Melissa Choi named director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory | MIT Information


Melissa Choi has been named the following director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, efficient July 1. At the moment assistant director of the laboratory, Choi succeeds Eric Evans, who will step down on June 30 after 18 years as director.

Sharing the information in a letter to MIT school and employees at the moment, Vice President for Analysis Ian Waitz famous Choi’s 25-year profession of “excellent technical and advisory management,” each at MIT and in service to the protection neighborhood.

“Melissa has a wonderful technical breadth in addition to wonderful management and administration expertise, and she or he has introduced a compelling strategic imaginative and prescient for the Laboratory,” Waitz wrote. “She is a considerate, intuitive chief who prioritizes communication, collaboration, mentoring, {and professional} growth as foundations for an organizational tradition that advances her imaginative and prescient for Lab-wide excellence in service to the nation.”

Choi’s appointment marks a brand new chapter in Lincoln Laboratory’s storied historical past working to maintain the nation secure and safe. As a federally funded analysis and growth middle operated by MIT for the Division of Protection, the laboratory has offered the federal government an impartial perspective on vital science and know-how problems with nationwide curiosity for greater than 70 years. Distinctive amongst nationwide R&D labs, the laboratory focuses on each long-term system growth and fast demonstration of operational prototypes, to guard and defend the nation in opposition to superior threats. In tandem with its position in creating know-how for nationwide safety, the laboratory’s integral relationship with the MIT campus neighborhood permits impactful partnerships on elementary analysis, educating, and workforce growth in vital science and know-how areas.

“In a time of nice world instability and fast-evolving threats, the mission of Lincoln Laboratory has by no means been extra vital to the nation,” says MIT President Sally Kornbluth. “It’s also important that the laboratory apply government-funded, cutting-edge applied sciences to resolve vital issues in fields from area exploration to local weather change. Along with her depth and breadth of expertise, eager imaginative and prescient, and simple type, Melissa Choi has earned monumental belief and respect throughout the Lincoln and MIT communities. As Eric Evans steps down, we couldn’t ask for a finer successor.”

Choi has served as assistant director of Lincoln Laboratory since 2019, with oversight of 5 of the Lab’s 9 technical divisions: Biotechnology and Human Programs, Homeland Safety and Air Site visitors Management, Cyber Safety and Info Sciences, Communication Programs, and ISR and Tactical Programs. Participating deeply with the wants of the broader protection neighborhood, Choi served for six years on the Air Drive Scientific Advisory Board, with a time period as vice chair, and was appointed to the DoD’s Risk Discount Advisory Committee. She is at the moment a member of the nationwide Protection Science Board’s Everlasting Subcommittee on Risk Discount.

Having devoted her whole profession to Lincoln Laboratory, Choi says her lengthy tenure displays a dedication to the lab’s work and neighborhood.

“By my profession, I’ve been lucky to have had extremely modern and motivated individuals to collaborate with as we clear up vital nationwide safety challenges,” Choi says. “Persevering with to work with such a powerful, laboratory-wide staff as director is without doubt one of the most enjoyable facets of the job for me.”

Success by means of collaboration

Choi got here to Lincoln Laboratory as a technical employees member in 1999, with a doctoral diploma in utilized arithmetic. As she progressed to guide analysis groups, together with the Programs and Evaluation Group after which the Energetic Optical Programs Group, Choi discovered the worth of pooling experience from researchers throughout the laboratory.

“I used to be capable of shift between plenty of completely different tasks very early on in my profession, from radar techniques to sensor networks. As a result of I wasn’t an skilled on the time in any a kind of fields, I discovered to achieve out to the numerous completely different specialists on the laboratory,” Choi says.

Choi maintained that mindset by means of all of her roles on the laboratory, together with as head of the Homeland Safety and Air Site visitors Management Division, which she led from 2014 and 2019. In that position, she helped convey collectively various know-how and human techniques experience to ascertain the Humanitarian Help and Catastrophe Aid Group. Amongst different achievements, the group offered assist to FEMA and different emergency response companies after the 2017 hurricane season triggered unprecedented flooding and destruction throughout swaths of Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico.

“We have been capable of quickly prototype and discipline a number of applied sciences to assist with the restoration efforts,” Choi says. “It was a tremendous instance of how we are able to apply our nationwide safety focus to different vital nationwide issues.”

Exterior of her technical and advisory achievements, Choi has made an influence at Lincoln Laboratory by means of her commitments to an inclusive office. In 2020, she co-led the examine “Stopping Discrimination and Harassment and Selling an Inclusive Tradition at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.” The work was a part of a longstanding dedication to supporting colleagues within the office by means of in depth mentoring and participation in worker useful resource teams.

“I’ve felt a way of belonging on the laboratory because the minute I got here right here, and I’ve had the advantage of assist from leaders, mentors, and advocates since then. Enhancing assist techniques is essential to me,” says Choi, who would be the first girl to guide Lincoln Laboratory. “Everybody ought to have the ability to really feel that they belong and might thrive.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Choi helped the laboratory navigate the disruptions — with its operations deemed important — which she says taught her so much about main by means of adversity.

“We clear up arduous issues on the laboratory on a regular basis, however to get thrown into an issue that we had by no means seen earlier than was a studying expertise,” Choi says. “We noticed the complete lab come collectively, from management to every of the divisions and departments.”

That synergy has additionally helped Choi kind strategic partnerships inside and out of doors of the laboratory to boost its mission. Drawing on her information of the laboratory’s capabilities and its historical past of creating impactful techniques for NASA and NOAA, Choi just lately led the formation of a brand new Civil Area Programs and Expertise Workplace.

“We have been seeing this convergence between Division of Protection and civilian area initiatives, as going to the Moon, Mars, and the cislunar space [between the earth and moon] has grow to be an enormous emphasis for the complete nation usually,” Choi explains. “It appeared like a very good time for us to tug these two sides collectively and develop our NASA portfolio. It provides us an incredible alternative to collaborate with MIT centrally, and it ties in with our different strategic instructions.”

Constructing on success

Choi believes her trajectory by means of the technical ranks of Lincoln Laboratory will assist her lead it now.

“That have provides me a view into what it is like at a number of ranges of the laboratory,” Choi says. “I’ve seen what’s labored and what hasn’t labored, and I’ve discovered from completely different views and management types. Sturdy leaders are essential, however it’s vital to acknowledge that the majority of the work will get executed by the technical, assist, and administrative staff throughout our divisions, departments, and workplaces. Remembering being an early employees member helps you perceive how arduous and thrilling the work is, and in addition how vital these contributions are for our mission.”

Choi says she can also be wanting ahead to increasing the laboratory’s collaboration with MIT’s essential campus.

“So many areas, from AI to local weather to area, have alternative for us to come back collectively,” Choi says. “We even have some nice fashions of progress, just like the Beaver Works Middle or the Division of the Air Drive – MIT Synthetic Intelligence Accelerator program, that we are able to construct from. Everybody right here may be very enthusiastic about doing that, and it’ll completely be a precedence for me.”

In the end, Choi plans to guide Lincoln Laboratory utilizing the method that’s confirmed profitable all through her profession.

“I imagine very a lot that I shouldn’t be the neatest particular person within the room, and I depend on the sensible individuals working with me,” Choi says. “I’m a part of a staff and I work with a staff to guide. That has at all times been my type: Set a imaginative and prescient and targets, and empower and assist the individuals I work with to make selections and construct on that technique.”