UT professors appointed to Air Force Scientific Advisory Board

Reece Tincher, General News Reporter

The University announced professors of aerospace engineering Moriba Jah and Karen Willcox as appointees by the Secretary of Defense to join the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board on Jan. 5. The board helps guide the Air Force and reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force.

Jah said he worked as an Air Force civilian employee for the Air Force Research Lab for 10 years on Maui and six years in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During this time, he said the board would visit and give constructive criticism. 

“It was a very distinguished group of folks doing that, and now many years later, after leaving the research lab, I find myself being invoked by the Department of Defense to serve on the same board,” Jah said. “It’s a very humble experience.”


Jah and Willcox will serve as consultants for Air Force related tasks and projects. Jah’s work in the field of space debris helps study patterns of debris that could impact satellites or other objects. Willcox, the director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, specializes in computer modeling for aircraft systems.

“It’s a tremendous honor. Historically and currently, the board has played a huge role in giving advice to the Air Force in Science and Technology,” Willcox said. “The scope the board covers is large, so it consists of experts from many fields. My expertise is around computing, modeling and simulation for complex aerospace systems and the growing interest in scientific machine learning and data-driven modeling.”

UT holds a strong connection to the Air Force, with former UT Chancellor Hans Mark serving on the advisory board and becoming Secretary of the Air Force under former president Jimmy Carter’s administration.

Willcox has also served as the co-director of the Artificial Intelligence and Decision Support for Complex Systems program for the U.S. Department of Energy, where she helped launch digital twins: a virtual model that adapts and works to drive decision-making for aircraft systems. These models have also been used by the Air Force to assist in structural health monitoring and predicting maintenance for an aircraft.

“It’s an honor to be here at UT-Austin,” Willcox said. “UT has a long history of leadership, and Hans Mark had such a tremendous career of leadership at very high levels in the Air Force. So, I think it makes the honor just more special because of the connection here at UT-Austin.”