Dr. Aprille Ericsson

Dr. Ericsson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963 and raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Living in one of the Roosevelt House projects on Dekalb Avenue she was bussed to P.S. 199 elementary school and then attended Marine Park Junior High School, where she scored in the 90’s on all of her regent and citywide exams. In junior high she won second place in the science fair, played on the girl’s basketball team and was a member of the science club, honors club and school band. 

Although Aprille passed all entrance exams for New York’s technical high schools, she chose to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to live with her grandparents and attend the Cambridge School of Weston. In high school she participated in both citywide and intramural softball and basketball leagues, while earning high scholastic honors. She was also accepted into the rigorous academic enrichment program, UNITE (now known as the Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Science or MITE.) 

Dr. Aprille Ericcson graduated high school with top honors and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she was involved in several research projects with the applied Physics Laboratory that included the development of a fiber optic laser gyroscope, and the creation of a database for EVA neutral buoyancy data calculated at the NASA Johnson Space Center. 

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical/ Astronautical Engineering at MIT, Dr. Ericcson attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. She became the first African- American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Howard University and the first female African-American to receive a doctorate in engineering from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 

Discussing her internship at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center during school, Dr. Ericcson explained how she was offered a full time position there after obtaining her Ph.D., “That’s how I did it. Once you get your foot in the door and meet people, you can show them that you are capable of doing the type of work that’s done here.” 

Her many honors include: The Women’s Network, Top 18 Women Who Will Change the World; Women in Science and Engineering for Engineering Achievement; National Technical Association, Top 50 Minority Women in Science and Engineering, 1996-97; NASA representative to the White House; and most recently in 2016, the Prestigious Washington Award. 

Despite the disappointment of not becoming an astronaut because of asthma and a knee injury, Dr. Aprille Ericcson has had an illustrious career as an aerospace engineer at NASA Goddard and is currently the Goddard manager of a federal program enabling small businesses, in collaboration with universities, to compete for technological opportunities that solve R&D challenges.