B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 1972
M.S., Engineering Mechanics, 1973
Ph.D., Engineering Science and Mechanics, 1983
Dr. Charlie Harris leads some 800 scientists, engineers, and technicians working in 21 disciplinary research branches as the director of research and technology at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia in support of NASA’s mission in aeronautics, space operations, and space exploration.
In the late 1960’s, when Harris arrived at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, he heard a presentation on aerospace engineering and it sounded like “an exciting field”. He graduated in June 1972, during a time of recession and when the Apollo and supersonic transport programs had just been canceled. He opted to earn his master’s degree in engineering science and mechanics in 1973. After a brief stint at Babcock and Wilcox, a nuclear engineering firm, he returned to Blacksburg to get his doctorate.
Dr. Harris supported his family by working as an instructor, and was still able to get his doctorate in three years. He remained for a fourth year as an assistant professor until he received a tenure track offer in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M. He spent the next four years in College Station, Texas but was lured back to Virginia when NASA offered Dr. Harris his dream job.
Since 1987, NASA Langley has served as home to Dr. Harris, and his job has continually increased in responsibilities to his current position. Harris joined NASA as head of the Mechanics of Materials Branch. He was named assistant chief of the Materials Division in 1994 and chief engineer in 1996. In 1997, he was selected as chief technologist for structures and materials and led the NASA Center of Excellence for Structures and Materials at Langley. In 2000, he was named deputy director of the Structures and Materials Competency. In 2002, Harris became the director of the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) Management Office at Langley, responsible for government oversight of the NIA and strategic planning of the Langley-NIA collaborative research program.
Harris then completed a two-year assignment as a principal engineer with the NASA Engineering and Safety Center where he led the technical resolution of several space shuttle safety issues critical to return to flight. He is currently leading NASA's investigation of the shuttle external tank PAL ramp foam loss in-flight anomaly that occurred during the STS-114 mission. Although retirement eligible, Dr. Harris plans to continue working indefinitely.
Select Awards and Recognitions
Associate Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal
The Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive, 2005
NASA Exceptional Service Medal, 2006
Distinguished Executive, 2008