Meet Nigerian genius at NASA, Okolo, first first black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering

Dr.Wendy A. Okolo

Dr.Wendy A. Okolo is the first black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington and the 2019 winner of the BEYA Global Competitiveness Conference award for the most promising engineer in the United States government.

At only 26 years old, did she became the first black woman to obtain this Ph.D, where she earned both her undergraduate and doctoral degrees.

Today, the 30-year-old is an aeronautics and space administration genius. She works as an aerospace research engineer at the Ames Research Center, a major research centre for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Silicon Valley.

In her undergraduate she was president of the society of women engineers in the university.

Working in the Control Design and Analysis Branch of the AFRL – Wright Patterson Air Force Base – Okolo was part of the team that flew the world’s fastest manned aircraft, which flew from coast to coast in 67 minutes.

Okolo, then a graduate student, at first felt she had no place working with such a great team.

“I was like I am sure these guys are so smart, what am I going to bring in,” she said.

She found an error in the code in the systems and she fixed it and “that fixed the impostor syndrome for a while,” she was quoted by The Cable.

She received her BSc and PhD degrees in aerospace engineering from the university in 2010 and 2015 respectively.

Okolo calls her sisters all-time heroes – who gave her biology and other science lessons through their everyday realities.

She would subsequently excel in school and make tremendous moves during her undergraduate years at the University of Texas in Arlington, where she became the president of the society of women engineers in the university.

During this period, she interned at Lockheed Martin working on NASA’s Orion spacecraft and first worked in the requirements management office in systems engineering before moving to the Hatch Mechanisms team in mechanical engineering.

Okolo later worked as a summer researcher at AFRL and has since taken off her career at NASA, a United States agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as, aeronautics and aerospace research.

Having done research in the area of aircraft formation flight as a fuel-saving method of flight, Okolo has written several publications and is currently a special emphasis programs manager in the Intelligent Systems Division of NASA’s Ames Research Center.

She is working on the System-Wide Safety (SWS) project, where she has led the task of predicting GPS faults in drones, according to The Cable. The talented engineer is further working on a Space Technology Mission Directorate Early Career Initiative (STMD-ECI) project at the Ames Research Center.

Under this role, she “leads the controls team to develop unconventional control techniques for deployable vehicles, to enable precision landing and improve maneuverability during the entry, descent, and landing phases of spaceflight.”

Okolo has also worked with Langley Research Center in Virginia to investigate flight data and facilitate data exchange across and within NASA centres.

She wants other young girls to take an active interest in science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Courtesy: Women of Rubies
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