Skip to main content

Former Air Force chief scientist to help build defense institute

November 03, 2010

Werner Dahm, chief scientist for the U.S. Air Force for the past two years, has joined the engineering faculty at Arizona State University and will help establish an institute dedicated to finding solutions to national and global security challenges.

Dahm is now a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the School for the Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He will hold a position as an ASU Foundation Professor, which recognizes faculty who are eminent scholars in their field and have made exceptional research and teaching contributions in their career.

In addition to teaching and research, he will take a leading role in creating the institute designed to bring together researchers in a variety of fields to focus on security and defense science.

Researchers will address issues of national defense, homeland security, counterterrorism and cyber warfare, as well as issues of border security, narcotics interdiction and cybercrime.

Dahm “is the ideal scientist-leader to establish this institute,” said Rick Shangraw, ASU’s senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development.  “He has a deep understanding of the global security environment and already has a legacy of providing scientific solutions to meet those challenges.”

Dahm said he’s been lured to ASU by the chance to work not only on the technological solutions to such security problems but also on the social, public policy and legal issues involved.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring engineers, social scientists and legal experts together, so that beyond technology we can look at the root causes of the problems, the global disparities and tensions that lead to national and international threats,” he said.

“The way ASU has organized itself to address these kinds of global challenges is unique,” Dahm said. “This is one of the few places where a collaborative effort to focus on problems of such a big scope is even possible.”

Dahm has been a member of the engineering faculty at the University of Michigan since 1985, where he became a professor of aerospace engineering in 1997 and head of the Laboratory for Turbulence and Combustion.

Since 2008, he has worked full-time at the Pentagon as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, consulting on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force’s mission.

For his performance in that job, it was announced Monday that Dahm will receive the Exceptional Service Award, the highest recognition for civilian service bestowed by the Air Force.

Paul Johnson, executive dean of ASU’s engineering schools, says that among Dahm’s impressive accomplishments is his work in developing “Technology Horizons,” a recently released 20-year vision plan to guide the Air Force’s strategic investments in science and technology.

“Werner demonstrated exceptional skill and imagination in leading that effort, particularly the ability to engage a wide range of people and focus their input into a clear and bold strategic vision,” Johnson said. “He has the range of leadership abilities we’ll need to guide our new security and defense initiative.”

In his national defense job, Dahm also served as the Air Force’s principal science and technology representative to the civilian scientific and engineering community and to the public at large. He’s a recipient of the Air Force Award for Meritorious Civilian Service.

Kyle Squires, director of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, noted the combination of Dahm’s academic background, research accomplishments and his achievements as the Air Force chief scientist.

“That combination is truly unique. His experience in each of those areas will be critical to the success of the initiative,” Squires said.  

Dahm previously worked in industry as a research engineer in the Transonic Wind Tunnel Section of the Propulsion Wind Tunnel Facility at the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center.

His primary research and teaching focus has been fluid dynamics, turbulent flows, combustion and propulsion. He holds several U.S. patents in these areas.

His expertise covers a wide range of specialties, including supersonic combustion, combustion aerodynamics, scalar mixing, laser diagnostic techniques, scalar imaging techniques, high-speed data acquisition systems, image processing, large-scale data processing, microsystems, micro fluidics, micro combustion, micro engines and defense science.

Dahm is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has authored almost 200 technical publications and won numerous top awards in his field.

He earned his Ph.D. in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee Space Institute, and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


Rick Shangraw,
Senior Vice President for Knowledge Enterprise Development
(480) 965-4087

Paul Johnson,
Executive Dean
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
(480) 965-9235


Joe Kullman,
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
(480) 965-8122 direct line
(480) 773-1364 mobile