Sheila Widnall

Institute Professor, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

(617) 253-3595

Academic Degrees

B.Sc., 1960, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; M.S., 1961, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ph.D., 1964, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Honors and Awards

Amer. Inst. of Aero. and Astro. Lawrence Sperry Achievement Award, 1972; Society of Women Engineers: Outstanding Achievement Award, 1975; Boston Museum of Science: Washburn Award, 1987; ASME Applied Mechanics Award, 1996; National Academy of Engineering Distinguished Service Award, 1993; Barnard College Medal of Distinction, 1994; W. Stuart Symington Award - Air Force Association, 1995; Boston USO Military Service Award, 1995; Maxwell A. Kriendler Memorial Award - Air Force Association, 1995; Pathfinder Award, Museum of Flight, Seattle Wash., 1996; Durand Lectureship for Public Service - American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1996; Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame, 1996; New Englander of the Year - New England Council, 1996; Defense Distinguished Service Medal, 1997; Distinguished Service Medal, NRO, 1997; Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, Department of the Navy, 1997; Goddard Award, National Space Club, 1998; James V. Hartinger Award, NDIA, 1999; Reed Aeronautic Award, 2000; Spirit of St. Louis Medal, ASME, 2001; NASA Public Service Medal, 2005

Society Memberships

Board of Directors, AIAA, 1975-1977, President, 1999-2000; Member: Space and Aeronautics Board, NRC, 1975-1978; NRC/NAS Committee on NASA Aeronautics Program Reductions, 1982; Advisory Committees: NSF-Div. of Eng., 1975; USAF: WPAFB/ASD, 1972-1975; Military Airlift Committee NDTA, 1985-1989; NSF, Dir. of Eng., 1981-1987, Vice-Chair, 1984-1987; Visiting Committee: Princeton U. Dept. Mech. & Aero Eng., 1976-1983; APS Division of Fluid Dynamics; Exec. Comm., 1979-1982), NSF Comm., 1981-82; APS Panel on Public Affairs, 1984-1987; USNC/TAM, 1984-1988; President, American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, 1988; NRC/NAE Panel on the Education and Utilization of Engineers, 1981-1984; Board of Visitors: USAF Academy, 1978-1984, Chairman, 1980-1982; Associate Editor, AIAA Journal of Aircraft, 1972-1975; Physics of Fluids, 1981-85; ASME Journal of Applied Mech., 1982-1987; ASME Comm. on Fluid Dynamics, 1982-85; AAAS: Board of Directors, 1982-1989, President, 1988-1989, Chairman, 1988-1989), Editorial Board Science, 1985-1987; NAS Committee on Scientific Responsibility, 1990-91; NAE Board on Engineering Education, 1991-1993; Draper Prize Committee, 1988-1993, Chair, 1992-1993; NAE Aerospace Peer Committee,, 1989-1991; NAE Council, 1992-1993; NAE Vice President, 1998-2005 ; National Research Council Governing Board, 1999-2005; Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy, National Academies, 1999-2006 ; Columbia Accident Investigation Board, 2003; NAS Committee on Law and Science, 2001-2008; NAE Gordon Prize Committee, 2007-; AIAA Fellow Selection Committee, 2007; NAE Peer Committee Aerospace Section, 2009-present

Positions Held at MIT

Boeing, summers, 1957-1959, 1961; Aeronautical Research Institute of Sweden, summer, 1960; MIT AeroAstro, Research Staff Engineer, 1961-1962; Research Assistant, 1962-1964; Assistant Professor, 1964-1970; Associate Professor, 1970-1974; Director of University Research, U. S. Department of Transportation, 1974-1975; Professor, 1974-1986; Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1986-1993; Associate Provost, MIT, 1992-1993; Secretary of the Air Force, 1993-1997.

Positions Held outside MIT

Honorary Degrees: New England College, 1976; Lawrence University, 1987; Cedar Crest College, 1988; Mount Holyoke College, 1991; Smith College, 1990; Lafayette College, 1993; Princeton University, 1994; Suffolk Law, 1994; University of Connecticut, 2000; Northeastern University, 2000; Colorado School of Mines, 2000; The Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden, 2002; Polytechnic University, 2003; Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2003; University of Puget Sound, 2007; Claremont Graduate University, 2008; Oxford University, 2008; Northwestern University, 2008

Specialization and Research Interests

Boundary layer stability, unsteady hydrodynamic loads on fully wetted and supercavitating hydrofoils of finite span, unsteady lifting-surface theory, unsteady air forces on oscillating cylinders in subsonic and supersonic flow, unsteady leading-edge vortex separation from slender delta wings, tip-vortex aerodynamics, helicopter noise, aerodynamics of high-speed ground transportation vehicles, vortex stability, aircraft-wake studies, turbulence and transition

Teaching Interests

Undergraduate dynamics and aerodynamics, graduate level aerodynamics of wings and bodies, aeroelasticity, acoustics and aerodynamic noise, and aerospace vehicle vibration and astrodynamics