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Center Snapshot: Doug Stanley
Doug Stanley.

Image Above: Doug Stanley will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) as the interim president and executive director. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

Growing up on the Gulf Coast, Doug Stanley can remember fleeing with his family to his grandparent’s house in 1969 when Hurricane Camille, the first modern Category 5 hurricane to ever receive a person's name when making landfall in the United States, was headed their way.

Also known as the "Labor Day Hurricane," it flattened nearly everything along the coast of Mississippi, and caused additional flooding and deaths inland while crossing the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia.

But in the midst of finding his way to safety and returning home, Stanley was just a young boy with a knack for numbers. He won many math competitions and enjoyed solving complex math and logic problems from an early age.

He went on to attend Baylor University, one of the first educational institutions west of the Mississippi River, where he double majored in math and physics.

From there, he pursued his graduate degree in Astronautical Engineering at George Washington University (GWU). It was through The Joint Institute for Advancement of Flight Sciences (JIAFS) program offered at GWU that Stanley found his way to NASA's Langley Research Center.

"I have Langley culture in my blood, including the emphasis on technical excellence and objective analysis," said Doug Stanley, interim President and Executive Director of the National Institute of Aerospace.

Through the JIAFS program, Stanley worked as a student in Langley's Vehicle Analysis Branch (VAB) and took courses in Building 1244. Bob Tolson, a NASA retiree who also works at the NIA, was Stanley's first astrodynamics professor.

NASA paid for Stanley to complete his doctorate at GWU. He graduated in the same JIAFS class as Bobby Braun, NASA's former chief technologist, and with his colleagues in Langley's VAB from Georgia Tech.

"It was a really valuable program," Stanley said.

Stanley worked for NASA for 12 years. In 2005, he led the 400-person Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) with Mike Griffin, former NASA Administrator. From that study, the designs for the current Space Launch System and Orion were born, as was the Constellation Program.

NIA serves as a strategic partner to NASA’s Langley Research Center and the aerospace community. It was created to conduct leading-edge aerospace and atmospheric research, develop new technologies for the nation and help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

A consortium of leading research universities formed NIA. Members include: Georgia Tech, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary and the AIAA Foundation. Those universities and the AIAA are known as member institutions.

To learn more about the National Institute of Aerospace, please visit:

About 8 years ago, soon after the NIA came into existence, Stanley started working for the NIA as a Georgia Tech faculty member, and he became the Vice-President of Research and Program Development about a year ago as an NIA employee before transitioning into his interim role as President and Executive Director.

According to Stanley, the NIA has revenue of about $31 million, and research accounts for about $25 million. But as Interim President and Executive Director, his responsibilities expanded from supervision of research programs to looking for new opportunities with outside companies and setting a strategic direction for the institute.

"[NASA] Langley was the reason we came into existence," Stanley said. "The reason NIA was established was to be a collaborative partner with Langley in response to a cooperative agreement that folks like Charlie Harris, Doug Dwyer and Randy Rooker put in place.

"They were kind of the founding fathers of the NIA."

Harris' original vision, according to Stanley, was to basically supplement NASA civil servants with another 1,000 researchers, students, faculty members and all of the member institutions to make a larger pie for everyone.

"The whole would be better than the sum of the parts," Stanley said. "NIA would add to Langley's capabilities, to propose things to outside customers."

Stanley says the NIA has been very successful at doing that. Both the NIA and Langley can do research on a collaborative basis with each other and with universities to bring in outside funds.

"Only half of our funds this year were from NASA Langley so it's a very important collaborative relationship, but we're also looking outward as we look back to Langley," Stanley said. "We want to help them to bring in new business and new opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have. It's a very important partnership for us."

The NIA earned $5 million in revenue through Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) research in wake vortex, human factors and weather in the cockpit. They conduct research for the Army and other outside companies, and they offer outreach programs and original media such as Discovery Now, Innovation Now and NASA 360.

About 90 percent of NIA researchers have PhDs. Many of them work full-time with NASA Langley in branches where they lead and conduct research efforts.

After his work is complete, Stanley looks forward to returning home to his family. He is a family-oriented "soccer dad," married with three children (ages 12, 9 and 5). His wife is French and his family speaks French fluently and visits France in the summer.

Their French culture is a regular and important part of life, just like the Langley culture that Stanley embraces.

As NASA prepares to celebrate its 95th anniversary, the NIA prepares to celebrate its 10th.

"The signing of the cooperative agreement that began NIA was on September 26, ten years ago in 2002," Stanley said. "Hopefully we'll have another exciting decade going forward."

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman