MITRE employee and Florida International University graduate Marcus Herndon, Ph.D.

Florida International Grads Find Fulfillment Starting Their Engineering Careers at MITRE

By Nancy Gast Romps

Luis Enrique Acosta and Marcus Herndon

Above, recently hired MITRE employee and Florida International University graduate Marcus Herndon, Ph.D.

Thanks to a strategic partnership established in 2019, MITRE and Florida International University (FIU) are tackling some of the most significant challenges facing the nation—together. FIU, deemed an “Emerging Preeminent State Research University” by the Florida Board of Governors, teams with MITRE in research and development as well as developing talent for future hire.

Let’s get to know two FIU early-career hires, Marcus C. Herndon, Ph.D., and Army veteran Luis Enrique Acosta, who have brought lessons learned at FIU to MITRE to solve problems for a safer world.

Marcus Herndon: I’m a senior mechanical engineer supporting a team based in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Early on, my role involved power measurement analysis and some MATLAB, then transitioned into 3D design modeling with SolidWorks. That led to even more detailed 3D design modeling building antenna arrays, tensegrity satellites, and standardized military envelopes.

Outside of MITRE, I’m also a rapper by the stage name of MARC.MADE, “Ya Favorite Scientist.” Music and science share a similar methodology when it comes to brainstorming solutions and designing and creating.

Luis Acosta: I’m a systems engineer based in McLean, Virginia, currently working to modernize Army human intelligence and counterintelligence systems to meet the needs of the Great Power Competition.

A lot of my work comes from the national realization that foreign intelligence services are aggressively collecting data on us. We look beyond any specific capability being developed and review the “system of systems” of how all these projects should fit properly into a cohesive whole.

Before MITRE, I spent nine years in the Army. Between that and my computer science degree, I offer a pretty broad set of skills. Because MITRE approaches things from a multidisciplinary angle, my dual background has made me a good fit.

Herndon: After completing my undergrad at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, I arrived at FIU via a generous National Science Foundation Bridge to the Doctorate fellowship. As a member of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, a community service organization, I was selected to do summer research involving sun tracking bi-metallic coils on solar panels. My presentation caught the attention of FIU’s assistant vice provost, Sonja Montas-Hunter. From there, the rest is history.

Due to the nature of my graduate studies, FIU instilled in me a lot of discipline in the experimental process: critical thinking, building connections, creation of deliverables, and communicating key information to keep the listener engaged.

Acosta: For Miami locals, FIU is the place to go—especially if you don’t want to pay an arm and a spleen. The computer science education I received at FIU let me build a background of knowledge that allowed me to springboard to various other interests and applications.

In tech, the more grounded the degree program is in the fundamentals, the more useful it is in the long term.

Herndon: I first became aware of MITRE when I met Charlotte Farmer, director of operations and integration for our internal IT organization, at the Women of Color Conference in Detroit. We were just laughing and joking randomly, and she happened to ask if I had a resume, because I had such a strong personality.

It turned out she was able to get me to the right people for interviews—and boom! Here I am. My resume matched the personality!

The bi- and tri-weekly conversations I had with Charlotte and others helped me select MITRE. I had already accepted an offer with another company, but they didn’t seem to care as much about me as MITRE did.

Acosta: I became aware of MITRE when I participated in an “embedded capture-the-flag” run by some of the MITRE cybersecurity folks. I also had a friend who worked here and left me with a good impression.  

Herndon: Here at MITRE, the environment is friendly and progressive. There’s plenty of projects across a plethora of fields to keep you busy, and new projects are always starting up and getting funded we can assist with—or create! If you’re a mechanical engineer, if you’re proficient in SolidWorks, MATLAB, ANSYS, and MS Office—you will shine!

Acosta: If you’re considering working at MITRE, connect with an employee here and talk to them. Nothing beats getting info straight from the source.

Herndon: I have always cared deeply about new developments and prototypes in technology that progress and scale our diverse cultures across the world. Because MITRE is actively pursuing and accomplishing those goals, it just works hand in hand.

as told to Nancy G. Romps

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