Dr. Ayanna Howard
Dr. Ayanna Howard
Dr. Ayanna Howard, an electrical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been selected as one of the top 100 innovators by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review Magazine.

The award was presented at the Emerging Technologies Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Technology Review Magazine chose 100 innovators 35 years or younger, who are making a dramatic impact on our world. They are all on the cutting edge of technology, computing, biotech and medicine.

Howard is the only JPL engineer to hold this prestigious honor. "It's such an extreme honor and blessing to have my research acknowledged as part of the technological future," she said. "I just do what I love, and somehow the opportunities unfold."

Howard sees a future where humans and machines work together to explore new terrain. Her expertise is in neural networks, robotics and machine vision. She joined JPL in 1991, where she has led research efforts on various projects. Currently, she is developing a software system that mimics the decisions humans make and allows rovers to safely navigate on the surface of Mars. Rovers could also use the software to assist in rescue operations in buildings shattered by earthquakes or bombs. Howard also leads a technology development effort to create an artificial intelligence toolkit for interactive learning.

Howard received a bachelor's of science degree in computer engineering from Brown University, Providence, R.I., and her Master's and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She is actively involved in community service activities, talking with students around the world about the wonders of robotics, computers and technology. She also started the Pasadena Delta Academy, a mentoring program for at-risk girls that encourages careers in math and science. She lives in Altadena with her husband and one-year-old son.

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