For release September 19, 2006


Dr. Joel W. Muehlhauser of Blanton’s Chapel Community near Manchester is retiring Dec. 31 as University of Tennessee assistant vice president and dean of research at the UT Space Institute.

A search is under way for a successor to Muehlhauser, who first joined UTSI as a student in 1966, received a Ph.D. in Physics from UTSI in March 1974, and served in several capacities before being named head of research in October, 1990. On April 15, 1998, he was promoted to assistant UT vice president also.

“It is imperative that we quickly find a successor to Joel, who has so ably filled a key position that is vital to one of the Space Institute’s most important missions,” said Dr. Donald C. Daniel, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of the Institute.

“We will miss Dr. Muehlhauser, who has contributed in many ways to the success of UTSI and is respected for his calm manner of dealing with problems, his devotion to keeping the Institute committed to its research mission, and as one who has sought success for UTSI above personal recognition.”

Muehlhauser’s successor will hold the title of assistant vice president for research and development. Applicants for the position may contact Ms. Patricia A. Burks-Jelks, director of Human Resources and Services at the UTSI, (931) 393-7226 or toll free 1 (888) 822-8874 ext. 226. Ms. Burks may be reached by e-mail at or by regular mail to The University of Tennessee Space Institute, Human Resources and Services, B.H. Goethert Parkway, MS-11, Tullahoma, Tenn., 37388-9700.

Muehlhauser, a native of Ohio, moved as a young boy with his parents to Shelbyville and graduated from that city’s Central High School. After earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Auburn University, he served four years in the U.S. Navy as damage control assistant, main propulsion assistant, and engineer officer.

Home from the Navy, he visited UTSI to see Dr. Fred Shofner, a high school friend, and wound up enrolling in the graduate school. From the time he got his doctorate in 1974, Joel was heavily involved in the Institute’s research. He was an early member of the staff of the Energy Conversion Program’s MHD project. Research in magnetohydrodynamics ranked UTSI fifth among the nation’s universities in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research contracts in the 1987 fiscal year – the year that Muehlhauser was named ECP’s deputy program manager.

On March 1, 1988, Muehlhauser was named as acting administrator of ECP, succeeding DR. Y.C.L. Susan Wu who had served as professor and administrator of the Energy Conversion Research and Development Programs.

During the period of 1978-81 when DOE’s Coal Fired Flow Facility (CFFF) was being constructed, Muehlhauser, as manager of the Facility Laboratory, was responsible for the fabrication and installation of the facility. Later he was promoted to manager of the R&D laboratory where he was responsible for the project engineering functions on all ECP programs.

Proud of ECP’s success in demonstrating an exceptionally clean method of burning coal, Muehlhauser also notes that during the years of MHD research, “hundreds of graduate assistants in the program not only earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees but also received invaluable first-hand experience in the MHD facilities.”

A son of Wesley Muehlhauser and the late Hulda Jensen Muehlhauser of Shelbyville, Joel was a classmate of Jim Trolinger and John Shipp, UTSI’s first Ph.D. graduates in physics. As a student, he met Sue Clifton of Tullahoma, an ECP principal secretary. They later married, had three children, and now live in the Blanton’s Chapel community outside of Manchester. Come January First, the retired dean hopes to spend a lot of time in his wood-working shop where he has already made some choice items of furniture for two-year-old granddaughter Caroline.

Retiring After 4 Decades at Space Institute

Dr. Joel W. Muehlhauser, left, and Dr. Donald C. Daniel stand beside a jet engine while talking about Muehlhauser’s pending retirement.

— UTSI Photos