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

Karen E. Willcox

Director of the Oden Institute of 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, a Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, and 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. She is also an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

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. Willcox is currently 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 on optimal design of multi-physics systems and an Air Force Data-Driven Dynamic Applications Systems project team that is developing and flight testing a self-aware UAV.

In addition to her research pursuits, Willcox is active in education innovation. She served as Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Board, co-Chair of the MIT Online Education Policy Initiative and co-Chair of the 2013-2014 Institute wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education. She is a recognized innovator in the U.S. education landscape, where she is a 2015 recipient of the First in the World Department of Education grant.

Willcox has co-authored more than 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals and advised more than 50 graduate students. She is the recipient of a SIAM SIGEST paper award, two AIAA best paper awards, and several awards for both leadership and teaching. In 2017 she was appointed Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM). She has served in leadership positions within AIAA and SIAM, including leadership roles in the SIAM Activity Group on Computational Science and Engineering and the AIAA Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Technical Committee. She is a Fellow of SIAM and Fellow of AIAA.

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