Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



December 2012/January 2013

Diversity/Careers December 2012/January 2013

Women of color in IT
Systems engineers
Pharma & biotech
LGBT tech pros
Great Minds in STEM
Grace Hopper Celebration

Asian American businesses
News & Views
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

U.S. Coast Guard Civilian Intelsat

Changing technologies


Systems engineers respond to increased global connectivity

"Systems skills translate across sectors." – Dr Donna H. Rhodes, MIT

"I was in a lab once where it was only me and one other woman. I said, 'You're my partner.'"– Erin Wakefield, Intel

Systems engineering offers many exciting career opportunities across many sectors of industry and government, according to Dr Donna H. Rhodes, director of the Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative (SEAri) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Cambridge, MA).

"As systems are increasingly connected in a global environment, new challenges and opportunities present themselves," she says. "We see more and more systems engineering professionals involved in solving significant societal challenges like infrastructure, water management, disaster recovery, earth observation, transportation and more.

"Failing to apply a systems approach to these problems will mean the solutions created will be suboptimal at best," she notes.

Rhodes believes that the power of systems engineering lies in its universality. "Systems skills translate across sectors. Systems engineers can move from defense to commercial, and back," Rhodes elaborates. "They can work in aerospace for years, then move into another sector, like transportation."

Supporting Rhodes' observation, the engineers profiled here work in a variety of industries, from space science to energy delivery. Their titles may not all include the word "systems," but they all work to integrate complex elements of technology into coherent, functioning wholes.

Belinda Fortin manages custom design at Bombardier Learjet
Business aircraft company Learjet Corporation (Wichita, KS) was acquired by Bombardier Aerospace (Montreal, Canada) in 1990. At Bombardier Learjet, Belinda Fortin is manager of completions and customer design engineering. "We are responsible for the customization of each aircraft," she explains, "beginning with the customer spec meeting, and ending with an engineering package that defines those specifications so the aircraft can be built.

"Learjets are the high end of the corporate jet market, so we want the customer to be able to customize as much as possible, including avionics options, mechanical systems options, and entertainment options like telephone and high-speed Internet," Fortin explains. "We are also responsible for the overall look of the interior and exterior of the aircraft. We create 3D renderings of the aircraft to show the customer."

Fortin manages a group of about thirty engineers and creative people, including industrial and interior designers, 3D artists and engineers in electrical, mechanical and avionic areas. Three section chiefs and a certification specialist report to Fortin directly.

Fortin was born and raised in Kansas. In her senior year of high school, she developed an interest in engineering. She moved to Wichita in 1994 to attend Wichita State University, where she earned a BS in industrial engineering in 2000.

She became an engineering co-op student at Learjet in 1995. "I was fortunate to get a co-op position so early," she says. The last two years, she was working full time while going to school part time, which extended her time in college.

"When I first started at Bombardier Learjet in 1995, I worked in manufacturing engineering on the production floor in the fuselage area. After five years, I moved to the service center. We worked on completions for the larger Challenger aircraft. That's where I got into interiors and realized that I really enjoyed it.

"In 2005, I came back to production to work in customer design engineering. I led a redesign of the 60XR interior, which included a new high-speed Internet system. All the new systems must integrate with the existing ones, and the biggest challenge is to find ways to fit all of it into the aircraft in a way that is pleasing to customers."

Fortin works on the Bombardier completions council, a cross-functional group across all the company's business jet platforms, where division heads ensure that they have a common vision for business jet interiors.

"I feel fortunate to work in multiple disciplines at Bombardier Learjet. Right now, I'm honing my management skills. I want to continue to learn and not become stagnant. I see my future on the technical side but there is a lot of integration required between the technology and 'is it marketable?'"

"At Bombardier we are fully committed to and believe strongly in a diverse workforce," notes Guy Berthiaume, human resources director for Bombardier Learjet. "As a global company, diversity is our foundation and a key element of our success."

Donna Mirabella leads UA mechanical systems engineering at GA-ASI
Donna Mirabella spent seven years in the automotive industry before coming to unmanned aircraft producer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI, San Diego, CA) in 2009. Mirabella is a mechanical systems engineer and mechanical systems lead in the aircraft systems group for the Predator C Avenger remotely piloted aircraft.

As a systems engineer, she leads multidisciplinary teams of experienced engineers who tackle sophisticated challenges. They solve difficult problems in development programs as well as flight and ground testing.

Mirabella comes from the heart of automotive country: Detroit, MI. She excelled in math and science. "My dad and brother had a garage," she says, "so I had a lot of exposure to mechanical parts and tools. I didn't understand there was any other choice in life than to be an engineer in the auto industry."

She attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn, earning a 2002 BS in mechanical engineering and a 2004 MS in engineering management. "It's a technical degree with a splash of business management," Mirabella explains. "I always enjoyed knowing the bigger picture behind the problems I was working on, and knew that I wanted to get into the business and strategy side of things."

She interned with Chrysler's advanced manufacturing engineering function, and also spent a summer at Solar Turbines (San Diego, CA) in oil and gas systems engineering.

When she finished her undergrad degree, Mirabella joined Chrysler. "I was impressed by the Chrysler Institute of Engineering (CIE), a program for new engineers where you rotate through six areas of the business and get exposure to everything that Chrysler is working on. At the end, you choose where you want to work."

Mirabella spent four years in engineering, including two years in the CIE and two as a manufacturing process engineer at DaimlerChrysler. From there she became a program management specialist for the truck product team at Chrysler LLC.

Changing gears
In 2009, the auto industry was in a downturn, and she decided to leave the company. She had family in San Diego and decided that would be a good place to "pursue the next adventure. I found General Atomics by looking online for the best places to work in San Diego. It came highly recommended and it's all true."

Mirabella joined GA-ASI in project engineering, but soon moved into systems engineering. "I support new engineering systems on the Avenger aircraft, and resolve any issues discovered during flight. I work with a large cross-functional team of twenty-plus people in the mechanical systems engineering department. Some of my time is spent here in the office and some is spent at our flight test facilities in the high desert.

"I'm excited to be involved in our future development work, and the next version of aircraft," she says.

Intel's Erin Wakefield specializes in systems validation
"I have had two role models in my career," reports Erin Wakefield, senior component design engineer at technology company Intel (Santa Clara, CA), "and I would never have become interested in engineering without them.

"My dad was a computer scientist," Wakefield explains. "We always had the latest gadgets and the newest computers in the house. And my cousin is a mechanical engineer who went to the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) and works in the automotive industry. Seeing her success as an engineer, it never occurred to me that I couldn't do it because I was a woman."

Wakefield, who grew up in Dearborn, MI, enjoyed computers and knew it would be a good career for her. But her high school didn't offer a lot of technology courses; in fact, there were no computer classes at all. Despite this, she attended the University of Michigan and earned a BS in computer engineering in 2005. "I wasn't sure whether I wanted to pursue software or hardware," she says. "Computer engineering was a good mix of both."

Wakefield noticed that there were more women in computer science courses than in hardware courses. "I was in a lab once where it was only me and one other woman. I walked in, our eyes met and I said, 'You're my partner.'" Wakefield became active in an on-campus chapter of SWE and also Girls in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science.

Choosing the right path
She decided that computer hardware was what she wanted to do, and started working at Intel immediately after graduation. "Growing up, I heard about Intel all the time doing the latest and greatest things. It was also very focused on hardware.

"Intel had a large number of women at the career fairs I attended," Wakefield adds. "That was another good sign. You have to weigh multiple aspects of an offer like location, pay and benefits, the kinds of projects you'll be starting on and so forth. I decided that this was where I wanted to be."

Wakefield works at Intel Oregon, a global center of semiconductor research and manufacturing, and the largest private employer in the state. She has been in validation her entire time at Intel but has worked on three different kinds of projects. Microprocessors were the first. "Technically, those are systems in themselves," she explains. "In validation, we make sure that the hardware does what it is supposed to do. There are a huge variety of possible conditions and we try to stress it and break it in whatever ways we can."

After two years, she moved on to graphics cards, a startup team. "Most chips have two cores or four cores, but these cards had more than twenty cores," she explains. "They had external IP as well as internal designs and we were connecting them. I was in a system integration role. Other teams made sure that individual pieces worked but we had to make sure that they all worked together," Wakefield explains.

In 2010, she moved to the system-on-a-chip team, heading up its security system validation group. "These go into consumer electronics and tablets. In addition to the core, the chip has graphics, display, encoders, decoders, security and more on it. Again, we have to be sure that they all work together.

"Managing the security is interesting because these chips go into cable boxes," she continues. "Cable companies don't want their content hacked. We have to figure out all the ways that can happen, and prevent it."

Wakefield is president-elect of the Columbia River chapter of SWE, and the cross-site conference chair of the Women at Intel Network. She also recruits for Intel. "I've been back to the University of Michigan to do recruiting every year since I graduated," she says. "I've also done recruiting at SWE and Grace Hopper conferences."

Beverly Harbin manages people and data at the Missile Defense Agency
Beverly Harbin is director for the Huntsville, AL data management directorate under the deputy of testing for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA, Ft Belvoir, VA). This group is responsible for operation and sustainment of the integrated master test plan lab analysis area, and receives, secures, archives and distributes all ballistic missile defense system test data.

"We oversee the data management activities associated with all MDA ground and flight test events," Harbin explains. "We ensure that all data is collected, managed and distributed to the analysts, then archived and preserved. We have data stored here that goes back seventy to eighty years."

Seventeen people report to her directly, ranging from interns to flight and ground test data management leads, and folks who support the infrastructure to maintain it all. "If you asked, they would tell you that I'm blunt," she believes. "I'm direct and honest. I've worked with military supervisors in the past, and I appreciate their way of doing business. You knew where you stood, and I think it's important for my employees to understand that.

"In this agency, there are one or two flight tests and several ground tests each year. The ninety days leading up to the event and the ninety days after it are when we do most of our work.

"There is a lot of 'deconfliction of assets,'" she notes. "That's a term we use for appropriating resources, whether it's people, computers, or airplanes for data collection. We staff on-site support at the various ranges to be sure we catalogue all the data and so forth. A big part of our responsibility is being sure that we can handle all the events at once."

The data center was once run by the Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC), although it was always funded by MDA. Harbin was a co-op student at SMDC during college, and was there when the organization came under MDA in 2007.

Maintaining the work-life balance
In addition to juggling events at work, Harbin has five children at home ranging in age from six to sixteen years. "I do my work and I'm mom. That's about all I have time for," she explains, adding, "My husband is fantastic, and he does just as much as I do to support the family. I'm used to this because I grew up in a big family."

Harbin is from Huntsville, AL, the sixth of seven children. Her father worked for NASA and encouraged his children to do something in math and science. "Of the seven of us, five are engineers and two are nurses," she says.

Harbin received her BS in electrical engineering in 1991 from the University of Alabama (Huntsville, AL) and in 2002, a masters degree in acquisition and contract management from the Florida Institute of Technology, also in Huntsville.

During her co-op at SMDC she worked in the lab doing modeling and simulations. This progressed into testing and system engineering. "I worked directly with military personnel in the battle lab group. We followed up our testing by going out into the field and seeing how those processes were interpreted by the soldiers. The computer simulation is their weapon for on-the-job training."

Harbin joined SMDC as an intermediate engineer after graduating from the University of Alabama.

"I never thought I'd work for twenty-five years," Harbin reflects. "I figured I'd work a few years and then be a stay-at-home mom. But I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I like this job."

Robert Rose: systems administrator professional at CSC
Robert Rose grew up in St. Louis, MO, and was introduced to computers in high school. "That was my introduction to computer programming," he remembers. "I liked it and decided that was what I wanted to do." Today he is a systems administrator professional at the Newark, DE offices of CSC (Falls Church, VA), a global provider of technology-enabled business solutions.

He attended the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO) and graduated with a BS in computer science in 2004. After graduation, he applied to Bender Consulting Services (Pittsburgh, PA), a company specializing in hiring people with disabilities for competitive career opportunities in the public and private sectors.

Rose has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. "Bender thought I would be a good candidate for their partnership with CSC," he says. "A CSC manager contacted me for a telephone interview and they offered me a position. It was the first company I talked with and I jumped at the chance to work there."

A future in mainframes
By June 2005 he was in Delaware, and enrolled in a three-month training program called the Mainframe Academy. "We learned about mainframe operating systems," says Rose. "We learned how to use tools like the 3270 Emulator. We also learned what mainframe databases are like." At the end of the program, he began training in the operating systems programming area. All this time, he was still working for Bender but by December, he transitioned to full time at CSC.

Rose supports the installation of programs onto CSC mainframe systems. He obtains the program and uploads it to the mainframe. He processes the installation and makes any customizations required by his clients, who are either internal business users or external CSC clients.

"These programs have database components, and we work with people who deal with these components to be sure that the interface works properly." Rose works with the program products team, made up of engineers who do similar work for other products.

At CSC, he is a member of the Young Professionals employee resource group (ERG) and the Abilities First ERG for people with disabilities. He is also a member of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (Poughkeepsie, NY).

"In my work, I don't think about my disability," he says. "It isn't a factor in my job and I don't need any special tools to do it." He plans to stay on the tech side of the business. "I excel in that," he smiles.

NAVAIR division head Karen Bain: military is exciting and cutting edge
Karen Bain has spent twenty-five years in the reliability and maintainability (R&M) division of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR, Patuxent River, MD).

"We make sure that NAVAIR products work, and that they are able to operate within the environment and the cost constraints of our programs. If they do fail, the maintainability aspect dictates how quickly you can get it repaired, operating and available to the warfighter.

"We work across all naval aviation, any aircraft the Navy flies including helicopters, F-35 joint strike fighters, F-18s and also shipboard equipment like electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (EMALS) and advanced arresting gear (AAG)."

Her job includes both personnel management and technical responsibilities. "I work on the policy for NAVAIR R&M, overseeing how every program utilizes that policy. We work with products from conception through the requirements definition, design and development, lab and field testing, and finally the fielding and sustainment stage," she explains.

"We go through design reviews, making sure that contractors and subcontractors are using processes that ensure equipment reliability and maintainability. This includes everything from parts selection to system integration. We look at identifying high drivers, components that may fail a lot or cause major issues if they do; critical things like radar systems."

Bain grew up in Richmond, VA and developed an interest in engineering during high school. She majored in electrical engineering and received her BSEE in 1987 from Boston University (Boston, MA).

Military intrigue
After graduation, she interviewed at NAVAIR, known then as the Naval Air Test Center, and several other employers. "The military seemed exciting to me. When I talked with people, I learned that you got responsibility as you took it on; you didn't have to wait for it to come to you. And they worked with cutting-edge technologies," she recalls.

She joined NAVAIR in 1987 in the R&M division where she is today. "As a test center, we were more test and evaluation-centric then. Now we have the whole acquisition lifecycle." Bain started working on avionics programs, later moving on to F-18 lead engineer and was named a branch head in 2001. She was promoted to head of the R&M division in 2010.

During this time, she earned a masters degree in reliability engineering from the University of Maryland (College Park, MD) in 1998.

Today her focus is balanced between work and home, where she has two children. "NAVAIR reminds you that you need a work-life balance," she says. "I've always worked with people who understand that, and I'm the same way with the people in my area."

At work, six branch heads report to her directly, and the entire division encompasses 111 civilians and over 80 contractors spread across the country. "I think my folks would say that I'm fair and competent. I guess I'm a typical woman in that I'm a consensus builder, not a dictator. I like to ask opinions and get different people's ideas."

Of her career to date, Bain says, "I always thought that branch head would be where I'd stay. Being a division head was higher than I was shooting for. I do the best job that I can in this role," she says. "I want to make my mark here before considering what I want to do next."

Northrop Grumman engineer Kerry McHugh: inspired by people, drawn to people
A father who was an engineer and early exposure to a SWE event put Kerry McHugh on an engineering career path. At military and defense technologies manufacturer Northrop Grumman (Falls Church, VA), McHugh is the lead process engineer on the F-35 EO-DAS program in Rolling Meadows, IL.

"'EO-DAS' stands for 'Electro-optical Distributed Aperture System,'" McHugh explains. "All F-35 aircraft have six sensors mounted on them, each with an infrared camera. They can be pointed in different directions to give the pilot a full spherical view all around the aircraft. That video provides information to the navigation system. It also provides weapons support, missile launch point detection and missile tracking, and situational awareness.

"I support the drawings produced by design engineers, doing everything needed to make sure the unit meets those specifications. I develop process and write instructions for the operators. I might write up a process to cure epoxies in a certain way, or anything else that needs to be done." McHugh works with Northrop Grumman design engineers and suppliers to implement changes or improve quality. "I also work with the program office, operators, and production control," she adds.

But she has more on her plate than just product specs. "We have cost targets that must be met to make sure that our parts are affordable," McHugh notes. "I'm responsible for making process improvements while still hitting quality goals."

They got her with ping-pong
McHugh grew up in Chicago, IL. "My dad was a quality engineer for Northrop Grumman and he knew that I had the skills to be an engineer. He took me to a SWE event at Northwestern University that introduced high school girls to engineering. They had a robotics area set up with robots playing ping-pong, and that really drew me in," she remembers.

For college, she chose Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA) because of its excellent reputation for engineering. "It had the heft of being a good engineering school but also just being a good college experience," she believes. There she earned her BS in mechanical engineering in 2005 and her masters in mechanical engineering in 2006.

McHugh interned at Northrop Grumman for two summers, both in the process engineering area but on different product lines from her current assignment. She admits that she wanted to come back to the company after college, so she stayed in touch to keep the relationship going. In 2006, she was hired full time.

McHugh is a member of SWE as well as the Northrop Grumman Women Engineers ERG, where she serves as campus chair. She also completed Northrop Grumman's leadership training program in 2012. "It gave me a good understanding of how important the people side of business is. I really enjoy working with people," McHugh says, "and my long-term goal is to move into a management position either on the technical or business side. I prefer the tech side as long as I'm able to work with people."

Systems engineer Laura Aguilar: military technology at Raytheon
"My parents were models of family values," says Laura Aguilar. "They stressed morals and respect, and were big on school and applying yourself. A lot of who I am today is directly attributable to their guidance and upbringing."

Aguilar is from San Antonio, TX, and the youngest of seven children. "As a kid, I loved strategy games like Connect 4 and chess. My mom encouraged critical thinking and I took to math and science because I was able to use those skills."

She attended the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) on a scholarship sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, and earned her BS in electrical engineering in 2000. "I tried civil engineering but I wasn't sure it was for me," Aguilar remembers. "Electrical engineering used more math and that interested me.

"There weren't too many women in my electrical engineering classes," she says. "There were more in the mechanical engineering area. UTSA is very diverse to begin with and so is San Antonio, mainly because of the military. We get folks from all over the place. UTSA is a microcosm of that."

While her scholarship was sponsored by the Navy, she was not recruited to join the Navy. "The Navy was simply a big proponent of growing STEM careers," she says.

Relating to the Raytheon mission
When it came time to look for a job, she attended a UTSA job fair where she was introduced to defense and security technology company Raytheon (Waltham, MA). "I had heard about the company and I was able to relate to what they do for the men and women in uniform because I come from a military town. I saw it as a way to serve without going into the military.

"I told the Raytheon people that I was open to a programming position even though I hated programming," she smiles. "I just wanted to learn the business and the industry."

In 2000, she went to Raytheon's Plano, TX location and started as a reliability engineer in the production area. She oversaw the failure reporting, root cause and corrective action analyses for failures of circuit card assemblies installed in the F-16 and F-22 aircraft.

"After a few years I wanted to be more challenged and do more testing myself. My boss found an opportunity for me to do reliability testing for larger systems in other parts of the business for the Army and Marine Corps." She also got involved in system safety.

Today, Aguilar is a principal systems engineer and manager of the combat and sensing systems (CSS) specialty engineering center. She also served as the acting CSS systems engineering (SE) center manager for a time. "I still do system hardware safety but I look on the software and firmware sides as well. My job is a good mixture of technical and business responsibilities."

Aguilar leads another team of fifty systems specialty engineers who are responsible for reliability, maintainability, system safety, logistics, human factors and sustainment for the CSS programs. "Nothing I do is in a silo," she says. "I interface with systems engineers and others responsible for software and hardware, and sometimes with our process people. When I interface with the customer, we collaborate to make a higher quality presentation.

"I have been doing management for some time," says Aguilar, "but the technical aspects of systems engineering are passions of mine. I want to dive back into that. My job as a manager is to grow the next leaders but I'm getting to a point where I need to step out of the way and let others lead."

Aguilar is a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. In 2005, Aguilar earned a masters degree in systems engineering from Texas Tech (Lubbock, TX), and is finishing her PhD in transdisciplinary engineering.

Gina Callender is a section manager at Con Edison
"I played with my Legos more than my Barbies," remembers Gina Callender. Today, Callender is the section manager of Bronx gas construction for Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc (New York, NY).

"I manage a staff of more than forty people, and I'm responsible for a budget of over $2.5 million for emergency response and maintenance of the gas distribution system in the Bronx and the lower five municipalities of Westchester. I review and pay invoices from contractors for per diem and turnkey contracts, and ensure that my department meets key performance and risk indicators, while remaining compliant with all governmental and company policies and procedures.

"It's easier to verify and approve those bills when I've been out in the field reviewing the jobs, particularly the bigger ones. I like to spend about half my time visiting crews and seeing what I can do to support them."

Callender has held various planning, consulting and managerial positions at Con Edison since joining the company as a management intern in 2000, right after graduating from Manhattan College (Riverdale, NY) with a BS in civil engineering.

She grew up between the Queens and Bronx boroughs of New York. Her father was a medical technologist who contributed to her early interest in chemistry and physics. "Math and science were my strong subjects in school," she says. "My dad and I were always downstairs together in a little lab mixing stuff and coming up with ideas. My uncle was an architect, so engineering, building and creating were always in my upbringing. It seemed like a natural progression to do engineering myself."

Callender interned every summer during college, working for a contractor and for civil and environmental engineering firm Camp, Dresser & McKee (now CDM Smith, Cambridge, MA). She realized that she was most interested in the application of engineering disciplines.

Drawn to diverse opportunities
"What attracted me to Con Edison was the diversity of jobs available. I came in as a management intern and had three rotating assignments before choosing my current career. In the beginning, all my assignments were engineering-based. You need the engineering background for analytical thinking and problem solving."

In addition to her undergrad degree, Callender received a certificate of completion in power technology from Power Technology, Inc (Schenectady, NY) in 2003, an MBA with honors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) in 2008 and a certificate of completion for the comprehensive project management course from Stony Brook University/Total Systems Education, Ltd (Long Island City, NY) in 2011.

Within Con Edison, she is a mentor in the management intern program, and also assists in the company's corporate mentoring program. Externally, she is a member of the Project Management Institute (Newtown Square, PA) and Asian Women in Business (New York, NY), and is on the scholarship committee of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (Washington, DC).

"I love to learn. I was one of those kids who loved school. You never stop learning. You don't stop until you die."

Engineer Jessica Duda of Aurora creates technology for space missions
"My situation is a bit unusual. I actually have two roles and use two titles interchangeably depending upon who I'm talking to," explains Jessica Duda of Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation (Manassas, VA). Aurora designs and builds aerospace vehicles for commercial and military applications. Duda works in its research and development center in Cambridge, MA.

"I was hired as a business development project engineer, working on technical proposals for R&D that range from aircraft to spacecraft. My technical expertise is more in space-related work.

"After about a year at Aurora, I also became a senior research scientist, working as the principal investigator and project manager for three NASA projects," she says. One project involves designing and building a space suit simulator for extravehicular activity (EVA) experimentation and training. In another, Duda is developing a white blood cell counting device for on-orbit applications. The third project is the formulation of a software analysis tool to aid mission planners in multi-robot planetary surface exploration architectures.

"It's difficult to move around in a space suit, and the astronauts tire quickly, but it's hard to get your hands on a suit for research or ground experiments," Duda explains. "The EVA space suit simulator mimics its properties to provide astronauts or test subjects with the same feeling they would have if they were wearing a space suit.

"The white blood cell device could help us learn about an astronaut's health, as well as the state of the astronaut's immune system over time in that environment.

"The mission planner tool allows NASA to see how they can achieve their goals on a planet's surface, based on the capabilities of the available rovers. Do they want to dig holes and inspect rocks? Build habitats? Transport payload? We need to know the best combination of rovers to achieve that."

Duda says that one role of the project manager is to serve as a systems engineer when necessary. "We can't always afford to have a systems engineer on the project, so that responsibility falls to me."

Aiming for the stars
Duda has been at Aurora for four years. She comes from Chicago, IL, where she was interested in space from the time she was in seventh grade. "I was a nerdy kid," she says with a smile. "I loved math and science. I went to space camp when I was in seventh grade, and again in ninth grade."

In 2003, Duda earned a BS in mechanical engineering and a BA in integrated science from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). "I can't speak highly enough about the integrated science program," she enthuses. Through the program, she performed research on Martian geological surface processes and interned at two NASA centers.

Duda went on to earn a 2005 masters degree in aeronautics and astronautics and a 2008 PhD in aerospace biomedical engineering, both at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Cambridge, MA).

After graduation, Duda decided to stay in Boston. She was familiar with Aurora, a small company that had been started by MIT students.

She is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (Reston, VA), Women in Aerospace (Washington, DC) and the Ninety-nines (Oklahoma City, OK), an international organization of women pilots.

Duda hopes to eventually move into more space hardware development. "I love this work," she says. "It would be thrilling to send one of my projects into space someday."

Joseph Granata, general manager of Aurora Flight Sciences, says, "Aurora is committed to encouraging females and minorities to explore the unique and rewarding career opportunities at our company. We seek out the best and brightest engineers regardless of their backgrounds."


See websites for more information.

Company and location Business area
Aurora Flight Sciences (Manassas, VA)
Aerospace vehicles for commercial and military applications
BAE Systems, Inc (Arlington, VA)
Global defense, aerospace and security
Bombardier Learjet (Wichita, KS)
Transportation solutions including commercial aircraft, business jets, rail transportation equipment, systems and services
CH2M HILL (Englewood, CO)
www.ch2mhill.com, www.ch2mhill.jobs
Consulting, design, design-build, operations, and program management for government, civil, industrial and energy clients
Consolidated Edison Company of
New York, Inc
(New York, NY)
Energy-related products and services through two regulated utility subsidiaries and three competitive energy businesses
CSC (Falls Church, VA)
Technology-enabled business solutions and services for global customers
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
(Poway, CA) www.ga-asi.com
Remotely piloted aircraft, radar, and electro-optic surveillance solutions for military and commercial applications worldwide
General Dynamics C4 Systems
(Scottsdale, AZ) www.gdc4s.com
Technologies, products and systems for the U.S. DoD and DHS and industry customers worldwide
HNTB Corporation (Kansas City, MO)
Infrastructure services for public and private owners and contractors
Intel Corporation (Santa Clara, CA)
Foundation technologies for the world's computing devices
NAVAIR (Patuxent River, MD)
Full lifecycle support of naval aviation aircraft, weapons and systems operated by Navy and Marine personnel
National Security Agency (Fort Meade, MD)
Secures vital U.S. networks and critical information and exploits those of foreign adversaries
Northrop Grumman Corporation
(Falls Church, VA) www.northropgrumman.com
Systems, products and solutions for unmanned systems, cybersecurity, C4ISR, logistics and modernization
Raytheon Company (Waltham, MA)
State-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and more
U.S. Missile Defense Agency (Fort Belvoir, VA)
Research, development, and acquisition for the U.S. Department of Defense

Back to Top

TRAX Chesapeake Energy
U.S. Department of State HNTB
National Radio Astronomy Observatory Telephonics
Lockheed Martin Philadelphia Gas Works
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Walgreens Union Pacific
Sandia National Labs Fannie Mae
Hess NSA


DRS Technologies Alcatel-Lucent MIT Lincoln Labs Intel Office of Naval Research