From Nigeria to NASA, Wendy Okolo has made history as the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is also a research engineer at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where she works on cutting-edge technologies for aircraft safety and efficiency.
Okolo was born and raised in Nigeria, where she attended Queen’s College, an all-girls school in Lagos. She loved math and science from an early age, and moved to the United States at 17 to study aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington.
She excelled in her undergraduate studies, becoming the president of the Society of Women Engineers at the university, and interning for Lockheed Martin, working on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. She also won several scholarships and awards for her academic achievements.
She decided to pursue her Ph.D. at the same university, where she conducted research on aircraft formation flight, which is a technique that can save fuel and reduce emissions by flying multiple planes close together. She graduated at 26, becoming the first Black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the university.
She then joined NASA Ames as a research engineer in the Intelligent Systems Division, where she leads and participates in various projects, such as enhancing the performance and control of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35C aircraft, developing a system that can detect and prevent aircraft failures, and creating a virtual reality platform that can simulate different flight scenarios.
Okolo has been recognized for her innovative work with many awards, including the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Most Promising Engineer in U.S. Government, the NASA Ames Early Career Researcher Award, the Women in Aerospace Award for Initiative, Inspiration and Impact, and the NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal.
Okolo is also passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM fields, especially for women and girls of color. She is the Special Emphasis Programs Manager for Women at NASA Ames, where she organizes events and programs that support women’s empowerment and professional development. She also mentors students and young professionals who aspire to pursue careers in STEM.
Okolo says her sisters are her heroes, and they taught her the sciences with their day-to-day realities. She also credits her parents for supporting her dreams and encouraging her to pursue her passions. She hopes to inspire others to follow their own paths and overcome any challenges they may face.
“I always say that you’re not too young or too old to do anything,” Okolo said in an interview with The Cable. “You’re not too African or too female or anything to do anything.”
In other news , we want to share with you the amazing story of Nkechinyere Chidi-Ogbolu, a 22-year-old Nigerian lady who has just earned her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California in the US.
Nkechinyere is one of the youngest PhD holders in the country and a shining example of academic excellence. She started her academic journey at 14, when she left her home country and moved to Washington, D.C., where she enrolled in Howard University for her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. She graduated with honors at the age of 18 and received scholarships to pursue her Master’s and PhD degrees in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering.
Nkechinyere’s remarkable achievement has inspired many people around the world, especially young women who aspire to pursue careers in science and engineering. She hopes to use her knowledge and skills to solve some of the pressing health challenges facing humanity, such as cancer, diabetes, and infectious diseases. Read more about Nkechinyere Chidi-Ogbolu here.
Nkechinyere and Wendy is a true role model for all of us who want to make a positive impact in the world through our talents and passions. We congratulate them on their phenomenal achievement and wish them all the best in her future endeavors.
We at Rising Africa firmly believe that Africans have the capacity to build a successful future for their continent. Join us as we recognise African achievement and create a better future for the continent.