Dr. Ajay Kumar


Dr. Ajay Kumar, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore, is a renowned scientist known for his outstanding contributions made in the fields of computational fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and aerothermodynamics while being associated with NASA for more than three decades. Starting in 1981, he worked with NASA in different capacities and rose to attain directorial positions twice steering large teams of researchers and engineers to conduct in-depth studies thus enabling informed technical programmatic and budgetary decisions. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Outstanding Leadership Medal from NASA for exceptional leadership of Langley Research Center's Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate and contributions as a valued member of the Senior Leadership Team. In 2005, IIT Kanpur conferred upon him the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his outstanding and phenomenal contributions to the world of computational fluid dynamics.


After completing his master's in Aeronautical Engineering from IISc Bangalore in 1970, Dr. Kumar joined IIT Kanpur and obtained his Ph.D. in Aerodynamics in 1974. From 1973 to 1975, he briefly taught at the institute before winning a National Research Council Fellowship to develop computational tools for predicting aerothermal environment over the earth and planetary entry systems. He, therefore, joined the Langley Research Centre at NASA in 1975 as a national research council associate. From 1977 to 1981, he served as a research associate at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. In 1981, he began working at NASA as an aerospace engineer in the field of hypersonic air-breathing propulsion. His personal research interests are in the areas of computational fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, aerothermodynamics and hypersonic air-breathing propulsion. While working at NASA, he received another master's degree in Engineering Administration from George Washington University in 1984.

From 1998 to 2004, he served as the Director, Aerodynamics, Aerothermodynamics, and Acoustics, where he directed theoretical, computational, and experimental research and technology development in aviation areas. In 2004, he was appointed Director, Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate (SACD) at NASA Langley and continued till 2012. He was largely responsible for conducting high-profile in-depth studies and research to influence NASA decision-makers on planetary exploration mission architectures, advanced systems concepts, systems and technology trades and life cycle, cost, and risk analysis, as well as pre-decisional sensitive information. During this period, from February 2009 to April 2010, he also served as the Acting Director, Engineering Directorate.

Dr. Kumar has also served on the Editorial Advisory Board of the International Journal of Computers and Fluids, the Technical Advisory Committee of the European Hypersonic Database, and co-chaired two AGARD working groups (1997-2002) on hypersonic. He has also been on the Advisory Board of the School of Engineering of the Old Dominion University and the Advisory Board of the Aeronautical Engineering Department of Penn State University. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Board of the Aeronautical Engineering Department of the Cincinnati University.

Dr. Kumar has won many NASA and other awards, including the prestigious Gene Zara Award (1992) for his contributions to the National Aero-Space Plane Program. and Engineer Alumni Achievement Award from George Washington University. He is also the author/co-author of 130+ technical publications and has co-edited 4 books on topics related to transition, turbulence, combustion, and advanced numerical algorithms. Currently, he serves as an advisor to Taksha Institute for Science and Technology (TIST).

Achievements and Honors

  • NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, 2012.
  • NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, 2007.
  • The Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive, 2007.
  • Recipient of Distinguished Alumnus Award, 2005 by IIT Kanpur
  • Fellow, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1992.
  • NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his contributions to the field of Computational Fluid Dynamics, 1992.
  • Best Paper Award from Applied Physics Laboratory on scramjet CFD, 1987.