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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mass High Tech Honors Draper’s Laura Major Among 2014 “Women to Watch”

CAMBRIDGE, MA-- Mass High Tech honored Laura Major, Draper Laboratory’s human systems and analytics business lead, as one of its 2014 “Women to Watch” during a May 8 ceremony in Boston.

Mass High Tech’s “Women to Watch” honor is presented to women in the technology field who will likely take on more senior leadership positions in the future, and already have track records that include inventions, growing and launching businesses, and leading teams working on new developments.

Major’s recent accomplishments include helping establish Draper as a force in the field of cognitive and human factors engineering, ensuring that the Lab delivers cutting edge technology with user friendly interfaces for its sponsors in the military, intelligence, space, biomedical, and energy systems fields. When designing new systems, she has taken a hands-on approach to understanding users’ needs, including flying in military aircraft, walking the deck on a Navy ship, participating in training missions with ground troops, and joining astronauts in their simulators.

These efforts have led to the development of systems including an Android app that troops use to view maps, communicate with aircraft overhead, and plan jumps from aircraft. The app’s intuitive nature has enabled troops to use it after watching a 15 minute video – versus the days or weeks typical of other systems, perform functions much faster while dealing with the stress of battle, and reduce errors that can lead to civilian casualties.

“Laura has an uncanny ability to see what others cannot, and deliver the very solutions that users have wanted, but didn’t know how to request,” said Jim Shields, Draper president. “Laura’s work has introduced a whole new paradigm for human systems interaction in aerospace systems and holds promise for equally compelling applications in other fields.”

Major has been active in mentoring at Draper as well as outside the lab, where she has volunteered her time over the years to assist the Science Club for Girls, which connects girls in grades K-12 with female mentor-scientists and engineers. She has also served as a mentor-scientist at the Cambridgeport School for several years.

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