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Dava  Newman

Dava Newman

Director of the MIT Media Lab, MIT Apollo Professor of Astronautics & Former NASA Deputy Administrator


Dr. Dava Newman is the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as well as a Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member. Her research expertise is in multidisciplinary aerospace biomedical engineering investigating human performance across the spectrum of gravity; climate change; and leadership development. She is a leader in advanced space suit design, dynamics and control of astronaut motion, leadership development, innovation and space policy. Read More >

Newman was the principal investigator on 4 spaceflight missions. The Space Shuttle Dynamic Load Sensors (DLS) experiment measured astronaut-induced disturbances of the microgravity environment on mission STS-62. An advanced system, the Enhanced Dynamic Load Sensors experiment, flew on board the Russian Mir Space Station from 1996–1998. Dr. 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 the MIT PI on the Gravity Loading Countermeasure Suit, or Skinsuit, onboard the International Space Station as an ESA technology demonstration 2015-2017.

Best known for her second skin BioSuit™ planetary EVA system, her advanced spacesuits inventions are now being applied to “soft suits” to study and enhance locomotion on Earth. Recently, she co-founded EarthDNA with partner Guillermo Trotti to accelerate solutions for spaceship Earth’s Ocean, Land and Air subsystems by curating near-space satellite data to make the world work for 100% of humanity. Newman is the author of Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design, an introductory engineering textbook, and has published more than 300 papers in journals and refereed conferences and holds numerous compression technology patents. She has supervised 90 graduate student theses and supervised and mentored over 200 undergraduate researchers.

She served as NASA Deputy Administrator from 2015–2017, nominated by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Along with the NASA Administrator, she was responsible for articulating the agency's vision, providing leadership and policy direction, and representing NASA to the White House, Congress, international space agencies, and industry. Dr. Newman was the first female engineer and scientist to serve in this role and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. She championed the human journey to Mars, technology and innovation, and education.

Recent honors include: Lowell Thomas Award Winner, Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, AIAA Fellow, AIAA Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award, Women in Aerospace Leadership Award, the Aerospace Medical Association’s Henry L. Taylor Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Aerospace Human Factors among others. Newman’s BioSuit™ has been exhibited at the Venice Biennial, American Museum of Natural History, Victoria and Albert and Museum, The Paris Sciences and Industry Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She serves on multiple aerospace, technology and education boards. Newman earned her Ph.D. in aerospace biomedical engineering, Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering and technology and policy from MIT, and her Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDx: Becoming Interplanetary & Accelerating Positive Change for Spaceship Earth

TED: How to Create a Space Suit

Women at NASA

Human Exploration from Earth to Mars: Becoming Interplanetary

NOVA: Space Fashion

Speech Topics

Imagineers for the Future: the Metaverse for Good

The future worlds we will inhabit, physically and digitally, have the power to unite and connect people, provide positive experiences, and help us to reimagine healthy communities. Life 2.0: Imagine humanity living in balance with Nature. Putting people at the center of design, providing open platforms, tangible media, and connected experiences in cyberspace are possibilities for the emerging metaverse. We are inventing immersive technologies and experiences for tomorrow that allow you, or your hologram avatar, to ‘live’ in any environment on Earth that you choose. Designing positive futures, platforms for good, and creative learning opportunities highlight transformative digital experiences for the future.

Human Exploration from Earth to Mars: Becoming Interplanetary

Humanity will become interplanetary, and is on a journey to Mars. We are closer to reaching the Red Planet with human explorers than we have ever been in our history. Space agencies, academia and industry are working on the technologies and missions that will enable human “boots on Mars” in the 2030s following a decade of human exploration on the moon in the 2020s. The latest revolutionary technologies including XR (mixed reality) and citizen science are highlighted.

Exploring Space for Earth: Earth’s Vital Signs Revealed

Recent space science missions to Pluto and Jupiter, the discovery of thousands of exoplanets, and orbital missions to monitor Spaceship Earth will be highlighted. Humanity will become interplanetary, and is on a journey to Mars. However, Mars is not 'Plan B.' Spaceship Earth, our pale blue dot, is the most magnificent planet to inhabit. Earth is speaking to us – are we listening? Supercomputer visualizations implementing artificial intelligence to curate Earth Systems data are shared. Global to local to personal actions and solutions to help regenerate to Earth’s oceans, land and air are discussed. Open source Climate 101 is gifted in this talk.

Making Space for Innovation: From NASA to Mars & Beyond

Returning humans to the moon and venturing out to Mars will give the opportunity to do incredible science on the ground, meaning more time spent on extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, performing physically demanding tasks. This will require a lightweight, mobile space suit that will protect astronauts from the extreme environments. New and innovative manufacturing methods are bringing the MIT BioSuit™ from concept to reality, allowing not only for a viable mechanical counter pressure suit but for the first time, incorporating thermal and radiation protection into an advanced second skin spacesuit.

Leaders: Women in STEAMD (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math-Design)

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that the “future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Dava Newman thinks the most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math and engineering education that will help humanity literally explore Mars. As an aerospace engineer and rocket scientist, Newman has spent her entire career dedicated to furthering STEM education, but she thinks we delivered the wrong message. We made STEM a thing – you were either In or Out. She would like to change the conversation to what she now calls STEAMD. Newman brings in the arts and design – the Makers. No more filtering anyone out, but rather, we must strive for infinite diversity in infinite combinations, empowering the women leaders of tomorrow! An inclusive, distributed leadership framework will be highlighted along with the stories of untold women innovators and leaders.

Lessons in Leadership from NASA, Science, Art & Creativity

The Honorable Dr. Dava Newman served as NASA Deputy Administrator (2015-2017) nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Along with the NASA Administrator, she was responsible for articulating the agency's vision, providing overall leadership and policy direction, and representing NASA to the Executive Office of the President, Congress, heads of federal government agencies, international space agencies, and industry. She developed and implemented a strategic Innovation Framework, which served as the first comprehensive innovation strategy for a large government agency, including best practices from across government and industry; leading NASA’s novel public-private partnerships with several companies to develop new launch, spacecraft, commercial cargo and crew capabilities as examples of disruptive innovation.