Spring 2010 Spencer C. Schantz Distinguished Lecture Series

John T. BettsDr. John T. Betts
Boeing Company

Public Lecture - Friday, April 16, 2010
2:30-3:30 Perella Auditorium, Rauch Business Center

Title: What Does a Rocket Scientist Really Do?

When describing something dreadfully simple or blatantly obvious we often proclaim "It is Not Rocket Science." Yet while we may readily agree that "rocket science" is not a synonym for "simple", it sheds no light on what a rocket scientist really does. In this talk I will reflect on the many subjects encountered during a career in the aerospace industry. Hopefully, I can convey a sense of what rocket science is all about!

Technical Talk - Thursday, April 15, 2010
2:30-3:30 Room 451, Mohler Lab

Title: Algorithmic Choices When Solving an Optimal Control Problem

When designing a computational algorithm for solving a complicated problem it is usually necessary to choose between one or more alternatives. Should functions be approximated using polynomials, rational functions, or Fourier series? Should a linear system be solved using Gaussian elimination or orthogonal decomposition? Ultimately the design of the algorithm must select a combination of techniques that are efficient, robust, implementable and that have a sound theoretical basis. This talk will review many of the choices needed to construct an effective method for solving an optimal control problem.

Dr. Bett's simulations from MOPTA 2002 conference. This simulation shows how long it would take a rocket to reach the moon from the earth using a low energy force (such as the air from a hair dryer).


John T. Betts received a B.A. degree from Grinnell College in 1965 with a major in physics and minor in mathematics. He attended graduate school at Purdue University and in 1967 received an M.S. in Astronautics with a major in orbit mechanics. He received a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering from Purdue in 1970, specializing in optimal control theory. He joined The Aerospace Corporation in 1970 as a Member of the Technical Staff, and from 1977-1987 was manager of the Optimization Techniques Section of the Performance Analysis Department. He joined the Boeing Company, serving as manager of the Operations Research Group of Boeing Computer Services from 1987-1989. He served as a Technical Fellow in the Mathematics and Computing Technology Division, until his retirement in 2009, during which time he provided technical support to all areas of the Boeing Co. Dr. Betts is a member of AIAA and SIAM with active research in nonlinear programming and optimal control theory. In 2004, he was granted an "outstanding aerospace engineer award" by Purdue University. He has over 50 technical publications, and is the author of two books on optimal control methods.

About Spencer C. Schantz

This lecture series is endowed in the name of the late Spencer C. Schantz, who graduated from Lehigh in 1955 with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. Following progressive responsibilities with several electrical manufacturing companies, in 1969 he founded U.S. Controls Corporation and became its first CEO and President. The Spencer C. Schantz Distinguished Lecture Series was established by his wife Jerelyn as a valuable educational experience for faculty, students and friends of Lehigh’s Industrial and Systems Engineering department.

Click here for an archive of past events in this series