The Princeternship at MITRE with Dr. Sandeep Mulgund *94 was a rare and stimulating glimpse into the realm of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC). During our visit on March 18th, Nikita (the other Princetern) and I were mentored by Dr. Mulgund and introduced to the diverse and fascinating projects currently “in the works” at MITRE.
Before Nikita and I met Dr. Mulgund in the lobby, the close relationship MITRE maintains with the United States was exhibited by the mixture of civilians and uniformed military personal streaming into the facility. This relationship was elaborated on further when we spoke with Dr. Mulgund in his office about MITRE.
As Dr. Mulgund explained, the Department of Defense is one of several “sponsors” within the U.S. Government that MITRE supports. Other groups include: Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Homeland Security. MITRE is chartered by Congress to operate in the public interest. This status means that MITRE does not compete with private firms for business. As such, MITRE is only concerned with serving the public interest with the United States government. MITRE is uniquely able to provide objective guidance to its sponsors. I now understand the FFRDC distinction and the role MITRE has in support of the United States Government.
After our initial discussion with Dr. Mulgund, we proceeded to a variety of demonstrations that he had arranged within the MITRE labs. We saw graphics programs similar to a modern computer game used to simulate real environments and we spoke to researchers studying the human thought process during critical analysis. Next, we were treated to interactive presentations regarding innovative techniques to integrate information from different organizations, methods to enhance soldier communication, and the use of visualization to increase understanding and generate new ideas. Each demonstration was absolutely fascinating and exceptionally entertaining. I was amazed by the variety of the research that MITRE conducts and inspired by the passion that each MITRE employee exhibited when discussing his or her work.
To cap off an excellent day, Dr. Mulgund, Nikita and I spoke with Dr. Mark Maybury, MITRE’s Chief Technology Officer. In this meeting, we conversed on a wide range of current events and scientific topics, which solidified what I learned at MITRE. The importance of conditioning and training the mind through education, discovering interests and passions through exploration, and developing superb communication skills resonated with me and the opportunity to see a working FFRDC lab was absolutely invaluable. Thank you MITRE and Dr. Mulgund for hosting us!