Aprille Ericsson-Jackson

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Aprille Ericsson-Jackson
Born (1956-04-01) April 1, 1956 (age 67)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology - Bachelors of Aerospace Engineering
Howard University Masters of Engineering, Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering/Aerospace
Scientific career
Fieldsaerospace engineering
InstitutionsNASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)

Aprille J. Ericsson-Jackson (born April 1, 1963)[1] is an American aerospace engineer.[2][3] Ericsson-Jackson is the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University and the first African-American woman 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 was born and grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and later moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend high school at the Cambridge School of Weston.[4] She has said that her interest in astronautics manifested at an early age; she recalled watching the Apollo missions when she was in the first grade.[4] In the summer of 1980 as a junior in high school, she attended MIT UNITE (now called MITES, Minority Introduction to Engineering & Science), a engineering outreach program for minority students at MIT.[5][4] She earned her Bachelor's of Science in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering at MIT in 1986.[6] She was then awarded a master's degree in engineering from Howard University in 1992, followed by a doctorate in mechanical engineering, the first African-American woman to do so.[7]

Career and teaching[edit]

While attending graduate school at Howard University, Ericsson accepted an aerospace engineer position at the NASA Goddard Flight Center in Maryland. Ericsson has served as an engineer, technologist, instrument lead, and project and program manager at NASA for nearly 30 years, lending her technical and managerial expertise to projects including the James Webb Space Telescope, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), and the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2). Currently, she is the new business lead for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Instrument Systems and Technology Division, which connects scientists and project managers with the instrument technologies they need to accomplish their missions. In this role, she fosters partnerships between government agencies and universities, industry and small businesses.

Ericsson has worked in various groups within NASA, including the Robotics group and the Guidance Navigation & Control Discipline. Her work in the latter helps spacecraft stabilize and manage their orientation and position during missions. She has also worked on missions that send spacecraft to other bodies within the Solar System. Projects to which she has contributed early in her career include satellites that monitor the Earth; one such project, the Tropical Rain Measuring Mission, provides data on the atmospheric phenomena El Niño and La Niña and their effects on crop productivity.[7]

As Project Engineer, she supported development for the laser instrumentation for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was launched in 2009.[8]

Dr. Ericsson helped manage science instruments such as the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which uses lasers to measure ice sheet depth and the height of vegetation canopies. She was also the instrument manager for a proposed mission to bring dust back from the lower atmosphere of Mars back to Earth.[9]

In addition to her roles as an engineer, Ericsson has been passionate about mentoring young people and students for much of her life and career, beginning in high school and college. By lecturing and serving on advisory boards at multiple universities, advising pre-college STEM programs, and reviewing proposals for NASA- and NSF-funded grants, Ericsson has supported numerous engineering students and young professionals pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math. She currently advises students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Howard University. Dr. Ericsson has taught at Howard University and Bowie State University, leading courses in mathematics and mechanical engineering. She has also contributed instruction on Aerospace theory at HU Public Charter Middle School of Math and Science.[8] She works to motivate minority students in science and engineering, and serves as the lead Advisor for the Dynamical Mathematical Visionaries National Society of Engineering Jr. Chapter in Washington, DC. She has served as a Nifty Fifty speaker for the USA Science and Engineering Festival since 2010.[10] She has spoken at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.[10] Her efforts were recognized by NASA's Exceptional Achievement in Outreach Award in 2002.[10][11] In 2022, Dr. Aprille Ericsson received the 2022 Ralph Coats Roe medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), honoring her international work encouraging young people, women, and people from other underrepresented groups to pursue STEM careers.


  • Women in Science and Engineering Award (1997)
  • NASA Goddard Honor Award (1998)
  • Center of Excellence Award for the TRIMM Project (1998)
  • Women's Network - Top 18 Women Who Will Change the World
  • Howard University College of Engineering, Architecture, & Computer Science Alumni Excellence Award (2002)
  • Elected to the Howard University Board of Trustees (2004)
  • Washington Award (2016)[12]
  • National Society of Black Physicists Honor Award (2019)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Ralph Coates Roe Medal (2022)


  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. ^ "Spacecraft Design: Applying The Laws Of Aerodynamics At NASA With Aprille Ericsson". USA Science and Engineering Festival. 2013-06-17. Archived from the original on 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  3. ^ "Aprille J Ericsson Jackson". Women, Art & Technology. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  4. ^ a b c "Dr. Aprille Ericsson". USASEF. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  5. ^ "Aprille Ericsson '86 at MITES, 1980 | MIT Black History". www.blackhistory.mit.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  6. ^ Laurel, Capitol Technology University 11301 Springfield Road; or 1.800.950.1992, MD 20708 301 369 2800. "Aprille Ericsson-Jackson: Aerospace Engineer, and First African American Woman to Earn PhD's from Two Renowned Institutions". Capitol Technology University. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  7. ^ a b "Read, Read, Read—Learn, Learn, Learn". Library of Congress Information Bulletin. April 2001. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  8. ^ a b "Aprille Ericsson-Jackson". www.nsbp.org. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  9. ^ "13 Black Women in STEM You Should Know!". GoldieBlox. Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  10. ^ a b c "A Trailblazing Aerospace Engineer Gives Back By Inspiring Others". USA Science and Engineering Festival. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  11. ^ "Aprille Joy Ericsson Maniac Lecture". Goddard Earth Science Projects. NASA. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  12. ^ Garner, Rob (2016-03-04). "NASA Scientist Wins Prestigious Washington Award". NASA. Retrieved 2021-06-20.