Willcox, Jah Join Air Force Scientific Advisory Board

January 5, 2023

 

Karen Willcox and Moriba Jah have been named to the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, one of the most influential Federal Advisory Committees in science and technology.

The board, created in 1944, reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force, and its members are appointed by the Secretary of Defense. The board is stacked with public and private sector leaders, and it is charged with producing technical reports and guidance to help the Air Force apply technology to its mission.

photo of moriba jah in lab"During my decade with the Air Force Research Lab, I recall being visited many times by this prestigious group of people, and they really helped us evaluate what we were doing to help our country," said Jah, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. "Now, I’m deeply honored to become a member of this group and pay it forward, especially as we move to an increasingly digital world facing existential threats with detrimental consequences if we get it wrong. Science and technology underpin our success."

Jah is a leading expert in space debris, and his achievements helped him recently earn a MacArthur Fellowship, better known as a “genius grant.” Jah has developed tools to more precisely determine the locations and possible orbital paths of the more than 30,000 active and inactive satellites, rocket bodies and other debris orbiting the earth. This knowledge gives scientists a better picture of where objects are related to each other and when a collision could occur.

photo of Karen WillcoxWillcox is the director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, as well as an aerospace engineering professor. Her expertise lies in the intersection of aerospace engineering and computing. She is co-leading a new center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to research the creation of virtual versions (also known as digital twins) of complex energy systems to help guide future decision making.

"I am honored to have this chance to contribute to the nation's future path in science and technology, particularly at this critical time when emerging computing technologies have a big role to play in enabling future U.S. Air Force capabilities," said Willcox.

UT Austin has a history of collaboration with U.S. government aerospace organizations at the highest levels. Hans Mark, former aerospace engineering professor at UT Austin and University of Texas System chancellor, served on the Scientific Advisory Board before becoming Secretary of the Air Force under President Jimmy Carter.