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Engineering professor is keeping the nation one step ahead in aerospace


BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 6, 2006 – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is historically known for producing world-class publications, conferences, honors and awards activities, short courses, and educational activities for the field of aerospace. This role is now expanding to include increased public policy involvement, a motivational DVD, and educational interaction beginning at the kindergarten level, thanks in part to the vision of Roger L. Simpson, of Blacksburg, Va. a professor in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, who is serving as president of this organization from 2005-2007.

"A group of leaders, including myself, started a strategic plan that looked to the future to keep AIAA ahead of developments in the international aerospace endeavor, which includes industry, government, and academia. Our strategic plan is a long-term plan that is being implemented by AIAA volunteers and staff. It is greater than any one president and the strategic planning process has been instituted to provide continuity in the critical field of aerospace," said Simpson.

As a result of the AIAA's strategic planning initiative, its vision is being promoted in the new motivational DVD, "From the Sands to the Stars: A Vision for Aerospace and the AIAA”. " The group is also using software that is aiding in the development of a roadmap and establishing priorities within the strategic plan and its integration with AIAA operations. This dynamic spreadsheet relates the group's activities to its vision and goals and provides insights into how activities interact depending on funding priorities and emphasis from one effort to another, well into the future.

Simpson has taken on public policy involvement as a special area to emphasize during his two years as president of the AIAA. He has had opportunities to interact with elected officials in Congress as well as White House staff in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Simpson presented written testimony on "Redefining Civil Aeronautics R&D at NASA" to the House of Representatives Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics in July.

"I have encouraged each of the 66 technical committees of AIAA to form public policy subcommittees to develop white and position papers that inform government leaders of future aerospace research areas that need to be emphasized in order for the U.S. to stay a leader in the aerospace endeavor,” said Simpson. He believes the area of workforce development is particularly critical for the future, since the necessary human resources for this important industry are at stake.

As president of the AIAA, Simpson is helping the group continue to engage in a meaningful and consistent manner with the nation on aerospace programs. "The aerospace industry plays a critical role in ensuring that the Unites States remains a world leader. The future growth of the high-wage aerospace industry--which contributes to a positive balance of trade--critically rests on an environment that encourages and cultivates the tradition of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that has made America a great nation," said Simpson.

As part of its long-standing outreach activities, the AIAA is strengthening its focus on kindergarten through graduate level education, corporate and industry interactions, alliances with other domestic international societies, international affairs, and industry standards--all with a goal of leading aerospace into the 21st century.

Simpson first joined the AIAA in 1968 and was elected a Fellow in 1991. He has chaired and served on many committees during his 40 years of involvement with the AIAA, leading to his role as president. Simpson is also the Jack. E. Cowling Professor of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech, where he has been a faculty member since 1983.

Simpson's term as president began a year ahead of schedule because of a unique set of circumstances. Within the AIAA, a member normally serves one year as president-elect, one year as president, and then one year as past-president-director. Simpson was elected by the membership to be president-elect of the AIAA in the spring of 2005. Michael Griffin was to be the next president of the AIAA at that time but President Bush had other plans, naming Griffin the new administrator of NASA. So Simpson became the president of AIAA a year ahead of schedule in May of 2005 with his term extending until May of 2007.

Simpson received his Ph.D. and master’s degree from Stanford University, his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, and is a Registered Professional Engineer. Among his many awards and honors, he is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; founding Fellow of the Institution of Diagnostic Engineers, United Kingdom; and a member of Sigma Xi, Sigma Gamma Tau, Pi Tau Sigma, and Tau Beta Pi. Simpson received the Southern Methodist University Sigma Xi Research Award in 1978 and Outstanding Professor Award in 1983, and the Dean's Award for Research Excellence from Virginia Tech in 1996 and Service in 2005. Simpson is a native of Roanoke, Va.

The AIAA has 35,000 members from 79 countries, the vast majority of which are engineers. For more information, visit the AIAA website.