Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, Jaiwon Shin emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 23, and in 1989, he joined NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH, where he served most recently as Chief of the Aeronautics Projects Office. In January 2008, he was named Associate Administrator of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
NASA Tech Briefs: Dr. Shin, what are some of the primary responsibilities you have as the Associate Administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate?
Dr. Jaiwon Shin: I think my major role is supporting the Administrator for setting the direction for aeronautics R&D that NASA has put through. In order to do that more effectively, I have to work with many internal and external key stakeholders and partners to identify national challenges correctly and formulate NASA Aeronautics’ top-level goals and objectives accordingly to address those national challenges. And certainly I have a lot of duties to advocate NASA’s aeronautics program, and working with our domestic and international partners to form strategic partnerships. I view some of those as my primary responsibilities.
NTB: After years of limited or no funding increases, last year the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate received a $60 million budget increase. To what do you attribute this positive development?
Dr. Shin: That was a really good outcome that we all appreciated. I think it started from the consistent research direction that we were able to hang onto since 2006, not changing the main research direction so often, like every year-and-a-half or two years. We started producing a lot of really good, solid research results. In turn, what that did, in my view, is we started getting back our technological credibility. That came out of the excellent work we actually conducted, but also from maintaining partnerships with government agencies and the external community.
I think that building up technical credibility was the key and so many people who worked on NASA aeronautics programs all deserve a lot of credit. And then I emphasized to all of our people that we have to address the right national challenges. Not the ones that we like to work on, but ones that are really the groundswell national challenges that the community is really calling for. In this case it is mitigation of environmental impact due to aviation, and that is truly a national agenda in the aviation community, who are rallying behind it.
I also emphasized that we have to build technically credible content, so that’s where we start. We went through almost a year long explanation and vetting with personnel internal and external to NASA, and although they were laborious efforts, we took a very systematic and methodical approach to painstakingly explaining what this technical project will do for the nation. And I emphasize for our folks that if we do the correct technical work and addressing the right national challenge, then money will follow.
I encouraged the people that you’ve got to trust the system. If we do the right thing, there will be enough people out there who see the value and will want to fund us.
NTB: Much of that new money has been allocated to something called the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project. Tell us about that project and what NASA hopes to accomplish with it.
Dr. Shin: We have been working in both aircraft systems and operational aspects to reduce the impact of environmental aspects from aviation, and we have been doing that for many years. Out of those research activities a lot of promising concepts and technologies started emerging. With ERA – Environmentally Responsible Aviation – what we are trying to do is select the most promising technologies and combine them, meaning integrate them, and test them out to assess their integrated benefits and try to find out what is feasible as an integrated system. And we have to test these integrated technologies in a relevant environment. To us, the relevant environment means, many times, flight, but it doesn’t necessarily mean flight all the way. It could be fairly sophisticated integrated testing on the ground, or it could be a combination of ground test and some flight test. The point is the integration and assessing of benefits in the relevant environment.