Dava Newman has spent her career figuring out how to get humans to space, and helping them not only to survive there, but also to thrive. She is the Apollo Program Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and the former NASA Deputy Administrator. Her multidisciplinary work combines aerospace biomedical engineering, control modeling, biomechanics, and human interface technology, and she is a leader in advanced spacesuit design. In this episode, she talks about her journey from her childhood in Montana to college at Notre Dame to her research at MIT to a leading role at NASA, in addition to how close she thinks we are to getting humans to set foot on Mars.

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About Key Conversations

Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa is a podcast featuring in-depth conversations between Fred Lawrence, Secretary/CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. With a new episode released monthly, each podcast invites listeners to take a seat at the table to learn more about the featured Scholar's background, research, and how they have taken their respective paths to where they are now, and where they are headed. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.​


Dava Newman 

Dava Newman is the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at MIT and a Harvard—MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member. As the former Director of MIT's Technology and Policy Program, Professor Newman led the Institute's largest multidisciplinary graduate research program. Newman served as NASA Deputy Administrator from May 2015 through January 2017. She was the first female engineer and scientist to serve as NASA Deputy Administrator, and focused on articulating the human Journey to Mars, highlighting scientific missions, advocating for transformative aeronautics capabilities, developing and implementing a strategic innovation framework, and advocating for diversity and inclusion for NASA and the nation's STEM initiatives. Her research expertise is in aerospace biomedical engineering investigating human performance across the spectrum of gravity, and she is a leader in advanced space suit design, dynamics and control of astronaut motion, leadership development, innovation and space policy.

Our Host

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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