Prior to joining RAND, Dara was a Professorial Lecturer in the math department at American University in Washington, D.C. During the same period, she worked part time as a financial modeler in project finance, focusing on assets in aerospace and energy. In the summer of 2012 she worked at NASA (Goddard Space Flight Center) where she led simulation testing to model satellite collision probabilities for the March 2015 launch of the MMS (Magnetospheric Multi-Scale) satellites. In 2013 she was a Data Scientist intern at the United Nations Global Pulse Division where she performed statistical analyses of Indonesian social media data. In the summer of 2014 Dara worked as a math/science tutor at the Saudi Research Science Institute (SRSI) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The program is designed to prepare Saudi high school students to study abroad in math and science and return to Saudi Arabia as graduate researchers.
Dara holds a Ph.D. in math from Boston University. Her dissertation research was in differential geometry. She has a B.S. in math from Georgetown University, where she also studied U.S. foreign policy and national security policy.