Aprille Ericsson-Jackson

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Aprille Ericsson-Jackson
Aprille Ericsson.jpg
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology - Bachelors of Aerospace Engineering
Howard University Masters of Engineering, Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering/Aerospace
Scientific career
InstitutionsNASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)

Aprille Ericsson-Jackson (born April 1, 1963[1]) is an American aerospace engineer.[2][3] Aprille Ericsson is the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University and the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).

Early life[edit]

Aprille Ericsson grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant's Roosevelt Houses on Dekalb Avenue. She was a bright and gifted child. She attended P.S. 199 in the Midwood section of Brooklyn and Marine Park Junior High School. She said 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.

She passed the exams for all of New York's Technical High Schools: the Bronx School of Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Technical. But instead of attending those schools, she moved to live with her grandparents in Cambridge, MA, where she attended Cambridge School of Weston. In high school, she played basketball and softball and excelled in sports, math and science.


Ericsson received her bachelor's degree in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During her undergraduate years at MIT, she was involved with several projects geared toward manned space flight, including the Applied Physics Laboratory where she helped develop a fiber optic laser gyroscope. She also was active in the Space Systems Laboratory where she helped create a database for EVA neutral buoyancy activities performed at NASA Johnson Space Center, and the Manned Mars Mission crew systems where she was a specialist for interplanetary vehicle.

These projects generated a strong desire to participate in manned space missions.

Ericsson then continued her education at Howard University where she earned a master's degree in engineering. She continued at Howard University where she became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace option. Her Ph.D. research objective was 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.


A great deal of Ericsson's engineering career at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) was spent helping NASA evolve and fine-tune a global understanding of the sun-earth connection, earth, and space science. Her NASA career started as an aerospace engineer in the Robotics group, but soon after, she transferred into the Guidance Navigation & Control discipline.

Ericsson's expertise was used to manage the spacecraft's orientation and position during most phases of a mission. Using computers, she calculated and simulated structural vibrations, thrusting scenarios and environmental disturbances. In 2006, she collaborated on the "Mars Scout" proposal called "SCIM," a proposed sample and return mission to Mars, serving as a manager for the Dust collector Experiment (DuCE) which proposed sterilization and stowage of trapped dust particles from the Martian lower atmosphere for delivery to Earth.

From 2007 to 2008, she served as an Instrument Engineer, supporting the development of two flight instruments (ST8 Miniature Thermal Loop Heat Pipe, a technology development and, Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA), an instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter during their integration and testing periods. The LOLA instrument was successfully launched on June 18, 2009.

Ericsson was responsible for a $30 million budget that would deliver a three-telescope instrument consisting of a coilable boom and three detectors that measure the polarization of X-ray beams.

Her current responsibilities include serving as the Acting IM for the ICESat-2/ATLAS (Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite), a $240 million instrument that will provide measurements to quantify changes in ice-sheet mass and its drivers, and the impact of these changes on future global sea level; monitor atmospheric exchanges of energy, mass, and moisture; and measure vegetation canopy height. The ICESat-2 is expected to launch in 2016.

Ericsson also has served as an adjunct professor at Howard University and Bowie State University where she teaches courses in mechanical engineering and mathematics. She also teaches Aerospace theory to students at HU Public Charter Middle School of Math & Science (MS)2.


Aprille Ericsson has been acknowledged by the National Technical Association, for being amongst the Top 50 minority women in Science and Engineering. She received the NASA Goddard Honor Award for Excellence in Outreach (individual) and Center of Excellence Award for the TRMM Project (Group). Dr. Aprille Ericsson was elected to the Howard University Board of Trustees in September 2004.

In February 2010, she received a Science Trailblazers award from the Black Engineers of the Year Award Conference. And in May 2011, she was awarded the Presidents Medal from York College. Also, she is a member of the NASA GSFC Speakers Bureau and the Women of NASA Group.

In 2018, she was named a recipient of the Tau Beta Pi Distinguished Alumnus Award.[4]


  1. ^ Betty Kaplan Gubert; Miriam Sawyer; Caroline M. Fannin, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science, Westport, Conn. : Oryx Press, 2001, ISBN 1573562467; p. 118
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 17, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Howard University - College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Science".
  4. ^ "Tau Beta Pi - Distinguished Alumnus". www.tbp.org. Retrieved 2019-03-17.


  1. ^ Lerner, Laura Hamilton Waxman, Aerospace Engineer Aprille Ericsson (STEM Trailblazer Bios)