AIAA Announces 2018 Winners for Outstanding Educators and Literary Excellence in Aerospace Awards

Troy, N.Y. — The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) recently honored recipients of the 2018 Educator Awards presented to several faculty, including rotorcraft and adaptive structures expert Farhan Gandhi, the Rosalind and John J. Redfern Jr. ’33 Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The awards were presented during the fifth annual AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (AIAA SciTech Forum), the world’s largest event for aerospace research, development, and technology, held earlier in January at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida.

During the AIAA SciTech Forum, Gandhi, an innovative researcher in the field of rotary-wing aircraft, who is recognized internationally as a leader in morphing and active rotors, and adaptive cellular structures, was awarded the AIAA Faculty Advisor Award for reviving the AIAA RPI Student Branch; facilitating seminars, astronaut visits, company tours, conference participation; and providing students with opportunity, exposure, and a sense of community through the association with AIAA.  

According to AIAA, the Faculty Advisor Award is presented to the officially recognized faculty adviser of a chartered AIAA Student Branch who, in the opinion of student branch members and the AIAA Student Activities Committee, has made outstanding contributions as a student branch faculty adviser, as evidenced by the record of his or her student branch in local, regional, and national activities.

“Rensselaer has a rich and important legacy in aerospace engineering, and I have been immensely pleased to join as a faculty member in the School of Engineering,” said Gandhi, who is also a tenured full professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering.  

Gandhi joined Rensselaer in 2012, from Pennsylvania State University, where he served as professor of aerospace engineering and deputy director of the Penn State Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence. In his 17 years at Penn State, he served as adviser to 17 doctoral students and 32 master’s degree students.

At Rensselaer, Gandhi introduced the new undergraduate course Smart and Adaptive Structures. Recently, he has also, he has also offered undergraduate and graduate courses in Multi-rotor Aerial Vehicles.

“Professor Gandhi is an exceptional researcher, a dedicated educator and an outstanding mentor. This award recognizes his sustained and significant contributions to student mentoring,” said Suvranu De, the J. Erik Jonsson ’22 Distinguished Professor of Engineering and head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer.

Gandhi is a prolific researcher. His rotorcraft research programs explore new methods for actively and passively changing the shape of helicopter blades, toward the goal of increasing the capabilities and adaptability of the aircraft, and making them more fuel efficient. For example, chord extension—or widening the blades—would enable helicopters to fly in high-altitude, high-gross-weight, and high-speed conditions, while retraction would reduce profile drag in more benign flight conditions.  He has also extended his research to the areas of full-aircraft morphing and to reconfigurable controls.

Gandhi is also the author of more than 250 technical papers in refereed journals and proceedings. Gandhi has secured research funding from both industry and government, with past and present funding from the National Rotorcraft Technology Center, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, NASA, Boeing, United Technologies Research Center, Bell Helicopter, AgustaWestland, and others. 

Gandhi is active in his field. He served on the American Helicopter Society (AHS) Technical Council from 2007–09, and he was technical chair of the AHS 2009 Annual Forum. Additionally, he served as co-chair of the 2010 International Conference on Adaptive Structures and Technologies (ICAST) and the Chair of the 2016 ICAST. Gandhi is a past chair of the AHS Aircraft Design Technical Committee and the AHS Dynamics Technical Committee. He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Adaptive Structures Committee (chair from 2016-2018), the International Society for Optics and Photonics’ Smart Structures Program Committee, and the ICAST Organizing Committee.

He served as associate editor of the Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures and the Journal of the American Helicopter Society. Additionally, he was guest editor of a 2001 special issue of Smart Materials and Structures Journal on rotorcraft applications, and for a 2010 Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures special issue on flexible skins for morphing aircraft.

Gandhi has garnered many awards and honors for his work. In 1997, he received the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, and in 1998 he won the Francois Xavier Bagnoud Award from the American Helicopter Society. Gandhi won a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award in 2007, and the Penn State Engineering Society’s Outstanding Research Award in 2009. He was recognized with the AHS Forum Best Aircraft Design Paper awards in 2002,2009 and 2017, and the University of Bristol’s Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship in 2009-10. Gandhi is an associate fellow of the AIAA.

The research and faculty advising efforts led by Gandhi exemplifies the vision of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer, the foundation of which is the recognition that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Rensselaer serves as a crossroads for collaboration — working with partners across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions — to address complex global challenges, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer.

About AIAA 

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is nearly 30,000 engineers and scientists, and 95 corporate members, from 85 countries who are dedicated to advancing the global aerospace profession. The world’s largest aerospace technical society, the Institute convenes five yearly forums; publishes books, technical journals, and Aerospace America; hosts a collection of 160,000 technical papers; develops and maintains standards; honors and celebrates achievement; and advocates on policy issues. AIAA serves aerospace professionals around the world—who are shaping the future of aerospace—by providing the tools, insights, and collaborative exchanges to advance the state of the art in engineering and science for aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to