Leadership

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Ms. Andi Mitchell

Executive Director

Andi began her career with Gould, Inc. located in Warner Robins, Georgia having transferred from Gould’s operation in Fort Worth, Texas. With the experience and knowledge gained from this start-up, Mercer University hired Andi to assist in the establishment of the Mercer Engineering Research Center (MERC) in 1987.

Andi was the third employee hired by MERC and has been a key player in its success. Andi was instrumental in the establishment of MERC’s business systems, finance and audit management, pre and post-contract award management, property management, pricing, human resources management, and purchasing.

Andi earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mercer University in 1977 and an MBA from Mercer in 1989. Andi is a member of the Aerospace Industry Committee (AIC), having served as chairman in 2002 and currently serving as finance chair; the Dixie Crow Chapter of the Association of Old Crows; the National Contract Management Association, serving as an officer in several capacities; the Macon-Bibb County and Robins Regional Military Affairs Committees; and is a graduate of Leadership Warner Robins 2000.

Mr. Jim Hundley

Sr. Director of Engineering and Programs

Mr. Jim Hundley serves as Senior Director of Engineering and Programs for MERC. He joined MERC after a 33-year Air Force career. His various assignments throughout his Air Force career were either directly involved in EW or in management that delivered the infrastructure necessary for the EW mission to succeed.

Assignments included lead engineer/unit Chief APR-38 Advanced Wild Weasel, Deputy Chief Systems Division Inter-Command EW Mgt Directorate at Wright Patterson AFB, Chief Information Systems Management and Support Division 1926th Communications Squadron Robins AFB, and multiple assignments in logistics, communications, and information resource management at USAF Headquarters. Jim retired as the Headquarters Air Force Chief Information Officer in March 2008.

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Mr. Dan Penny

Sr. Director of Business Development

Dan joined the Mercer Engineering Research Center in October 2017 after a successful career with Lockheed Martin Corporation. In 2006, Lockheed Martin Corporate Business Development promoted him to senior manager and field office manager for the Lockheed Martin Corporate Field Office in Warner Robins, Georgia. Prior to this assignment, Dan worked for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta in Advanced Development Programs (ADP/Skunkworks) as the C-130J DT/OT&E Test Manager, and C-130J Program Manager.

A 28-year Air Force veteran, then Colonel Penny flew over 2500 hours in Air Force Special Operations aircraft and received his maintenance rating at Little Rock AFB. Dan served as the Chief, Office Defense Cooperation, Oslo, Norway in his last active duty assignment. Dan earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics from St. Mary’s College of California in 1970 and a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University in 1977. Dan is married to Charlotte Carter Penny. He served the Warner Robins community in the following capacities:

  • Chairman, Board of Directors, Museum of Aviation
  • Executive Director of the 21st Century Partnership
  • President, Air Force Association’s Carl Vinson Memorial Chapter 296 for three years
  • Chairman of the Aerospace Industry Committee
  • Military Affairs Committee member
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Mr. John Shawhan

Deputy Director of Programs

John serves as Deputy Director of Programs for MERC. Prior to beginning at MERC, May 2009 made 38 years of combined service in Federal Civil Service.

John served six years in U.S. Army maintenance organizations and 32 years in U.S. Air Force management organizations as an electronics mechanic, installer, technician, financial operations manager, administration manager, and program manager. While serving, John served two tours at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). He served one tour in the Deputy Program Manager of Logistics office as acquisition logistician lead for development of radar processors and displays of the F-15E. The second tour was served in the Inter Command Electronic Warfare Management Office where he interfaced with joint service Electronic Warfare (EW) programs. John also served as Chief of Program Control in the Electronic Warfare Management Directorate at Robins Air Force Base where he developed skills in finance, requirements, and administration. He retired as the U-2 Program Squadron Director.

John earned a master’s degree in logistics systems from Georgia College in 1999. In 2007, he graduated the Air Force Material Command Senior Leaders Maintenance Course at WPAFB.  John completed Air War College at Maxwell AFB in 2009 and is a graduate of Leadership Warner Robins in 2010.

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Mr. Brian Harper

Deputy Director of Engineering

In 1997, Brian began his engineering career at EMS Technologies working on satellite components for the XM and Sirius satellite systems. Before joining the MERC team in 2002, Brian worked at a startup fiber optic component company. He now serves as Deputy Director of Engineering and acting Chief Engineer of Rotary Wing Programs.

Brian completed a dual degree program in 1995, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Furman University and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.  Brian earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1997. He has 20 years of engineering experience in the areas of finite element analysis (FEA), mechanical design, and testing of aerospace structures and equipment. He has led the development of several global aircraft finite element models, Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS), and quick-turn analyses to support engineering disposition of in-service airframe issues. His aircraft experience includes H-60 and H-1 variants, C-130, CV-22, and F-15 aircraft. He has co-authored papers and made presentations at various technical conferences including the American Helicopter Society, Aircraft Structural Integrity Program conference, and Aircraft Airworthiness and Sustainment Conference.

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Mr. Daniel Edwards

Deputy Director of Technical Resources

Currently serving as the Chief Engineer of Fixed Wing Programs and the Deputy Director for Technical Resources, Daniel graduated from Mercer University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2003. He began his engineering career at MERC in 2002 as an engineering intern before taking a full time engineering role in 2003. Daniel spent the majority of his career supporting aircraft structural and mechanical system development and weapon system integrity programs (MIL-STD-1530D and 1798C), airworthiness and system safety programs (MIL-HDBK-516C and MIL-STD-882E), and flight instrumentation development. His experience covers a variety of aircraft, including the E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS), C-130 (including SOF variants), F-15, H-60, UH-1, P-8A, and C-5 aircraft. Daniel co-authored the AC-130W Gun Boot Analysis and Design presentation at the 2011 Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP) Conference and authored a C-130 Force Structural Maintenance Plan (FSMP) revision presentation at the 2012 ASIP Conference.

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Mr. Charles Melvin

Chief Engineer - Energy/Electronics

Charles has been involved in many facets of electronics and avionics systems development for over thirty years. He also has experience with verification and validation, qualification testing, flight testing, and sustainment activities. Charles graduated from Mercer University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1992 and a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1999. He began his career working in a startup environment developing a low cost industrial process control platform. He then migrated into the electronic warfare arena participating in the design of an advanced threat signal simulator product line. Charles also served as the technical lead for the integrated support station for the C-130 Self-Contained navigation system. He later served as the Chief Engineer for electromechanical actuations for Parker Hannifin Servo Controls Division.

Following his work at Parker, Charles was a founder for several firms involved in energy metering and management. He eventually sold his company in the energy field and joined MERC.

While at MERC, Charles lead the creation of an energy management practice that has developed and deployed secure energy metering systems at multiple federal installations and provides systems and cybersecurity consultancy for energy and industrial systems. Charles now serves as the Chief Engineer for Electronics and Energy at MERC and continues to work in the aerospace field. Throughout his time at MERC, he has gained additional experience across a number of aircraft systems and platforms including focused work in navigation, radar, electronic warfare and fuel gauging systems.

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Ms. Karen Brigance

Chief Engineer - Electronic Warfare/Avionics

Karen serves as Chief Engineer for Electronic Warfare and Avionics. She joined MERC after a 37-year U.S. Air Force civilian career.

Karen began her career as a project engineer assigned to the Electronic Warfare (EW) Directorate in 1982. She left EW in 1990 to work in Detachment 8, 2762 Logistics Squadron, where she became the program manager and engineer for several of the sensors and data links carried on the U-2 aircraft. In 1999, she became the Division Chief of the Exploitation Division in the U-2 Management Directorate. She provided worldwide support to the U-2 Dragon Lady’s associated ground processing stations, airborne sensors, and data links. In 2003, she left the U-2 to become the Avionics and Electronics Engineering Division Chief for the Engineering Directorate. She provided functional management and advocacy for over 750 electronics engineers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, and computer scientists working across Robins Air Force Base. Karen then moved to the 752 Combat Sustainment Group as Chief Engineer for Common Avionics in 2006. She transitioned to the position of Squadron Director when the common avionics group became part of the Air Force Global Logistics center as the 407th Supply Chain Management Squadron in 2008. In 2010, Karen became the Chief Engineer for the Electronic Warfare and Common Avionics Division at Robins Air Force Base. She provided product support of electronic warfare and common avionics systems for our nation’s war fighters and allies.

Karen completed two terms as president of the Dixie Crow chapter of the Association of Old Crows and is now serving as their current past president. She is also the current Southern Regional Director for the Association of Old Crows.

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Mr. Jonathan Strunk

Chief Engineer - Mechanical

Jonathan is the Chief Engineer of Mechanical Programs at MERC. He began his career as an intern at MERC in 2003. In 2004, Jonathan earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Mercer University and accepted a full time engineering role at MERC. In 2010, Jonathan earned a master’s degree in engineering and technical management from Mercer University as well.

He has been involved in projects ranging from finite element analysis (FEA) and finite element method (FEM) to tooling design, instrumentation, and maneuverability testing. In his 15 years at MERC, Jonathan has gained hands-on experience in composite layup, strain gage installation, data acquisition, and material testing. His project experience has led him to work with bomb lifts and trailers, robotic work cells, many of the U.S. Air Force’s fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and other aircraft equipment. In his time at MERC, Jonathan has gained experience working with the E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS), C-130 (including SOF variants), F-15, A-10, H-60, H-1, KC-135, C-5, and multiple ground support equipment and vehicles.

Today, Jonathan continues to develop expertise with MERC’s coordinate measurement machine (CMM) laser scanner and 3D printing, which are both instrumental in the reverse engineering process.

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Ms. Hillarie Furman

Chief Engineer - Software/Cybersecurity

Hillarie began her career with MERC in 2003 and now serves as Chief Engineer of Software and Cybersecurity. In 2005, Hillarie earned a B.S. degree in Information Technology. In 2010, she earned a M.S. degree in Software Systems from Mercer University School of Engineering.

Having started in commercial sector web application development, Hillarie has in-depth experience in all phases and types of the software development life cycle (SDLC) and in multiple languages, frameworks, platforms, and databases. Supporting the U.S. Air Force and Navy, she has designed and developed applications for workflow management, engineering-quality data collection, and automation of flight data processing.

Hillarie has formal training in Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) processes and evaluation. She also holds ISC(2) Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) and Security+ certifications.