Eric Paterson appointed the inaugural executive director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute – Virginia Tech Daily

Eric Paterson, world-renowned expert in computational fluid dynamics and naval hydrodynamics, has been appointed executive director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute.

“Dr. Eric Paterson has devoted his entire academic career to security-related research and is a world-renowned expert in computational fluid dynamics,” said Dan Sui, vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech. “Dr. Paterson is a proven academic leader who works tirelessly to advance the university core mission in research, education, and outreach. His broad interdisciplinary outlook and passion to train the next generation of national security leaders have made him the ideal inaugural executive director to lead the Virginia Tech National Security Institute.” 

Paterson has served as interim executive director for the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology for over two years and has led the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering as department head for almost 10 years.

“Building upon the Hume Center trajectory and its successful model of blending research execution, graduate education, and experiential learning, I look forward to steering the Virginia Tech National Security Institute into new areas and fostering partnerships across the entire university,” said Paterson, the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor of Marine Propulsion. “By growing our applied research portfolio that also integrates student learning, this institute will enable Virginia Tech to help solve tomorrow’s national security challenges, and to deliver the workforce of the future.”

During his tenure at the Hume Center as interim director, research expenditures increased from $13 million to $18 million, while seeing rapid growth in the demand for the Hume Center education programs. Paterson was also engaged with the Office of Research and Innovation on the development of a dedicated space for security-related research in Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center, which is now home to the newly launched Virginia Tech National Security Institute.

Through his visionary leadership and strategic management, as head of the department of aerospace and ocean engineering, Paterson made an immeasurable impact, setting the program on a trajectory for continued success for years to come. 

“Eric’s strong record of strategic and impactful leadership has defined his tenure as department head in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “His comprehensive understanding of the national security landscape, combined with his strong track record of industry partnerships and interdisciplinary collaboration, make him the ideal choice to lead Virginia Tech’s National Security Institute.”

With Paterson’s promotion as the director for Virginia Tech’s National Security Institute, Ross has appointed Robert Canfield interim department head of the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering.

In line with the College of Engineering’s strategic plan, Paterson provided leadership and advocacy for programming and efforts dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion; and has been an active partner with college and university leadership to support advancement initiatives such as stewardship of donors, alumni relations, and communications.

In conjunction with strategic faculty hires, the department’s research portfolio grew from $6 million in 2012 to $15 million in 2020. During that time, Paterson collaborated with his faculty and leadership team to establish of a number of key Virginia Tech research centers and instructional facilities including the Center for Renewable Energy and Aero/Hydrodynamic Technology, the NAVAIR-funded Virginia Tech Airworthiness Center, and the Advanced Propulsion and Power Laboratory. 

During his nine years as leader, the department has seen significant and unprecedented growth in terms of student demand and enrollment numbers and doubled the number of faculty, research expenditures and funding, and expanded existing and developed a number of new research and instructional facilities over the past decade.

To meet the rising student demand, faculty and staff within the department has grown exponentially over the past nine years. These strategic hires helped to expand the department’s scope of expertise in areas such as autonomous systems, guidance and navigation, plasma science, constellations of small satellites, hypersonics, aero/hydroacoustics, space science, rocket propulsion, cavitation and multiphase flow, and air/space/ocean vehicle design. 

During his tenure, alumnus Kevin T. Crofton gifted the department $14 million — establishing the first named aerospace and ocean department in the country.

“From the first day I met Eric, it was clear to me that he had a vision, the drive, and the passion for advancing the aerospace and ocean engineering department at Virginia Tech,” said Crofton, chief executive officer of the Comet Group. “He consistently engaged in strategic conversations, looking for the best steps and moves to support his faculty, staff, and students. Seeing Eric’s focus and his ability to help me understand the needs of the department facilitated my interest and desire to help make a difference for the department and for Virginia Tech.”


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