Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI’s Walker named 2014 O’Donnell Award recipient

For immediate release

San Antonio — Jan. 7, 2014 — Dr. James D. Walker, an Institute scientist in Southwest Research Institute’s Mechanical Engineering Division, has been named a recipient of the 2014 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, given by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST). Walker and three other O’Donnell Award recipients will be honored Jan. 16 during TAMEST’s 11th Annual Conference, to be held at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort near Austin, Texas.

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards “recognize rising Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness,” according to the TAMEST web site.

Walker, whose research efforts have focused on the mechanical response of a variety of systems and materials to impact loads, will receive the Technology Innovation Award “for his pioneering work, development and modeling in impact theory, penetration mechanics and material characterization and response under dynamic loading.”

“James has made a major contribution to our program during his tenure at SwRI,” said Danny Deffenbaugh, vice president of SwRI’s Mechanical Engineering Division. “His efforts on the Columbia accident investigation and NASA’s return-to-flight program are excellent examples of the quality of the work he delivers to his clients. And, his work in penetration mechanics has contributed to the safety of our military forces.”

Walker’s research centers on personnel protection ranging from vests worn by soldiers and police officers to designs for ground vehicles, the International Space Station and satellites. Currently, Walker is the principal investigator and manager of a $5.1 million project for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Adaptive Vehicle Make Program. SwRI is developing the survivability tools for analyzing vehicle response to land-mine blasts and other weaponry that will be used to achieve the AVM program goal of compressing at least five fold the development timelines for the design and build process of complex defense systems.

In 2003, Walker and SwRI colleagues were part of a team that helped determine the cause of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. Walker authored the chapter “Impact Modeling” in the Report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. He also performed studies in support of the space shuttle return-to-flight program.

Walker’s awards and honors include the Holley Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for his work in support of the Columbia accident investigation, NASA Group Achievement Awards for work on various aspects of the return-to-flight program and the New Horizons mission to Pluto, and Popular Science’s 2004 list of “Brilliant 10” scientists to watch.

The author of more than 100 papers and publications, Walker holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from the University of Utah. Walker is an adjunct faculty member at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where he teaches graduate courses in mechanical engineering and mathematics.

He is a member of ASME, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Mathematical Society, Association for Computing Machinery, Hypervelocity Impact Society, International Ballistics Society, Mathematical Association of America and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

For more information, contact Tracey M.S. Whelan, (210) 522-2256, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.