At the University, Aerospace engineering Prof. Werner Dahm conducts research on combustion and fluid dynamics.
Soon, he’ll be taking his scientific expertise to the United States Air Force as the organization’s chief scientist.
As a top Air Force adviser, Dahm will provide officials with updates on the branch’s research and development projects.
“Every morning, there is an air staff meeting,” he said. “From that point on, every day is different.”
Dahm’s duties will include visiting laboratories around the world, presenting research and deciding which projects to pursue.
With a $24 billion research budget and another $34 billion for acquisitions this fiscal year, Dahm noted, the Air Force’s budget is larger than many auto companies.
He said he will miss teaching and working on research projects at the University, but couldn’t pass up the position.
He will officially begin his new post at the Pentagon Oct. 1 and take a one-year leave of absence from the University.
“It’s going to be tough to leave that,” he said, “but it’s such an unnatural opportunity.”
Dahm, whose research focuses on fluid dynamics, turbulent flows, propulsion and combustion, has been at the University for 23 years.
He said he has committed to the job for one year. Due to the intense nature of the job, scientists typically don’t stay in the position for more than a year or two, he added.
The chief scientist job typically goes to an academic or private-sector official, because the post’s independent status is crucial to providing a frank and unbiased recommendation, Dahm said.
This is not the first time Dahm, who also heads the Laboratory for Turbulence & Combustion in the College of Engineering, has worked closely with the Air Force. Before being offered the post this summer, Dahm had been a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, a committee of about 50 academics, industry professions and scientists who make research and development recommendations to the Air Force.
Dahm has also worked on multiple research projects for the armed services branch.