Nikolaos A. Gatsonis received an undergraduate degree in Physics at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Greece (1983), an M.S. in Atmospheric Science at the University of Michigan (1996), an M.S. (1987) and a Ph.D. (1991) in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department of MIT. From 1991 to 1993 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. In 1994 he joined the Mechanical Engineering faculty at WPI, promoted to Associate Professor in 2000 and to Professor in 2005. He was appointed Director of the Aerospace Program in 2000 and Associate Department Head of Mechanical Engineering in 2007-2010. He is the founding Director of WPI’s BS, MS, and PhD programs in Aerospace Engineering.
Professor Gatsonis’ research entails the development of continuum, atomistic and hybrid models, and computational methods for fluids, gases and plasmas in regimes that range from nanoscale to macroscale and low- speed to hypersonic. He applies these methods to areas of spacecraft micropropulsion, plasma devices and diagnostics, spacecraft-environment interactions, rarefied gasdynamics, complex flows under microgravity, and materials processing. He has participated in spacecraft propulsion development programs such as the NASA GRC EO-1 Pulsed Plasma Thruster, the JHU APL micro-liquid-fed PPT, the BUSEK Inc. Advanced micro Pulsed Plasma Thruster, the BUSEK Compact Induced Current Hall Thruster, and the BUSEK High Current Hollow Cathode Tungsten Emitter. He participated in mission design of the Nuclear Electric Propulsion Space Test Program (NEPSTP) satellite and in space flight programs such as the Active Geophysical Rocket Experiment (AGRE), the Active Plasma Experiment (APEX), and the Environmental Monitor Package (EMP). Ongoing collaborative research includes propulsive applications on nanospacecraft attitude dynamics and control, computational methods for control/estimation applications of UAVs, and modeling of biofluids under microgravity. Funding for his research has been sponsored by AFOSR’s Computational Mathematics Program, AFOSR’s Dynamics and Controls Program, the Army Research Laboratory, DARPA, NSF’s Nanotechnology and Interdisciplinary Research Initiative, DOE, NSF’s Nanoscale Exploratory Research, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, NASA’s Microgravity Materials Program, and NASA’s Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium. He has established a strong record of industrial collaborations and support through numerous STTR and SBIR programs. He has advised more than thirty graduate students pursuing Ph.D. dissertations and Masters theses and supported two Research Professors, seven Postdoctoral Fellows, and several Visiting International Scholars. He has published close to 110 journal and conference proceedings papers.
Professor Gatsonis has developed and taught at WPI numerous undergraduate and graduate courses in fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, plasmas, propulsion, and computational methods. He advised more than fifty senior design theses (Major Qualifying Projects). He also taught several graduate courses at industrial settings. He has been involved in the development and delivery of a variety of K-12 STEM outreach programs funded by NASA’s Space Grant Consortium.
Professional Highlights & Honors
Spectrum News 1 spoke with Nikolaos Gatsonis, head of aerospace engineering, about what he will be looking for when the Artemis I test flight to the moon launches.
Drone Life, an industry trade publication, wrote about the $350,000 NSF grant from the U.S. Navy that aerospace engineering professors Michael Demetriou and Nikolaos Gatsonis’ secured to develop a computational model that processes data from underwater drones to estimate the source and concentration of contaminants in oceans.