Ellen J. Ferraro, a top official at the Raytheon Company in Waltham, will give the 13th annual Tang Lecture on Thursday, Oct. 4. The talk, titled “The Art of Systems Thinking Within the Science of Systems Engineering,” takes place in the Amherst Room on the 10th floor of the Campus Center at 4 p.m., with a reception at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Ferraro is the director of the Systems Architecture Design and Integration Directorate for Integrated Defense Systems at Raytheon and an alumna of the College of Engineering. Mass High Tech Magazine has profiled her as one of the “Women to Watch” in Massachusetts. Ferraro joined Raytheon in 1994 and has worked as a department manager in the Radar Systems Laboratory, where she oversaw 80 engineers working on four major radar programs. She was later the Integrated Defense Systems’ deputy director of system validation, test and analysis, where she helped to manage more than 1,000 employees involved in testing many of Raytheon’s systems, including missile defense and radar and surveillance technologies.
At Raytheon, Ferraro has been involved in such varied projects as microwave scattering and propagation over the ocean, spread-clutter mitigation techniques for enhanced small-target detection, and the use of expert system technology in counter-drug enforcement. She has presented more than a dozen technical papers at Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) meetings and other conferences.
Before joining Raytheon, Ferraro earned a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in Electrical Engineering. Her doctoral research included developing an airborne radar altimeter for NASA to investigate surface and volume microwave scattering from the Greenland ice sheet.
Ferraro says two highlights or her career are her NASA experiment in Greenland and mentoring other engineers at Raytheon. During the NASA experiment, Ferraro spent six weeks on a Greenland ice sheet. Sheltered only by tents, the team had no heat or hot water while using radar and other sensors to measure the thickness of the ice sheet in a study about global climate change.
“I was proud to be part of this unique experiment,” she said. “Also, in general, when I mentor someone at Raytheon and they accomplish something great I feel as proud in that moment as I do in my own personal accomplishments.”
Ferraro says her experiences with the UMass Amherst chapter of the Society of Women Engineers serve as the motivation for her current mentoring activities at Raytheon. She has held several positions within SWE's Boston chapter, including vice president of continuing development.
Ferraro and her husband, also an electrical engineer and UMass Amherst graduate, have two daughters.
The Shirley and Ting-wei Tang Endowment Lecture Series brings leaders of engineering-based companies and academic institutions to campus to interact with students and faculty and present a major talk. Shirley Tang is a retired academic advisor for the United Asia Learning Resource Center. Professor emeritus Ting-wei Tang had a distinguished career of 38 years on the faculty. An internationally recognized expert in numerical modeling of semiconductor devices, Tang was elected as an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow in 1999. He received the 2009 Distinguished Faculty Award from the Alumni Association.