Laura Kennedy shares her expertise at national symposium

By Meg Cichon | Communications and Community Outreach Office

Laura KennedyLaura Kennedy, an assistant leader of the Applied Space Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, participated in the National Academy of Engineering's 2016 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering (USFOE) Symposium, held on September 19–21 at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine, California. The symposium brought together more than 100 of the nation's exceptional engineers, ages 30 to 45, from industry, academia, and federally funded research and development centers to discuss the latest developments in four areas: pixels at scale, extreme engineering, water desalination and purification, and technologies for understanding and treating cancer.

Participants were nominated for the event by fellow engineers and organizations and were selected to attend the symposium on the basis of their accomplishments in research and technical work; their demonstrated interest in a broad range of engineering fields; and their potential to be a future leader in U.S. engineering. The goal of the USFOE is to bring together engineers from all fields to facilitate cross-disciplinary networking and to promote the transfer of new techniques and approaches to sustain and expand U.S. innovation.

The sessions of the 2016 U.S. symposium featured guest speakers from major universities, including MIT and Stanford; research laboratories, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and technology companies, such as SpaceX and the Dow Chemical Company. According to Kennedy, attendees gained excellent perspective on all four topic areas from the engaging, high-level discussions led by industry experts.

In addition to attending sessions on each of the four major topics, participants took part in breakout sessions on engineering topics, such as industry challenges and technology transfer. Kennedy joined a small group of 12 people to discuss science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The group identified the challenges in encouraging STEM in U.S. schools and shared ideas about how to make the subjects more accessible to students. "The STEM breakout session was very compelling and enlightening," said Kennedy. "Many attendees shared personal concerns about their children's educations and expressed a willingness to work hard to find solutions. I was pleased to see a group of people that were so passionate about the topic." Kennedy has participated in several outreach activities at Lincoln Laboratory, including the 2016 Girls Who Code program.

Kennedy joined Lincoln Laboratory as an assistant technical staff member in 2002 and worked on projects with a focus on optical sensors for remote sensing applications. In 2012, Lincoln Laboratory presented Kennedy with an Early Career Technical Achievement Award for her contributions to a wide range of technical areas, including analysis and algorithm development integral to systems such as the Optical Processing Architecture at Lincoln, and for her thorough understanding of the types of systems that Lincoln Laboratory develops.

"The major goal of the symposium is to connect with people," said Kennedy. "Networking at USFOE has allowed me to collaborate with more experts from outside the government, such as those from universities and industry. I've already reached out to several engineers from the symposium and shared insights from the event with my colleagues at the Laboratory."

The 2016 sponsors of the U.S. symposium included Microsoft Research, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Science and Research, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering's STEM Development Office, and Cummins, Inc.

Posted October 2016

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