Eagle Becomes the First Gaetz Graduate to Earn Ph.D.

Triple alumna Jayde King is paving the way for women of color in the Human Factors discipline.

Student Jayde King is the first Gaetz graduate to earn a Ph.D. from Embry-Riddle
From starting her journey as an Eagle at her South Florida high school to completing her doctorate in August 2020, King is the first Gaetz graduate to earn a Ph.D. from Embry-Riddle. (Photo: Daryl LaBello)

Jayde King (’14, ’16, ’20) was raised watching space shuttle launches and dreamt of being an astronaut. Her love for aviation grew when she joined the Boynton Aerospace Science Academy (BASA), an arm of the Gaetz Aerospace Institute at Boynton Beach Community High School.

King went on to attend Embry-Riddle and become an active member of organizations like the Student Government Association, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and more. She received her bachelor’s degree in Air Traffic Management in 2014.

“It was the family I found there and how I was able to grow not only as a student, but as a professional and a good citizen,” she said of her undergraduate experience.

Upon completing an internship with Fort Hill Group and receiving her master’s degree in Human Factors in 2016, she didn’t stop there. Her passion for bringing ideas to life and a desire to learn more inspired her to pursue a Ph.D.

King’s research focused on a major problem facing the general aviation industry: private pilots incurring weather-related accidents at a higher rate than other pilots. With an FAA grant and the guidance of professor and program coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Blickensderfer, she developed an app to help pilots more easily and effectively access, interpret and apply weather information in real-time.

“I love seeing humans and technology working together,” she said. “That’s my favorite part of human factors.”

Before even finishing her program, King was offered a job with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on the spot after connecting with a recruiter at a NSBE conference.

She joined the AFRL as a research psychologist in July 2020. Her role focuses on making the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence more seamless and less robotic.

Transitioning from student to professional can be challenging alone, not to mention doing so during a global pandemic. King leans on the lessons learned at Embry-Riddle that she still uses today.

“Just a couple of months ago I was a student, but now my decisions actually have impact,” she said.

With few women of color pursuing careers in STEM, King believes that representation and giving back through mentorship are key solutions to diversifying the industry. The Gaetz program also plays an important role in attracting minorities and women to these fields, she said.

“It gives them the knowledge they need to prepare for this career, exposure to mentors at a young age and the opportunity to see students like them working through that coursework,” she said.

Looking back on her major accomplishment, King emphasized not her new title of doctor, but instead the value of the experience and how she can use it to conquer any challenge that comes her way.

“What changed wasn’t the title – what changed was everything I did and learned,” she said. “Research is supposed to increase knowledge and better people’s lives. Now I have the credentials to do it, which is really empowering.”