Momentum Member Spotlight – April 2012
AIAA Congratulates Dr. J. Philip Drummond
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected AIAA Fellow Dr. J. Philip Drummond for its Member Spotlight for April, 2012. Drummond is a Distinguished Research Associate in the Hypersonic Air Breathing Propulsion Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Drummond joined AIAA in 1975, and was made a Fellow in 2012, He will be honored for this accomplishment at the Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala, May 9, 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. As a member of AIAA, Drummond has been very active in the affairs of the Institute. He currently serves as the Section Technical Officer for the Hampton Roads Section of AIAA, is an Associate Editor of the AIAA Journal, and is a member of the High Speed Air Breathing Propulsion Technical Committee. Drummond has published more than 100 papers and book chapters in the fields of combustion and propulsion.
Outside of AIAA, Drummond is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and member of the Combustion Institute. His research has won the 1989 John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s Best Paper Award, the 1990 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Best Paper Award in Propulsion, the 2004 NASA Medal for Exceptional Service, the 2011 JANNAF Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 1989 Gene Zara Award for his contributions to the National Aero-Space Plan Program. Drummond is listed in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, and is a Registered Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
When asked about where his earliest inspiration for entering the aerospace profession came from, Drummond replied: “I grew up near the NASA Langley Research Center and heard about the work that was going on there.” He continued, saying “I had two uncles involved in the space program. One at NASA’s Johnson Space Center working on the descent parachutes for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules, and another working at Langley on several of the wind tunnels. Of course, my childhood friends had parents who worked at Langley, including one father who was an astronaut. It was impossible to avoid the space program in our house and neighborhood, and you couldn’t help but be caught up in it. I still think that listening to professionals talk about their work is a great way to become interested in science, and that’s what happened to me – I heard them talking about their work, I grew interested, and was inspired to make it my work as well.”
Drummond relayed that his favorite career moment was witnessing the first successful flight of the X-43 hypersonic vehicle in March, 2004. Drummond reminisced: “Many of us gathered to watch the flight on a television link from Edwards Air Force Base, and we were one excited group of people, to see our work coming to successful fruition! The first cheer went up when the Pegasus booster rocket ignited, and the second when telemetry indicated that the Hyper-X vehicle had separated from the booster and was flying under its own scramjet propulsion system.” On a smaller scale, Drummond also took pride in his first combustion code, telling me: “Even thought it was on a much different scale compared to the Hyper-X, flipping through those pages of computer output and seeing the correct answers was a real thrill. I couldn’t wait to get to work the next day to see more results. I have to say that I spent quite a few days of career in this area, so it was a sort of personal beginning to me.”
Turning to the future of aerospace, Drummond saw a mixed future, stating: “It will be bright in some areas and somewhat less so in other areas. The emerging private space sector is adding new life and new ideas to the fields of space exploration, but at the same time I hope that NASA receives the funding and support necessary for it to make long strides in exploration as well.” Turning more introspective, Drummond went on to say: “I’ve been disheartened over what has happened to NASA funding for the past several years, and I fear for the effects this shortfall will have on future missions.” When asked what he thought the solution for these possible impending results might be, Drummond went to say: “I’ve always felt that the best scenario for the future was a serious collaboration between NASA and private enterprise, but both would have to be adequately funded to achieve success.” Turning to aeronautics, Drummond admitted that he has some concerns in this area as well, stating: “While research into the fundamental aspects of high speed flight continues, vehicle and engine development in hypersonics which would lead to actual flight programs seems to be waning.” He continued: “Fundamental research only works well when there is a flight program in the future to work towards, with an actual flight which would validate the earlier design and production efforts.” Drummond concluded by warning: “This area, high speed, hypersonic system development, is a frontier of aeronautics that is too important to the country not to be seriously pursued for the future. Our nation’s future economic and national security depends on this type of research and the systems that research will bring online.”
For those in college and pursuing aerospace degrees, Drummond offered this advice: “Student engineers should be pursuing their education in a well-rounded undergraduate program that will stress both engineering fundamentals and specialized coursework, but also teach the skills of public speaking and sound writing. These two skills are of utmost importance to an engineer, for without them your ability to convey your research to the larger world will be greatly hampered. Additionally, students should be seeking out ‘hands-on’ opportunities in various aerospace fields. Cooperative programs, internships, and work programs, give students a great introduction to the ‘real’ work of an engineer, and really go a long way to strengthening and expanding the skill-set which was developed in the classroom.” Drummond went on to counsel: “There is nothing like the time you will spend working alongside a ‘real’ engineer, as they love to talk about what they do, and they will force you to think about topics in new ways, and to tackle problems with solutions that the classroom does not teach. This hands-on experience and interaction will definitely help you hit the ground running in your first full-time position!”
For those students still in grades K-12, but who are thinking about aerospace as their future profession, Drummond offered three pieces of advice: “First, find a ‘window’ in to aerospace, so you can understand what it really is all about. Second, find people to talk with about aerospace and related fields, you can use the NASA website, and the websites of private companies to find programs which will allow you to talk to engineers and scientists about their day-to-day lives and research. Taking the second step will allow you go get first-hand information about the profession, and, who knows, it could also allow you to get some ‘hands-on’ experience as well. And last, take all the math and science classes you can. Taking the higher level math and science courses in high school will prepare you well for the rigors of college, where the problems will be harder, and the competition a lot tougher.” Drummond summed up his advice, stating: “It’s all about preparation. The better prepared you are, the more likely you will succeed.”
AIAA congratulates Dr. Drummond for his many contributions to AIAA and his sustained excellence in hypersonics research, as well as for his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for April, 2012.