Dava Newman

Affiliate Faculty
Phone: (617) 258-8799
address: 77 Massachusetts Ave Room 33-305 Cambridge MA 02139
Administrative Assistant: Raina K. Puels
assistant phone: (617) 258-8799
assistant email: rkpuels@mit.edu

Dava Newman

Affiliate Faculty


  • Apollo Professor of Astronautics and Engineering Systems
  • Former Director of Technology and Policy Program (2003-2015)
  • MacVicar Faculty Fellow
  • Affiliate Faculty Institute for the MIT Medical Engineering & Science (IMES)


Dr. Dava Newman is the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member. Her research in multidisciplinary aerospace biomedical engineering investigates human performance across the spectrum of gravity, including space suits, life support and astronaut performance. Newman has been the principal investigator on 4 spaceflight missions on the Shuttle, MIR, and ISS. Known for her second skin BioSuit™ planetary spacesuit, her inventions are now being applied to “soft suits/exoskeletons” to enhance locomotion on Earth. Her BioSuit™ museum exhibits include the Venice Biennial, American Museum of Natural History, Victoria and Albert and Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her latest research includes Earth Speaks™ – an open source platform of curated space data that applies AI, natural language and supercomputer visualizations to help accelerate actions to help regenerate Earth’s oceans, land and climate. Newman is the author of Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design, has >300 publications, and has supervised 90 graduate students and mentored >200 undergraduates.


Dr. Dava Newman served as NASA Deputy Administrator from 2015–2017, nominated by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Along with the NASA Administrator, she was responsible for the agency’s vision, leadership and policy direction, and representing NASA to the White House, Congress, international space agencies, and industry. Dr. Newman was the first female engineer to serve in this role and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. She championed the human journey to Mars, technology and innovation, and education. She and her partner, Guillermo Trotti, circumnavigated in 2002–2003, sailing 36,000 nm around the world and teaching ‘Exploration via Space and Sea’. Newman earned her Ph.D. in aerospace biomedical engineering, Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering and technology and policy from MIT, and her Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame.


  • B.S., 1986, University of Notre Dame (Aerospace Engineering)
  • S.M., 1989, MIT (Aeronautics & Astronautics)
  • S.M., 1989, MIT (Technology and Policy)
  • Ph.D., 1992, MIT (Aero. Biomed. Engineering)

selected awards/societies

World Record for Women’s Human-Powered Hydrofoil Speed, 1991; National Research Council Research Associate Award, 1992; Elected to the MIT Corporation, 1992; Professor of the Year – University of Houston ASME Chapter, 1993; NASA Manned Flight Awareness Team Award, 1995; AIAA Distinguished Lecturer, 1999-2001; MIT Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, 2000; Women in Aerospace, 2001; National Aerospace Educator, 2001; AIAA Distinguished Lecturer, 2003-2004 NASA Group Achievement Award for NIAC 2004, included as one of 100 Extraordinary Women Engineers selected by the American Society of Civil Engineers, 2004; Best Inventions of 2007, awarded by Time Magazine, 2007; Metropolitan Museum of Art Super Heroes: Fashion and Fantasy, 2008; Mass High Tech Women to Watch, 2010; Paris – Cite des sciences & de l’industrie: Les Nouvelles Technologies de la Protection Corporelle, 2010; BBC Inventor of the Week, Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention, 2010; Portuguese national research team winner: Associacão Salvador for neurorehabilitation, 2011; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Power of Making exhibit, 2011-12; American Museum of Natural History, New York, Beyond Earth: The Future of Spaceflight exhibit, 2011-2012; 2012 Cambridge Science Festival ‘”Curiosity Award,” 2013; Presidential Appointment with unanimous Senate Confirmation: NASA Deputy Administrator, 2015; AIAA National Capital Section Barry M. Goldwater Education Award, 2016; College of Engineering Honor Award, University of Notre Dame, 2016; NASA Distinguished Service Medal, 2017; Women in Aerospace Leadership Award, 2017; Henry L. Taylor Founder’s Award, Aerospace Medical Association, 2017; Lowell Thomas Award – Explorer’s Club, 2018; Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, 2018-19; AIAA Fellow, 2018

American Association of University Women, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts, Aerospace Medical Association, American Society for Engineering Education, International Society of Biomechanics, Sigma Xi, The International Research Honor Society, Society of Women Engineers, Space Studies Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists


Humans have evolved in and are optimally developed for the Earth-normal 1 G (9.8 m/s2) environment. Are the mechanics and energetic requirements of human performance across the continuum of gravity from microgravity (0 G) to lunar and Martian gravity levels (1/6 G and 3/8 G, respectively) to hypergravity (>1 G) altered from the 1 G mechanics and energetics? The multidisciplinary research effort combines aerospace bioengineering, human-in-the-loop dynamics and control modeling, biomechanics, human interface technology, life sciences, and systems analysis and design. The research studies are carried out through flight experiments, ground-based simulations, and mathematical and computer modeling. Other research efforts include advanced space suit design and navigation aids for EVA astronauts.

Research areas:

Extravehicular Activity Reference (EVA)

Dynamics and Control of Astronaut Motion

Human Performance Across the Spectrum of Gravity
Locomotion Modeling and Orthoses

Space Flight Experiments

Computer Simulation and Animation

EarthSpeaks: Connecting Earth’s Oceans, Land, Air, and Space

selected publications

  1. R. A. Vasquez, M. L. Hansberry, K. R. Duda, A. J. Middleton, D. J. Newman “Wearable CMG design for the Variable Vector Countermeasure Suit” IEEE Aerospace Conference . (2015): 1-13. Print.
  2. E. W. Obropta, D. J. Newman “A comparison of human skin strain fields of the elbow joint for mechanical counter pressure space suit development” IEEE Aerospace Conference . (2015): 1-9. Print.
  3. A. Anderson, D. Newman “Pressure characterization between the upper body and space suit during mission-realistic movements” IEEE Aerospace Conference . (2015): 1-9. Print.
  4. K. R. Duda, R. A. Vasquez, A. J. Middleton, M. L. Hansberry, D. J. Newman, S. E. Jacobs, and J. J. West,  Variable Vector Countermeasure Suit (V2Suit) for Space Exploration, IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings, March, 2015.   Â
  5. Vadhavkar, N.A., Newman ,D.J., “Lighter, adaptive thermal subsystem for life support during Mars extravehicular activity (EVA) planetary exploration,” Int’l. Astronautical Congress, Israel, Oct. 2015.
  6. A. Diaz Artiles, C. Trigg, H. Jethani, S. Tritchler, D. Newman “Physiological and comfort assessment of the gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit during exercise” IEEE Aerospace Conference . (2016): 1-10. Print.
  7. E. W. Obropta, D. J. Newman “Skin strain fields at the shoulder joint for mechanical counter pressure space suit development” IEEE Aerospace Conference . (2016): 1-9. Print.
  8. P. Bertrand, S. Reyes, D. Newman “Pressure and kinematic in-suit sensors: Assessing human-suit interaction for injury risk mitigation” IEEE Aerospace Conference . (2016): 1-10. Print.
  9. Wood, D. and Newman, D. “The Innovation Landscape within a Large Government Agency: Promising Practices from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”, International Astronautical Congress, Guadalajara, Mexico, Sept. 2016.
  10. C. Carr, D. Newman, “Exoskeleton Energetics: Implications for Planetary Extravehicular Activity”, IEEE Aerospace Conference. (2017).