Missy Cummings
Missy Cummings
Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineer, Duke University

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Close Up
  • What I Do

    I am a professor in the Duke College of Engineering and my research lab is called the Humans & Autonomy Lab . My students and I work on developing better tools and technology to help people make good decisions in high risk but highly automated environments like drone operators and people in and around driverless cars!

  • Why Engineering?

    I chose engineering because I like its problem solving aspects and the chance it gives me to have a positive impact on people,

  • School Days

    I completed my Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering in 2004 at the University of Virginia.

  • Best Part

    I really enjoy the finished project or product of engineering. It is amazing to see something literally created out of nothing.

  • Challenges

    I come from a small town in Tennessee where few people finish college or ever leave home. I think my biggest challenge was finding the courage to go out into the unknown.

  • My Family

    I have one daughter who is smart and energetic so she keeps me on my toes.

  • Dreams and Goals

    I hope to continue to build my lab and influence major organizations like the Department of Transportation and the US military to consider human cognitive requirements as essential components in the development of a system. I also want to finish hiking the Appalachian Trail.

  • Hobbies

    I love the outdoors. I am a backpacker, skier, mountain biker, snowboarder, etc.

  • Inspiration

    My mother who taught me to be loving and inclusive and my father who taught me self-reliance.

  • Want to be an Engineer?

    Don't be scared of the classes and workload. It is so worth it and not nearly as hard as it may seem.


Missy Cummings received her B.S. in Mathematics from the United States Naval Academy in 1988 and her M.S. in Space Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1994. She spent ten years in the Navy and was one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots. While in the Navy, she also worked as an assistant program manager in a Navy industrial engineering plant. Her previous teaching experience includes instructing for the U.S. Navy at Pennsylvania State University, and most recently as an assistant professor for the Virginia Tech Engineering Fundamentals Division.

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I completed my Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering in 2003 at the University of Virginia.
Latest Questions
  • R.Narayana, Salem, India

    Added Monday, June 13, 2016 at 4:07 AM

    Hello Mam, I always had an idea of working for Boeing because of the history it had. I am doing my B.E. Mechanical Engineering in India. I have a doubt...... Will Boeing accept new ideas and new designs for constructing a new type of plane from an individual or a small group for people to travel with the design being completely different and innovative?
    Answers 1
    Missy Cummings, Duke University
    Answered Monday, June 13, 2016 at 4:07 AM

    The best way to get Boeing or any other aerospace company to notice your ideas is to enter a design contest sponsored by your school, companies, and government agencies. Organizations like AUVSI, AIAA, NASA and many other international agencies will ...

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  • Genesis, Chicago, Illinois

    Added Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    Hello! Just wondering, is it hard to get into good engineering programs? I am a sophomore in high school and my dream is to go to MIT, but I would also enjoy going to University of Michigan. Either way, thank you!! hope my question gets answered :DD -Genesis
    Answers 1
    Missy Cummings, Duke University
    Answered Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    It takes a lot of hard work to get into any engineering program but hard work is not the same as hard! My advice is to take as much math, physics, and programming as possible in high school, and then take a SAT/ACT preparation course. The top engineering ...

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  • Amanda, Greenville, SC

    Added Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Hi: I have a bachelors degree in Biology form Clemson University. After I graduated I took a few years off to travel with my husband. I am now on the hunt for my masters degree. I was looking at a masters in aerospace engineering. The university near by has a lot of hands on opportunities with Boeing near by. My question is how well would I far with my back ground? Is there some extra undergraduate courses that I should take to help prepare for my transition?
    Answers 1
    Missy Cummings, Duke University
    Answered Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Every school has different entry requirements for its graduate programs so it is important that you check with your specific program. You will need at least a minimum of three semesters of calculus and likely a course in linear algebra. You can never ...

    Read More
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