Welcome New ASE/EM Faculty

August 28, 2020

From aviation and urban air mobility to remote sensing, propulsion and hypersonics, Texas ASE/EM’s three new faculty members span a wide range of engineering expertise. Learn more about how our newest faculty members are pushing technological boundaries and changing the world. 

John-Paul Clarke

Professor, Ernest Cockrell, Jr. Memorial Chair in Engineering
Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

photo of john-paul clarkeJohn-Paul Clarke is joining the department in January 2021 as a professor. He will hold the Ernest Cockrell, Jr. Memorial Chair in Engineering. Clarke comes to UT Austin from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was the College of Engineering Dean’s Professor and held appointments in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He also served as the director of the Air Transportation Laboratory and recently, while on leave from Georgia Tech, held the position of vice president of Strategic Technologies at United Technologies (now merged with Raytheon).

Clarke is world-renowned for his work on aircraft trajectory prediction and optimization, particularly as it relates to improving flight procedures that reduce the environmental impact of aviation. He is also an expert in the development and use of stochastic models and optimization algorithms to improve the efficiency and robustness of airline, airport and air traffic operations. Clarke’s work has influenced air transportation theory, policy and practice both at the national and international level. His current research interests include urban air mobility (UAM) and the development of autonomous aircraft, including air traffic management and control for these systems. He testified before Congress to the House Science Committee in 2018 about the challenges of UAM.

Learn more about John-Paul Clarke

Clarke’s leadership and service history are extensive, and include service as co-chair of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) committee that developed the U.S. National Research Agenda for Autonomy in Civil Aviation. He has also served on several other NASEM committees including the committee chartered at the request of the U.S. Congress to review the Enterprise Architecture, Software Development Approach, and Safety and Human Factor Design of the Next Generation Air Traffic System. Additionally, he has chaired or served on advisory and technical committees chartered by the AIAA, European Union (EU), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), NASA, and the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

Clarke holds S.B., S.M., and Sc.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he served as a junior faculty member. He has received numerous honors and awards including the AIAA/AAAE/ACC Jay Hollingsworth Speas Airport Award, the FAA Excellence in Aviation Award, the National Academy of Engineering Gilbreth Lectureship and the 2012 AIAA/SAE William Littlewood Lectureship. He is a Fellow of the AIAA and is a member of AGIFORS, INFORMS and Sigma Xi.

What attracted you to Texas ASE/EM?

First and foremost, it’s a great university and secondly, there is a lot of research activity around urban air mobility and autonomy, including a non-profit autonomy institute nearby. But most importantly, I felt I could fill a niche where my background and experience could be helpful. UT Austin seems like an ideal place for me to do this.

What do you enjoy most about your research?

I like doing research that makes an immediate difference in people’s lives. For example, the flight procedure design methodology that I developed was used to design the current flight arrival procedures into Los Angeles for aircraft coming in from the East. I worked with air traffic controllers and aerospace designers there to optimize that procedure. Known as CDA (continuous descent arrival), aircraft effectively “glide” from cruise through descent and approach to landing instead of the traditional “step-down” approach, which allows for the engine to be left at idle during descent. This has many advantages, including minimizing fuel use, reducing gaseous emissions and noise pollution, and saving the aircraft from additional wear and tear.

Tell us about your teaching philosophy.

My teaching philosophy is pretty straight forward. People learn in different ways and it’s my job to convey the material effectively and in as many ways as possible to support these different learning styles. I like to teach the math side of things, but it’s also important to provide intuitive explanations and real-world examples so that the students have something to help them remember the material. For example, in my undergraduate dynamics course I introduced a hands-on assignment that requires students to develop a simulation of a 6 degree-of-freedom double-pendulum. Students then build the pendulum and evaluate its performance relative to their original models. To sum it up, I make the material accessible to students by adapting my lectures to meet the students’ learning styles and provide them with real-world experiences or examples to embed the underlying ideas and principles in their minds.

What kinds of things do you enjoy outside of work?

I’m a track and field official and serve on the World Athletics International Technical Officials panel for North America, Central America and the Caribbean. I also sing in a small choir when I am in the Cayman Islands.

Lori Magruder

Associate Professor
Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin

photo of lori magruderLori Magruder is joining the department this fall as an associate professor. Magruder is a subject matter expert in remote sensing and 3D geospatial data exploitation for earth science. She has held positions at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory prior to returning to UT Austin as a senior research scientist at the Applied Research Laboratories.

Magruder was selected to be the ICESat-2 Science Definition Team Leader in 2014 to support mission development and early on-orbit satellite operations. She also is the principal investigator for the satellite’s precision pointing determination operational program and geolocation validation studies. In 2020, Magruder was selected by NASA to lead the new ICESat-2 Science Team. In addition to her leadership responsibilities within the mission she will be providing scientific research in bathymetric science discovery and continuing her efforts for data product validation.

Learn more about Lori Magruder

She leads many other NASA and the Department of Defense remote sensing programs with her expertise in geospatial topics and applications. Magruder holds a B.S. degree from the University of Southern California in aerospace engineering, an M.S. degree from Princeton University in mechanical and aerospace engineering and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from UT Austin.

What attracted you to Texas ASE/EM?

The department has an amazing longevity in technical innovation and is on the forefront of so many diverse areas of study. I’m inspired by the collaboration among the faculty and the quality of the student population. The possibilities are inspiring!

What do you enjoy most about your research?

It seems as if I get to solve a new problem every day and I am continually encouraged by the potential applications. I get tremendous joy from working with a research team and am constantly encouraged by new discoveries with data from unique technologies or systems.

Tell us about your teaching philosophy.

I really enjoy the basic physics behind engineering topics but always look to link the foundational theory to modern applications. I plan to contribute to the core curriculum in orbital mechanics and attitude dynamics while adding new courses focused on remote sensing and related Earth science studies.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love cooking and going to the movies. However, most of my time is spent with my husband and three kids watching sports or just enjoying the outdoors.

Thomas Underwood

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. Stanford

photo of thomas underwoodThomas Underwood is joining the department in January 2021 as an assistant professor. Underwood has worked on a broad range of areas, including propulsion, optical diagnostics, hydrodynamic stability, interfacial chemistry, microfluidics, chemical separation and electrochemistry. His current research interests focus on understanding how the chemistry and dynamics of reactive flows can be leveraged to address challenges in energy, transportation, the environment, and security. Specifically, his research aims to understand how reactive transport in fluids and gases can be coupled with interfacial chemistry in the context of hypersonics, space propulsion, catalysis, chemical separation/recovery, and as a platform for unconventional computations.

Underwood received an B.S. degree from the University of Florida in physics and nuclear engineering. He received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University with Mark A. Cappelli. At Stanford, he studied how instabilities form and can be mitigated in hydromagnetic plasma jets. He received his postdoctoral training in chemistry at Harvard University with George M. Whitesides.

Learn more about Thomas Underwood
What attracted you to Texas ASE/EM?

There are so many fantastic features of the ASE/EM Department at UT Austin. The first thing I noticed was the activity, engagement, and curiosity of the students. During my interview, I was surprised by the types of questions that students asked me and how motivated they were to do impactful work. I was also attracted to the reputation of the department as a leader in astronautics, aviation, robotics, reactive fluid flows and mechanics. There are a number of collaboration opportunities that I look forward to leveraging within the department. The combination of world-class facilities, professors, and students in the department present a unique opportunity to build a preeminent research program. I look forward to expanding the strengths of the department in the coming years.

What do you enjoy most about your research?

I am tempted to say my favorite part are those rare moments when a hypothesis is cleanly proven in the laboratory. In my experience, those moments are exceedingly rare. Instead, I have found research to be a process. One that is filled with hard work and careful thought. The iterative process to take an idea and mold that into a scientific discovery is my favorite part. As a researcher, my greatest challenge is to maintain simplicity while researching very complex phenomena. Determining how to pose questions in the most basic form can be both challenging, rewarding and fun. Finally, seeing my work turn into tangible results, a useful technology and a translatable engineering solution drives me to do it all over again.

Tell us about your teaching philosophy.

To a great extent, my experiences as a student have shaped my attitude and approach toward teaching. My core teaching philosophy follows from the desire to equip students with the knowledge, ability, and structural framework to solve problems in any context. I believe in engaging students in classes to connect what they might be learning today to what they will be solving tomorrow. More than that, I believe in giving students the forum to think creatively about what they are learning. I will be teaching courses on fundamental and applied in fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, gas dynamics, plasma physics and experimental laboratory courses.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Outside of research, I enjoy reading and learning about other disciplines. This helps me to take inspiration from other branches of science and frame my own work in a better way. I also enjoy hiking and exploring nature when I can get away from the city. I am also a big fan of college sports – Hook ‘em, Horns!