Steven Barrett named head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Steven Barrett, the H.N. Slater Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has been named the new head of AeroAstro.

An expert on the environmental impacts of aviation, Barrett succeeds Daniel Hastings as department head.

Mary Beth Gallagher | School of Engineering

October 31, 2023

Steven Barrett, the H.N. Slater Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has been named the new head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), effective Nov. 1.

“Professor Barrett is incredibly well-suited to serve as leader of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Having served as associate department head since 2021 and interim department head for the past five months, he has demonstrated a commitment to the AeroAstro community,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “He is a dedicated educator and brilliant researcher. I am looking forward to working closely with him in this new role.”

Barrett joined the AeroAstro departmental leadership in July 2021 as associate department head. In May, Barrett was named interim department head after Daniel Hastings, the Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, announced he was stepping down to serve as interim Institute community and equity officer and interim associate provost for faculty development.

As director of the MIT Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, Barrett and his team study the impact aviation has on the environment. He has developed a number of solutions to mitigate the impact aviation has on air quality, climate, and noise pollution. The overall goal of his research is to help develop technologies that eliminate the environmental impact of aviation.

As associate department head, Barrett focused on AeroAstro’s graduate and undergraduate education. In addition to developing programs that aim to increase funding for graduate students, Barrett contributed to the creation of the AeroAstro HBCU Partnership Program. He also co-led the development of the department’s digital education strategy, which aims to bring aerospace education to more people across the world.

Since joining MIT’s faculty in 2010, Barrett has been involved in various programs across MIT. He has participated in the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the SMART Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, the MIT Energy Initiative, and the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium.

Barrett’s research has been selected for a grant under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. He is also the recipient of a Bose Research Grant. His work on the first-ever plane with no moving propulsion parts was honored as one of the 10 Breakthroughs of 2018 by Physics World. From 2011 to 2015, Barrett served as associate director of the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction, which included 50 participants across academia, industry, and government.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge, he studied for a year at MIT through an exchange program. He received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he served as a faculty member for one year prior to joining MIT’s faculty in 2010.

Barrett succeeds Daniel Hastings, who has led AeroAstro since January 2019.

“I am incredibly grateful to Professor Hastings for his tremendous leadership, not only as head of AeroAstro but as associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the School of Engineering. He has been a trusted advisor for many years. His contributions will have an impact on AeroAstro and the wider engineering community for many years to come,” adds Chandrakasan.

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