Mabel Ramirez participates in elite national engineering symposium

Photograph of Mabel RamirezDr. Mabel Ramirez, an assistant leader of the Advanced Concepts and Technologies Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, participated in the National Academy of Engineering's 2015 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, held on September 9–11 at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine, California.

The symposium brought together 88 of the nation's outstanding, early-career engineers from industry, academia, and government to discuss with preeminent researchers the latest developments in four areas: cybersecurity and privacy; the search for Earth-like exoplanets; optical and mechanical metamaterials; and prediction of natural disasters. Participants in the U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium were selected from among engineers nominated by their organizations' leadership for their accomplishments in research and technical work and their demonstrated interest in advances in a broad range of engineering fields.

According to Dr. Ramirez, the session of most interest to her was the one on optical and mechanical metamaterials. "The guest speakers described novel ways to engineer advanced materials that are smaller, stronger, and lighter than current materials, while very cleverly manipulating their properties to induce desired changes. One of the many interesting topics was a technique to suppress scattering of any given object, manipulating the electromagnetic waves and creating cloaks of metamaterials," she explained.

Dr. Ramirez, who joined Lincoln Laboratory as a technical staff member in 2010, initially worked on ballistic missile defense problems, leading the data analysis and exploitation efforts for the Missile Defense Agency's X-band Transportable Radar. She subsequently moved into the research and development of air defense technologies. Her varied technical interests include systems analysis and architectures, electronic warfare concepts, advanced sensing concepts, signal processing, machine learning, and radar systems. She holds a doctorate in electrical engineering, with a specialization in applied electromagnetics, from the University of Colorado at Boulder and bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering, with a specialization in signal processing, from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.

"The symposium gave me the opportunity to interact with academics and scientists who are looking at similar problems to ones we [Lincoln Laboratory] are addressing, but from a pure science perspective. The major benefit of the symposium was the network that was created with researchers across organizations and universities, including Caltech, MIT, Princeton, Cornell, Google, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, and Oak Ridge National Labs," said Dr. Ramirez.

During the second day of the symposium, about a dozen different small groups met in breakout sessions that examined topics suggested earlier by the participating engineers. Dr. Ramirez joined a group that discussed equity and diversity in engineering, with a focus on developing strategies for encouraging students to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. "We discussed ways we had explored to increase diversity and equity, and shared the challenges and lessons learned in our experiences across academia, research laboratories, and industry," said Dr. Ramirez, who has been active in Lincoln Laboratory's diversity and inclusion initiatives, college-student recruitment efforts, and K–12 educational outreach program. "At the end of the session, we all made a commitment to leverage the network we had formed to continue promoting STEM fields and reaching out to student communities."

 The U.S. symposium, which is limited to invitees from the nation, fosters technical exchanges to encourage the U.S. development of innovative technologies. The four sessions of the 2015 U.S. symposium featured guest speakers from major universities, including MIT and the California Institute of Technology; research laboratories, such as the Air Force Research Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and technology companies, such as Google and Netflix. The 2015 sponsors of the U.S. symposium included the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Science Foundation, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering's STEM Development Office. The Frontiers of Engineering program also conducts a series of symposia at which engineers from designated nations meet with U.S. researchers to share new technologies and techniques.

Posted October 2015


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