theGrio’s 100: Aprille Ericsson, history making engineer from Brooklyn

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Who is Aprille Ericsson?

Born and raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., Aprille Ericsson is the first African-American and the first woman to receive a PhD in mechanical engineering from Howard University.  She is also the first black woman to receive a Ph.D in engineering at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

“She first realized she had an aptitude for mathematics and science during junior high where she was the only black student enrolled in the Special Progress Program,” Ericsson told the Bed-Stuy Patch.

After graduating high school from Cambridge School of Weston, Ericsson chose to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she graduated with a BA in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering, and contributed to the development of several projects aimed at developing space travel.  Ericsson chose the historical black college, Howard University, for her masters in engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace option.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

Aprille Ericsson has been a professor and helped develop engineering curricula for several schools and universities, including Howard University, Bowie State University, and the HU Public Charter Middle School of Math & Science.

Ericsson is currently the deputy manager for the ICES at Atlas instrument.  She manages a satellite that uses laser technology to calculate how the polar ice cap surface is changing.  She works with engineers to develop hardware, while managing the financial budget, as well as the time budget for individual projects.

What’s next for Ericsson?

Ericsson will continue to manage resources as instrument manager.  To further understand global warming, she works with fellow scientists to research its impact on our world today.  By measuring the drastically changing polar ice, Ericsson’s team helps calculate the change to Earth’s vegetation, weather, and sea levels.

Ericsson is a strong supporter of education and young scientists starting their careers.  In a profile piece for Howard University, she expressed her passion for helping young African-American students succeed.  “I feel obligated to help spur the interest of minorities and females in the math, science and engineering disciplines; without diversity in all fields, the United States will not remain technically competitive.”  Ericsson also expressed that she wants “to develop a satellite research center(s) at Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU).”