Aprille Joy Ericsson
Honorary Degree Recipient: Doctor of Science
Rutgers is proud to bestow upon Aprille Joy Ericsson an honorary doctor of science degree. The first person of color to receive the Washington Award from the Western Society of Engineers, the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University, and the first African American woman civil servant to earn an engineering Ph.D. at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Ericsson currently serves as New Business lead for the Instrument Systems and Technology Division at NASA. During her almost 30-year tenure with NASA, Ericsson has worked as an aerospace engineer, technologist, project and program manager, and executive. Ericsson has taught at Howard University, the University of Maryland, and Bowie State University. She has been named one of the top 50 minority women working in science and engineering fields by the National Technical Association and was ranked 8 of 20 on the 2016 list of the Most Powerful Women Engineers by Business Insider. Ericsson is the 2022 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Ralph Coates Roe Medal awardee, the highest award bestowed by ASME.
Ericsson was born in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating high school with honors, Ericsson attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical/astronautical engineering. During her time there, she was involved in several aerospace research projects and led the research for Manned Mars Mission crew systems for interplanetary vehicles for her senior project.
Ericsson earned her master of engineering and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where her research focused on developing practical design procedures for future orbiting space structures, like the Space Station. She received several prestigious internships, fellowships, and grants, including the NASA GSFC Summer Institute for Engineering and Computer Applications; NASA/Howard University Center for Studies of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres; Wright Patterson Air Force Laboratories; NASA DC Space Grant Consortium; and Howard University Terminal Dissertation Fellowships.
At NASA, Ericsson has made noteworthy contributions in the field of aerospace engineering. As an attitude control systems specialist, her satellite missions have included projects such as the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer, Tropical Rain Forest Measurement Mission, and Wilkerson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. Following those assignments, Ericsson was a program executive for Earth Science and a business executive for Space Science at NASA headquarters. She returned to NASA GSFC for a long tenure as an instrument project manager, where she led spaceflight instrument teams and proposal developments for instruments ranging from $15M to $500M, including a proposed $250M Astrophysics mid-sized Class Explorer, called STAR-X. Prior, Ericsson served as the NASA GSFC’s program manager for Small Business and Innovative Research in the Innovative Technology Partnerships office; was the deputy to the chief technologist for the Engineering and Technology Directorate; and was acting associate chief technologist of the Instrument Systems and Technology Division.
Ericsson has been an outstanding proponent of underrepresented groups in STEM fields, actively serving as a mentor to countless young women and minorities and supporting them with a curated pipeline of scholarship, grant, fellowship, and employment opportunities. She is the chair of the Advisory Council of Howard University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, serves as co-founding advisor to the National Society of Black Engineers’ Dynamic Mathematical Visionaries Chapter in the DMV region, is a board member of MIT’s Industry Advisory Council for Minority Education and a former member of the Advisory Council of Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Her many accolades include the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Ralph Coates Roe Medal; Medgar Evers College Presidential Citation; Tau Beta Pi Alumni of Distinction; Western Society of Engineers Washington Award; Women’s Network’s Top 18 Women Who Will Change the World; National Technical Association’s Women in Science and Engineering Award for Engineering Achievement; Black Engineers Award Conference Special Recognition Award; and several NASA GSFC Honor Awards.