering was formed, and in 1959, it was renamed the Department of Aerospace Engineering. The Engineering Mechanics Department was established in 1947, and the departments were combined to become the current Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics in 1968. 

1920s

  • 1926
  • The first Aeronautical Engineering courses - General Aeronautics, Aeronautical Engineering Laboratory, Theory of Aviation, and Aeronautical Engines - were offered at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Mechanical Engineering under the leadership of Professor Alexander Vallance.
  • 1927
  • The first degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin were granted in the Mechanical Engineering Department.

1930s

  • 1933
  • Courses in Aerodynamics, Airplane Structures, and Airplane Dynamics were taught for the first time in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
  • 1939
  • A new, expanded graduate program in Aeronautical Engineering was initiated.

1940s

  • 1940
  • The Civilian Pilot Training program was established under the auspices of the Civilian Aeronautical Administration. Students who completed both ground and flight training in this program entered both the Army and Navy Air Corps.
  • 1941
  • The Engineering, Science and Management War Training Program contributed a full-time, one-semester course in the elements of Aeronautical Engineering to the University of Texas at Austin.
  • 1942
  • Dr. Milton Thompson proposed building an aeronautical research center at The University of Texas at Austin.
  • The Department of Aeronautical Engineering, with a more extensive course curriculum for the undergraduate program, was formed with Dr. Milton Thompson as its chair.
  • The Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadette Program, one of the first organized efforts to recruit women as engineers, was conducted at The University of Texas at Austin.
  • 1943
  • The first B.S. degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from the Department of Aeronautical Engineering were awarded.
  • 1945
  • Dr. Milton J. Thompson and Dr. C. Paul Boner organized The Defense Research Laboratory for advanced research in military technology.
  • The first female graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.
  • Facilities were built for research in thermodynamics and flight mechanics.
  • 1946
  • The Off Campus Research Center (later the Balcones Research Center, then the Pickle Research Campus) was established.
  • 1947
  • The Engineering Mechanics Department was established.
  • The first M.S. degree in Engineering Mechanics from the Department of Engineering Mechanics was awarded to Robert Felgar.
  • 1948
  • The Department of Aeronautical Engineering granted its first Ph.D.

1950s

  • 1950
  • The Experimental Aerodynamics Laboratory was founded by Milton J. Thompson in the Defense Research Laboratory to perform research on supersonic boundary layers at speeds five times faster than sound.
  • 1951
  • The Department of Engineering Mechanics granted its first Ph.D. to Robert Felgar.
  • 1953
  • The Container Research Laboratory (later the Structural Mechanics Research Laboratory) was established under the leadership of J. Neils Thompson.
  • 1958
  • The Engineering Laboratories Building (later the W.R. Woolrich Laboratories) was constructed.
  • 1959
  • The Department of Aeronautical Engineering was renamed the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

1960s

  • 1960
  • Research groups from Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics moved from Taylor Hall to the newly built Engineering Laboratories Building.
  • The first Ph.D. in the Aerospace Engineering was awarded to Felix Fenter.
  • 1964
  • Dr. Byron D. Tapley taught the first orbital mechanics courses at The University of Texas at Austin and began to develop a research program focusing on low-thrust trajectory analysis and optimization.
  • 1966
  • Dr. Tapley assumed the chairmanship of the Aerospace Engineering department.
  • 1968
  • The separate departments of Engineering Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering were combined to become the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

1970s

  • Early 1970s
  • The Rocket Exhaust Effects Facility was built by John J. Bertin to study flow problems.
  • John J. Westkaemper designed and built a large subsonic wind tunnel for the Experimental Aerodynamics Laboratory with the help of student assistants.
  • 1973
  • The Texas Institute for Computational Mechanics (TICOM), now named the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, was established by Drs. J. Tinsley Oden, Eric Becker and Bob Dunham.
  • 1974
  • The first departmental visiting committee (now named the external advisory committee) was formed.
  • 1977
  • Dr. Victor Szebehely assumed the chairmanship of the department.
  • The Engineering Laboratories Building was renamed W.R. Woolrich Laboratories in honor of W.R. Woolrich, Engineering dean from 1936 to 1958.

1980s

  • 1980
  • The Center for Aeronautical Research (later The Center for Aeromechanics Research) was founded by Ronald O. Stearman.
  • 1981
  • Dr. J. Parker Lamb assumed the chairmanship of the department.
  • Alumnus Robert L. Crippen pilots NASA’s first space shuttle.
  • The Center for Space Research was established under the direction of Dr. Byron Tapley.
  • 1988
  • Dr. Richard Miksad assumed the chairmanship of the department.

1990s

  • 1992
  • The Center for Mechanics of Solids, Structures, and Materials was established.
  • The Computational Fluid Physics Laboratory was established by Dr. David Goldstein.
  • The Flowfield Imaging Lab was established by Dr. Noel Clemens.
  • The Texas Institute for Computational Mechanics (TICOM) was renamed the Texas Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics (TICAM).
  • 1993
  • Alumna Jean M. Flynn becomes the first woman fighter pilot in the history of the U.S. Air Force.
  • 1994
  • Dr. David Dolling assumed chairmanship of the department.
  • 1995
  • New interdisciplinary graduate degree programs in Computational and Applied Mathematics (CAM) leading to the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Master’s of Science in Computational and Applied Mathematics were approved.

2000s

  • 2001
  • The Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL), in which undergraduate and graduate student teams could fabricate small satellites (nanoSats) and payloads for balloons and sounding rockets, was established.
  • The Control Systems Laboratory was established.
  • The first issue of The Longhorn Liftoff newsletter was circulated to alumni and friends of the department.
  • 2003
  • Dr. Robert Bishop assumed chairmanship of the department.
  • The Texas Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics (TICAM) was renamed the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES).
  • 2009
  • Professor Philip Varghese was named ASE/EM department chair.

2010s

  • 2010
  • The Women in Aerospace for Leadership Development (WIALD) group was formed.
  • 2012
  • Dr. Noel Clemens was named ASE/EM department chair.
  • 2015
  • Dr. Michael Watkins was named director of the Center for Space Research.
  • 2016
  • The new B.S. degree in computational engineering, the first of its kind in the nation, was officially announced to be offered through the ASE/EM Department.
  • 2018
  • Srinivas Bettadpur was named director of the Center for Space Research (CSR).
  • Karen Willcox was named director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences.
  • The Texas Rocket Engineering Lab (TREL) was established.
  • The Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics moved into its new home, the Aerospace Engineering (ASE) building.
  • 2019
  • The department established the ASE/EM Academy of Distinguished Alumni and inducted its inaugural class.
  • The department celebrated its new home in the ASE Building with a grand opening ceremony.
  • The Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences was renamed the Oden Computational Engineering and Sciences to recognize Professor J. Tinsley Oden's leadership and generous support.