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John Kuchenbrod


John Kuchenbrod

BA Mathematics and Computer Science, Transylvania University, 1992

MS Mathematics, University of Michigan, 1994

PhD Mathematics, University of Kentucky, 1999

Project Team Manager
Airspace and Airports Analysis Department
Center for Advanced Aviation System Development

The MITRE Corporation
McLean VA

I am a project team manager with The MITRE Corporation's Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD). CAASD is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) that works with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other civil aviation authorities. I have been with MITRE since 2001, originally hired as a Simulation Modeling Engineer.

My department focuses on airspace and airport analysis. We solve problems on many levels—taxiing and runway issues at an airport level, arrival and departure issues at a terminal level (within 40 miles of a major airport), and en route issues at regional and national levels. The majority of this work has been executed in conjunction with the National Airspace Redesign, an FAA effort to implement changes in a collaborative manner.

My department is quite diverse —we've got mathematicians, nuclear physicists, astrophysicists, computer scientists, various flavors of engineers, pilots, and air traffic controllers. Many cultures are represented, and over one-third of the department is female.

Although the technical work (and definitely the management work!) is not that mathematically rigorous, I do find it to be very challenging. We have a large suite of tools, and one way that I have contributed to the work program in a unique fashion has been crafting various preprocessors and postprocessors so that input and output streams between the various tools can communicate effectively.

Occasionally I do use my mathematical expertise. A recent example involved a modeling package developer who stumbled into my office with what turned out to be a lovely graph theory problem. However, other CAASD departments have more mathematically rigorous work, mostly involving linear programming and other skills needed to develop models.

One of the things that I like about working at CAASD is that they allow me to learn and work independently, as needed. For example, soon after joining the staff, I discovered that I needed to learn Perl to function well within my department. Recognizing that allowing me to pursue independent study in Perl would be an effective use of my computer science experience and a worthwhile expense, management supported my efforts.

As I look around my department and other departments in my division, I find a number of mathematicians in management positions. I certainly don't recall any graduate courses in effective management in my math departments, but I do recall the words of Michael Monticino at a recent Young Mathematicians' Network panel discussion. He posited that as mathematicians enter fields of work that require other skills, we ask a lot of questions. I've discovered that asking those questions molds us into people who can discuss—and listen—quite well. As we communicate, we are able to build consensus, bridging various fields and points of view. Companies crave such skills in their technical leads and managers. And as one of my former managers (a mathematician by training) pointed out to me: what is management but trying to pull the resources together to solve problems? Because mathematicians love to solve problems (and help others solve them too), management is a logical fit for us.

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