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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2008 / 08 

Aerospace engineer earns Oak Ridge Associated Universities Ralph Powe Junior Faculty Award

August 20, 2008

Michael Philen
Michael Philen

Michael Philen, assistant professor of aerospace and ocean engineering at Virginia Tech, has recently received the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Award.

"It is a great honor to have been selected as a recipient of the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award. This award will be instrumental in my development of fluidic flexible matrix composites, which are new material and structural systems that have the unique ability to change modulus on demand. I believe these innovative materials will lead to new and exciting opportunities for both government and commercial applications," Philen said.

According to the Oak Ridge Associated Universities website, the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards provide seed money for research by junior faculty at Oak Ridge member institutions. These awards are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and result in new funding opportunities. In 2008, Oak Ridge Associated Universities received 107 applications and awarded 30 grants.

Philen's general research interests are in adaptive structures, smart materials, bio-inspired systems and materials, and structural dynamics and control.

He aspires to create state-of-the-art intelligent structures that can adapt to better improve the performance of the system (e.g. reduced vibration, increased stability, improved surface control). His work involves exploring novel control methodologies and the development/application of smart materials to provide actuation, adaptability, robustness, and intelligence to the system. He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Oak Ridge Associated Universities is a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of 99 research institutions to advance science and education by partnering with national laboratories, government agencies, and private industry.

The aerospace and ocean engineering department at Virginia Tech is a unique blend of two disciplines that takes advantage of commonality in the analysis and design of aerospace and ocean engineering vehicles. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in both disciplines. The department has 17 faculty working in aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, structural mechanics, dynamics and control, and multidisciplinary design optimization.

The department also has a yearly graduation rate of some 100 bachelor's, 25 master's, and 15 doctorate degrees. All faculty are actively engaged in its broad research program, which has annual expenditures of $3.5 million, and all teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The department has extensive facilities including world class wind-tunnels, water tunnels, structural test equipment, high-performance computer systems, and state-of-the-art spacecraft simulators.