Missy Cummings

Current Position: Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineer at Duke University
Missy Cummings
Highlight Missy was one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots.
December 4, 2005Her job: Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineer, MIT
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I am a professor in the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department and my research lab is called the Humans & Automation Lab . My students and I work on developing better tools and technology to help people make good decisions in high risk but highly automated environments like pilots, air traffic controllers, and even drivers!
Why did you choose engineering? I chose engineering because I like its problem solving aspects and the chance it gives me to have a positive impact on people's lives.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I completed my Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering in 2003 at the University of Virginia.
What do you like best about being an engineer? I really enjoy the finished project or product of engineering. It is amazing to see something literally created out of nothing.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? I come from a small town in Tennessee where few people finish college or ever leave home. I think my biggest challenge was finding the courage to go out into the unknown.
Please tell us a little about your family. My parents are divorced and I have two brothers. One brother is a consultant for the government and the other manages asbestos removal projects. My father was in the Navy for 30 years and my mother is an 8th grade school teacher. My parents without a doubt were the biggest influences in my life.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? I hope to continue to build my lab and influence major organizations like the US military to consider human cognitive requirements as essential components in the development of a system. I also wouldn't mind a Dean's position later in life!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I love the outdoors. I am a backpacker, skier, mountain biker, snowboarder, etc.