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2021 Katherine Johnson Women in Aerospace Conference

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WAA@UM presents... the third annual conference hosted by WAA, celebrating the past and future achievements of women and minorities in aerospace!

Registration for the 2021 Women in Aerospace conference is here!

Register now

Join us on October 23rd and 24th from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm for two days of speakers, panels, tech talks, and networking. This event is free for anyone to attend, including college and high school students, professionals, and anyone who loves things that fly! The conference will include speaking events and activities focused on professional and academic growth, technical innovation, and diversity, as well as mentorship and career opportunities. The conference is completely run and organized by students at the University of Michigan as an initiative by Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics (WAA). WAA proudly hosted conferences in 2019 and 2020, and we are thrilled to continue our work of empowering young women and minorities to participate in the aviation and space fields. We aim to provide networking opportunities for all of our conference attendees, while celebrating some truly talented speakers and panelists as they share their experience in the aerospace enterprise. We hope you'll join us for this year's conference!

Note: Due to changing COVID guidelines, we have not made final decisions on the format of the conference. For now, we are offering limited in-person tickets, as well as virtual tickets. Stay tuned for updates!

**Please only reserve one ticket under your name. Any additional tickets should be reserved under the additional person's name and e-mail.**

Questions? E-mail waaconference@umich.edu


This Year's Speakers


Uma Subramanian

Uma Subramanian is the CEO of Aero Technologies, a next generation premium air carrier for the experience economy. Uma joined Aero in March 2019, and in just 12 months built an air carrier with operations in the US and Europe.

In its first summer of operation, Aero was gross margin positive, despite the global pandemic.In addition to her work at Aero, Uma is a thought leader in next generation aviation, especially urban air mobility. She sits on the advisory board of Volocopter GMBH and is a venture advisor to UP Partners, a pioneering urban air mobility fund.

Prior to Aero, Uma was the founding CEO of Voom.Flights, an Airbus company, which built the world’s first urban air mobility network with helicopters, and thus laid the foundation for electric VTOL networks In three years, Voom.Flights launched in São Paulo and Mexico City, and flew thousands of passengers on intracity routes. By way of background, Uma holds an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Uma is passionate about aerospace and has spent the majority of her career working in the industry: first on the space program at Northrop Grumman, then in M&A at Rolls Royce and Ultra Electronics, and most recently at Airbus. Uma believes that this is an extraordinary time in aviation and looks forward to building the future of flight.




Sally Bane

Sally Bane is an Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering (by courtesy) at Purdue University. She received her BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia and her MS and PhD in Aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Bane’s research interests span a broad range of problems in plasmas, high-speed flows, and combustion. She is a founding member of Purdue’s Cold Plasmas Preeminent Team, an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty studying nonequilibrium plasmas for a wide range of engineering and scientific applications. Dr. Bane’s plasma research focuses on ultra-fast plasma spectroscopy, plasma-induced flow diagnostics, and plasma flow and combustion control. She received an AFOSR Young Investigator award to study high-pressure plasma-assisted combustion and continues to explore ways to use plasma-based actuators to control high-speed aerodynamic flows and turbulent combustion. Dr. Bane is also involved in hypersonics research at Purdue, focusing on non-intrusive optical diagnostics for accurate measurements of hypersonic flow characteristics and active control of shock waves and compressible turbulence. As a faculty member, Dr. Bane teaches undergraduate fluid mechanics and aerodynamics laboratory classes and a graduate-level aerodynamics course. She is also part of an initiative to develop “virtual labs” to enhance students’ hands-on experiences in the fluid mechanics laboratory.




Grace Gao

Grace X. Gao is an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. She leads the Navigation and Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory (NAV Lab). Before joining Stanford University, she was faculty at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She obtained her Ph.D. degree at Stanford University. Her research is on robust and secure perception, localization and navigation with applications to manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomous driving cars, robotics and internet of things.

Prof. Gao has won a number of awards, including the NSF CAREER Award, the Institute of Navigation Early Achievement Award and the RTCA William E. Jackson Award. She received the Distinguished Promotion Award from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has won Best Paper/Presentation of the Session Awards 15 times at ION GNSS+ conferences. She received the Dean's Award for Excellence in Research from the College of Engineering, University of Illinois. For her teaching, Prof. Gao has been on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students at University of Illinois multiple times. She won the College of Engineering Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence, the Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, and AIAA Illinois Chapter’s Teacher of the Year.




Ella Atkins

Dr. Atkins is a Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan and Director of the Autonomous Aerospace Systems (A2Sys) Lab. Dr. Atkins holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan. She previously served on the Aerospace Engineering faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. Prof. Atkins is an AIAA Fellow, IEEE Senior Member, and a Private and Part 107 pilot. She served on the National Academy’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) (2011-2015 term), was a member of the Institute for Defense Analysis Defense Science Studies (DSSG) Group (2012-2013), and has served on several National Academy study committees, most recently an Advanced Aerial Mobility or Urban Air Mobility (UAM) committee. Dr Atkins also holds a courtesy faculty position in the EECS Department and is Associate Director for the University of Michigan Robotics Institute.




Confirmed Panelists

"How to be an Astronaut"

Jeffrey Hoffman

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman is a professor in MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. He received a BA in Astronomy (summa cum laude) from Amherst College (1966); a PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard University (1971); and an MSc in Materials Science from Rice University (1988). As a NASA astronaut (1978-1997) he made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log 1000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle. Dr. Hoffman was Payload Commander of STS-46, the first flight of the US-Italian Tethered Satellite System. He has performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history (STS 51D; April, 1985) and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope (STS 61; December, 1993). As the Astronaut Office representative for EVA, he helped develop and carry out tests of advanced high-pressure space suit designs and of new tools and procedures needed for the assembly of the International Space Station. Following his astronaut career, Dr. Hoffman spent four years as NASA’s European Representative, working at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. In August 2001, Dr. Hoffman joined the MIT faculty, where he teaches courses on space operations and space systems design. His primary research interests are in improving the technology of space suits and designing innovative space systems for human and robotic space exploration. Dr. Hoffman is director of the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, responsible for space-related educational activities. He is Deputy Principal Investigator of an experiment on NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which for the first time has produced oxygen from extraterrestrial material, a critical step in the future of human space exploration. In 2007, Dr. Hoffman was elected to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Kathy Clark

Dr. Clark is currently the Associate Chair of the Department of Movement Science in the School of Kinesiology here at UM. She is also an Adjunct Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. However, these are both “retirement jobs” as she spent most of her career at NASA headquarters, first as the International Space Station (ISS) Senior Scientist and then as the Chief Scientist for Human Space Flight. She worked with scientists from all over the world to communicate research needs and identify areas for international collaboration. Her particular interest was in “Human Factors”, all the elements necessary for the health, safety, and efficiency of crews in space. One of the primary tasks was to identify the problems associated with long-duration space flight and use the ISS to find solutions to those problems. These include biological countermeasures for the undesirable physical changes as well as the psychological issues that may occur in response to the closed, dangerous environments while traveling in space or living on other planets. One result of this work was a talk she gave regularly on the speakers’ circuit called, “The 55 Reasons We Can’t Go.”

Marsha Ivins

In 2010 Marsha Ivins retired from NASA after a 37 year career as an engineer and astronaut. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a BS in Aerospace Engineering, Marsha began her employment with the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX in 1974, working in human factors and man-machine engineering on the development of Orbiter cockpit layout, displays and controls, and the Head-Up Display. In 1980 Marsha was assigned as a flight engineer on the Shuttle Training Aircraft and as a pilot on the NASA administrative aircraft. She holds a multi-engine Airline Transport Pilot License with Gulfstream-1 type rating, single engine airplane, land, sea, and glider commercial licenses, and airplane, instrument, and glider flight instructor ratings. She has logged over 7000 hours in civilian and NASA aircraft. Marsha was selected as an astronaut in the class of 1984 as a Mission Specialist. A veteran of five space flights, (STS-32 in 1990, STS-46 in 1992, STS-62 in 1994, STS-81 in 1997, and STS-98 in 2001); she has logged over 1,318 hours in space. During her tenure in the Astronaut Office, Marsha supported the Space Shuttle and Space Station programs in all areas of operational crew interface, and was the Astronaut Office expert in flight crew equipment, habitability, imagery, and stowage. In her last 4 years with the agency, Marsha led the Astronaut Office team supporting the Constellation Program and the Commercial Crew Development initiative. Today Marsha works as an independent engineering consultant.




"How to Land the Dream Job"

Molly Jones

Molly Jones completed her bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan in 2011. Upon graduation, she joined Pratt and Whitney, a Raytheon Technologies company that designs and manufactures world-renowned commercial and military aircraft engines. While employed at Pratt and Whitney, Molly earned her Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut in 2014. Over her 10 years at Pratt & Whitney, Molly has held roles in multiple engineering disciplines including structures engineering, design integration, and systems integration. While executing those roles, Molly has also had the opportunity to work on most of the varied hardware and systems within the engine on both military and commercial configurations. Molly currently leads a multi-discipline engineering team focused on the engineering design and development of engine external support hardware. Throughout her career, Molly has managed numerous complex engineering challenges that have allowed her to develop a unique skillset and leadership style. She is excited to share her experiences and reflections through this panel discussion.

Frankie Adair

Frankie Adair is the Site Executive for the Forest Consolidated Manufacturing Center (CMC). She leads a site of 970 employees and is responsible for production on a broad portfolio of products including airborne active electronically scanned array fire control radars, airborne early warning surveillance systems, next generation jammers, advanced airborne sensors, terrain following radars, and decoy systems. Adair has over 15 years of operations and engineering experience with Raytheon Technologies. Her most recent assignment was Director of Operations for the Integrated Communications Systems (ICS) mission area. Adair holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mississippi State University.

Trisha Donajkowski

Trisha Donajkowski attended the University of Michigan and received a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Master’s degree in Space Systems Engineering in 2008. She has been working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since graduation, with a focus on instrument integration and test, technology development, and is currently the group supervisor for the Instrument System Engineering group.