Skip to content

Schmisseur Named New UT Space Institute Director

John Schmisseur

University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) Professor and H.H. Arnold Chair John Schmisseur has been selected to serve as the institute’s next director and as associate dean in the Tickle College of Engineering, effective August 1.

“I’m very honored and grateful to have been selected to be the next executive director of UTSI, a position that I hoped I would have an opportunity to one day grow into since I arrived here in 2014,” said Schmisseur. “UTSI is a special place with incredible potential and I’m hoping we can work closely with the Knoxville campus to see it grow into a vital asset to UT in the performance of our mission as the state’s land grant university.”

Schmisseur’s goal of increasing the institute’s reach and importance to key sectors and to the state was shared by Dean Matthew Mench of UT’s Tickle College of Engineering, which includes UTSI in Tullahoma.

“We are excited to have Dr. Schmisseur take the position, and are looking forward to implementing his vision for growth of UTSI and providing a greater impact on the nation’s aerospace and defense programs,” said Mench, the Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of the college. “This is an exciting time for UTSI and for the university in both Tullahoma and Knoxville.”  

Mench also was quick to praise James Simonton, who served as interim executive director of UTSI for the last two years, his second stint in that position.

“I want to thank Dr. Simonton for his great work in providing steady leadership and facilitating significant growth for UTSI during his term,” said Mench. “I am grateful for his service.”

For Schmisseur, the new role is an opportunity to utilize the experience he developed over the last eight years in establishing and growing UTSI’s hypersonics research group, using it to develop a much broader aerospace and defense portfolio that supports faculty and students on both campuses.

Schmisseur credited Mench and UT’s senior leadership as being incredibly supportive of UTSI’s growth and direction and said that he feels fortunate to have a chance to work closely with them to ensure UTSI fulfills its “great potential” within the mission of UT and for the people of Tennessee.

He also noted that UTSI’s location gives it a unique opportunity to be a partner and major player throughout the region.

“UTSI can play an even greater role for the state as the cornerstone of an advanced technology ecosystem that can draw from the nearby technology-intensive Huntsville, Alabama, region,” said Schmisseur. “We can leverage our engagement there to promote the expansion of aerospace and defense industries in southern Tennessee and foster economic development.”

He first came to UTSI in 2014 after spending 23 years in the US Air Force. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a Fellow of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and has numerous other Air Force and aeronautics accolades.

Schmisseur earned his bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Texas in aerospace engineering in 1990 and 1992, respectively, and his doctorate from Purdue University in 1997 in aeronautics and astronautics.

Looking to the horizon, UTSI has a solid core of research capabilities it will continue to nurture and grow along with establishing new strengths to broaden the research base. The Tennessee Aerothermodynamics Laboratory (TALon) is home to some of the largest high-speed wind tunnels in academia and a focal point for collaborations with external partners. 

UTSI’s Center for Laser Applications pioneers advanced methods for laser-based materials processing, and the Propulsion Research Facility is shared with Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) and features one of the only afterburning jet engines on a university campus.

Planned areas for expansion of research capabilities include aerospace propulsion, materials for aerospace and defense applications, and advanced optical instrumentation. The establishment of collaborative research space to connect leading-edge research from both Knoxville and Tullahoma with industrial and government end-users is also planned.

Also notable to UTSI is its long history with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including the graduation of nine astronauts who account for more than 1,000 days in space.

UTSI was founded in 1964 to connect and support faculty and scientists in coordination with nearby AEDC and has since graduated more than 2,000. It has countless examples of scientific breakthroughs, improvements in materials and mechanics, and advancements in flight both on and off planet.