As student demand and undergraduate enrollment numbers continue to skyrocket, the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering has announced four new faculty members hired for the 2021-2022 academic year.

To better serve the rapid growth in student population and also expand the scope of research expertise in key areas such as vehicle design, space science engineering, and structures and materials, the department has appointed the following new faculty:

Wm. Michael Butler has joined the department as a professor of practice. No stranger to the College of Engineering and Virginia Tech community, Butler is making the move from the department of Engineering Education. Since 2013, he has educated and advised first year engineering and transfer students and provided support as they matriculate into a variety of engineering disciplines. He also served as the director of the Frith First-year Engineering Design Laboratory over the past six years.

Prior to his appointment at Virginia Tech, Butler spent more than twenty years at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in the Advanced Development Programs, also known as “Skunk Works”.  Specializing in vehicle design, he worked on a number of high profile projects including the NASA Liquid Fly-Back Booster, the F-16 Conformal Fuel Tank, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) programs and the National Aerospace Plane (NASP.)

Butler is a three-time Hokie, earning his bachelor and master’s degrees in aerospace and ocean engineering from Virginia Tech in 1989 and 1995, and obtaining his Ph.D. in engineering education in 2012.

He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE).  He holds two patents, for his dual mode propulsion system, and a reusable fly-back rocket booster and method for recovery.  At Virginia Tech, he was awarded the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Nunally Outstanding Engineering Education Faculty Member Award, both in 2019.

Riley Fitzgerald has been appointed as an assistant professor in the department. A recent graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a doctoral degree in aeronautics and astronautics, Fitzgerald’s expertise lies in orbital mechanics, space systems engineering and guidance, navigation and control.  

While at MIT, Fitzgerald served as a Draper Fellow at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., specializing in space and mission-critical systems, as well as positioning, navigation and timing.

Fitzgerald holds a bachelor degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University, and earned both his master’s and doctorate degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT. 

He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Yao “Yolanda” Fu has joined the department as an assistant professor. Fu’s research covers materials and structures, specifically environment-assisted fracture and fatigue behavior; computationally guided innovative materials and manufacturing design, or 3D printed materials; and multi-scale simulation modeling of microstructural evolution in additive manufacturing process. 

Fu is the recent recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Young Investigators Program Award from the Office of Naval Research.

Prior to her appointment at Virginia Tech, she served as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati in the aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics department. She previously spent a year as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Nanophase Materials Science at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and as a research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Fu obtained a bachelor degree in material science and engineering in 2006 from Hefei University of Technology in China; her master’s degree in material science and engineering in 2009 from the Institute of Metal Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang, China; and her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2013 from the University of Pittsburgh.

She is a member of the International Association for Computational Mechanics (IACM), the United States Association for Computational Mechanics (USACM) and the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS). 

Jie Song has joined the department as a research assistant professor. The scope of his research covers development of high temperature alloys through physical metallurgy, thermomechanical properties evaluation and enhancement, and heat treatment; manufacturing techniques including high pressure die casting, solidification of metallic materials, additive manufacturing of plastic and metallic materials, and grain refinement techniques; and advanced microstructure characterization, transmission electron microscope (TEM) and high resolution TEM analysis. 

Song previously served as a research associate in the department of mechanical and materials engineering at the University of Cincinnati and as a postdoctoral research associate at the Colorado School of Mines in the department of metallurgical and materials engineering.

He obtained his bachelor degree in material science and engineering in 2006 from Hefei University of Technology in China; a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2009; and his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 2014. 

Song is a member of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) and a frequent journal reviewer  for the Metallurgical and Material Transaction A and the International Journal of Materials and Product Technology.