Aprille Ericsson : The first African-American Woman to Receive A Doctorate in Mechanical engineering

Aprille Ericsson is a renowned aerospace engineer who is tirelessly working towards making the STEM field more inclusive for all students who are different and have meager resources.

Throughout her career, she has contributed immensely to NASA’s multiple space initiatives and has continuously stressed the need to generate an interest in science among women and minorities. 

Early Childhood

Born in Brooklyn in the NewYork city, Aprille Ericsson was the oldest among four daughters to Corrinne Elaine Breedy and Henry Anthony Ericsson.

Her parents get separated when she was only 8 years old. So, Ericsson started to live with her mother and grandparents, who encouraged her to study hard.

She used to be a chirpy girl who loves camping, sports, and many other extra-curriculum activities.

However, it was the moment she watched the Apollo mission on television when she was in her first grade that fostered her interest in space. 

When Ericsson was in her 8th grade, she won the second position in a science fair, and that also acts as a catalyst in shaping her future career.

However, it was in her high school that she got an opportunity to sit in the airport traffic control tower as a part of the MIT UNITE science outreach program in New Hampshire that makes her well determined to explore the field of aerospace. 


After completing her schooling from New York City public schools, she moved to Cambridge and attended the Cambridge School of Weston.

However, the turning point of her educational career was her induction into the UNITE program. It was a 6-week summer program for minority high school juniors that inclined her towards engineering and science.

So, after graduating from high school, she gets enrolled herself in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1986, she earned her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

Next, she completed her master’s degree in engineering and also a doctorate degree at Howard University (HU) in Washington. 

She was, in fact, the first African-American woman who received a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from Howard University.

You will be surprised to know that such was her academic brilliance that she secured the first position in the Ph.D. student competition at the 6th International Space Conference for Pacific-Basin Societies (ISCOPS).


After receiving her Ph.D. in 1995, she immediately gets a full-time job at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where she had earlier worked as an intern. She makes notable contributions to aerospace engineering.

She worked on multiple satellite projects, of which the notable ones are the X-Ray Timing Explorer, the Tropical Rain Forest Measurement Mission (TRMM), and the MIDEX project called MAP (Microwave Anisotropy Probe).

Of these, TRMM has immensely helped in observing the impact of weather cycles such as El Niño and La Niña on crop productivity.

For dynamic modeling simulations used in these projects, she developed programs.

She also actively lectured to youngsters, especially the women and the minorities, and encouraged them to follow in her footsteps.

Additionally, she also taught at historically black universities and inspired millions. At present, she is the manager at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 


Although the two times recipient of the NASA Space Flight Medal won many accolades in her career, some of the notable ones are as follows: 

  • 1997- Women in Science and Engineering Award
  • 1998- NASA Goddard Honor Award for Excellence in Outreach
  • 1998- Center of Excellence Award for the TRMM Project
  • 1998- Women in Science and Engineering Award
  • 1999- Customer Service Excellence Award
  • 2002- HU College of Engineering, Architecture, & Computer Science Alumni Excellence Award
  • 2016- Washington Award

Aprille Ericsson is also a trustee in the Howard University Board of Trustees since 2004.

She was also named by the National Technical Association as one of the top 50 minority women who are working in the science and engineering field. 






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