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AFRL senior scientist elected to National Academy

  • Published
  • By Donna Lindner
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – An Air Force Research Laboratory engineering expert was recently elected a member to the National Academy of Engineering. Appointment to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions bestowed upon an engineer.

Dr. Richard Vaia was selected for his distinguished contributions to engineering based on “aerospace applications of polymeric nanomaterials and for technical leadership in materials for national defense applications.”

“I’m unbelievably humbled,” said Vaia. “This recognition is a reflection of the outstanding people and culture that I am fortunate to be a part of. AFRL provides leadership and innovation for our nation as displayed in this incredible recognition.”

NAE is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. The mission of NAE is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.

“The induction of Dr. Vaia is well-deserved recognition of his distinguished contributions to the field of polymeric nanomaterials,” said Dr. B. L. Lee, Program Officer for Mechanics of Multifuncitonal Materials and Microsystems. “In managing the Air Force Office of Scientific Research program, I had the privilege of supporting his basic research lab tasks related to the subject of molecular framework for mechanically adaptive materials, which produced a number of scientific breakthroughs for nearly ten years and successfully forged strong ties with the academic community.”

Vaia’s pioneering discoveries in polymer nanocomposites are used in stronger, lighter and more functional components across commercial and military sectors. His national leadership, vision, and advocacy for manufacturing of nanomaterials has ensured integration of nanotechnology innovations into structures, coatings, human systems, and sensors across Department of Defense systems.

“Dr Vaia’s exceptional scientific and technical leadership is well known around here,” said Timothy Sakulich, Director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “He continues to inspire us all by earning this high stature of recognition.”

Vaia’s leadership at AFRL has helped deliver solutions to protect airmen, expanded tactical and strategic reconnaissance for targeting and missile defense and enhanced special forces capabilities worldwide.

“This well-deserved honor not only reflects Dr. Vaia’s contributions in support of national defense but also for advancement of fundamental science and engineering,” said Dr. Kenneth Caster, program officer for Organic Materials Chemistry, AFOSR.

NAE has more than 2,500 peer-elected members and senior professionals in business, academia, and government who are among the world’s most accomplished engineers. They provide the leadership and expertise for numerous projects focused on the relationships between engineering, technology and the quality of life.

The induction ceremony for the Class of 2020 will take place in October, during a ceremony at the annual meeting in Washington, DC.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: