Momentum Member Spotlight - May 2011
AIAA Congratulates Basil Hassan
By: Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected Dr. Basil Hassan for its Member Spotlight for May, 2011. Dr. Hassan is an AIAA Associate Fellow, and the manager of the Aerospace Systems Analysis Department of the Integrated Military Systems Center at the Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hassan has been a member of AIAA for over twenty-six years, and during that time he has held a wide variety of volunteer positions across the Institute. Hassan currently sits on the AIAA Board of Directors as the Vice President for Technical Activities. Prior to his election to VP, he served as Director-Technical for Engineering and Technology Management. In addition to the Board roles, Hassan has served as a member of AIAA’s Compensation Committee, Institute Development Committee, Honors and Awards Committee, and chaired the New Initiatives Subcommittee for Technical Activities. He began his career in AIAA’s Technical Activities Committee serving as both a member and eventual chair of the Thermophysics Technical Committee, and later as a Deputy Director in the Aerospace Sciences Group. Hassan’s service to the Institute has also included service to AIAA’s Albuquerque section, where he has served both as the Membership Chair and the Honors and Awards officer. In addition to his leadership roles, Hassan has authored or co-authored over 25 papers for AIAA technical conferences, and from 2001–2004 he served as an associate editor for AIAA’s Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets.
Outside of his AIAA activities, Hassan has also served on a variety of review boards for the National Academies, NASA (Ames, Langley, and Johnson) and Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). He was also active in the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation, and as a result of that participation, was named to serve on the Aerosciences Technology Discipline Team of NASA’s Engineering Safety Center (NESC). Dr. Hassan also serves on the Educational Advisory Board for the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at New Mexico State University.
When asked why he had entered the aerospace profession, Dr. Hassan stated that it was his father, a professor at North Carolina State University, who used to let him tag along to AIAA student branch meetings that sparked a desire to enter the aerospace profession. The “when did you know” moment came when Hassan and his father attended the 75th anniversary celebration of the Wright Brother’s first flight, it was then that Hassan knew that aerospace was the field for him. He also reminisced that since there was a lot going on in the space program at that time – the end of the Apollo missions, the Voyager and Pioneer missions, and the dawn of the space shuttle era – that he couldn’t help but be drawn to the profession as it was exciting and advancing all the time.
When asked about his history with AIAA, Dr. Hassan stated that he has been an AIAA member since his student days, first joining the Institute in 1984 as a freshman in Aerospace Engineering at North Carolina State University. While a graduate student he realized the full value of an AIAA membership when he started presenting at AIAA conferences and using AIAA journals in his graduate research. Hassan eventually received his PhD from North Carolina State, focusing in the areas of computational aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics for hypersonic flight vehicles. For Hassan, the benefits of AIAA membership have been many, but he stressed there have been three benefits which have been indispensable to his growth as an aerospace professional: Networking, ideas and having opportunities to expand business development. He said that the networking benefit of AIAA has been especially good for him, reporting that most of the people that he interacts with on a professional level, outside of Sandia National Laboratories, are people he has met through his work on AIAA committees. He lauded the value of AIAA’s conferences, noting “if you can attend a conference and come away with just one idea which you can implement immediately in your workplace, the conference has been paid for.” He stated that AIAA’s conferences provide such a rich source of ideas and material, which is almost impossible to attend and not gain something immediately useful. Lastly, Hassan noted that AIAA’s conferences are great for expanding business development, noting that his attendance at the conferences has directly generated projects and business leads for Sandia National Laboratories, as well as being instrumental to opening up opportunities for Sandia personnel to engage in work that might not have otherwise been available to them.
When asked what he would tell a young person just starting out in an aerospace career about AIAA, Hassan stated “that it’s easy to look at the cost of an AIAA membership and reject it as being too expensive, but, when you think about it, the cost of an AIAA membership is what you might spend on a nice dinner. So the cost of a membership really shouldn’t be a barrier to joining AIAA, especially as the benefits will far exceed the cost.” Additionally, Hassan noted that when a person first starts working in aerospace, they often find themselves working in a job which is out of their field of study, which will require them to acquire new skills and capabilities to succeed. And, he also noted, that a portion of the information you will need to grow in that job will not necessarily be available to you internally, thus – an AIAA membership makes a lot of sense, if only for the exposure you will gain from interacting with other professionals in similar positions outside of your company. He noted that when he was new to the workplace, his longtime mentor, David Thockmorton (retired from NASA and former AIAA Board Member), urged him to get involved with AIAA and to join an AIAA technical committee, and that exposure greatly helped him grow in his career. Hassan noted that the best benefit of an AIAA membership, or, membership in any professional society, is that it allows you to meet others with similar backgrounds, but perhaps with different ideas, and that these interactions inexorably lead to professional growth. Hassan noted that in some jobs, especially where security measures restrict open reporting of the work being performed, it is still good for employees to get out to conferences – even if they cannot present their work, they can still interact with other professionals and gain useful ideas.
Hassan also discussed what students in grades K-12 should be doing to prepare themselves for an aerospace career, if that is where their interests take them. He noted that they should have a real passion for math and science, as that is what they will spend the majority of their days doing. He also noted that they should develop a real passion for flight, and for activities like remote controlled airplanes or model rocketry, as those hobbies would both fuel a desire to gain more knowledge about aerospace, but would also provide an early introduction to the skills necessary to succeeding in the industry. Hassan also noted that tomorrows engineers should be studying computational sciences today. He noted that as the costs of testing, both ground and flight, continue to rise, validated computational modeling techniques will be necessary to move the aerospace industry forward, and that tomorrow’s engineers are going to have a good understanding of computational science and technology to take aerospace technology to the next level of advancement. He also noted that educators have to do a better job of stressing to kids that a degree in aerospace engineering is really a multi-disciplinary degree – it will force them to use science, math and computer skills every day in the workplace, and that the better they understand that, the better they may be able to prepare themselves for the rigor of the workplace.
At the end of our conversation, Hassan noted that AIAA is an organization that can open up new horizons in your world – introduce you to people you might not have otherwise met, extend professional growth opportunities that might not have existed independent of involvement in AIAA, and to help you learn and grow as a professional.
AIAA congratulates Dr. Hassan for his many contributions to AIAA, and for his positive outlook on the role of AIAA in the professional and personal growth of aerospace professionals, as well as for his selection as the AIAA member spotlight for May 2011.