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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Human System Integration
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
BOHSI Member Spotlight
 Cummings photo
Mary (Missy) Cummings, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Aeronautics and Astronautics Department
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this issue we place the spotlight on Dr. Mary Cummings, a BOHSI member since 2010.
What is your current position and area of research?
Associate Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I conduct research into human supervisory control, particularly of robotic systems. I am also currently a Program Officer for a robotic helicopter program at the Office of Naval Research.
What led you to this field/area of research?
As a former fighter pilot for the US Navy, I had many friends die or be seriously wounded in accidents that were caused or exacerbated by poor human factors. I decided that instead of complaining about the problems, I would do something about them and go into research and development.
What, in your opinion, has been the greatest achievement in your area of science?
Getting other engineering disciplines and industry to pay attention to the importance of the human factor.
Where do you see your field progressing over the next 10 years?
More advanced mathematical models will be used to represent human behaviors and interaction in complex systems. The field will continue to grow as industry continues to realize that systems can no longer be designed in a vacuum without considering human and automation strengths and weaknesses.
What is the best part of being on BOHSI?
Getting to work with so many smart and talented people.
If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be?
Thomas Jefferson, because he was both an engineer and a humanist who was able to easily excel in two seemingly disparate fields for his entire life. He is my renaissance role model.

What is the greatest book you ever read, and why?
I don’t have a ‘one greatest’ as I am a huge book lover with an addiction to Barnes and Noble. But one book I read 15 years ago that still resonates with me “Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA”. I found the parallels between her career and mine in the military therapeutic and the book inspired me to take the plunge into academia.

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