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Photo of Willcox, Karen E.
Office Location: POB 4.427

Karen E. Willcox

Director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences

W.A. "Tex" Moncrief Jr. Endowment in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences Chair No. 5
Peter O'Donnell, Jr. Centennial Chair in Computing Systems

Department Research Areas:
Computational Engineering

Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Research Interests:

  • Data to decisions in engineering systems
  • Computational models and methods for design, optimization, control and uncertainty quantification of engineering systems
  • Reduced-order modeling and multi-fidelity modeling
  • Future aircraft technologies, aircraft system optimization, aircraft environmental impact, multidisciplinary design, unmanned aerial vehicles, digital twins

Karen E. Willcox is Director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, Associate Vice President for Research, and Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. At UT, she holds the W. A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Chair in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences and the Peter O'Donnell, Jr. Centennial Chair in Computing Systems. Prior to joining the Oden Institute in 2018, she spent 17 years as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she served as the founding Co-Director of the MIT Center for Computational Engineering and the Associate Head of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Prior to joining the MIT faculty, she worked at Boeing Phantom Works with the Blended-Wing-Body aircraft design group.

Willcox's research has produced scalable computational methods for design of next-generation engineered systems, with a particular focus on model reduction as a way to learn principled approximations from data and on multifidelity formulations to leverage multiple sources of uncertain information. She currently has funded projects supported by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Research Laboratory, ARPA-E, Department of Energy, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Willcox currently leads several multi-institution research teams: she is Co-director of the Department of Energy AEOLUS Multifaceted Mathematics Capability Center on Advances in Experimental Design, Optimal Control, and Learning for Uncertain Complex Systems; she leads an Air Force MURI team on Machine Learning for Physics-based Systems; and she leads the Rise of the Machines team developing robust, interpretable, scalable, efficient methods for digital twins under the Department of Energy AI and Decision Support for Complex Systems program. Willcox has co-authored more than 120 papers in peer-reviewed journals and advised 62 graduate students, including 21 PhD students. She is also active in educational innovation, developing scalable network models and educational technologies that enable data-driven decisions in education.

Willcox is the recipient of a SIAM SIGEST paper award, three AIAA best paper awards, and several awards for both leadership and teaching. She has served in leadership positions within AIAA and SIAM, including leadership roles in the SIAM Activity Group on Computational Science and Engineering, the SIAM Activity Group on Data Science, and the AIAA Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Technical Committee. She is currently a member of the AIAA Board of Trustees and the National Academies Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics. She is a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and in 2017 was appointed Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to aerospace engineering and education.

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