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Daniel Assumes Space Institute Helm; Stresses Vital Role of Partnerships

Partnerships are vital to the future of The University of Tennessee Space Institute, Donald C. (Don) Daniel said in brief “get-acquainted” remarks to the faculty, staff and students June 5.

Daniel assumed leadership of UTSI on June 1 as UT Associate Vice President and UTSI Chief Operating Officer, succeeding John E. Caruthers who is retiring. Meanwhile, Daniel plans a busy summer with UTSI as home base as he reaches out to various partners.

Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and UT Knoxville (especially the College of Engineering) head his list of vital partnerships, Daniel said.

He defined partnerships as “working on things together,” not “shaking hands and asking for money.”

Daniel also pledged to keep close watch – measuring benchmarks and numbers – on the Space Institute’s “revitalization plan,” which focuses sharply on propulsion and materials processing as key emphasis. He said UT leaders have authorized hiring new faculty (both research and tenure-track professors) and other research personnel.

The former AEDC chief scientist said he has encountered enthusiasm and keen interest in UTSI’s future locally, statewide, and regionally – “reaching from Huntsville to Kentucky.” He said he and Joel Muehlhauser, UT assistant vice president and dean of research at UTSI, recently attended the Tennessee Valley Economic Corridor Summit.

“I like many things,” Daniel said, “and three of these are friendly, polite and professional people, good, hard work that is thorough and timely, and this beautiful place – what a privilege to work here.”

Daniel, who recently met with Gov. Phil Bredesen, said the governor’s plans to locate a high school on the Institute’s campus for exceptional science and mathematics students has a target opening date of 14 months.

Responding to a question, Daniel, a renowned expert in aerospace engineering, said he thinks UTSI needs to be “selective” in planning future propulsion (and other) projects, emphasizing the need to focus research on needs 20 years in the future rather than focusing on “today’s engineering needs.”

June will be an especially busy time, Daniel said, mentioning among other activities, a planned visit by John Petersen, UT president, who “has provided outstanding leadership,” a visit with Brig. Gen. David Stringer, AEDC commander, an invitation to attend the UT President’s staff meeting, and establishing “a new relationship” with the Hands On Science Center in Tullahoma.

A former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, Daniel also was once Executive Director of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Before being chosen to lead UTSI, he was a principal research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, a Distinguished Research Professor with the National Defense University’s Center for Technology and National Security Policy, and chairman of NATO’s Research and Technology Board.