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Sheila Widnall has been a member of the faculty of MIT in the Department of Aeronautics andAstronautics since 1964. In 1992, she was appointed Associate Provost at MIT with responsibility foracademic integrity including conflict of interest policy, federal relations, faculty retirement, tenure andpromotion policies, and international programs.
In 1993, she was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to serve as Secretary of theAir Force. As Secretary, Dr. Widnall was responsible for all the affairs of the Department of the AirForce including recruiting, organizing, training, administration, logistical support, maintenance, andwelfare of personnel. She was also responsible for the formulation of policies and programs by theDepartment of the Air Force; the effective cooperation and coordination between the Department of theAir Force and the other military departments and agencies of the Department of Defense; the effectiveand timely implementation of policy, program, and budget decisions; the effective supervision andcontrol of the intelligence activities of the Air Force; and the presentation and justification of thepositions of the Air Force on the plans, programs, and policies of the Department of Defense to includerecommendations to Congress. She co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on SexualHarassment and Discrimination. She returned to her faculty position in 1997 and was appointedInstitute Professor in 1998.
Dr. Widnall is a member and the current Vice President of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE)and past president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She served as amember of the NAE Council from 1992-93; of COSEPUP for 1992-93; as a member and later chair ofthe Draper Prize Committee, from 1988 to 1993; Membership Committee, 1992-93; member and laterchair of the Aerospace Peer Committee 1989-92; Committee on Scientific Responsibility and theConduct of Science, 1990-92; Committee on Data Needs for Monitoring Labor Market Conditions forEngineers 1987; Committee on Technology Issues that Impact International Competitiveness 1987;Nominating Committee 1986-87; US National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics 198488;
Committee on Education and Utilization of Engineers, also Subcommittee on Engineering andTechnical Systems 1983-85; Member: Space and Aeronautics Board, National Research Council(1975-1978).
Dr. Widnall has been a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation, the Aerospace Corporation, a director of theDraper Laboratories, Chemical Fabrics Incorporated and a trustee of the Boston Museum of Science.She was a member of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government. She is a pastpresident of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a current trustee of the Sloan Foundation, the Institute for Defense Analysis and GenCorp. Prof. Widnall is currently associated with the Lean Aerospace Initiative, a partnership betweenindustry, government/DOD and MIT dedicated to a vision of “of significantly reducing the costand cycle time for military aerospace products throughout the entire value chain whilecontinuing to improve product performance”.
She served as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
Technology, Policy and Education: Education for Leadership in Engineering
as author at MIT World Series: TPP 30th Anniversary Celebration,
together with: Dava Newman (moderator), Richard de Neufville, Joel Moses, Granger Morgan,
Lecture 15: Space Shuttle Accidents
as author at MIT 16.885J / ESD.35J Aircraft Systems Engineering - Fall 2005,
The Columbia Tragedy: System Level Issues for Engineering
as author at MIT World Series: Brunel Lecture Series on Complex Systems,