Richard Wirz, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, is leading the modeling and integration team for a recently established five-year, $15-million, multidisciplinary NASA Space Technology Research Institute. 

The Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute is one of two newly launched, university-led NASA Space Technology Research Institutes and is the latest addition to four existing institutes. The Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute will spearhead research to develop high-power electric propulsion systems designed to transport science payloads, humans and cargo in large spacecraft within Earth’s orbit and to the moon, Mars and other destinations in the solar system. He and other researchers will also test high-power thruster designs, develop new diagnostics, conduct experiments and study their long-term performance.

Wirz is the director of the UCLA Plasma & Space Propulsion Laboratory and the UCLA Energy Innovation Laboratory. His plasma and space related research focuses on advance propulsion concepts and the plasma science relevant to these devices. His energy research currently focuses on new approaches to fusion energy, solar thermal energy storage, and wind energy capture.