WUSTL’s David Peters receives AIAA’s Reed Aeronautics Award


David Peters, PhD, the McDonnell Douglas Professor of Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, has received the Reed Aeronautics Award for 2011 from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The Reed Aeronautics Award is the highest award an individual can receive for achievements in the field of aeronautical science and engineering. Peters received the award “for outstanding contributions to the advancement of rotary wing unsteady aerodynamic theory and applicatons to design.”

“It didn’t take long after I became dean for me to learn that Dave Peters is one of our most recognized scholars for his seminal contributions to the design of airplane propellers and helicopter rotors,” says Ralph S. Quatrano, PhD, the Spencer T. Olin Professor and dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “We are extremely proud of Dave and this very deserved recognition.”

The award is named for Sylvanus A. Reed, an early aeronautical engineer, founding member of the organization that became the AIAA, and the first to develop a propeller system composed of metal rather than wood. His aluminum alloy propeller gave Jimmy Doolittle’s plane the speed it needed to win the 1925 Schneider Cup race.

Peters is director of WUSTL’s Center for Computational Mechanics and the associate director of the Georgia Tech University/Washington University Center of Excellence for Rotor Technology. He also is an adjunct professor at Georgia Tech, where he taught before joining the WUSTL faculty.

Peters research interest is computational modeling of the dyanmics of the wakes created by airplane propellers and helicopter rotors in order to predict their effect on the aircraft.

As a sideline, he analyzes the physics and aerodynamics of baseball, explaining why ballpark design is biased toward the lefthander and why it’s faster to slide into bases head-first rather than feet-first.

Peters will receive the award at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala, a black-tie event to be held May 11 in Washington, D.C.

For the award ceremony, Peters was asked to prepare a video introduction describing the moment when space and flight first captured his imagination. (The AIAA has been collecting and posting its members replies to this question on a web page titled “When Did You Know?” for the past year. Peters’ videotaped response follows.


AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the aerospace profession with more than 35,000 members worldwide.