AIAA Member Spotlight – September 2017 Written 15 September 2017
AIAA Profiles Dr. John Daily, AIAA Fellow and Chair of the AIAA Publications Committee
By Lawrence Garrett, AIAA Web Editor
With school back in session, the Institute has chosen a befitting and well-deserved member to spotlight for September 2017: Dr. John Daily. His exciting career path has led him from race car mechanic, to propulsion system engineer on the Space Shuttle program at Aerojet Liquid Rocket Company, to eventually settling in as an award-winning educator and researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he has spent years devoted to the field of energy, sharing his love for thermal-sciences and his enthusiasm for anything aerospace related with countless students.
Dr. Daily, professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Combustion and Environmental Research at the University of Colorado Boulder, has an impressive academic resume, earning a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1968, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1969, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 1975.
A member of the AIAA Associate Fellows Class of 1992 and of the AIAA Fellows Class of 2012, Daily currently serves as the chair of the AIAA Publications Committee.
Sharing what influenced him early on to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, Daily noted, “I love fast cars and motorcycles,” explaining that before college he’d worked as a sports and race car mechanic, at the time thinking he’d end up designing race cars after college, but instead “got caught up in space flight.” Daily “loved working on high end cars,” calling them “beautiful pieces of machinery.” He said the most important lesson he learned from the experience was professionalism.
“I was fortunate to work with some great people who taught me how to be responsible for my actions, to be proactive, and to be prepared,” he added, in comparison to “how poorly prepared some of our undergraduates are when they enter college” today. “Fortunately,” added Daily, “most grow up pretty well by the time they graduate!”
Like many other longtime AIAA members, Daily first became involved with AIAA as a student. “After I became a professor I became heavily involved, first with the local section, then on several national committees,” he noted, going on to explain that following stints in a variety of different service roles for AIAA, he eventually determined that publications is where “the real action” takes place.
AIAA is “responsible for transmitting and archiving fundamental knowledge about aerospace engineering and science,” Daily said, adding, “Our journal articles have over a ten-year citation lifetime, meaning people are reading and citing our articles for decades. And our books are used throughout industry and higher education.”
As the recently appointed AIAA Publications Committee chair, Daily noted that his primary objectives include “always maintaining and improving the quality and usefulness of our publications,” in addition to working with the committee to create a new process for exploring new products and new ways of presenting information “given the [ongoing] revolution in electronic media.”
Daily said that his love of learning, “plain and simple,” is what drew him to teaching, and that he could not imagine a better place for him than the university, where he gets paid to do what he loves. He shared that just recently he’d talked to a beginning graduate student who was unsure of what direction to take. To that student, as well as to all others, Daily advised, “Pick anything and be curious about it and you will do well.”
As a member of AIAA for more than 40 years, Daily suggested that one of the clearest benefits of belonging to a professional society is the opportunity to network. “You meet others in your same area and make contacts who will be professionally useful for the rest of your career,” he noted, adding that many of those contacts “will become lifelong friends.”
He compared the AIAA SciTech Forum, held each January, to “Old Home Week,” explaining that by the time he arrives each year, all of his meals are already booked, while observing that attendees learn “great things at the technical sessions.”
For today’s students who may be considering a career in mechanical or aeronautical engineering, Daily said that joining AIAA is “a natural” fit. He mentioned that one of his motivational tools vis-à-vis his students is to remind them that the aerospace industry is home to more mechanical engineers than aeronautical engineers, while referring to AIAA as “the go-to organization for our industry.”
AIAA congratulates Dr. John Daily on his selection as the AIAA Spotlight member for the month of September 2017, and wishes him all the best in the pursuit of his ongoing academic research as he simultaneously continues his efforts to inspire many of our industry’s future leaders.