Alex Lee portrait

MITRE Intern Adapts Liberal Arts Experience to Data Sciences

By Molly Manchenton

Alex Lee, Vassar College

Vassar College senior Alexandria “Alex” Lee has spent the summer as a data analyst at MITRE’s McLean, Virginia, campus, supporting the integrated processing mission solutions division working with geospatial intelligence. She’s pursuing degrees in economics and education with a minor (or “correlate,” to use Vassar’s term) in math. Lee, whose parents have owned and operated a martial arts studio for 25 years, also has a black belt. As she heads back to campus for senior year, Lee looks forward to grad school and perhaps a job at MITRE.

I originally pursued a liberal arts degree because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study when I started college. I knew early on I liked economics. I interned as a junior consultant for two private businesses leading up to this summer at MITRE.

At the same time, I knew I wanted to do something math related. Ultimately, I declared an econ major and math minor. I added the minor in education because I really liked the program.

My intern project is for a MITRE sponsor and involves activity-based intelligence, which was new to me. I work with data to determine the fastest way to get emergency responders from one place to another—from Point A to Point B—depending on a variety of conditions. Then I determine the best way to visualize the data for the customer.

So far, I’ve been able to rely on what I learned in computer science classes and incorporate perspective from my economics studies. Plus, I’ve had a good amount of liberty over how I’m portraying the solutions to the question.

My adviser, Chris Flake, asked me, “How would you like to approach this?” He’s given me creative ownership over the project, so I can learn from my mistakes.

My adviser asked me, ‘How would you like to approach this?’ He’s given me creative ownership over the project, so I can learn from my mistakes.

Alex Lee, MITRE intern, Summer 2022

Packaging Data to Meet Sponsors’ Unique Needs

I’ve learned there are better ways to present this data than others, and I’m able to make inferences on how the sponsor wants the data to be portrayed. I also work with different software systems to figure out which has the right features to interpret and present the data correctly. The answer might be different depending on which sponsor I’m delivering the research to.

That tells me a lot about the way MITRE works with different sponsors. MITRE figures out how to formulate a working plan and then says, “This is what we have. This is what we can accomplish. Is this how you want it presented to be most useful to you?”

After graduation, I’m considering pursuing a master’s degree in data science and communication sciences, possibly at Virginia Tech.

And I want to come back to MITRE. I don’t just want to learn the technical job; I want to learn to manage teams. I want to be part of the MITRE culture and all it has to offer.

Everyone is curious and passionate and super generous. When I don’t understand something completely, the people I’ve worked with take the time to care and answer my questions. I’m an intern—and yet they’re willing to spend time helping me learn. I want to be able to pay that back to the company.

as told to Molly Manchenton

Want to solve problems for a safer world? Learn about our student programs.