Science without Borders Scholar Mayara Conde is making air travel more efficient

Mayara Conde is a CAPES Science without Borders scholar and a current PhD candidate at MIT. She studies air transportation systems in the aeronautics and astronautics department. Her most recent research focuses on creating algorithms to prevent air traffic congestion.

The field of aeronautics and astronautics is one that is both exciting and diverse. While images of airplanes and astronauts are the first to come to mind, aeronautics and astronautics encompasses much more including spacecraft design, and even the creation of algorithms to reduce congestion at airports.

PhotoMayara_smallMayara Conde, a CAPES Science without Borders scholar and a current PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is one of the many people exploring the aeronautics and astronautics field. Conde conducts research at the International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) focusing on the area of air traffic management. At the lab, Conde models and designs control algorithms to improve the efficiency of air traffic operations, saving hurried travelers from flight delays, and the air transportation industry from additional costs.
“My current research uses machine learning techniques to characterize actual flight trajectory patterns in the airspace based on recorded radar tracks in order to identify sources of inefficiency and develop prediction models for air traffic flow management,” Conde explains.

Growing up, Conde always had an interest in architecture, math and physics, leading to her decision to pursue a civil engineering degree at the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica in Brazil. While at ITA, Conde decided to begin a military career along with an engineering career by joining the Brazilian Air Force. Upon graduation, Conde was offered a position as a military instructor at ITA, a role she happily accepted and maintained all while earning a master’s of science in aeronautics infrastructure engineering, also at ITA.

“The PhD was the natural next step in my academic career,” Conde responded when asked about her decision to come to MIT. “My department (at ITA) and I decided that a PhD abroad at a school of excellence with leading-edge research in the area [of aeronautics and astronautics] would be best for my professional development and for the institute and the Air Force in the long-term.”

“There is no such thing as ‘This is not my area; I can’t solve this problem,’ ” Conde shares. “You have to be continuously learning new things and collaborating with people in different domains if you truly want to make an impact.”

The decision was clearly a smart one. Conde has taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to her at MIT. So far, she has learned much about her field, enhanced her technical skills, her communication skills, and has been able to work alongside renowned researchers and students from around the world. She even had the opportunity to go to NASA to present her work.
One particularly memorable experience Conde can recall from her studies at MIT is what she has dubbed her “first flying experience”:

“My advisor is a pilot and he usually rents a small airplane to take students to research meetings… During one of these trips, while coming back from Princeton University, I was sitting next to him in the co-pilot position. Right after we passed through the New York airspace, he decided to give me control of the airplane! I could never imagine that my first flying experience would come as a surprise and that it would be in the most complex airspace in the world!”

Looking towards the future, Conde has plans to return to Brazil to continue working with research and education. She hopes to strengthen her research field with new projects and partnerships, and applying the knowledge she has gained at MIT, to new academic courses.

If there has been one lesson that Conde has learned during her time at MIT, one that she will carry with her beyond graduation day, it is this:
“There is no such thing as ‘This is not my area; I can’t solve this problem,’ ” Conde shares. “You have to be continuously learning new things and collaborating with people in different domains if you truly want to make an impact.”

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