March 8, 2011

Good News Tuesday: Dr. Aprille Ericsson (NASA)

I am a lifetime member of BDPA. BDPA has some remarkable African American women in its ranks. We boast Nubian queens with outstanding skills operating within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields ... from the classroom to the boardroom ... from young 'uns like Brandee Lyles to full-blown technology divas like Stephanie Lampkin or Lydia Barron or Diane Davis.

However, there are many obstacles for African American women in the IT industry. African American women earned only 0.34% of Ph.D.s in computer science and 0.58% in engineering, as of 2006, according to the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

There are many reasons for this under-representation, including social and economic factors as well as gender bias. However, strides have been made and a select few have persevered: researching, innovating, mentoring, and paving the way for other African American women (and men) to follow in their footsteps.

Soulclap to Marcia Wade Talbert for making the effort to shake up our imaginations by interviewing female role models who don’t just work in some of the world’s most innovative fields ... they excel in them.

Aprille J. Ericsson, Ph.D.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Dr. Aprille Ericsson
As the deputy instrument manager for the ATLAS Instrument team at NASA, Aprille J. Ericsson leads development of an instrument to house satellite-based lasers used to measure the topography of ice sheets from space in order to measure global climate changes.

Ericsson, who holds a master’s of engineering and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in aerospace from Howard University and who earned a bachelor’s of science in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was previously one of the lead engineers on the concept study report for GEMS, or the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer. The unmanned observatory, which is scheduled to launch no later than April 2014, will be the first to measure polarized X-rays to study super massive black holes and magnetars. Ericsson’s work was influential in winning $105 million of funding for the project in 2009.

Ericsson was also the project engineer for LOLA, a lunar orbiter laser altimeter, which created an unprecedented topographic map of the moon’s landscape in late 2009.
High school students need to be encouraged to do summer programs. If they have an interest in engineering or science they need to apply at field centers at NASA and NOAA so they get a feel for what they want to do,” says Ericsson, who did the same at a young age. “It’s really important to have [hands-on lab] exposure as early as freshman and sophomore year. They perform better with their course work because they learn in an applied atmosphere.”

Black Enterprise shared the story of five 'Women in STEM'. We need to tell OURstory whenever we can. Otherwise we will forever remain stuck with HIS-story and that one will whitewash us out altogether.

This blog will continue to seek out Good News stories about people of African descent and share them with you each Tuesday. We need to tell the positive and upbeat information about OURstory. We can't depend on others to do it for us. Please pass along any Good News story that comes your way. In the case of bloggers ... we want you to join our Good News parade every Tuesday.

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