Keynote Presentations


W​e are delighted to announce some of our keynote speakers for the NAFEMS World Congress 2023. Further keynotes will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Science and Mission of the James Webb Space Telescope

Michael Menzel - NASA - Keynote Speaker at NAFEMS World Congress 2023

Michael T. Menzel

JWST Mission Systems Engineer


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched on December 25, 2021, is NASA’s successor mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. JWST has been designed and developed to observe “first light” objects in the nascent universe, the evolution of galaxies over cosmic history, star birth within our own galaxy, planet formation and evolution both in our solar system and in solar systems around other stars and to make detailed observations of some of the recently discovered exoplanets. The JWST telescope has an aperture greater than 6 meters in diameter, and along with its compliment of science instruments must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures below 50K. It will be operated at the Sun-Earth L2 point to keep thermal sources such as the Sun and Earth in the same general direction so that their radiation can be shielded by a “tennis court sized” sunshield, allowing the payload to attain these temperatures passively.

This presentation will give an overview of the JWST science and its systems design challenges, and discuss the lessons learned from this mission.

Michael T. Menzel has 41 years of experience in the aerospace, working 23 years in industry for commercial and defense missions and for NASA for the past 18 years. He is currently the Mission Systems Engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Mr. Menzel received a B.S. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981 and an M.S. in Physics from Columbia University in 1986. He began his career in 1981 with the RCA Astro Space Division in East Windsor, N.J. as an antenna engineer, designing flight antennas for commercial and defense communications and remote sensing satellites. In 1990 he took a position in the Systems Engineering Group of the General Electric Astro Space Division designing commercial, DOD and civil space systems. In 1995 he took a position as Director of Systems Engineering in the Orbital Sciences Corporation, and in 1997 he took a position as the Deputy Program Manager for the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Group at Lockheed Martin.

Mr. Menzel began working on the Pre-Phase studies for the Next Generation Space Telescope in 1998, and in June of 2004 he took the position as the NASA Mission Systems Engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope.

In addition to his various engineering positions, Mr. Menzel has also served as an adjunct lecturer in Physics and Astronomy at various colleges.His hobbies include weightlifting and amateur astronomy.

Mr. Menzel has been the recipient of the Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Award for Engineering in 2009, the NASA Systems Engineering Excellence Award in 2010, the Mission Engineering and Systems Analysis Division Engineering Excellence Award in 2013, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2013, the 2020 Robert H. Goddard Merit Award in 2020, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 2022, and the NASA Systems Engineering Excellence Award in 2022.

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Mechanics Meets Biology: Modeling and Simulation Towards Skeletal Tissue Regeneration

Sara Checa - JWI - Keynote Speaker at NAFEMS World Congress 2023

Sara Checa

Julius Wolff Institute Berlin Institute of Health (BIH)

In this talk, an overview of the advancements in the use of computer modeling to support the development of treatments for skeletal regeneration will be provided.

Sara Checa is the head of the Computational Mechanobiology group at the Julius Wolff Institute, a Professor at the Charite Medical University Berlin, and a Guest Professor at the Technical University Berlin. Her group develops and analyses computer models of the interaction between mechanical signals and biological responses in the context of skeletal tissue regeneration.

She holds a PhD in Computational Biomechanics from the University of Southampton and a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Malaga. She has conducted post-doctoral research at Trinity College Dublin, the Julius Wolff Institute in Berlin, and Stanford University.

She is an author of more than 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals, several book chapters, and more than 100 contributions to International and National Conferences.

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The History of the Iconic Boeing 747 and the Evolution of Simulation Utilization Over its Development

Doug Backhus - Boeing - Keynote Speaker at NAFEMS World Congress 2023

Doug Backhus

747 and Out of Production Chief Project Engineer

Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes

On January 31, 2023, the 1574th and final Boeing 747 was delivered to Atlas Air. Since September 30, 1968 when the first 747 emerged from the factory, more than 118 million flight hours were logged by this airplane. When the 747 was conceived, the age of digital computing was still in its infancy. The aerospace industry was harnessing the power of these computers and developing and deploying methods, such as finite element analysis, to engineer these beautiful flying structures.

In this presentation, we will tell the inside story of the 747 and its many derivatives over its 5+ decades in production, concluding with the final 747-8 Freighter delivery from Boeing’s Everett Factory. Advancements in modeling and simulation technology were key in the development phases of the 747 as well as for solving major technical issues. These advancements are an integral part of what made the 747 a safe, successful and iconic engineering marvel. The foundational numerical methods that gave life to the 747 are still used heavily today to engineer our future fleets of airplanes, autonomous vehicles, spacecraft and consumer products.

Doug Backhus is the 747 and Out of Production Chief Project Engineer. Doug’s responsibilities in this role include maintaining Product Safety and Integrity for the worldwide fleet. He also fosters close relationships with customers and the FAA in support of product safety and performance of the operating fleet.

Doug’s most recent assignment was 787 Fleet Chief from March 2020 to May 2022 where his responsibilities included maintaining the Safety, Reliability, and customer relationship for all 787s.

Prior to this, Doug was the Airframe Director for the New Mid- Market Airplane’s Wing/Empennage/Landing Gear team along with other leadership roles in BCA Airframe Engineering.

Doug began his aerospace career as a structures liaison engineer on the space shuttle Discovery in 2002 with United Space Alliance at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, FL. In 2004, he transferred to Boeing Space Systems as a certified material review board structures engineer for the space shuttle orbiter fleet.

Doug relocated to Seattle in 2006 to work as a structures design engineer on the F-22 before transitioning to Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2008 to serve as a structures analyst on the 787 vertical fin. In 2011, he moved to management where he led the 737NG Airframe Engineering Wing Trailing Edge team. Since that time, he has managed the 777-9 Horizontal Stabilizer Airframe Engineering team and served as senior manager for 777-9 Empennage.

He grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He completed his Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering in 2009 from the University of Washington with a focus on structural analysis.

Doug is married and has three children – Courtney, Billy, and Andy. Outside of work, he enjoys playing and coaching hockey with his kids and spending time outdoors.

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Developments in Advanced, Physics-based Modelling and Simulation Techniques in the Realm of Defence and Security at Dstl

Daniel Pope- Dstl- Keynote Speaker at NAFEMS World Congress 2023

Daniel Pope

Technical Fellow

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)

To gain a strategic advantage in the field of Defence and Security, Dstl develops advanced modelling and simulation techniques to predict the effects of blast, ballistic, and directed energy threats on a range of military platforms and metropolitan environments. This unclassified presentation describes the key considerations and applied modelling techniques adopted when simulating these scenarios. Particular focus is placed on key aspects such as model parametrisation and validation as well as the use of Machine Learning and stochastic techniques as part of the generation of Synthetic Environments capable of probabilistic, physics-based simulation.

Daniel Pope is a Technical Fellow within the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), a government-based agency undertaking Science & Technology research on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and other government parties. He is currently responsible for Modelling and Simulation Strategy within the Platform Systems Division in Dstl. This covers techniques across a comprehensive taxonomy from Physics Simulation via Systems Modelling and Mission Effectiveness to Campaign Analysis.

Daniel has almost 30 years of experience in the Physics Modelling of Terminal Effects, focussing mainly on the interaction of blast and ballistic threats with military and civilian platforms. He leads a capability responsible for undertaking research in the following areas:

  • Multiscale modelling techniques for tailoring the performance of advanced materials
  • Machine learning-based approaches for characterisation and optimisation of numerical models
  • Use of detailed physics simulation for probabilistic assessment with a view to improving confidence in consequence analysis and reducing design safety factors
  • Development of physics-related synthetic environments and digital twins associated with Test and Evaluation
  • Development of new modelling approaches for game-changing effector technologies in the fields of energetics, directed energy weapons, and autonomous platforms
  • Use of physics simulation in the development of Fast Running Engineering Models for implementation into systems-level applications

He is Visiting Professor at both Imperial College London and the University of Sheffield and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the UK.

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Digital Transformation of System Performance Development by a Flexible Digital Thread

Ernesto Mottola - Toyota Motor Europe - Keynote Speaker at NAFEMS World Congress 2023

Ernesto Mottola

Senior Manager - Strategy Planning and Digitalisation

Toyota Motor Europe

Automotive development needs to satisfy an ever-increasing number of conflicting requirements in a market quickly evolving by demand for CASE (Connected Autonomous Shared Electrified). Specialists from different engineering backgrounds have traditionally dealt with them using standardised methods developed in each domain over the years, and they are faced with the challenges rising from increasing complexity of products and services, which become more and more integrated in a system of systems environment.

On the one hand, we face the need to shorten development lead time to catch these trends and to respond to the competition from new entrants to the market. On the other hand, we need to facilitate collaboration among the engineers involved in the development of mechatronics systems with increasing functions and interfaces.

Toyota’s philosophy to continuously improving working processes towards quality is traditionally coming from manufacturing, based on principles of automation and “just in time”. Those principles, widely known as “Toyota Production System”, find good application as driver for digital transformation and improving collaboration.

Toyota Motor Europe has been implementing digital transformation initiatives based on those principles, starting from the area of Model Based Development (MBD), which envisions the holistic development of the vehicle and its subsystems by coherent application of simulation.

The “continuous” nature of the TPS approach demands that the foundation for digital transformation should be flexible enough to support process improvements which are never finished; TME has developed an approach where the data can be managed flexibly enough to grow the scope of digital processes and related parties that can benefit from it.

In the past, we have shown the example cases of engineering data management and automated generation of simulation models for system performance development; in this presentation, we provide an overview of the vision and the latest updates on how the same foundation supports the implementation of system centric simulation process and data management, and ultimately improve effectiveness of simulation based performance development.

Ernesto Mottola is an engineering manager with a PhD background in structural mechanics and CAE, and a relevant track record in digitalisation. He leads a multicultural team of talented professionals in charge of analysing and designing the development processes of tomorrow, optimising resources, and supporting the transition of TME from a vehicle manufacturing company to a mobility company.

Our mission:

  • Engage with R&D stakeholders to understand their working practices and needs, identify prioritised improvement areas and potential for synergies
  • Continuously develop and deploy innovative digital solutions to eliminate low-value jobs and increase quality, based on Toyota Production System principles
  • Align the engineering organization along a common vision and technical strategy.

Course of study (University, Specialisation, Final year)

University of Rome „Tor Vergata“, Mechanical Engineering, 2002

Doctorate (University, Topic, Year)

University of Rome „Tor Vergata“, Mechanical Engineering, 2006

Key career events

2007 – Hired by Toyota Motor Europe as the first simulation specialist in local R&D Technical Center.

2012 – Started structural body development team in Toyota European R&D; developed the team and negotiated local vehicle development responsibility; initial passenger car programme achieved 5★ EuroNCAP with first application in Toyota of new protocol.

2015 – Started Model Based Development team in Toyota European R&D; developed the team and the methodology; successfully completed first vehicle project with new development approach, replacing early prototype with virtual prototype for dynamic performance development.

2020 – Developed a novel approach for system-centric engineering data management and deployed to a vehicle development project; this approach became the new direction for digitalisation in Toyota European R&D

2023 – In charge of R&D Strategy planning and digitalisation team

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P​latinum Sponsors

Dassault Systèmes

Gold Sponsors


Silver Sponsors

Digital Engineering

Media Sponsor

Digital Engineering

In-kind Sponsor

Digital Engineering

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