Engineer Realizes a Dream Supporting Asia Pacific Aviation Growth

June 2015
Juliana Goh
Juliana Goh

When Juliana Goh earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, she wanted to put her expertise as a human factors engineer to work for The MITRE Corporation. "I liked MITRE's not-for-profit status and its commitment to serving the public interest," she says. "MITRE was the only company I knew with that status in aviation. That's where I wanted to focus."

But when she graduated, Goh wasn't eligible for employment at MITRE. A Singapore national, she didn't meet our requirement that employees be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. An odd twist of fate ultimately intervened, however. The combination of her status as a Singapore citizen and her expertise in human-centered engineering and aviation helped Goh achieve her ultimate dream: to do international aviation research—as a MITRE employee.

But her career path began elsewhere. "Since I couldn't initially work for MITRE, I went to Boeing, where I gained real-world experience in how aircraft are built and manufactured," she says. While there, Goh developed, verified, and validated design requirements for various applications on the Boeing 787 flight deck. She also provided human factors expertise in surface operations and data communications research and concept development.

Providing Pilots with Tested Solutions 

During that time, Goh acquired her green card. So in 2010, when she heard MITRE was looking for someone with her expertise, she quickly applied. She was just as quickly hired as a human factors engineer in MITRE's Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD), the federally funded research and development center the company operates for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"I was ecstatic," she says. "My time at Boeing was very valuable, but I really wanted to do research early in the product cycle, as I had been trained to do, and I had always wanted to work for MITRE. Now I could do both."

In her first few projects, she organized and ran human-in-the-loop simulations. "As a human-centered engineer, I understand the tasks pilots need to perform and the information they need to do their jobs. So I worked with other MITRE engineers to figure out how to best provide that information and test it in our labs—with actual pilots."

Acquiring New Areas of Expertise

Two years later Goh took on a new challenge—working on U.S. air traffic management operations. Several months later she moved to the international arena and began supporting Singapore with its aviation infrastructure needs. "I led the effort to create a research and development roadmap for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Since aviation growth in the Asia Pacific Region is exploding, CAAS needed a plan to accommodate that regional growth. MITRE developed a roadmap as a first step in that effort."

A short time later, CAAS and MITRE agreed to establish laboratory facilities in Singapore as a more efficient means of supporting the Asia Pacific region's aviation needs. MITRE formed MITRE Asia Pacific Singapore (MAPS), which began its work program in October 2014. The facility's scheduled opening is slated to occur in August 2015. Goh, who relocated to Singapore in April, is one of three MITRE engineers who will staff MAPS during its first year of operations. She'll serve as MAPS' research lead.

"I'll continue to interface with our Singapore customers to determine their research and development needs and work with MITRE technical personnel to fulfill those needs."

Goh appreciates the opportunities she's had at MITRE. "I've learned about many different aspects of air traffic operations and different domains. That's provided a continually challenging experience," she says.  "And now, I've been given the chance to apply my skills to the international arena. Things move a little faster in that arena, so we see our efforts come to fruition quickly. That's very gratifying."

Goh highly recommends MITRE as a place to work. "You can do meaningful research and serve the public good," she says. "Plus, it's a great place to be if variety and professional growth are important to you. There's such a breadth of work here that people can apply their skills in different domains—whether it's aviation, healthcare, cybersecurity, military operations, or some other venue. I think that's pretty cool."

—by Marlis McCollum

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