Prof. Karen Marais Awarded National Science Foundation CAREER Grant

Event Date: November 19, 2013
Prof. Karen Marais has been awarded a CAREER grant, the National Science Foundation's most prestigious honor for young researchers

Congratulations to Prof. Karen Marais who has has been awarded a CAREER grant, the National Science Foundation's most prestigious honor for young researchers. The CAREER award is intended to aid the “early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education”. Awardees are chosen because they exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Prof. Marais will receive the grant for five years for the project CAREER: Accidental Knowledge: Using Accidents and other Systems Engineering Failures to Inform Research and Education in Systems Engineering,"

The objective of this research is to contribute to the fundamental understanding of why failures occur in systems engineering. This work contributes to such a basis in a three-step process: (1) Detailed analysis of past system engineering failures to identify deficiencies in systems engineering; (2) Investigations of systems engineering in practice at industry and government organizations to challenge or validate these findings; and (3) Use of these findings to improve systems engineering curricula and delivery methods.

Failures in systems engineering have serious consequences. They can lead to loss of life. They can also lead to expensive program cancellations and recalls. As increasingly complex systems are developed more, and more costly, failures will likely occur. This research will contribute to reducing these failures and form the basis for sound, data-informed changes to the fundamentals of systems engineering.

The educational component combines research-based course improvements with rigorous assessments of actual student learning (as opposed to self-reported data) across a longitudinal set of courses and has not been reported before in systems engineering education. The findings will be used to improve the systems engineering curricula and delivery methods.

Prof. Marais is an Assistant Professor in the School of Aeronautics & Astronautics at Purdue University. She received her B. Eng. from the University of Stellenbosch in 1994, a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of South Africa in 1997, and her S.M and Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001 and 2005 respectively.

This award, started in the mid 1980's, is one of highest honors that one can receive as a junior faculty to recognize outstanding research. Other faculty in AAE who have won this award are Professors Kathleen Howell, Steven Collicott, Martin Corless, Insoek Hwang, Alina Alexeenko, Tim Fisher, Jay Gore and Li Qiao.