Journalism in the service of society

Wendy Okolo… the Nigeria-born wave-making Aerospace engineer

DR Wendy Okolo is a 31-year-old Nigeria-born multi-award winning Aerospace Research Engineer and Special Emphasis Programs Manager at NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At age 26, she became the first black woman to obtain a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington (USA). 

She is an avid supporter of changing the narrative of underrepresentation in STEM, particularly for young girls, career women, and people of colour. 

In addition to her role as an Aerospace Researcher, she has served as the special emphasis programs manager for women, working to demonstrate and ensure NASA’s commitment to the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women. 

Her initiatives include creating nursing rooms for mothers to ease their transition back to work and analysing job language usage in position descriptions to remove gendered language biases that reduce female applicants. 

Dr. Okolo is always a call away from giving a keynote, serving on a panel, inspiring the next generation of minority STEM leaders, and providing tools for individuals and organisations to foster diversity and inclusion in STEM.

Stated wikipedia:

“Okolo obtained her secondary education at Queen’s College, an all-girls school in Lagos, Nigeria. She then received a Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in 2010. Okolo later became the first Black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from UTA in 2015 at age 26. Her Ph.D. studies were supervised by Atilla Dogan. During Okolo’s undergraduate years, she served as president of the Society of Women Engineers at the university.

Her career

Okolo started her career as an undergraduate intern for Lockheed Martin, working on NASA‘s Orion spacecraft. Over the course of two summers, she interned with the Requirements Management Office in Systems Engineering and the Hatch Mechanisms team in Mechanical Engineering. As a graduate student, Okolo later worked in the Control Design & Analysis Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Okolo is a Sub-Project Manager in the Intelligent Systems Division of NASA Ames.[7] She is a research engineer in the Discovery and Systems Health Technology (DaSH)[8]

Personal life

Okolo says her sisters taught her the sciences with their day-to-day realities. She describes them as her heroes.

  • Amelia Earhart Fellowship (2012) 
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship (2012) 
  • AIAA John Leland Atwood Graduate Award (2013) 
  • BEYA Global Competitiveness Conference Award (2019) – The Most Promising Engineer in the United States government.
  • Women in Aerospace Award (2019) – Initiative, Inspiration, & Impact
  • NASA Ames Early Career Researcher Award (2019)
  • University of Texas at Arlington Distinguished Recent Graduate Award (2019)
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