Brian E. Gilchrist
2006–2008 | Interim Chair of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Brian E. Gilchrist served as Interim Chair of EECS during the time that the faculty were deciding whether or not to split into two separate departments. In 2008, after much discussion, the decision was made not to split into two departments, but to give greater autonomy to the two divisions: Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science and Engineering. Approved by the Regents in 2009, for the first time in the history of the department, there would be two chairs of equal standing, with each given independent budgets to lead their respective division.
After stepping down as Interim Chair, he became the Founding Director of Multidisciplinary Design Programs at the College of Engineering in 2009. In this role, worked with a core team of faculty and staff to create an educational structure for significant, multidisciplinary design opportunities. These programs are built to engage students in real-world professional practice centered on design-build-test project activities. This initiative is part of an evolving vision for 21st Century engineering education at Michigan.
Professor Gilchrist specializes in plasma electrodynamic sensors and technology for in-space applications. His research efforts span in-space plasma measurements, ground-based chamber simulations of high-speed space plasma flows, and the development of advanced space electric propulsion applications. The latter project, technology that would push and pull satellites around in space using nothing more than a long cable, attracted widespread press coverage.
Gilchrist also directs the Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL)/XTRM Labs. SPRL has been in operation since the early post-war years, when work began with captured World War II V-2 rockets that led to early important textbooks on atmospheric science and aeronomy.
After receiving his BS and MS from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Gilchrist began his career at the Watkins-Johnson Company. Over his ten years with the company, he held both technical and supervisory positions associated with microwave integrated circuit and subsystem design for radar and ECM applications.
He returned to school for his PhD at Stanford, doing research on space plasmas, spacecraft, and radar. Following graduation, he worked as Deputy Investigator on The Shuttle Electrodynamic Tether System project, an experiment that formed part of the scientific experiments comprising the first flight of the NASA/ASI Tethered-Satellite System. These tethers were meant to provide propulsion-less space travel for small satellites, work that Gilchrist continues to investigate today.
References and Further Reading