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National Academy of Inventors selects Texas A&M University’s John L. Junkins as 2016 NAI Fellow

John L. Junkins has been named a NAI Fellow for 2016 for his contributions to the navigation, mechanics and control of aerospace systems.

John L. Junkins

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) on Tuesday named John L. Junkins among its 175 NAI Fellows for 2016. Induction ceremonies are set for April 6, 2017, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Junkins is the founding director of the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study in the Division of Research as well as a Distinguished Professor, a Regents Professor, and holder of the Royce E. Wisenbaker Chair in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Dwight Look College of Engineering. In addition, Junkins is the director of the Land, Air and Space Robotics Laboratory and of the Center for Mechanics and Control, both at Texas A&M.

Over a career that spans five decades, Junkins has made significant contributions to the navigation, mechanics and control of aerospace systems, which are documented in more than 400 articles and eight books. Early in his career, Junkins worked on concepts and inventions to support U.S. space missions.  From laser range measurements made during Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17 in 1971-72, Junkins developed a precise model for the shape of the moon.  He later developed the first finite element representation of the Earth's gravity anomalies, which supported early inertial guidance methods for Polaris missiles. In more recent years, in collaboration with his students, Junkins developed the laser-scanning electric whiteboard; the StarNavII, a split field-of-view star camera designed to enhance spacecraft navigation; the VisNav, a navigation sensor designed to improve the capability of spacecraft to rendezvous and dock; and a robot that mimics spacecraft proximity operations for research in Earth-bound laboratories, among other inventions.  He has developed many algorithms for spacecraft control, including a novel way to use the Earth’s magnetic field to maneuver spinning satellites; this was implemented successfully for the NOVA spacecraft.

Junkins earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn University in 1965, followed by a master’s degree in 1967 and a doctoral degree in 1969, both from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to joining Texas A&M in 1985, he held academic appointments at the University of Virginia (1970-1977) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (1977-1985), following four years as an engineering scientist with McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company. His current research interests include the dynamics and control of spacecraft; guidance, navigation and astronautics; analytical and numerical methods; and smart sensor technology. His research has received significant funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, among others.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics, and is an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Honors include the Martin Summerfield Award for the best book published by AIAA in 2013; the AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Award in 2006; the Tycho Brahe Medal from the Institute of Navigation in 2004; the Frank Malina Medal from the International Academy of Astronautics and the Theodore von Karman Medal and Lectureship from AIAA, both in 1997; and the AIAA Pendray Aerospace Literature Award in 1990.

Junkins is the fifth Texas A&M faculty-researcher to be selected since the NAI named its charter fellows in 2012. The others are R. Bowen Loftin, former president of Texas A&M; B. Don Russell, Distinguished Professor and holder of the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dwight Look College of Engineering; Marlan Scully, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Science; and the late Christodoulos A. Floudas, formerly the director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute and holder of the Erle Nye ’59 Chair for Engineering Excellence in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, Dwight Look College of Engineering.

Today’s announcement brings the total of NAI Fellows to 757, representing more than 229 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutions. The 2016 Fellows account for more than 5,437 issued U.S. patents, bringing the patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 25,000. Election to NAI Fellow status is accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.