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Weber State tabs former Northrop Grumman manager to lead MARS Center

By Tim Vandenack - | Nov 22, 2023

Photo supplied, Weber State University

Ben Garcia is the new executive director of Weber State University’s Miller Advanced Research and Solutions Center. He's shown in an Oct. 30, 2023, photo.

CLEARFIELD — Weber State University has picked a manager from Northrop Grumman to lead the school’s facility designed to aid in development of materials for the defense industry.

Benjamin Garcia is the new executive director of the year-old Miller Advanced Research and Solutions, or MARS, Center just outside Hill Air Force Base’s west gate in Clearfield, the university said in a press release. “The MARS Center has a pretty big vision, and it’s a unique center for the nation. It’s the intersection of academia and industry,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s expertise is in research and development of advanced composite materials used for aircraft, missiles and rockets, Weber State said, which aligns with the mission of the MARS Center. He managed a team of scientists and engineers at Northrop Grumman.

“Our focus is on advanced manufacturing of high-temperature composites,” Garcia said. He envisions increased engagement with industry in partnership with the Utah Advanced Materials Manufacturing Initiative, an industry group that promotes advanced materials manufacturing.

At MARS, Garcia said, he aims to move things from the lab to “actual real-world production.” More specifically, he envisions more pilot-scale production demonstrations at MARS, “eventually transitioning to a full production line at industry partners,” Weber State said.

WSU faculty, staff and students collaborate at MARS in aiding the U.S. departments of Defense and Energy, among others. Indeed, though the end products are of use in the defense industry, MARS also gives students valuable experience.

“They’re already doing unique testing on materials at extremely high temperatures potentially greater than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds faster than Tom Cruise in the movie ‘Maverick,'” Garcia said.


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