Four AIAA Young Professionals Recognized by Aviation Week Written 15 September 2014

Four AIAA Young Professionals Recognized by Aviation Week

by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor


One of the primary missions of the Institute is to support and help foster the next generation of leaders who will shape the aerospace industry, as well as the future of their organizations, for decades to come. For this reason the Institute recognizes and celebrates four extraordinary AIAA young professionals who were recently honored as part of Aviation Week’s 40 under Forty, their list of “top industry talent who are younger than 40 years old.”

The four AIAA young professionals, Jason Crusan, Jason Olivarez, Ryan Rudy, and Christine Edwards Stewart, named to the list not only exhibit solid leadership skills, but also possess considerable technical abilities, and a bold approach to tackling challenges.


Jason_CrusanJason Crusan, 37, is an AIAA Senior Member, and an active member of AIAA’s Small Satellites Technical Committee. He serves as NASA’s director for the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division with the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), based in Washington, DC. He leads integration with the Space Technology Mission Directorate and other programs such as the International Space Station and the Exploration System Division Programs. For the past two years Crusan has led a team of more than 550 civil servants in an effort to rejuvenate and modernize the way NASA conducts rapid and innovative technology and systems development.

Crusan has served in multiple roles at NASA since 2005, including as Chief Technologist for Space Operations, Program Executive, and project manager on various technical and management initiatives. He was a key member of the Mini-RF (Miniature Radio Frequency) Program team, which delivered two radar instruments to the moon to map the lunar poles, search for water ice, and demonstrate future NASA communication technologies.

In addition to serving as mission manager for NASA’s contributions to the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon, Crusan’s career includes numerous other accomplishments such as a highly successful Morpheus test vehicle campaign that resulted in 14 free flights; the creation of the first cost-sharing contract for technology advancement for a large-scale, human-class module in space that is set to be demonstrated on the ISS in 2015; the successful consolidation of all radiation sensor development for human spaceflight into a single, synergistic, development effort; and, through his leadership and participation in the Mars 2020 mission, helping ensure that NASA has its strongest-ever collaborations between the Science and Human Exploration mission directorates.

When asked how he feels about being named to AviationWeek’s 40 Under Forty list, Crusan said, “While I’m honored to be named to [the] list, it’s really a recognition of the teams I work with and our ability to work together to do innovative things at NASA, changing the traditional aerospace development process,” adding that he prefers “to share this award with those teams, as we go about leading an aerospace transformation.” Crusan holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics, a Master’s in Computer Information Systems, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Management at George Washington University.


Jason_OlivarezJason Olivarez, 32, an AIAA Senior Member, is a principal project engineer at Honeywell, based in Phoenix, AZ. Having begun his career in 2004 as a bearing/gear design engineer, Olivarez rapidly ascended from designing low level components on commercial aircraft to integrating large-scale aircraft systems and helping develop a revolutionary test facility. In 2008, Olivarez transitioned into his current role, working in systems integration on the Airbus A350 Extended Mechanical System Perimeter program where his contributions eventually earned him Honeywell’s 2012 Outstanding Engineer award. Olivarez, a patent holder since 2013, was part of the Honeywell team that developed a first-of-its-kind technology integration facility known as the Air Systems Integration Bench (AirSIB), where Olivarez and his team determined how to integrate Honeywell and customer-supplied equipment and software safely, and defined, tested, and analyzed flight-like test conditions and procedures. Honeywell called development of the AirSIB one of the “100 Years—100 Firsts” in its Aerospace Centennial.

When asked how membership in AIAA might benefit other young professionals, Olivarez said that as an AIAA member, “it’s been great to see the increased focus on young professionals and the resources that are now available to help YPs navigate the technical challenges and career decisions that come with working in aerospace.”

We asked how he feels about being named to AviationWeek’s 40 Under Forty list, and Olivarez said that he is “very excited and honored to be included in Aviation Week’s 40 Under Forty,” adding, “it’s great to be recognized professionally at this level, especially when you look at the accomplishments of all the people on the list.” He said that he’s been “very lucky to have had great mentors and team members” throughout his career at Honeywell and looks forward “to what lies ahead.” Olivarez continued, “Hopefully by highlighting the achievements of young professionals in the aerospace industry we can help encourage and inspire the next generation of engineers.” Olivarez earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Arizona State University.


Ryan-May-2014Ryan Rudy, 34, a Boeing flight test engineer, is an AIAA Lifetime Senior Member and has been an active member on AIAA’s Young Professional (YP) Committee since 2008. Rudy currently serves on the AIAA Board of Directors as the YP Liaison (2013–2015). Previously, he served as chair of the YP Committee from 2012–2013, as well as on the AIAA Publications Committee from 2008–2012. Based in St. Louis, MO, Rudy currently works on the F-15 Saudi advanced flight-test program for Boeing Test & Evaluation. Rudy made his mark within the industry by helping the Boeing 787-8 program achieve a critical milestone in its path to first flight by serving as the project lead and technical expert for gauntlet testing. Rudy’s efforts and leadership also helped demonstrate that the 787 could maintain and operate at exceedingly low temperatures in environments such as Alaska.

When asked how membership in AIAA has helped advance his career, Rudy spoke of the many ways that AIAA has helped him. “AIAA has given me numerous opportunities to continue to develop and practice leadership skills,” adding, “it’s one thing to be lead teams within one’s company where the chain of command or program priorities incentivize completing a task, [but] having to recruit team members, motivate and influence them to complete tasks in a volunteer organization is a completely different leadership challenge.”

Rudy went on to say that AIAA has given him the “opportunity to connect with many talented individuals who are passionate about aerospace,” adding that the connections “with these colleagues and friends” are something that “continually re-energizes” him each time he attends an AIAA conference. He is also thankful for the opportunities that AIAA involvement has presented him with, such as serving on the advisory board to the yearly Aviation Week Workforce studies, which has given him “the opportunity to influence national issues like the aerospace workforce.”

When asked how he feels about being named to AviationWeek’s 40 Under Forty list, Rudy said, “I’m humbled by this award, thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to make a difference, and proud of the work our teams have done that [has been] recognized.”

Rudy earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and is nearing completion of a Master’s degree in Systems Engineering, also from Penn State.


ChristineStewartChristine Edwards Stewart, 30, an AIAA Senior Member, currently serves as Lockheed Martin’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Operations Systems lead, based in Littleton, CO, and is responsible for MRO spacecraft operations. She led the flight team that executed MRO observations of the comet ISON. These observations were later featured in a Science Channel special called, “Super Comet ISON 2013.”

Before working on MRO, Edwards Stewart was a key member of the Grail-A spacecraft extended mission team, developing and executing flight operations that allowed the two Grail spacecraft to fly at unprecedented low altitudes over the moon. These low-level flybys allowed for measurements of the moon’s gravity field with extraordinary accuracy.

In addition, Edwards Stewart was a mission controller for the launch of the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft and the comet flyby of the Stardust spacecraft. Recently, she has been focusing on, and developing methods for, how aerospace companies can apply model-based systems-engineering and 3-D virtual-reality environments for spacecraft development and production. In August, she was presented with Lockheed Martin’s Technical Innovation Award for her team’s efforts in creating a virtual development environment.

When asked how membership in AIAA has helped advance her career, Edwards Stewart replied that the AIAA community provided her with her “first opportunity to give a technical presentation in a professional setting.” Describing how that opportunity came to fruition, Edwards Stewart said that while a student at MIT, an AIAA chapter had just launched an annual symposium where students could present their internship experiences. She called that symposium “a defining moment” of her early career because she “not only learned how to give professional presentations, but also realized that [she] loved doing it.” She added that since making that first presentation, she has “enjoyed presenting research results at conferences and speaking at many events as a JPL Solar System Ambassador.” When asked how she feels about being named to AviationWeek’s 40 Under Forty list, Edwards Stewart replied, “I am honored, and I am inspired by the accomplishments of the others [on] the list. In the future, I hope to continue to make a difference in the aerospace industry and inspire the next generation of space explorers.”

Edwards Stewart earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science Degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, she helped teach classes as a Graduate Teaching Fellow and worked on the SPHERES miniature satellites.