Dr. Wendy Okolo, PhD
Dr. Wendy A. Okolo is an aerospace engineering researcher in the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Her focus is in systems health monitoring and control-systems design with applications to air and space components, vehicles, and systems.
Wendy is a subproject 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 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 experience includes time at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where she worked on her dissertation research in aircraft formation-flight for fuel savings.
Her work showed how to easily attain fuel efficiencies with existing and new aircraft. She also worked at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works®) using performance-optimizing control techniques for the F-35C Lightning II to improve efficiencies of aircraft belonging to the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command. 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.
At 26 years old, Wendy became the first black woman to obtain a PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her graduate studies were recognized and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, by a Zonta International Foundation Amelia Earhart Fellowship, by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by the Texas Space Grant Consortium.
Some of her numerous NASA awards include the Ames Honor Award, the Space Technology Early Career Initiative Award, and the Ames Early Career Researcher Award. In addition, she is the recipient of the 2019 UT Arlington Distinguished Recent Graduate Award, the 2019 Women in Aerospace Initiative–Inspiration–Impact Award, and the 2019 Black Engineer of the Year Award for Most Promising Engineer—Government.
Wendy knows she has been blessed beyond measure, and her success has been made possible by her ever-supportive tribe and the pioneers who came 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 STEM, mentors multiple students within and outside NASA, and is always one call away from serving on a STEM panel, telling her story, and inspiring the next generation of minority STEM leaders.