|For Immediate Release
CAIB PR 03-03
Date: February 15, 2003
Contact: Laura Brown, 281-283-7565 or 281-467-8657
Contact: Lt. Col Woody Woodyard, 281-283-7520 or 713-301-2244
Columbia Accident Investigation Board Chairman Names New Member
Adm. Hal Gehman, chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board,
today announced the appointment of Dr. Sheila E. Widnall of MIT as the
newest member of the board. Dr. Widnall, former Secretary of the Air
Force, is an expert in aircraft turbulence and spiraling airflows. She
will begin meeting with the board in Houston on Thursday.
The other members of the investigation board this week have been visiting
NASA facilities where Space Shuttle components are tested and prepared for
flight. They were scheduled to return to Houston Saturday.
A press conference with Adm. Gehman and some members of the board is
scheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. CST at NASA Johnson Space Center in
Dr. Widnall received her B.Sc. (1960), M.S. (1961), and Sc.D. (1964) in
Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. She was appointed Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of
Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1986 and Institute Professor in 1998. She
served as Associate Provost, Massachusetts Institute of Technology from
1992-1993 and as Secretary of the Air Force from
1993-1997. Professor Widnall stepped down from her position as Secretary
of the Air Force on October 31, 1997 to return to her faculty position at
Since returning to MIT, she has been active in the Lean Aerospace
Initiative with special emphasis on the space and policy focus teams.
Her research activities in fluid dynamics have included the following:
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 activities have included
undergraduate dynamics and aerodynamics, graduate level aerodynamics of
wings and bodies, aeroelasticity, acoustics and aerodynamic noise, and
aerospace vehicle vibration.
Dr. Widnall is Vice President of the National Academy of Engineering
and a member of the Executive Committee of the
National Research Council of the National Academies.
She is a trustee of the Sloan Foundation
and the Institute for Defense Analysis. She is a
director of GenCorp, Inc. She has been a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation
and Vice Chair of its Board, a consultant to the Macarthur Foundation,
a Director of the Aerospace Corporation, Draper Laboratories, ANSER Corp.,
Chemical Fabrics Incorporated and a trustee of the Boston Museum of Science,
and a member of the Council, Smithsonian Institution of Washington.
She was a member of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and
Government. She is a past president of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
She received the Lawrence Sperry Achievement Award in 1972 from the
American Institute of Aeronautics; the Outstanding Achievement Award in
1975, from the Society of Women Engineers:
the Washburn Award in 1987, from the Boston Museum of Science; the ASME
Applied Mechanics Award in 1996; the 1993 National
Academy of Engineering Distinguished Service Award; in 1994 honorary
Doctor of Science degree from Princeton University; the 1994 Barnard College Medal of Distinction; the 1995 W. Stuart Symington Award from the Air Force Association; the 1995 Boston USO
Military Service Award; the 1995 Maxwell A. Kriendler Memorial Award from the Air Force Association;
the 1996 Durand Lectureship for Public Service from the American Institute
of Aeronautics and Astronautics; in 1996 she was inducted into the Women in Aviation; was named 1996 New Englander of the Year by the New England Council; and received the 1998 Goddard Award from the National Space Club; the Hartinger Award from the NDIA in 1999; the Reed Aeronautics Award from the AIAA in 2000; and the Spirit of St. Louis Medal from ASME in 2001. She is a Fellow of the APS; AAAS; AIAA; the Royal Aeronautical Society and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics; the National Academy of Engineering; and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.