Kerri L. Cahoy

Kerri came to TMSC as part of her school’s established relationship with Talcott’s programs through middle school. She worked in computers and multimedia, which allowed students to combine technology and creative works; and got her first taste of programming. After being chosen to help design the experiments that would fly on the Spirit and Opportunity spacecraft to Mars, she contacted Talcott to thank us for the opportunity to study with us, noting that Talcott's programs were not specifically targeted or emphasized for her gender; they simply allowed science-centered students to exercise their interests with no presumptions.


Prof. Cahoy received her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 2000, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2002 and 2008, respectively. In 2010, she joined MIT as a Visiting Scientist at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, continuing as a Research Scientist the following academic year. In July 2011, she joined the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics as an Assistant Professor, being promoted to Associate Professor in 2015, and receiving tenure in 2019. She became the founding Director of the MIT Space Telecommunications, Astronomy and Radiation Laboratory in 2012, and the Co-Director of the MIT Small Satellite Center in 2020.


Her work focuses on space systems engineering and satellite systems engineering, particularly small satellites. "Ironically," she notes, "the satellites that we now build and send to space to do experiments, the CubeSats, have almost the same shape and size as the AppleIIGS's that we learned Hypercard on at Talcott." 


Her research specializations include atmospheric sensing, exoplanet detection and characterization, and technology demonstration on laser communications, adaptive optics, and autonomy. She currently has two satellites in orbit and is the PI of other 5 satellites which will be launched in the next couple of years. She has taught courses and seminars in satellite engineering, space systems, free space optical communications, aerospace sensors, and remote sensing.


Prof. Cahoy has also had an active career outside MIT. She is the Chair of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Small Satellite Technical Committee, where she leads technical experts in the field of Small Satellites into organizing conferences, writing influential white papers, and presenting awards to the community. She is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and the National Society for Optics and Photonics. She was a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at NASA Ames Research Center from 2008 to 2010, a Senior RF Payload Engineer and Communications Scientist at Space Systems Loral from 2006 to 2008, and a NASA Educational Associate in 2006.