Appearing all three days
Dr. Wendy A. Okolo is an aerospace engineering researcher in the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center. Her focus is in the area of systems health monitoring and control systems design with applications to air and space components, vehicles, and systems. To that effect she is a sub project manager for a System Wide Safety Project, leading a team to develop the technologies that will enable the safe and seamless integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the U.S. national airspace. She also leads a controls team on a Space Technology project to advance the guidance, navigation, and control capabilities that will make precision landing for deployable entry vehicles a reality for planetary exploration.
Her research experiences also include stints at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where she worked on her dissertation research in aircraft formation flight for fuel savings. Her efforts culminated in flight tests by the USAF to realize easily attainable fuel efficiencies with existing and new aircraft. She also worked at the Advanced Development Programs of Lockheed Martin (Skunkworks), utilizing performance optimizing control techniques for the Joint Strike Fighter F-35C to improve efficiencies of aircraft belonging to the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). As an undergraduate aerospace student, she interned at Lockheed Martin on the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s crew exploration vehicle that will facilitate human exploration beyond low earth orbit. She was also an undergraduate research assistant in two disciplines (i) conceptual aerospace vehicle design, and (ii) flight dynamics and controls, the latter of which motivated her current research interests.
At 26 years old, Wendy became the first black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her graduate work was recognized and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, Zonta International through the Amelia Earhart Fellowship, the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Texas Space Grant Consortium Other research awards include a Resolution of Commendation from the Tarrant County Court of Texas and an award for excellence in research by the Women Of Color in STEM. At NASA, she has received a number of awards including a NASA Ames Honor Award, an Ames Innovation Fair win, a NASA Space Technology Early Career Award, and the prestigious Black Engineer of the Year Award for Most Promising Engineer in 2019.
Dr. Okolo knows that she has been blessed beyond measure and her success has been made possible by her ever-supportive tribe and pioneers before her. Thus, she is an avid supporter of positively changing the narrative for young girls, women, and minorities. She participates in numerous outreach initiatives to increase diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), mentors multiple students within and outside NASA, and is always one call away from serving on a STEM panel, telling her story, and working to inspire the next generation of minority STEM leaders.