Engineering professors selected as 2021 AIAA Associate Fellows


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jacqueline O’Connor, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Gas Turbine Research, Education, and Outreach, and Sven Schmitz, associate professor of aerospace engineering, were chosen as 2021 Associate Fellows by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The grade of Associate Fellow recognizes individuals who have accomplished or been in charge of important engineering or scientific work, or have done original work of outstanding merit or have otherwise made outstanding contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics or astronautics. To be selected as an Associate Fellow, an individual must be an AIAA Senior Member in good standing with at least 12 years of professional experience and be recommended by a minimum of three current Associate Fellows.

O’Connor joined Penn State in 2013 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. She earned her bachelor of science in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006 and went on to earn her master of science in 2009 and doctorate in 2012 in aerospace engineering, both from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Sandia National Laboratory’s Engine Combustion Laboratory from 2012-13.

O’Connor’s research focuses on issues surrounding aircraft engine emissions, performance and operability, particularly instabilities, durability issues and emissions that affect the operation of aircraft engine combustors. She is a recipient of the International Gas Turbine Institute Ballal Early Career Award, the Eastern States Section of the Combustion Institute’s Glassman Young Investigator Award and the Penn State Schreyer Honors College Excellence in Advising Award. O’Connor serves on the AIAA Propellants and Combustion Technical Committee and Publications Committee. She is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Combustion Institute.

“I’ve worked with AIAA since I was an undergraduate student, and it has been an important technical community for me throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, my postdoctoral research and my current faculty position,” O’Connor said. “It’s always very gratifying to be recognized by friends and colleagues whom you deeply respect.”

Schmitz earned his diploma degree from RWTH Aachen University in Germany in 2002 before moving on to earn his doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) in 2006. Upon completing his doctorate, Schmitz worked at UC Davis as a postdoctoral researcher and project scientist from 2006-10.

Schmitz joined Penn State in 2010 as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering. His rotary wing aerodynamics group focuses on rotorcraft aeromechanics, wind turbine aerodynamics and the design of rotor blades for NASA’s Dragonfly lander. Schmitz has received the Young Researcher Fellowship Award from MIT, the Joseph L. Steger Fellowship Award from UC Davis and the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society Premier Teaching Award. In addition to serving AIAA in the Fluid Dynamics Technical Committee, Schmitz is also a member of the Vertical Flight Society, American Physical Society and American Society for Engineering Education.

“The AIAA Associate Fellows personify the innovation that drives our industry forward,” Dan Dumbacher, AIAA executive director, said in a press release announcing the fellowships. “The Class of 2021 Associate Fellows, representing industry, academia and government, embodies the commitment, dedication and ingenuity that are crucial for devising the best solutions to the complex questions raised in aerospace science.”

An induction ceremony is being planned and details will be announced by AIAA at a later date.


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Megan Lakatos