What do a Waymo executive, a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate student at
Harvard have in common? They all spent time in MITRE’s
Emerging Technologies student research and development program, one of
programs that attract more than 400 students—high school to
Mike Montemerlo, now a senior staff member and technical engineer at
self-driving car maker Waymo, was an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon
University. He spent the summers of 1994 and 1995 at MITRE in the Emerging
Technologies program under Dr. James Ellenbogen and co-authored two
highly cited publications in technical journals with other student
researchers and MITRE staff.
“The MITRE internship with Dr. Ellenbogen was a great introduction for
me to life as a professional scientist, not only the technical aspects
of the work we were doing but also the process,” he said. “Even though
the field I work in is different now, that process I learned from Dr.
Ellenbogen is still the same.”
MITRE’s goal of fostering more forward-looking ideas has driven the
Emerging Technologies program to grow substantially, from 14 student
investigators at its McLean location in 2017 to 33 in McLean this year,
including 22 high school students aged 14 to 16 years. The program has
expanded to other MITRE campuses hosting 80 students in Bedford; San
Diego, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Huntsville, Ala. MITRE
expert senior staff members serve as mentors, offering consistent
support and guidance throughout the summer and often throughout the
student researcher’s career.
“MITRE’s student researchers are really smart people, forget that they
are young,” said James Ellenbogen, head of the Emerging Technologies
Summer Student Research and Development (R&D) Program. “We’re harnessing
their ability to contribute to the technical problems we have. Students
in the program have made important technical contributions that have led
to groundbreaking outcomes at MITRE and in their careers.”
Alex Atanasov, who began working at MITRE as a high school intern in
2014 in the Nanosystems Group, has been awarded a prestigious five-year
Hertz Fellowship, one of only 11 graduate students in the nation to hold
this honor. Atanasov, who remains with MITRE as a student researcher,
was also chosen for the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. He
is a physics graduate student at Harvard University.
Between 2014 and 2017, Atanasov investigated ultra-tiny, nanometer-scale
carbon particles called fullerenes and became the lead author of a paper
that was published in the journal Physical Review A.
“Dr. Ellenbogen was a great source of help and advice in my graduate and
fellowship applications, and I still draw heavily from the presentation
and communication skills I learned while working at MITRE,” Atanasov
Pooja Chandrashekar spent three summers at MITRE helping to develop a
system to diagnose brain injury. During her time as a student
researcher, she says, she discovered a passion for biomedical
“I was really looking for a way to apply computer science to solve real
world problems,” she said. “The project was pivotal in the decision to
study biomedical engineering and later on pursue medical school, it
absolutely played a critical role.”
Chandrashekar graduated from Harvard in 2018, and recently returned from
India, where she was conducting public health research as a Fulbright
Scholar. She will attend Harvard Medical School.
MITRE interns contribute to and learn from hundreds of state-of-the-art
R&D projects. They also have opportunities to meet their peers,
diversify their skills, and display what they have learned to wider
audiences by taking part in a hackathon, an embedded security
Capture-the-Flag competition, and an end-of-summer showcase of their
work, among a number of company-wide activities offered to them.
MITRE’s mission-driven teams are dedicated to solving problems for a
safer world. Through public-private partnerships, as well as the
operation of federally funded R&D centers, we work across government to
tackle challenges to the safety, stability, and well-being of our nation.