Meet Wendy Okolo -The First Black Woman To Earn A PhD in Aerospace Engineering

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African women are increasingly making themselves visible to the rest of the world. In every direction, Nigeria is counting a sizable number of them. They are having success in a variety of fields, including politics, business, corporate, and the media, to mention a few. These ladies have shown their worth via their continued achievement and inclusion on lists of the most accomplished African women in the world.

Many Nigerian women have achieved the pinnacle of their professions. But this achievement is the consequence of perseverance, adaptability, and a strong will to succeed. Wendy Okolo has built the route for herself to become the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering with such tenacity and flexibility.

We are honoring Wendy Okolo, a Nigerian woman who has earned a spot among the top aerospace engineers in the world, today. The success of Okolo shows that Africa can produce high-quality fruit. She has demonstrated that women are capable of great things, too. The world must thus give women more room to express themselves. In conclusion, the continent only requires the chance to exhibit all of her talents.

At NASA Ames Research Center’s Intelligent Systems Division, Wendy A. Okolo works as an aerospace research engineer. She is American and Nigerian. She holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, making her the first Black woman to do so. Furthermore, she manages Ames’ Women’s Special Emphasis Programs.


Okolo obtained her secondary education at Queen’s College, an all-girls school in Lagos, Nigeria. After that, in 2010, she graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering. After receiving her Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering from UTA in 2015 at the age of 26, Okolo made history as the first Black woman to do so. Atilla Dogan was in charge of her Ph.D. studies. Okolo presided over the university’s Society of Women Engineers throughout her time as an undergrad.


Okolo began her professional life as a Lockheed Martin intern while still in college, working on the NASA Orion spacecraft. She worked as an intern for two summers with the Mechanical Engineering Hatch Mechanisms team and the Systems Engineering Requirements Management Office. Later, while still a graduate student, Okolo worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Air Force Research Laboratory in the Control Design & Analysis Branch.

Okolo works as a sub-project manager at NASA Ames’ Intelligent Systems Division. She works in the Discovery and Systems Health Technology as a research engineer (DaSH).

According to The Cabel, Okolo talked about her experience piloting the world’s fastest manned aircraft which flies from coast to coast in 67 minutes.

“I was like I’m sure these guys are so smart, what am I going to bring to the table. I was given an assignment to correct an error in a code system which I did and that momentarily ended the impostor syndrome,” Okolo said.


  • Amelia Earhart Fellowship (2012)
  • DoD National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship (2012)
  • Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) Fellowship (2012, 2013)
  • AIAA John Leland Atwood Graduate Award (2013)
  • Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) for The Most Promising Engineer in the United States government.
  • Women in Aerospace Award for Initiative, Inspiration, & Impact (2019)
  • NASA Ames Early Career Researcher Award (2019)
  • University of Texas at Arlington Distinguished Recent Graduate Award (2019)
  • NASA Ames Award for Researcher (2020)
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