three women discussing

View from the Bridge: Early-Career Engineer Dives into Maritime Tech

By Denise Schiavone

Less than a year at MITRE, Cecelia Kane is deep into our work advancing marine technologies. Kane applies her long-time love of the ocean and her engineering skills to help accelerate innovations for national security, climate, the economy, and more. 

Shortly after MITRE’s BlueTech Lab opened in Bedford, Mass., last November, sensors engineer Cecelia Kane became one of the first MITRE employees to use it for MITRE work. 

When she’d interviewed for a position with us the year prior, while a senior at Cornell University, Kane got a glimpse of the under-construction space. "They took me out onto the bridge and pointed to where the lab would be. And it was just a lot of construction equipment, so I didn't really have a picture in my head of what it would become."

Only three months into her tenure at the company, that picture came into focus. Kane and colleagues from our underwater and acoustics department used the lab’s 620,000-gallon tank to research acoustic communications protocols for one of our government sponsors.

The other thing that came into focus: Kane’s realization of her long-time dream to work in the maritime space. 

Growing up on Cape Cod, she always felt a connection to the ocean and marine wildlife. In middle school, her science teacher coordinated an opportunity for select students, Kane included, to design undersea remote-operated vehicles at the University of Rhode Island. 

In high school, she built her first underwater robot. She also interned summers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of MITRE’s partners for advancing undersea testing, innovation, and collaboration in the New England region. Among other at-sea excursions there, she participated in an environmental monitoring mission where an undersea robot followed a tagged shark.

Those educational engagements were formative for her extracurricular pursuits at Cornell. While studying electrical and computer engineering, she helped lead an underwater autonomous vehicle team that competed nationwide.

As she embarks on her career journey at MITRE, Kane appreciates the chance "to combine my childhood interest in the ocean and my aptitude in STEM to learn more about the maritime space and try to make an impact."

I'm looking forward to seeing how much more efficient we can become to help innovators in the maritime space.

Cecelia Kane, sensors engineer

In Pursuit of Diverse Research Experiences

Cecilia Kane

Kane found her way to the company after attending a coffee chat co-hosted by us and the Society of Women Engineers. There, she met MITRE communications engineer and Cornell alum Thinesiya Krishnathasan.

"When I talked with Thinesiya about my interest in underwater robotics, she mentioned the BlueTech Lab, and I got excited. I also liked MITRE’s mission of making the world a safer—generally better—place."

Krishnathasan says Kane’s level of preparation for the meeting impressed her. "Cecelia had a million questions ready, and her curiosity and enthusiasm for research in particular told me she’d be a good fit for MITRE."

Krishnathasan’s instincts were on point. Part of Kane’s impact has been in applying her computer engineering degree to our BlueTech research initiatives. For instance, she used C++ programming to develop standards that enable different operators of undersea acoustics to communicate with each other. 

In addition to working with government sponsors, our BlueTech team partners with industry and academia to accelerate various maritime innovations. Kane and her colleagues collaborated with University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example, to test the use of sensors in determining if a mooring or fishing line gets cut or tangled. 

"If you're looking for a dynamic job where you're not doing the same thing every day, MITRE is definitely the place to be," Kane adds.

Engaging Next-Generation STEM Professionals

Part of Kane’s "not the same thing every day" includes outreach to young people interested in STEM careers. Along with Krishnathasan, she’s returned to Cornell to talk with students about her work. She also participates in a MITRE-MassRobotics partnership that helps Boston-area high school students learn more about using robotics to solve big problems. 

While helping to educate the community, Kane strives to expand her own knowledge. This summer, she’ll take an intensive sonar signal processing class at University of New Hampshire. 

She’s excited about where the BlueTech Lab will go from here. "Before, if we wanted to test something underwater, we’d have to drive an hour to the ocean and set up a lot of equipment. Now we can walk five minutes to the lab in the morning, do all our testing, and be done by the afternoon. 

"I'm looking forward to seeing how much more efficient we can become to help innovators in the maritime space."

Interested in solving problems for a safer world? Join our community of innovators, learners, knowledge-sharers, and risk takers. View our Job Openings and Student Programs. Subscribe to our MITRE 360 Newsletter.