Stephen Ruffin, Aeronautics and Astronautics

If we want to continue being competitive, the United States needs to more effectively teach students from a diversity of backgrounds – from rural areas where they might not have any access to aerospace as an industry to all of the traditionally underrepresented groups, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women. We can’t leave anyone behind.

STEPHEN RUFFIN (MIT MS '87)- Professor and Director, NASA’s Georgia Space Grant Consortium, Georgia Tech

MLK Visiting Professor 2000-2001
Hosted by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Stephen Ruffin (MIT, MS ’87) is Associate Professor & Director of NASA’s Georgia Space Grant Consortium at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also Chair of NASA's National Council of Space Grant Directors (NCSGD). Research interests: computational fluid dynamics (CFD) with applications in: propulsion/airframe integration; planetary entry aerothermodynamics; Cartesian grid-based CFD methodologies; rotor/fuselage interaction; and store separation.

2000-2001 Scholars

SMR Skydive Atlanta 2013

Dr. Stephen M. Ruffin is a Professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech; Director of NASA’s Georgia Space Grant Consortium (GSGC); Head of the Aerothermodynamics Research and Technology Laboratory; and Chair of the AE Aerodynamics and Fluid Mechanics Group. He is also National Chair of NASA's National Council of Space Grant Directors (NCSGD).

Dr. Ruffin holds a BS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (1985) from Princeton University and an MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1987) from MIT. He earned a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1993) from Stanford University.

His expertise is in high temperature gas dynamics, compressible flow aerodynamics, and airframe propulsion integration. Dr. Ruffin is leading development of a 3-D Cartesian Grid based Navier-Stokes solver (NASCART-GT) for design applications and development of Cartesian-grid approaches for chemically reacting flows. He is developing novel approaches that allow for Navier-Stokes simulations using a purely Cartesian grid solver. His Aerothermodynamics Research and Technology Laboratory applied these techniques to applications as diverse as hypersonic planetary entry vehicles and flow physics, rotorcraft airframe interaction flows, transonic and supersonic missiles and unsteady store separation problems.

In 2009, he joined the faculty of Georgia Tech’s School of Engineering, where he has served as an outstanding educator.  He has been awarded a 2000 Meritor Inc. Faculty Excellence Award by the Women in Engineering Program at Georgia Tech and the CETL/Amoco Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.  His teaching skills have been honed through participation in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) National Effective Teaching Institute and as a “Class of 1969 Teaching Fellow.” His many areas of service at Georgia Tech include service on the Honor Committee, COE Promotion, Reappointment and Tenure Committee, AE Graduate Committee, and the COE Dean’s Faculty Advisory Committee.

Dr. Ruffin is also committed to the diversification student Georgia Tech and affiliate institutions.  He works with numerous campus organizations in their recruitment and retention efforts.  Dr. Ruffin is Director of the Alfred P. Sloan Scholars Program in Aerospace Engineering and recruits and mentors students for this program.  

Other honors for his efforts include the NASA Superior Performance Award (1992), NASA National Aerospace Plane CFD Validation Team Award (1992), and AIAA Best Thermophysics Paper Award (1993).  He has published over 57 articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings.

Dr. Ruffin has worked as a researcher at Princeton’s Jet Propulsion Lab and as an aerospace engineer at both Lewis (Internal Fluid Mechanics and Propulsion Systems Divisions) and Ames (Thermosciences Division) NASA Research Centers.

Between 1985 and 1987, he worked as an aerospace scientist at MIT’s Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, where he conducted studies of viscous-inviscid interaction on vortex dominated hypersonic flows over delta wings.  This work involved developing an accurate and efficient, Navier-Stokes solver for vortex flow analysis.

He returned to MIT in 2000 as an MLK Visiting Professor, hosted by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Selected, 2009-2012


Ruffin, S.M., Lee, J.D., “Rotorcraft Flowfield Prediction Accuracy and Efficiency using a Cartesian Grid Framework,” Intl. Journal of Mathematical Models and Methods in Applied Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2009.

Ruffin, S.M., Lee, J.D., “Adaptation of a k-Epsilon Model to a Cartesian Grid Based Methodology,” International Journal of Mathematical Models and Methods in Applied Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2009.

Lee, Jinwook, Orsini, A., and Ruffin, S.M., “Unstructured Cartesian-Grid Methodology for Non-equilibrium Hypersonic Flows,” Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer, Vol. 24, No. 1, Jan-Mar 2010.

Malo-Molina, F., Gaitonde, D., Ebrahimi, H, and Ruffin, S.M., “Three-Dimensional Analysis of a Supersonic Combustor Coupled to Innovative Inward-Turning Inlets,” AIAA Journal, Vol. 48, No. 3, March, 2010.

Clark, I.G., Braun, R.D., and Ruffin, S.M., “Validation of Computational Analysis for Supersonic Tension Cone Static Aerodynamic Performance,” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 49, No. 3, pp. 483-495, May-June, 2012.

Bopp, M.S., Theisinger, J.E., Ruffin, S.M., Braun, R. D., and Clark, I.G., “A Multi-Fidelity Approach to Estimate Heating for Three Dimensional Aeroshells,” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 754-762. Apr., 2013.

Ruffin, S.M., and Lee, Jinwook, “Implementation of a 3D Hilbert SFC into a Parallel Cartesian-Grid Flow Solver”, Intl. Journal of Mathematical Models and Methods in Applied Sciences, Vol. 6, Issue 7, 2012.

Ruffin, S.M., Zaki, M., and Sekhar, S., “A Normal Ray Refinement Technique for Cartesian-Grid Based Navier-Stokes Solvers, Intl. Journal of Computational Fluid Dynamics, Vol. 26, Issue 4, July, 2012.

The Tech: Settlement Reached In Prof. Ruffin Case

By Chen Zhao


Former Belmont resident Mary Murnane is required to pay $50,000 to MIT visiting professor Stephen M. Ruffin SM ’87, after Murnane allegedly refused to lease her house to Ruffin on the basis of his race.

According to the decision handed down from the Middlesex Superior Court, the state of Massachusetts, represented by Attorney General Tom Reilly, and the Ruffin family, represented by Harvey S. Shapiro, agreed to settle the case without having Murnane admit to any legal wrongdoing.

The settlement requires Murnane to pay the Ruffins $50,000, and prohibits her from selling or renting property in Massachusetts for the next five years without a licensed broker. In addition, the settlement prohibits her from retaliating against a broker who refuses to discriminate on the basis of race, from expressing or indicating racial preferences for tenants, and requires her to attend fair housing training.

A press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office said that Murnane violated the state’s fair housing laws by refusing to rent her house to Ruffin and his wife, Karen Ruffin, because she found out that they were African-American. Ruffin had been appointed a Martin Luther King visiting professor at MIT for the 2000-2001 school year.

Reilly’s office said that the entire housing process went smoothly. The Ruffins completed the proper forms and provided deposit and commission checks, character reference letters, and even a reference letter for their pet.

Reilly’s press release said that Murnane read on the application that Ruffin had been appointed an MLK visiting professor, which led her to infer that he was African-American.

Murnane allegedly called her broker, Diane Newbrough of Coldwell Hunneman Bankers, to confirm this fact and chided Newbrough for not telling her this and for even showing the house to African-Americans.

The press release said that Murnane said that the neighbors would be upset if the house were rented to an African-American family.

Ruffin said that Newbrough told Murnane that the Ruffins were good tenants and that Murnane could not ask about the race of the tenants.

Shapiro said that Newbrough has not taken credit for her action in reporting the discrimination to the Ruffin family even though “Coldwell Banker Hunneman and the broker did exactly what they should have done.” He said that this might be because the action was against the interest of their client.

Newbrough could not be reached for comment. Calls to Coldwell Hunneman Banker in Belmont were directed to Roni Boyles, a publicist at their headquarters in Lexington.

Boyles said that she does not feel it is appropriate for her to comment on the case because of her lack of personal familiarity with the details.

Murnane denies allegations

In an interview with the Belmont Citizen Herald, Kevin B. Nugent, attorney for Murnane, said that there was a misunderstanding between his client and Newbrough.

He said that Murnane offered the house to the Ruffins, waited for the return of the lease, and was only informed of the allegations of racial discrimination after calling the broker to inquire about the lease.

Nugent said that Murnane agreed to settle without admitting to any wrongdoing to avoid litigation costs. He also said that Murnane had rented to African-Americans in the past.

Murnane could not be reached for comment. Shapiro said that she currently resides in Maryland and conducted the entire legal process by mail.

Nugent did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Ruffin praises MIT and broker

Ruffin said that the situation “initially gave [me] a bad feeling about moving my family to this environment.” He said that he wondered if others in Belmont shared the same views. Ruffin felt the discrimination added to the stress of moving.

He said that everyone he talked to was very supportive and that several faculty members who lived in Belmont were embarrassed by Murnane’s actions.

Ruffin said that he hopes that the case will alert others to the reality of racial discrimination and that he hopes courageous people will stand up against it.

Overt racial discrimination rare

Ruffin, now assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has resided in many states. He said that he has “never perceived this kind of [overt] racial discrimination before.”

In the press release, Reilly said, “This kind of discrimination based on an application, whether for housing or employment, is particularly egregious because it often goes undetected.”

Linda L. Patton, assistant director of off-campus housing, said that discrimination is usually very subtle, hardly ever blunt like it was in this case.