Meet the Nigerian Genius who is Making Wave at US Airspace Agency

Okolo’s career has taken flight at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

She will receive Black Engineer’s Most Promising Engineer in Government Award this weekend at the BEYA STEM confrence in Washington D. C.

Okolo is an aerospace research engineer at the Ames Research Center, a major NASA research center in California’s Silicon Valley.

She was only 26 years old when she became the first black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. She earned both undergraduate and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering from UT Arlington.

Her previous research has been recognized and funded by the Department of Defense through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship; Zonta International, through the Amelia Earhart Fellowship; and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics through the John Leland Atwood Graduate Fellowship.

Currently, Okolo is 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, and a Space Technology Mission Directorate Early Career Initiative (STMD-ECI) project at the Ames Research Center.

For the SWS project, she led the task of predicting GPS faults in unmanned aerial systems commonly known as drones.

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

On the STMD-ECI project, 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.

The STMD-ECI project is a $2.5 million-dollar project that she proposed and won as part of a six-member early- career scientist team.

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