Aviation Research Grants Program

Building Technical Expertise

FAA University Fellowship Program

Rutgers University

Drexel University

In 1987, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began a partnership by establishing "The FAA University Fellowship Program." The purpose was and is to provide expanded educational opportunities and research participation in emerging technologies and innovations related to air traffic control, aviation safety, and security systems. A corollary purpose is to assist in attracting and recruiting qualified graduates to work for the FAA, its contractors and the civil aviation industry. The FAA University Fellowship Program achieves these goals by providing well-qualified and highly motivated graduate students an opportunity to conduct thesis research on FAA topics of interest while working with FAA engineers, scientists, and university professors. This was accomplished through the contracting process until 1993 when the FAA Aviation Research Grants Program was established providing a formal framework for sponsorship of the FAA Fellows.

Rutgers University has participated in this program since 1987 to present. Faculty select well-qualified and highly motivated graduate students for the Fellowship Program in response to FAA's research, engineering, and development needs expressed by the FAA research Program Managers. Rutgers commitment to this program is expressed through their cost sharing sponsorship of some Fellows, along with providing access to equipment, supercomputers, lab space, libraries, and many other resources. The support of their outstanding faculty and personal commitment to the students has been the basis of the success of this program.

The FAA and Drexel University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania established a fellowship program in June 1997. Drexel University has a strong program in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics, with specialties that fit the FAA's needs. Drexel's first FAA Fellowship grant commits the FAA to provide support to two Ph.D. students for the next 2-3 years. The students' research will be conducted primarily at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) while FAA Program Managers serve as graduate advisors. Since Drexel's graduate level courses are all evening courses, the students will work full-time at the Technical Center. Drexel has made a strong commitment to cost share in the fellowship, since they are very interested in establishing a research relationship with WJHTC.



Rutger's faculty, Drexel's faculty, and FAA Program Managers, together, define research topics which are directly relevant to the research needs of the FAA's mission and recruit for highly qualified graduate students, primarily U.S. citizens, with interest in aviation. Participants engage in formal course work at their respective universities and conduct research in FAA laboratories on FAA directed topics. The program establishes a mentoring relationship with an FAA researcher who oversees and guides the students' research in conjunction with his/her academic advisor. The length of the on-site research phase may vary in length from a few days to several months. The program includes expanding universities education and research activities in areas related to air traffic control systems and aircraft safety. Companion education and training activities are included to develop and enhance existing capabilities within the FAA.


Teams composed of FAA technical personnel, university faculty, and graduate students who are recipients of FAA fellowships partner to carry out research in some 40 different areas critical to air travel safety.



The results of the research directly contribute to advancements which enhance National Airspace System (NAS) functionality while concurrently addressing aircraft safety, security, and environmental and energy efficiency.


Mike Paglione was an industrial engineer working for a food manufacturer when he decided to return to Rutgers for a graduate degree. Within two years, Mike was stationed at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center as an industrial engineer for Signal Corp., evaluating technology that will safely implement free flight into the National Airspace System (NAS). Though the Fellowship Program was full when Mike applied, the FAA was so interested in his research project to safely increase air traffic over the Atlantic Ocean, Rutgers was awarded a grant to pursue his research. Based upon his grant research, Mike earned a fellowship position the following year. He completed his thesis "Modeling the Air Traffic Activity Over the North Atlantic Ocean" during his fellowship. The thesis describes the development of a fast-time computer simulation model for air traffic over the ocean. This model, the Integrated North Atlantic Air Traffic Simulation Model (INAATSM), simulates aircraft crossing the ocean, while incorporating flight planning, conflict detection and resolution, meteorological data, aircraft separation standards and various aircraft types. From these parameters, INAATSM creates the optimal flight plan for each aircraft while minimizing the amount of fuel burned. It can be constantly upgraded and enhanced, as well. Being able to work closely with such technical experts as Brian Colamosca and Dale Livingston in the Technical Center's Aviation Simulation and Human Factors Division contributed much to his research, Mike said. "My experience with the FAA, during my fellowship, was really positive. Staff members participated to a high degree. One of the major breakthroughs was made while discussing the project with a Technical Center employee," he said.


Steve Kazunas is currently employed by Lockheed Martin and is located at the WJHTC. Steve's thesis, "Models for a Radar Tracking Filter" was completed in May 1994 for his Master of Science degree.

David Brill is employed by Galaxy Scientific Corporation, a major consultant to the FAA. As Senior Engineer in their Aviation Division, his work is a continuation of the research he was performing at Rutgers, "A Numerical Model for Pore Water Pressure in Airport Pavement Subgrades". David received his Doctorate in May 1996.

Sandor Mester is employed at Orbital Sciences Corporation in Arizona. Sandor received a Masters in 1992 and a Doctorate 1995. The respective thesis titles were "Wave Propagation in Periodic Structures with Imperfections" and "The Dynamics of Weakly Coupled Near-Periodic Structures."


Ed Weinstein works for Galaxy Scientific Corporation. Ed received his Masters in 1991, his thesis was entitled, "A Three Dimensional Continuous Model of an Axially Compressed Thin Shelled Cylinder with Applications to an Aircraft Fuselage." Ed continued in the Fellowship Program to earn his Doctorate in 1993, his thesis was "The van Kampen Expansion for the Fokker-Planck Equation of a Duffing Oscillator."

Randy Goldberg has been employed by AT&T in their Holmdel Laboratory. His Doctorate thesis (1994) on "Perceptual Speech Coding", a high quality low bit rate coding of voice signals, which is central to future digital economies in air-to-air and air-to-ground communications. Randy is continuing his work in voice communications at AT&T.

Christine Gerhardt will begin her career with the FAA at WJHTC in September. Her research work, developing new simulation scenarios for the North Atlantic Air Traffic Group, landed her this position. She completed a thesis entitled, "Modeling the Air Traffic Activity and Separation Minima Over the North Atlantic Ocean." Christine received her Masters in May of this year.


Based on Geoffrey Smith's work as an FAA Fellow, he was awarded a prestigious NASA Graduate Student Research Fellowship. He was awarded a Ph.D. in 1996 and is now working at the Naval Research Laboratory as a National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow.


These are just a few success stories of the FAA Fellowship Program and its mission of drawing young, intelligent minds to aviation. What the FAA gets back is a broadening base of aviation technical expertise. The FAA University Fellowship Program provides FAA and the participants with opportunities for mutual gain in developing the human and intellectual capital critical to future advancements in the arena of civil aeronautics.


Further, educational opportunities for FAA technical employees to serve as FAA Fellows are currently under development. These will be provided for talented FAA engineers and scientists to acquire and enhance their scientific and technical skills, interests, and abilities within their specialization. In an ever more complex NAS environment, it is paramount for FAA to have access to personnel trained at the leading edge of technical knowledge.

Maybe the answers to some of the most critical issues facing aviation today will be achieved through this partnership.


Author: Trudy Gray

Office of Research and Technology Applications