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Monday, October 6, 2014

Society of Women Engineers Honors Draper’s Laura Major As Emerging Leader

CAMBRIDGE, The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) will honor Laura Major, Draper Laboratory’s human systems and analytics business lead, as one of its emerging leaders for 2014 at its Annual Conference for Women Engineers on Oct. 24.

SWE’s Emerging Leader award is given annually to women with 10-15 years of engineering experience who have demonstrated outstanding technical excellence resulting in significant accomplishments.

“In Laura’s case, her work to establish Draper in the field of cognitive and human factors engineering, which ensures that the Lab delivers innovative technology that is also highly user friendly for its sponsors in the military, intelligence, space, biomedical, and energy systems fields, has been groundbreaking, and in some instances, life saving,” said Darryl Sargent, Draper’s vice president for national security and space programs.

Major takes 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 is so intuitive that Major skips showing a presentation about it to troops in favor of putting it in their hands to try out. Troops can use it in the field without the days or weeks of training typical of other systems, perform functions much faster while dealing with the stress of battle, and reduce errors that can lead to civilian casualties.

Major has been active in mentoring at Draper, where she has offered guidance to those inside and outside of her area of responsibility and supervised numerous students in pursuit of advanced degrees at MIT. She also helped establish the Lab’s Women’s Leadership Forum, where female staff meet over lunch to share experiences and hear from guest speakers.

Outside of Draper, she has volunteered her time to assist the Science Club for Girls, which connects girls in grades K-12 with female mentor-scientists and engineers, and has also served as a mentor-scientist at the Cambridgeport School and Fletcher Maynard Academy.

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