Director, MIT Technology and Policy Program; professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology; Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow; housemaster, Baker House
areas of expertise: aerospace biomedical engineering, biomechanics and energetics, control and dynamics, astronaut adaptation, advanced spacesuit design, human factors, design and creativity, engineering systems and design, space policy
Dava Newman is a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems Division at MIT and affiliate faculty in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. She is also a MacVicar Faculty Fellow (a chair for making significant contributions to undergraduate education) and director of the Technology and Policy Program at MIT. She leads the MIT-Portugal Program’s Bioengineering Systems effort.
Newman specializes in investigating human performance across the spectrum of gravity. She was principal investigator for the Space Shuttle Dynamic Load Sensors (DLS) experiment, which measured astronaut-induced disturbances of the microgravity environment on mission STS-62. An advanced system, the Enhanced Dynamic Load Sensors experiment, flew onboard the Russian Mir space station from 1996-1998. Newman was a co-investigator on the Mental Workload and Performance Experiment (MWPE) that flew to space on STS-42 to measure astronaut mental workload and fine motor control in microgravity. She also developed the MICR0-G space flight experiment to provide a novel sensor suite and study human adaptation in extreme environments.
She is an expert in the areas of extravehicular activity (EVA), human movement, physics-based modeling, biomechanics, energetics and human-robotic cooperation. As a co-invetigator for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, her finite element modeling work provided NASA the first three-dimensional representation of bone loss and loading applicable for long-duration missions. She has an active research program in advanced EVA, including space-suit design, life-support technologies and human-robotic cooperation. Her exoskeleton innovations are now being applied to “soft suits” to study and enhance locomotion on Earth for children with cerebral palsy. She also focuses on engineering education involving active learning, hands-on design and information technology implementation to enhance student learning.
Her curriculum efforts strive to find new ways to stimulate students and actively involve students in their own learning. Newman has published an Engineering and Design text and CDROM (2002). She was named one of the “Best Inventors of 2007” for her BioSuit system by Time magazine. Her BioSuit system has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Super Heroes show (May-Sept. 2008), the Boston Museum of Science (fall 2008, summer 2009) and the London Museum of Science and Industry (2009). It is slated to be exhibited at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (2011).
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