News & Events

April 2013


In this issue:

1. Newsbriefs
2. Welcome
3. From recent alums
4. DBF, Rocket Team prepare for competition
5. Seen around the department



de Weck






1. Newsbriefs

Professor John Hansman has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering "for development of aviation display and alerting systems for air safety."

Professors Emilio Frazzoli and Olivier de Weckhave been promoted to the rank of Full Professor. The promotions take effect June 1.

The Partnership for AiR Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction presented its PARTNER Center of Excellence Student of the Year Award to grad student Christopher K. Gilmore. A Ph.D. candidate, Chris is researching alternative energy, including environmental impact and cost-effectiveness.

gilmore and hileman

Chris Gilmore, holding his Student of the Year award, with FAA Chief Scientist for the Environment Jim Hileman.

Postdoc Daniel Selva won Best Paper Award at the IEEE Aerospace 2013 conference. Paper title: "VASSAR: Value Assessment of System Architectures using Rules."

Professor Larry Young has received the National Space Biomedical Research Institute Pioneer Award for “efforts and accomplishments that blazed trails on behalf of the Institute, NASA and the space biomedical community."

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has named Prof. Kerri Cahoy a recipient of an award, granted through its Young Investigator Research Program, to study GEO satellites as space weather sensors. She has also been named MIT's Outstanding Faculty Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Mentor.

Speaking of Professor Cahoy, she tells us that one of TERSat's deployment mechanisms, a 2.5 m STACER antenna, has been selected by NASA for a zero-gravity flight for further testing and characterization.

A faculty committee has named AeroAstro grad student/teaching assistant Tony Tao recipient of MIT's 2013 Goodwin Medal for "conspicuously effective teaching" by a graduate student.

Grad student Sunny Wicks has won the AIAA's Lockheed Martin Award for Best Structures paper: "Interlaminar Fracture Toughness of Laminated Woven Composites Reinforced with Aligned Nanoscale Fibers: Mechanisms at the Macro Micro and Nano Scales."

AeroAstro Professor Emeritus Harold Y. Wachman passed away March 26, 2013, at the age of 85. Professor Wachman began his career at MIT in 1962 and retired from the department in 1996. An obituary with more detail appears in The Boston Globe. Our condolences to his family.


Harold Wachman in a 2011 photograph. (Wachman family)

Students: here's your chance to define the future of space exploration. AeroAstro and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia are organizing a collaborative study to create an international vision for the future of human spaceflight. Organizers say, "We want students from around the world to take exploration into their own hands." Info at:


2. Welcome

Susan Wood has joined the department as grad student administrator in a temporary capacity while Beth Marois is on maternity leave. She is working in Beth's office (33-202A). Beth is expected back in June.

Mark Veligor is AeroAstro's new development officer. Mark's time is divided 50 percent with us and the other with Biological Engineering. His office is 33-208F.

We also welcome the following individuals: Visiting Professor Andre Luiz Pierre Mattei (Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica, Brazil); postdocs Carolina Rojo Escude Cofiner, Steve Ulrich, and Thomas Walsh; research scientist Regina Sullivan; and International Space Collaboration Project manager Jonathan Battat.

Welcome to the youngest members of the AeroAstro family. Freya was born to grad student administrator Beth Marois and husband Seth on April 4. Andrew James was born to resource development officer Mark Veligor and wife Laura on April 1. And Piper arrived as Bill Litant's first granddaughter (and grandchild) on February 24.


3. Word from recent alums

Air Force/Air National Guard combat rescue pilot Cemocan "Gemo" Yesil (SB '05) writes us from Afghanistan:

All is well here. My crew and I are flying hard and extremely proud of the work we're doing. It's hard to imagine a better mission. Each wounded Soldier and Marine we're able to rescue from the battlefield becomes part of a life-altering experience for me. I'm slowly learning to maintain emotional distance — seems to be the most difficult part of all this. Dom is also doing great over in Africa, leading his troops and keeping the Hercs in the air.

I'm continually humbled by your support. Thank you so much for each letter, care package, email, etc. Greta and I appreciate it all more than words can describe. I would also like to thank those of you who contributed to the video Josh put together. As I wrote to him yesterday, you guys darn near made me cry in front of everyone here... Almost! :-)


Pilot Gemo Yesil (right) with his crew in Afghanistan

Alum Ryan Castonia (SB, SM '10) sends his greetings. He writes:

I'm currently out in Albuquerque, NM in the last phase of my training to become a Combat Rescue Officer. Over the last year I've had the opportunity to go through combat dive school, SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) training, combat water survival, airborne, military freefall (HALO school), and am now finishing up with mountain rescue, air/water ops, and small unit tactics. If everything continues to go well, I'll finish up out here in May and return to my unit as a CRO, and shed my "trainee" status. As you can imagine, I haven't been able to spend too much time at home. Fortunately, I'm blessed with an extremely supportive wife and we've enjoyed the ride so far.


4. DBF, Rocket Team prep for competition

AeroAstro's Design-Build-Fly Team is wrapping up preparations for competing with its aircraft in the AIAA 2013 DBF Competition in Houston April 19-21. Team member Libby Jones reports that "we flight tested our final configuration on April 11, made slight modifications, and shipped it off to Tucson the next day. In the week between now and the competition we will continue to test fly our prototype plane to learn more about its handling characteristics and give our pilot more practice, and practice loading rockets on the plane in different configurations in a five-minute time window."

MIT DBF president Jed Storey says, "There are various rules, mission requirements, and scoring functions that drive the odd design. The plane must be able to carry 3 lbs of internal and external mock rockets as payload, as well as fly fast, take off in 30 ft, be as light as possible, and have as small a wing span and length as possible.

Jed adds "I'd like to thank the AeroAstro Department for its support this year, without which this plane (and all the learning that came with it) would not exist."

dbf plane

MIT Design-Build-Fly Team's entry in the AIAA competition taxis along.

Word's in from Leo Tampkins of the MIT Rocket Team: they'll be competing in the 2013 NASA Student Launch Project with the new rocket they've designed and built, capable of delivering a payload to an altitude of one mile.

They've spent the last few months designing and building a composite rocket. The payload? A custom built quadrotor carrying instruments to "perform object tracking and recognition in dynamic environments and to quantitatively measure high-altitude atmospheric lighting events."

Event starts 9am on April 20 and will be webcast at Like the competition on Facebook.

rocket team


5. Seen around the department

Buzz in MVL

In town for the April 8 Red Sox home opener, Buzz Aldrin (AeroAstro ScD '63) dropped by the Man Vehicle Lab for a visit with faculty and students, who are posing here with a Biosuit — a future spacesuit concept by Professor Dava Newman (right).

rexis review

Dr. Rebecca Masterson, senior research engineer in the Space Systems Lab, writes "The REXIS team completed a successful two-day preliminary design review in February. The team received kudos from the review board and is now on its way to building an engineering model in preparation for the Critical Design Review next year. Pictured taking a break from the review are (from left) Lt. Kevin Stout (SSL), Lt. George Sondecker (USAF), Niraj Inamdar (EAPS), Dr. Branden Allen (Harvard College Observatory), Eric Peters (SSL), Harrison Bralower (SSL), Mark Chodas (SSL), Dr. Rebecca Masterson (SSL), Matthew Smith (SSL), Dr. Jaesub Hong (Harvard College Observatory), Prof. Richard Binzel (EAPS), Nick Induni (Harvard University), Lt. Frank Schmidt (SSL), James Chen (SSL).

snow shuttle

A Space Shuttle mysteriously appeared in front of Building 33 during a the March 8 snowstorm. Could this be the 0C/32F version of our water bottle rockets? (Thanks, Fabio Caiazzo, for the photo.)

science fair

At the March 1 American Association for the Advancement of Science Family Science Day in Boston's Hynes Convention Center, AeroAstro grad students Dominique Hoskin (left) and Leo Ng use a mini wind tunnel to explain lift on an aircraft wing. LOTS of people, lots of fun! Thanks to Dominique, Leo, and our other volunteers: Hemant Chaurasia, Chelsea He, Patrick Blonigan, Patrick Conrad, Dustin Hayhurst, Dehann Fourie, Libby Jones, Giulia Pantalone, Sam Range, Greg Kravit, Niraj Inamdar, and Jimmy Clark.


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