New ISU department chairman brings experience from NASA, Boeing

Kristine Ahlfield and Ethan Subra

Richard Wlezien began his first day as chairman of the department of aerospace engineering Monday, Aug. 16.

Though he has much experience in the area of aerospace engineering, his career at Iowa State is just beginning.

“I always like a new challenge,” Wlezien said when asked his reason for the transition into academia.

After graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a doctorate in mechanical engineering, he conducted research for McDonnell Douglas, which later became The Boeing Company.

After 10 years with Boeing, he moved to a NASA research lab in southern Virginia, where he conducted research dealing with energy efficiency and noise reduction in airplanes.

Wlezien continued his career in aerospace research with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. At DARPA he worked on projects ranging from the world’s fastest plane, which can fly at almost mach 10, to the world’s highest-flying plane, which can reach heights of almost 100,000 feet.

He joined Tufts University in 2006 as a professor and chairman of mechanical engineering. Now, as he returns to his Midwest roots, Wlezien has many goals for Iowa State’s aerospace engineering department.

When asked about the department’s current research, he said it is looking into an alternative for jet fuel and also expanding wind energy. Wlezien expressed his passion in helping students and moving the department forward to a brighter future.