Dimitri Mavris Receives 1934 Distinguished Professor Award

Aerospace Engineering’s Mavris is awarded the highest honor given to a Georgia Tech professor.
Dimitri Mavris

Dimitri Mavris, Regents’ Professor, Boeing Professor of Advanced Aerospace Systems Analysis, and Langley Distinguished Professor in Advanced Aerospace Systems Architecture received the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award for 2024.

In 1980, Dimitri Mavris left his hometown of Athens, Greece, for Atlanta, Georgia, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. He did not realize it at the time, but his first day of class at Georgia Tech would mark the beginning of a career that would span 44 years as a Yellow Jacket.  

What Dimitri did know was that he wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps.  

“There was no aerospace program in Greece when I graduated high school, so my grandfather encouraged me to leave home,” said Mavris. “He was one of the original classes of Greek army aviators, and he financed my studies in aerospace engineering. I wanted to follow in my sister and brother-in-law's footsteps and attend Georgia Tech.” 

Over time, plans to earn his bachelor’s degree and return to Greece turned into pursuit of a master’s degree, then a Ph.D., followed by a career as an engineering professor — all at Georgia Tech.  

His experience as a student arriving in the U.S. from another country influences the way Mavris thinks of his current students, particularly those also from another country or the first of their family to attend college. 

“These days, I do a lot of student interviews for our programs, and it really strikes me how many applicants are of the first generation to go to college or the first to go to grad school. And they are hoping to find someone who can provide advice and guidance,” said Mavris. “I have always felt that the best you can give someone in that situation is your time, attention, and care.” 

The Georgia Tech lab currently run by Mavris, the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL), was the brainchild of Professor Emeritus Daniel Schrage. Just as Mavris has become a mentor to so many, Schrage was a mentor to Mavris and introduced him to systems thinking, design, and engineering. In 1996, Mavris became the ASDL lab director and, under Schrage’s tutelage, sought to build something impactful that also maintained an environment that felt like family. ASDL began with just five students, several of whom are still with the lab as research faculty. Mavris sees this as a testament to the lab’s supportive environment.  

ASDL maintains a “family atmosphere” even having grown today to a robust team of 50 full-time researchers and 300 graduate students. It has conferred degrees to almost 1,300 graduate students: 287 Ph.D.s and 1,009 master’s degrees. Yet, no matter how large and successful his lab is, Mavris’ concerns are always with his students. 


ASDL community of faculty, staff, and students.
ASDL community of faculty, staff, and students.


Over the years, he has championed growth and changes (both curricular and institutional) to push the College of Engineering and the School of Aerospace Engineering in ways that would produce and support some of the top minds entering the engineering workforce. 

“I think the School of Aerospace Engineering is very different today than it was back when I first came [to Georgia Tech]. We have always prided ourselves on producing the best engineers. I took that to heart and wanted to understand what that really looks like in industry,” said Mavris. “So, I was fortunate to be selected by Boeing to pilot their Welliver Faculty Fellowship Program. It became very apparent to me that a lot of the subjects we were teaching in universities at the time were viewed by industry as fundamental knowledge, but they were seeking new skills to keep them ahead of the competition. Research fields such as systems architecture and systems engineering, multidisciplinary design optimization, integrated production and process development, and robust design (to name a few) were not present [in higher education] at the time.” 

These were all fields that had to be developed and, throughout the three decades that followed, Mavris set out to do so. With encouragement and support from colleagues and mentors like Professors Robert Loewy and Vigor Yang, Mavris was able to develop an impactful program in which the aerospace industry saw value. Under his leadership, ASDL developed into the largest lab of its kind and established a global reputation for excellence in both its rigorous educational program and substantial research.  

Over time, ASDL became the go-to lab for U.S. government-contracted technology assessments and is now seen as a global leader in systems design, architecting, and optimization. ASDL receives more than $20 million annually in research funding from both the government and American and European industry. Since its launch, the lab has brought in $325 million in research funding.   

“ASDL’s success would not be possible without the support and leadership of J.L. Chameau, Steve McLaughlin, Gary May, Raheem Beyah, Chaouki Abdallah, Steve Cross, Larry Jacobs, and the leadership of the School of Aerospace Engineering — past chairs Robert Loewy and Vigor Yang, as well as current chair Mitchell Walker,” acknowledges Mavris. “In addition, our excellent research team and students have helped the lab grow and evolve over time.” 

As the aerospace industry has become increasingly competitive — with advanced degrees often a requirement — Mavris has worked to secure funding to support master’s and Ph.D. students to ensure that cost is not a barrier for them to start their careers. 


Mavris is flanked at the December 2023 ASDL Graduate Recognition Ceremony by the eight students who completed their Ph.D.s and Buzz.
Mavris is flanked at the December 2023 ASDL Graduate Recognition Ceremony by the eight students who completed their Ph.D.s and Buzz.


"My philosophy when I started, and this is with most young people, is that you're thinking about your own career, technology advancements, or the next contract, but as time progresses, you realize that there will always be another project,” he said. “There will always be another hill to climb. But really, the only thing that matters in the end is the journey and the people you met and helped along the way.” 

From conducting hundreds of student interviews every year, to advising and mentoring, to hooding Ph.D. graduates during Commencement, Mavris is proud to serve as a support for his students, sharing lessons learned across his four decades at Georgia Tech. 

"My career has been a journey of self-discovery, always looking for ways to become a more effective researcher and educator,” says Mavris. “Georgia Tech's model of service teaches us to be unselfish in our time and share with students — not to see people and other entities as competitors. It is gratifying to me that many of the students I have taught become professors and help carry on the ASDL legacy." 

Quotes From Colleagues  

“Dr. Mavris and I have worked together for the past 32 years, and he is one of the most knowledgeable professors in the areas of systems engineering, multidisciplinary design and optimization, aircraft design, and more. Dr. Mavris is amazingly dedicated to the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, especially to its research faculty and students. The success of ASDL is largely due to his ability to understand our customers’ needs and his ability to motivate the people who work for him. He is also one of the most compassionate professors I have ever met, and he directs ASDL as if it is part of his family. I am very fortunate to be part of his ASDL team/family!” - Jimmy Tai, ASDL Associate Director, Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory Advanced Configurations Division Chief, School of Aerospace Engineering 

“Dimitri Mavris always puts students first. He is not just an advisor, he is a mentor, and his research family now extends far and wide. His vision for a lab that could prepare students to be the industry leaders of tomorrow is here today! On a more personal note, he has been a mentor and friend since I came to Georgia Tech and a great role model in servant leadership. This award is well deserved!" - Elena Garcia, Senior Research Engineer, Advanced Methods Division Chief, Export Control Coordinator, Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, School of Aerospace Engineering 

“Professor Dimitri Mavris has been a cornerstone of the School of Aerospace Engineering, fostering exceptional partnerships with leading industry and government sponsors. His leadership and vision have been pivotal in preparing hundreds of students for successful careers in the aerospace sector, significantly influencing the trajectory of the U.S. aerospace industry. Under his guidance, the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory has become a beacon of innovation, renowned nationally for its ability to tackle complex system design challenges. Professor Mavris does not just teach; he immerses his students in real-world engineering problems, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to excel. 

Beyond his academic contributions, Professor Mavris has dedicated himself to mentoring the aerospace community at Georgia Tech. He has been instrumental in guiding our SAE Design Build Fly teams, nurturing a new generation of engineers with a blend of practical skills and theoretical knowledge. His commitment extends beyond our campus. Professor Mavris' leadership in various committees within the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics demonstrates his dedication to advancing the field of aerospace engineering on a national level. 

In every aspect, Professor Mavris exemplifies leadership, commitment, and a deep passion for aerospace education and research.” - Mitchell Walker, Professor and Chair, School of Aerospace Engineering