David A. Whelan

Jacobs School of Engineering
UC San Diego
San Diego, California


David A. Whelan joined the faculty of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego in 2017. He earned his B.A. in Physics (1977) from UC San Diego and his Ph.D. (1983) and MS (1978) in physics from UCLA where he studied Tokamak Fusion Reactors, Type III Radio Solar Bursts and Nonlinear Energy Flow in electron-beam plasma systems. Whelan’s 34-year career in the aerospace industry included science and engineering research positions and eventually executive R&D management as Vice President and Chief Scientist of the Boeing Defense and Space Systems. He also served in government as the Office Director for two of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency systems offices. While at DARPA, Whelan created many legacy joint programs with the Air Force, Navy and the Army, most notably, the Discoverer II Space Radar Program, the Army’s Future Combat System and the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle.

Dr. Whelan’s earlier career included working at the Hughes Aircraft Company as Program Manager and Chief Scientist for the B-2 Bomber Air-to-Air Radar Imaging Program, and as a Physicist for the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) studying X-ray lasers and Advanced Nuclear Weapons. He started his career at Northrop where he was one of the key designers of the B-2A Stealth Bomber and contributed to the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter. He has numerous publications on electromagnetic radiation, laser plasma phenomena and defense systems. He holds over 50 patents on navigation systems, radar systems, antenna, and low-observable technology.

Dr. Whelan was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2007 for his development and application of Air-Air Radar Imaging. He is currently a serving member of the Defense Science Board for Office of Secretary of Defense, the NRC Division of Engineering and Physical Sciences Board, and the Air Force Studies Board of the National Research Council. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and Senior Member of the IEEE, and Fellow of the AIAA. Whelan was honored for his government service and received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Civil Service in 2001, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 1998, and the Department of the Air Force Medal for Exemplary Civilian Service in 2008.


Over my 30+ year career in science and engineering, I have had the pleasure of working for all sectors of the research and engineering profession. From my academic education in Plasma Physics at UCLA, to the DoE Nuclear Weapons Laboratory LLNL, to the commercial and defense industries at Northrop, Hughes and the Boeing Company and finally having the honor to help lead our Nation’s Defense research and innovation engine at DARPA. From this experience base I will bring a balanced perspective on how to best to address the challenges facing the FIAP community and by networking across all these sectors to find innovative and high impact solutions to meet our Nation’s Challenges by leveraging the talent and resources of the FIAP members. If elected to serve as a Member-at-large on the FIAP Executive Committee I will provide insights, energy and leadership to improve the life-long development of scientists and engineers and seek to help bridge the gap between the National Security community needs for researchers, talent and ideas and our FIAP professionals.