Virginia Tech Honors Engineer William Grossmann for his Career Achievements
William Grossmann, an engineer at NASA Langley through the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech in 1958, 1961, and 1964, respectively, is a 2008 inductee into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering’s Academy of Engineering Excellence. Grossmann who resides in Berlin, Germany and Hampton, Va., joins a select group of 80 engineering alumni in the Virginia Tech academy.
Born in Richmond, Va., Grossmann learned excellence early in his life. As a Boy Scout, he rose to the rank of Eagle Scout and became a member of the selective Order of the Arrow. In 1954, he was the highest-ranking scout in Virginia, allowing him to represent the group at the opening of the Virginia General Assembly during the turbulent time of school integration.
He also excelled at swimming, earning an athletic scholarship to attend Virginia Tech. He eventually became co-captain of its swim team, and he was voted outstanding swimmer in the Southern Conference in 1956, 1957 and 1958. Many years later, in 1991, he would become the first swimmer inducted into Virginia Tech’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
A member of the Corps of Cadets, he received his aerospace engineering bachelor’s degree in 1958. He went to work for NASA Langley as an aerospace technologist, but took leave in 1960 to start his master’s degree. Within four years he secured both his master’s and doctorate, receiving the Virginia Tech Sigma Xi Award and NASA’s Dissertation Award. The latter provided him with a one-year sabbatical with pay, which he used for a post doc position with New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. The Courant Institute was home to the top mathematicians who emigrated from Germany before WWII. He found the work so fascinating that he remained in New York for half the salary he had earned at NASA.
At the end of his post doc, he accepted a position of assistant professor at City University’s College of Staten Island and was asked to form its computational center. His appointment came at the very beginning of the large-scale computing era. He interrupted his tenure track position at City University to become a senior scientist at Max Plank Institute in Munich, Germany in 1969. For the next five years his challenges led him to co-discovering and developing a revolutionary new concept for radio frequency wave heating of thermonuclear plasmas.
He returned to New York in 1974, as Research Professor and Associate Director of Courant Institute’s Magneto-Fluid-Dynamics Division to expand its research activities in fusion plasma physics. This expansion allowed the institute to become more involved with national laboratories such as Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos where major fusion experiments were underway.
Dr. Grossmann was elected to the position of Director of the Summer College on Plasma Physics at the Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, a position he held from 1983 until 1987.
In 1987, he joined Science Applications International Corporation or SAIC as it is commonly referred. He became vice president and chief scientist for SAIC’s applied physics operation in McLean, Va., yet he retained a foothold in New York as an adjunct professor of applied science at NYU until 1990.
In 1995 he took a leave of absence from SAIC and joined ABB, Limited, as a program manager in its Heidelberg, Germany Corporate Research Center. In 1998, he became ABB’s Chief Information Officer in the German location. In 2000 he became the ABB Kraftwerke AG’s Chief Knowledge Officer and Director of IT. When ABB Kraftwerke was absorbed in a joint venture between ABB and ALSTOM, it formed ABB ALSTOM Power, and Grossmann was named its director of business IT alignment in December of 2000.
In 2002 he returned to SAIC as a vice president of technology, responsible for developing business opportunities in energy with emphasis on power generation throughout Western Europe and the Middle East. Subsequently he became vice president of technology and chief scientist for SAIC Consulting in London. Since June of 2005, Grossmann has served as the director of business development for SAIC Services, responsible for its operations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
And his career also found its way back to Virginia Tech as he and his wife established the Charlie L. Yates scholarship for leaders in aerospace and ocean engineering in 2006. They became members of Ut Prosim in October, 2007. Grossmann is currently an adjunct professor in Tech’s AOE department.
Grossmann is also now working with the NASA Langley spin-off organization, the National Institute of Aerospace. Grossmann has since spent several months in 2006 and 2007 helping to develop technology business opportunities for the NIA in systems engineering, advanced materials, and unmanned autonomous vehicles.
He continues to work with SAIC and NIA dividing his time between Berlin, Germany and Hampton.
NASA Langley Research Center
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor and Responsible NASA Official: H. Keith Henry
Editor and Curator: Denise Adams