Institute of Aeronautics names Anilkumar 2016 Faculty Advisor of the Year

Achille Messac, (left) AIAA Technical Director for the Aerospace Design/Structures Group, presents the 2016 AIAA Faculty Advisor Award to Vanderbilt University Engineering Professor Amrutur Anilkumar. (Photo/AIAA)

Amrutur Anilkumar, professor of the practice of aerospace and mechanical engineering, has been named the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 2016 Faculty Advisor of the year.

Anilkumar received the award at a banquet Jan. 7 during the annual AIAA SciTech Forum and Exhibition held in San Diego.

Anilkumar is the Vanderbilt AIAA chapter faculty adviser, and the founder and director of the Vanderbilt Student Launch Program, which has won several awards at regional AIAA competitions, and three back-to-back national titles in NASA University Student Launch competitions.

“The Vanderbilt Student Launch Program is a unique center for excellence, and it has been gratifying to see our engineering students embrace such high innovative challenges, and come out successful with good careers,” Anilkumar said. “Such model programs become all the more relevant in this era of web-based education.”

He was selected for the award “for passionate promotion of novel aerospace design activities, community outreach and mentoring of students to success at national competitions and pursuit of aerospace engineering careers.”

“Professor Anilkumar expects a great deal from his students, a fact that can, at first, be overwhelming to students who have never before been pushed to work and think at such a level. This comes from a genuine concern about the future of every student he teaches. As advisor to the Vanderbilt Student Launch Program, Professor Anilkumar maintains an careful balance between the desire to help his students succeed in the competition and the ultimate goal of preparing them to be successful in whatever they go on to do,” said Fred Folz, (BE’15) a Space-X Raptor Test Equipment Engineer.

The AIAA Faculty Advisor Award is presented to the faculty advisor of a chartered AIAA Student Branch who, in the opinion of student branch members and the AIAA Student Activities Committee, has made outstanding contributions as an advisor, as evidenced by the record of his or her student branch in local, regional and national activities. Mechanical Engineering Department Chair Robert Pitz nominated Anilkumar for the award.

“Professor Anilkumar is extremely deserving of the AIAA Faculty Advisor award. He mentors and guides each team member out of a sincere desire to see them succeed in school and in their careers. Working with my peers on the Vanderbilt Student Launch team under Professor Anilkumar’s leadership and advice was the pinnacle of my Vanderbilt career,” said Brandon Dimmig (BE’14), 2013-2014 president of the Vanderbilt Student Launch Team and now Engineer Mechanical 1 at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

In addition to the three national titles, Vanderbilt rocketeers have collected 13 awards of excellence from NASA, including five payload design awards, and two educational engagement awards.

Anilkumar received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and aeronautics from the graduate aerospace laboratories at the California Institute Technology in 1988, and his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1982.

He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1988 as a research associate at the Center for Microgravity Research and Applications under the directorship of Taylor Wang, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and Space Shuttle astronaut.

Anilkumar has been an investigator on NASA-sponsored microgravity and materials fluid phenomenon experiments on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.

In 2012, he was elected as an associate fellow of the AIAA, and he has received other AIAA awards. In 2014, he was appointed an advisory guest professor of mechanical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, India. He received the School of Engineering Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008.

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering