Meet Aprille Ericsson, Ph.D., first (African
American) female to
receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University
Aprille was born the oldest of four daughters in Brooklyn, NY. She spent
her childhood growing up in the Bedford Styvesant neighborhood, specifically,
the Roosevelt projects on Dekalb Avenue. She was bussed to the elementary
school, P.S. 199 in Brooklyn. She first realized she had an aptitude for
mathematics and science during her attendance of Marine Park JHS where she
was the only black student enrolled in the Special Progress program. In
her senior year of JHS, she won second place in the Science Fair and scored
in the 90s on all her regent and citywide exams. She graduated with high
honors and was a member of the school band, the girls basketball team, the
science club and the honors club. She passed the exams for all of New York's
Technical High Schools: the Bronx School of Science, Styvesant and Brooklyn
At the age of 15 years, she moved to Cambridge, MA to live with her
grandparents and attended high school at the Cambridge School of Weston.
She played basketball and softball in high school and in the Cambridge
Recreation Leagues. During her senior year of high school, she was a volunteer
Physical Education Teacher for several Cambridge elementary schools. Today
she still enjoys playing football, basketball, softball, cycling and tennis.
Her coed softball team travels around the country playing.
After graduating from high school with honors she entered college at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received her Bachelor
of Science in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering. During her undergraduate
years at MIT she was involved with several projects that were geared toward
manned space flight. These projects involved working with:
These projects generated a strong desire to participate in manned space
missions. She felt one way to do this would be to become an astronaut, and
she applied for NASA's astronaut program. She has been placed on a medical
review for asthma and knee surgery.
- the Applied Physics Laboratory -developing a fiber optic laser gyroscope.
- the Space Systems Laboratory - creating a database for EVA neutral
buoyancy data calculated at NASA Johnson Space Center.
- Senior Project - Manned Mars Mission crew systems specialist for an
Upon completion of her education at MIT, she was encouraged by her best
friend to attend Howard University (HU) in Washington, D.C. There she
obtained a Masters of Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering,
Aerospace option. Her research objective at HU has been to develop practical
design procedures that can be used in conjunction with optimal digital
controllers for future orbiting large space structure systems like the
Space Station. Her research at HU has allowed her to travel to Germany,
Canada and England to present technical papers. She has won several student
paper competitions; the last and most prestigious one was at the 6th International
Space Conference for Pacific-Basin Societies were she won first place
for the Ph.D. student competition.
Currently, she is working full time as an aerospace engineer at NASA
Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in the Guidance, Navigation and Control,
Design Analysis section. Presently, she is working on a MIDEX project
called MAP-Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
To help spur the interest of minorities and female in the math, science
and engineering disciplines, Aprille is a member of the NASA GSFC Speakers
Bureau. In this capacity she has been an Aerospace/Rocketry/Mechanical
Engineering Professor, Computer Instructor, Career Advisor, Mentor and
Friend. As she says, "I feel it is important to create an early mathematical
and/or scientific interest in young people and maintain it throughout
their later years; therefore, I work with all age groups: Elementary,
JHS, HS, and College." She has also created an e-mail pipeline for under-represented
groups in the technology fields to distribute the announcements for federal
grants and employment. As a proposal and application reviewer for NASA
GSFC and Headquarters programs, she tries to ensure that there is a fair
review of all applicants.
In 1996 and 1997 she was acknowledged by the National Technical Association
for being amongst the Top 50 minority women in Science and Engineering.
In May of 1997 she received the Women in Science and Engineering award
for being the best female in the Federal Government in 1998. In February
of that year she received a Special Recognition Award at the Black Engineers
She says, "I am proud to be the first (African American) female to receive
a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from HU; the first American to receive
a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, the Aerospace option, from HU; and
the first African American female to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at
For more Women of NASA information on
Aprille Ericsson-Jackson, Ph.D. see her online profile at the Women of NASA website
Archived QuestChats with Aprille Ericsson