Robert Canfield, professor and assistant department head for academic affairs of Virginia Tech’s Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, assumed the role of interim department head, filling a vacancy left by Chris Hall who departed from Virginia Tech at the end of July to become the mechanical engineering department head at the University of New Mexico.

Hall joined Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering in 1997 as an assistant professor of the aerospace and systems engineering program. He has served as the department head since 2006. Hall’s research has focused on the various areas of spacecraft dynamics and control. Throughout his career at Virginia Tech, Hall has continued to work directly with students in designing, building, and testing space payloads, including systems for sounding rockets, high-altitude balloons, and orbital missions.

“The stellar reputation of the program is due, in no small part, to the effective leadership of Hall as the head of our department for the last five years. I look forward to working with the most collegial faculty and staff I've encountered, the college of engineering, and the university to continue in this positive direction,” Canfield said.

In the U.S. News & World Report's  “America’s Best Colleges 2011 survey,” released August of 2010, the aerospace engineering undergraduate program ranked 10th and the graduate program 15th, among their respective peer programs in the country.

Each year Aviation Week & Space Technology conducts a comprehensive Workforce Study of Aviation and Defense industries. Included in the survey results:“Organizations provided a list of the top five schools from which they recruit; the rationale for ranking rests on three core themes: the reputation and ranking of the university; the performance of alumni from that institution within the organization; proximity of institution to the organization/job.”

The results of the 2010 survey ranked Virginia Tech’s aerospace and ocean engineering program fourth, tied with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 2008, Canfield joined the Virginia Tech aerospace and ocean engineering program as a professor. He is an active member of the program’s structures group, and involved in the Collaborative Center for Multidisciplinary Sciences.

He graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in mechanical engineering, and was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force in 1983. He earned his master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University in 1984, and his doctoral degree in engineering mechanics at Virginia Tech in 1992.

Prior to joining the Virginia Tech community, Canfield worked for 24 years in the U.S. Air Force.

Canfield began his professional career as a professor of aerospace engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1993. Subsequently, in 1996 until 1998, he served as the chief of plans and budget for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), managing the Air Force’s $300 million investment strategy for basic research. Briefly in 1997, Canfield worked for the deputy assistant secretary for science, technology and engineering as the planning and resources manager for the $1.2 billion air force science and technology budget. From June 1998 to May 1999, he served as the director of policy and integration for AFOSR. In 2000 he became an associate professor at AFIT and taught there until accepting the position at Virginia Tech in 2008. During this period, Canfield served as the deputy head of aeronautics and astronautics from 2002 until 2004.

“Canfield is an excellent choice to lead the department. He has an exemplary record of academic and technical leadership as well as service. He has overseen significant improvements to the curriculum at a time when our undergraduate programs were at an all-time height in popularity,” Hall said.

His fields of expertise are multidisciplinary design optimization, high altitude long endurance sensorcraft, and micro air vehicle conceptual design.

“Canfield leads an exciting research program in the field of advanced aircraft design, with more than $1 million in research funding to date,” Hall said.

He is currently advising or co-advising seven doctoral candidates.

Among his awards, Canfield has received the 2003–2005 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Distinguished Service Award, the 2004 Outstanding Engineers and Scientists Award, the Gage H. Crocker Outstanding Professor Award in 2004, the Dr. Leslie M. Norton Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005, AIAA Sustained Service Award in 2007, as well as numerous awards from the air force.

Canfield has published 37 journal articles, 81 conference papers, and co-authored a textbook on reliability-based structural design.