Danielle Wood featured in Sigma Xi's Women in STEM: 2020


Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

Sigma Xi

March is Women's History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions women have made to society. Sigma Xi will participate by celebrating women's contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). We asked female Sigma Xi members to share the resources that have helped them in their careers. 


Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society

Danielle Wood

Current position

Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Director of the Space Enabled research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MIT Faculty Contact for African and African Diaspora Studies; Visiting Associate Professor, Kyushu Institute of Technology (Japan); Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer 

Please describe your job.

In 2018, I joined the faculty at MIT and founded the Space Enabled research group within the Media Lab, an interdisciplinary research center. The mission of the Space Enabled research group is to advance justice in Earth's complex systems using designs enabled by space. Our message is that six types of space technology are supporting societal needs, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These six technologies include satellite earth observation, satellite communication, satellite positioning, microgravity research, technology transfer, and the inspiration we derive from space research and education.

While much good work has been done, barriers remain that limit the application of space technology as a tool for sustainable development. The Space Enabled research group works to increase the opportunities to apply space technology in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our research applies six methods, including design thinking, art, social science, complex systems, satellite engineering and data science.

We pursue our work by collaborating with development leaders who represent multilateral organizations, national and local governments, non-profits and entrepreneurial firms to identify opportunities to apply space technology in their work. We strive to enable a more just future in which every community and country can easily and affordably apply space-enabled technology to improve public services and solve local challenges. We also work to help improve the sustainability of activities in space by reducing the risk of space debris causing collisions that damage satellites. Finally, we think about future human activities in space when people will live in communities beyond Earth; we ask how we can create a foundation for just societies in space and on Earth.

What are the top resources that have helped you in your career as a woman in STEM and why were they helpful? 

Throughout my career I have found it helpful to spend time with mentors from academia, industry, and government to gain insights into how to shape my career. When I was an undergraduate, spending time working in university research laboratories or government internships gave me valuable experience (see I also participated in several international or national professional organizations as a volunteer, specifically the International Astronautical Federation ( and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics ( As a graduate student I earned fellowships to support my education from NASA, the Department of Defense ( and the National Science Foundation (Graduate Research Fellowship Program). Each of these resources helped me find a path to select a research area and long-term career path focused on applying space technology to support sustainable development on earth and in space.

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