Aeronautics engineer named in Queen’s Birthday Honours

07 June 2017
Professor Karen Willcox
Karen Willcox with the Boeing Blended- Wing-Body

Leading kiwi aeronautics engineer and educational innovator Karen Willcox, an alumna of the University of Auckland, has been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Professor Willcox is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-director of the MIT Center for Computational Engineering. She gained her Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Auckland before completing her PhD at MIT.

She says she was surprised and delighted by being named in this year’s honours.

"It is a great honour to be recognised in this way, and while my career has taken me offshore, NZ is, and always will be, home.

“I have been very fortunate in my career opportunities, and I am always grateful for chances to help inspire the next generation of young New Zealanders."

Professor Willcox has served on the faculty at MIT for 16 years. Prior to that, she worked at Boeing Phantom Works with the Blended-Wing-Body aircraft design group.

Her research at MIT has produced methods that enable the design and operation of next-generation aircraft. These methods are widely applied in aircraft system design and environmental policy decision-making. She currently leads an Air Force MURI (Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative) on optimal design of multi-physics systems.

In addition to her research, Professor Willcox is active in education innovation. She is currently co-Chair of the MIT Online Education Policy Initiative and Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Board.

Her passion for education includes a strong interest in promoting girls’ and young women’s interest in science, mathematics and engineering. She is a current member of the advisory board for Girls’ Angle, a non-profit organisation that aims to foster and nurture girls' interest in mathematics.

On regular visits to New Zealand, she engages in outreach visits to schools, many through the Sir Peter Blake Trust, who named her an Emerging Leader in 2010.

"There are so many opportunities in engineering, designing a better future for our world," Professor Willcox says. "To make that a reality, we need to draw on the passions, the inspirations and the different viewpoints of young people from all across society."


Anne Beston
Media Adviser, Faculty of Engineering

: Tel: 09 923 3258 Mob: 0221 970 089