February 15, 2003

Contact: Steve Nesbitt
713-301-9571 or 281-483-5758

Columbia Accident 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 Houston.

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 MIT.

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 Pioneer Hall of Fame; 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 Sprit 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.