David J. Atkinson

Senior Research Scientist

David J. Atkinson is a Senior Research Scientist at IHMC. His current area of research targets applications of intelligent, autonomous agents as partners to humans in teamwork, with an emphasis on fostering appropriate reliance and interdependency between human and agents. Specifically, he focuses on the role of human interpersonal trust and social interaction between humans and intelligent, autonomous agents. He is also interested in cognitive robotics, meta-reasoning and self-awareness, and affective computing.

Upon Dr. Atkinson’s arrival at IHMC, he served as program manager at U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) in Tokyo where he led Pan-Asia’s information sciences and created the Robust Computational Intelligence Program.

Dr. Atkinson previously worked 20 years at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the lead NASA center responsible for robotic space exploration missions. He managed JPL’s Information Technologies and Software Systems Division and was responsible for JPL’s systems engineering contributions to NASA’s Constellation Program to explore the Moon and Mars. He led a cross-agency NASA team of computer scientists that provided engineering studies, requirements development and core engineering processes for Constellation. He also was assigned to NASA Headquarters in Washington, where he served as Deputy Program Executive of the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, which successfully carried out the LRO and LCROSS lunar missions.

While at JPL, Dr. Atkinson founded and oversaw NASA’s basic research programs in artificial intelligence and robotics. His research spanned artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and robotics with applications to robotic spacecraft, control center automation, and science data analysis. Successful applications of his intelligent-system research to deep space explorations included the Voyager, Galileo, Magellan and Cassini spacecraft, and the “Spirit” and “Opportunity” Mars Exploration Rovers. A notable early success was the SHINE system for spacecraft and ground system integrated health management, an invention now used commercially in the aerospace, financial, health and security industries. Dr. Atkinson was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for these achievements.

During a brief break from his career in space exploration, in 1995 Atkinson founded a successful startup, later acquired by IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS) in 2008. PCNAlert.com became the leading provider to the electronics industry of Internet-based component event management data, solutions and applications.

Dr. Atkinson received the Doctor of Technology in Computer Systems Engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden, and was named a Docent. He was awarded the Master of Science and Master of Philosophy degrees in Computer Science from Yale University, and the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan.