MU partners with national defense center on national security projects

Three men pose in front of a fighter jet.

Alan Van Nevel, head of research at the NAVAIR facility; College of Engineering Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Student Success Hani Salim and College of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean of Research J. Chris Pires discussed their institutions’ partnership during a recent trip to NAVAIR’s China Lake, Calif., facility. Photo courtesy of Hani Salim.

The University of Missouri and the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) recently entered into an Education Partnership Agreement, an agreement that will have a positive impact for students and researchers at Mizzou Engineering.

NAVAIR’s mission “is to provide full life-cycle support of naval aviation aircraft, weapons and systems operated by Sailors and Marines. This support includes research, design, development and systems engineering; acquisition; test and evaluation; training facilities and equipment; repair and modification; and in-service engineering and logistics support.”

The agreement lists the benefits to MU as being a formal vehicle for information exchange with NAVAIR, access to NAVAIR’s cutting-edge facilities and technology, and new research experiences for faculty and students, which could lead to jointly developed technologies.

“Our faculty have ideas on research we want to do, and we can collaborate with NAVAIR scientist on research proposals to strengthen them,” said Hani Salim, Mizzou Engineering’s associate dean for Academic Programs, who visited NAVAIR’s China Lake, Calif., facility in June. “NAVAIR is interested in inviting our faculty as visiting professors as soon as possible, and they’re hoping to expand into interdepartmental personnel agreements, where faculty time is  paid by NAVAIR for a semester or more to work on research projects there.”

For students, NAVAIR offers a wide array of internship and post-doc opportunities which could lead to increased job opportunities once they hit the market. And students working with NAVAIR could leverage the organization’s support in seeking competitive fellowships, including Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarships through the Department of Defense.

“If our faculty and students have ties or support from a specific organization, sucg as NAVAIR, our students’ chances of a SMART fellowship getting approved are higher,” Salim said.

For NAVAIR, the bonuses are a crop of scientists and engineers ready to join their workforce, new ideas from faculty, increased opportunities provided by participation in academia, and the potential for research collaborations with MU’s world-class faculty.

“Geospatial, anything with drones, batteries, advanced materials, energetic materials, etc.” J. Chris Pires said of NAVAIR’s research interests. Pires is the associate dean of Research at the MU College of Arts and Science and also visited the China Lake facility in June.

This agreement is the latest example of how MU and Mizzou Engineering can work together with the U.S. military and Department of Defense to create the kind of research that helps support the nation’s defense efforts while training the kinds of engineering leaders that are ready to step right in to organizations such as NAVAIR and make an immediate impact.

“They’re interested in our students doing internships and also interested in our faculty visiting … but they’re also interested in sending their master’s students here to do Ph.D.s or engineering students who don’t have an M.S. to come do it with us while working on projects they’re working on for NAVAIR,” Salim explained.

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