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McNAIR Center

Our Team

It's the talent and passion of our research experts, combined with the strength of our technology and industry partnerships, that truly make the McNAIR Center a research leader in the aerospace industry. 

The dedicated McNAIR Center team is here to serve the needs of our industry partners and research collaborators. Contact us today.

about zafer

Dr. Zafer Gürdal

Ronald E. McNair Chair

For as long as he can remember, Zafer Gürdal has been fascinated by flight. As a child in Ankara, Turkey, he recalls building a makeshift rocket from a mechanical pencil using the shavings from match heads to propel his creation into the sky. His innate curiosity and drive were a natural fit for a lifetime of propelling aerospace ingenuity forward.

While at Virginia Tech and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Zafer pushed the frontiers of aerospace research, developing stronger, lighter materials that are critical to future exploration. This cutting edge research has brought him international recognition as a leader in aerospace innovation.

Zafer welcomes the challenge of bringing together the many facets of aerospace at the University of South Carolina. Research is his focus, with the education of tomorrow's workforce a primary goal. Under his leadership, the McNAIR Center will challenge Carolina's brightest young minds, unifying USC's aerospace effort to bring an array of opportunities to researchers and students alike.

about toren

Dr. Michel van Tooren


In addition to his duties as director with the McNAIR Center, Michel van Tooren is a professor of aerospace systems design and structures in the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing (CEC). Michel joined CEC in September 2013 where his research focus is the design and manufacture of composites structures, and he serves as the chair of the Aerospace Engineering Studies Committee. Dr. van Tooren has a B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. 

Before joining the faculty at USC, he worked for Fokker Aerostructures in the Netherlands as the manager of new concept development while also working part-time as a member of the faculty for aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology.

Prior to that he worked ten years as a professor of systems integration aircraft at Delft University of Technology, building a group specialized in aircraft design, flight mechanics and multi-disciplinary design optimization. This group became well-known for its work in MDO, aircraft design, KBE and truck aerodynamics. This followed a previous ten years of research, education and innovation in design of composite structures. 

about hamrik

Dr. Ramy Harik

Assistant Professor Aerospace Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing

Dr. Ramy Harik joined the USC mechanical engineering department in fall 2014. Prior to his move to South Carolina, Dr. Harik was assistant professor of industrial engineering at LAU in Lebanon. 

Dr. Harik's research interests include automated tool path planning for fiber placement, automation of process planning for aircraft structural parts, mechanical feature shape recognition based on persistent heat signature, 5-axis flank milling optimization and obtaining an optimal part build orientation efficiently in additive manufacturing.

about burton

Burton Rhodes, Jr.  

Laboratory Manager

Burton Rhodes joined the McNAIR staff in late 2014 as lead equipment technician and laboratory manager. He holds a B.S. degree in materials joining engineering technology from LeTourneau University in Texas.

Mr. Rhodes manages all lab activities for the McNAIR Center. The McNAIR Center labs include the Lynx Fiber Placement Machine, the largest AFP Machine in any research university in the country; KUKA Industrial robots; Compression Molding Machine; Autoclave (6'X10') (225PSI/800°F); Curing Oven (6'X10'); Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VARTM); Dry Fiber Cutting Facility/Clean Rooms; Plasma Treatment; and Dedicated Proprietary Workshop.