Missy Cummings

Missy Cummings

Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineer, Duke University


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  • 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.