Professor Daniel Hastings has been named chief scientist of the US Air Force, the fifth member of MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics to hold that post.
Professor Hastings has served on the Air Force's Scientific Advisory Board since 1994. He will receive a leave of absence from MIT and assume his post at the Pentagon in September.
As chief scientist, Professor Hastings will be the science and technology advisor to the secretary and the chief of staff of the Air Force. Secretary of the Air Force Sheila E. Widnall, also an MIT aeronautics and astronautics professor, was the associate provost when President Clinton appointed her in 1993. The chief of staff is General Ronald Fogleman.
Professor Hastings noted that the Air Force, the most technically intense branch of service, is "redefining itself" from an air and space force into a space and air force. "I will help them understand the nature of this transition," he said. He also must represent the Air Force in relations with universities, industry and government research organizations as well as national and international technical societies.
He will serve as chairman of the Chief Scientists Group and choose the winner of the annual Air Force Basic Research award. He is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Board Steering Committee, participating in its management and research.
In his service on the Advisory Board, Professor Hastings headed a study on the future of space technology. He likes considering issues of technology and policy. "I don't think they'd ask someone to be the chief scientist if he did not enjoy that interface," he said.
Professor Hastings, 41, grew up in Widness, a small town outside Liverpool, England, and studied mathematics at Oxford University. He received the SM in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 1978 and the PhD in plasma physics in 1980. He worked as a research scientist at the Physical Sciences Laboratory in Andover and at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory before joining the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in 1985. He developed a research program in spacecraft-environmental interaction and was promoted to associate professor in 1988.
From 1990-93, he was the first director of the Space Grant Program at MIT. He was promoted to professor in 1993 and served as associate department head for research from 1993-96. His current research interests are in space power and propulsion and the systems aspects of distributed satellite systems.
Professor Hastings has served on a number of committees and boards for NASA, the Nuclear Research Council and the National Science Foundation. He is an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Four other members of the MIT faculty have served as chief scientist to the Air Force. They are Professors Eugene E. Covert and Winston R. Markey, professor emeritus James W. Mar, and former Professor H. Guyford Stever.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 7, 1997.