Shawn McKay

Photo of Shawn McKay
Senior Engineer; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Off Site Office


Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Purdue University; B.S. in mechanical engineering, Arizona State University


Shawn McKay is a senior engineer at RAND. McKay's current research has focused on artificial intelligence applications in decision making. Applications of using machine learning to develop predictive and prescriptive models to help the Army understand materiel readiness, soldier retention, and UAV mishaps underlying drivers have been developed under McKay’s leadership. At RAND, McKay has also led research in a variety of areas including business intelligence, quality management, autonomous vehicle technology, acquisition policy, and logistics. Notable projects include identified proactive ways to reduce risk of UAV mishaps and improve materiel readiness using machine learning; strengthen the ability to ensure fielded systems are meeting acquisition requirements through data analytics methods; identified acquisition strategies for autonomous vehicle technology; developed business intelligence application for the management of Army personnel equipment inventories and excess management; developed a process model of Army cyber operations to assess resource, technology, process, and policy implications; developed a part quality management tool for early identification of parts causing high quality costs; created metrics and strategies for reducing inventory excess; created a federated model to assess aircraft survivability in contested airspace; conducted acquisition policy research with emphasis on testing and fielding emergent cyber technologies; assessed aircraft component reliability with mixed-Weibull and Crow-ASMAA methodologies to determine effectiveness of part redesigns; assessed software reuse potential and organizational limitations for Navy system oriented architecture efforts; and contributed to/conducted verification and validation studies on Homeland Security and Army network models. McKay has a Ph.D. in engineering from Purdue University.

Honors & Awards

  • Merit Bonus Award, RAND
  • Excellent Presentation Bronze Award, 2012 Internation Applied Reliability Symposium
  • Bronze Presidential Medal (2x), RAND


  • A Tesla Model S with version 7.0 software update containing Autopilot features is seen during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California, October 14, 2015

    Tesla Fatal Crash Reminds That Human Interface Remains Important

    The first reported fatality in a self-driving vehicle is a chilling reminder that the evolving relationship with increasingly robotic motor vehicles needs to be a partnership, an undertaking with humans and machines managing the risks.

    Jul 30, 2016 The Mercury News