High-flying alumni

MechE alumni are soaring—in the entrepreneurial realm and in low-Earth orbit


Helen Greiner

Image: IRobot

Helen Greiner SB ’89, SM ’90

With CEO Helen Greiner at the helm, all eyes are on CyPhy Works, a new skunk works for robotics that Greiner launched as a sequel to her celebrated tenure at iRobot. As cofounder, president, and chairman, she and cofounders Colin Angle and Rodney Brooks transformed iRobot from a fledgling MIT spin-off into a $300 million business and the global leader of practical robots. Greiner’s numerous accolades include a place on the prestigious “America’s Best Leaders” list compiled by the Kennedy School and U.S. News and World Report. She also has been honored with the Pioneer Award from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, recognized as an “Innovator for the Next Century” by Technology Review, and selected as one of Ernst & Young’s “New England Entrepreneurs of the Year” for 2003. Greiner was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2007.

Christopher Cassidy

Image: NASA

Christopher Cassidy SM ’00

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy is the latest MechE alumnus to return from space. Cassidy completed his first orbital flight on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor in July 2009. He was part of the NASA mission STS-127 charged with delivering essential components to the International Space Station (ISS). Upon docking, Cassidy was one of 13 astronauts at the ISS—the largest single contingent in the Space Station’s history. He performed three spacewalks and logged more than 18 hours of extravehicular activity during the mission. Before joining NASA, Cassidy served ten years as a member of the U.S. Navy SEALs.

Michael Massimino

Image: NASA

Michael Massimino SM ’88, ME ’90, PhD ’92

NASA astronaut and engineer Michael Massimino has given the Hubble space telescope its final tune-up. Massimino was part of the seven-person crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis mission STS-125 that completed a series of delicate adjustments to the aging telescope in May 2009. Hubble was released into orbit nearly twenty years ago, and these latest fixes are expected to extend the lifespan of the deep space imaging telescope another five to seven years. While in space, Massimino completed more than 15 hours of spacewalks and worked to overcome obstacles like frozen bolts, stripped screws, and stuck handrails.

Michael Massamino and Helen Greiner were both on campus last fall.  See videos from their visits at http://mitworld.mit.edu.