New leader at Weber State shares ‘big vision’ for defense, aerospace

OGDEN, Utah — A new leader in Utah’s defense and aerospace industry took the reins this week as Weber State University named Benjamin Garcia the executive director of the Miller Advanced Research & Solutions Center.

Garcia comes to WSU with an extensive background in research and development of advanced composite materials used for aircraft, missiles and rockets — areas especially relevant to the MARS Center. 

“Our focus is on advanced manufacturing of high-temperature composites,” Garcia said of the center. “We’re going to increase our engagement with industry by partnering with the Utah Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Initiative to meet the technical needs of this community and our nation.” Portrait of Benjamin Garcia

Garcia spent the last eight years with Northrop Grumman, where he recently managed a team of scientists and engineers in high-temperature composites. Over the past decade, he has forged strong relationships with business and industry partners across the state and the U.S. 

“The MARS Center has a pretty big vision, and it’s a unique center for the nation,” Garcia said. “It’s the intersection of academia and industry.” 

Garcia said he plans to leverage his work and educational background at the MARS Center “to take things from the lab and research to actual real-world production.” 

The California native earned a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering at California Polytechnic State University and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Cornell University. 

He hopes to see more pilot scale production demonstrations happening at the MARS Center, eventually transitioning to a full production line at industry partners. 

Opened in August 2022, the MARS Center benefits from generous support from the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation and the Utah Legislature. The center is located in Clearfield, just outside Hill Air Force Base, where WSU faculty, staff and students collaborate to find high-tech solutions to challenges faced by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and others. 

“We want to push new technologies,” Garcia said. “Utah needs this type of expertise, so it’s a great opportunity not only for the industry to take part in this, but also for our students. 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 he wants to recruit more “topnotch talent” to keep the MARS mission growing, and to be a resource for small businesses both in Utah and across the U.S.


Bryan Magaña, public relations director


Bryan Magaña, public relations director