She attended the United States Naval Academy, graduating with a B.S. in mathematics in 1988; she received her master's degree in Space Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1994 and her Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2003.
Dr. Cummings spent eleven years (1988–1999) as a naval officer and military pilot, earning the rank of lieutenant, and was one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, flying an F/A-18 Hornet. She became a fighter pilot shortly after the Combat Exclusion Policy was repealed in 1993, and her book, Hornet's Nest, recounts her experience with discrimination and hostility as one of the first women in the fighter community. Her first callsign was Medusa  and her second was Shrew. In an interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart she described her callsign as "Awesome - I am so Kate from The Taming of the Shrew".
She was an instructor for the U.S. Navy at Pennsylvania State University, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in their Engineering Fundamentals Division, and an associate professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, and the Duke Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. She is also an affiliate professor with the University of Washington’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department.
Her research interests include human interaction with autonomous vehicle systems, humans and automation, decision support, human-computer interaction, and the ethical and social impact of technology. She has published papers on the role of human operators in system control loops.
- "Mary (Missy) Cummings". MIT Engineering Systems Division. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- [Cummings, M. L., 1999. Hornet's Nest, iUniverse.com]
- The Daily Show - Missy Cummings Extended Interview
- MIT Humans and Automation Lab – Recent Publications
- Hargrave Pioneers: Mary Louise (Missy) Cummings
- Duke Humans and Autonomy Lab
- Missy Cummings, MIT home page
- "Leveraging Human-Computer Collaboration for Decision Making in Complex Systems" by Missy Cummings
- Missy Cumming's profile on EngineerGirl.org
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