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Meet Wendy, Nigeria’s NASA whizz, who is first black woman to bag PhD in aerospace engineering

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One of Nigeria’s greatest strength — and perhaps weakness — is her ability to make global headlines for birthing some of the most ingenious people to have walked the planet.

Today, on this episode of Nigeria’s talent export is Wendy Okolo, the first black woman to bag a doctorate — not honorary — degree in aerospace engineering, anywhere on the planet.

Born to a family of six in southeastern Nigeria, Okolo says her number one heroes are her sisters — Jennifer and Phyllis — who taught her biology, and other sciences with their day-to-day realities.

Okolo received her B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2010 and 2015 respectively.

During her undergraduate years, she was in the African Student Society at the University of Texas at Arlington. She was also the president of the society of women engineers in the university.

Okolo’s career has taken flight at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

She was only 26 years old when she became the first black woman to obtain a PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington.

INTERNSHIP AT NASA — AND HER IMPOSTOR’S SYNDROME

Okolo won AIAA Awards in 2017

During her undergraduate studies, she interned for two summers with Lockheed Martin working on NASA’s Orion spacecraft, first in the requirements management office in systems engineering and then with the Hatch Mechanisms team in mechanical engineering.

As a graduate student, she worked as a summer researcher from 2010 to 2012 in the Control Design & Analysis Branch at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

She worked with the team that flew the world fastest manned aircraft, which flew from coast to coast in 67 minutes — this normally takes over five hours for some of the fastest jets around.

Okolo said she had to battle impostor’s syndrome when she found out she would be working with such a great team.

“I was like I am sure these guys are so smart, what am I going to bring in,” she said. She went on an error in the code in the systems and she fixed that and “that fixed the impostor syndrome for a while”.

Now, Okolo is an aerospace research engineer at the Ames Research Center, a major NASA research centre in California’s Silicon Valley.

NAMED THE MOST PROMISING ENGR. IN THE US GOVT

Okolo says she was not respected at first — but it is ok to show people who you are.

In 2019, she won the BEYA Global Competitiveness Conference award for the most promising engineer in the United States government.

She encourages young girls to pursue their dreams in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Her previous research has been recognized and funded by the Department of Defense through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship; Zonta International, through the Amelia Earhart Fellowship; and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics through the John Leland Atwood Graduate Fellowship.

Currently, Okolo is a special emphasis programs manager in the Intelligent Systems Division of NASA’s Ames Research Center.

She is working on the System-Wide Safety (SWS) project, and a Space Technology Mission Directorate Early Career Initiative (STMD-ECI) project at the Ames Research Center.

For the SWS project, she led the task of predicting GPS faults in unmanned aerial systems commonly known as drones.

Okolo worked with Langley Research Center in Virginia to investigate flight data and facilitate data exchange across and within NASA centers.

On the STMD-ECI project, she leads the controls team to develop unconventional control techniques for deployable vehicles, to enable precision landing and improve maneuverability during the entry, descent, and landing phases of spaceflight.

The STMD-ECI project is a $2.5 million-dollar project that she proposed and won as part of a six-member early- career scientist team.

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Crime

Court Convicts Former NIMASA DG, Obi over N136million Fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, May 23, 2019, secured the conviction of a former acting Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Callistus Obi. Also convicted was Alu Dimas, an aide to Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General of NIMASA. They were convicted by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi.



The duo were arraigned alongside two companies, Grand Pact Limited and Global Sea Investment, on April 12, 2016 on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, conversion, and money laundering to the tune of N136million (One Hundred and Thirty Six Million Naira).

The prosecution proved that the convicts converted the sum of money, N136million, belonging to the Agency to their personal use on August 5, 2014.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Callistus Nwabueze Obi and Dismas Alu Adoon, on or about the 5th day of August 2014, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: Conversion of the sums of N111, 000, 000.00 (One Hundred and Eleven Million naira) property of NIMASA, knowing that the said sums were proceeds of stealing, and thereby commited an offence.”

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them, thereby leading to their trial.

In the cause of the trial, the prosecution called eight witnesses and tendered several documents, which were admitted in evidence by the court.

At the resumed hearing today, Justice Olatoregun discharged and acquitted the defendants of the charge of conspiracy preferred against them.

The Judge, however, convicted them of conversion and money laundering.

The Judge said:  “The prosecution has proved the charges preferred against you beyond reasonable doubt with evident conversion and money laundering of N136million”.

Justice Olatoregun, however, deferred sentencing to May 28, 2019 and ordered that the convicts be remanded in prison custody.

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Zenith Bank Emerges First Nigerian Bank To Repeatedly Audit Its Carbon Emissions

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Zenith Bank Plc was presented with a Certificate for Greenhouse Gas Auditing by V4 Advisors after a successful completion of the Bank’s Greenhouse Gas Audit for the 2018 Financial Year. The presentation of the certificate and the report of the Auditors was done by V4 Advisors at the Zenith Bank Head Office on May 21, 2019.

The Executive Director, Dr. Temitope Fasoranti, who received the certificate on behalf of the Bank said the Bank started this effort with the 2016 Financial Year and has carried out three greenhouse gas audits to date.  He explained that the Bank understands the relationship between greenhouse gas emission and climate change and appreciates the role it is expected to play towards combating the menace of climate change.

Also speaking on the milestone, the Country Manager, Lynsey Elston highlighted that Zenith Bank is the first Nigerian bank to consecutively report the carbon emissions of their Head Office in Lagos using a certified tool which is built on the internationally recognized “GHG Protocol”. 

She commended the bank for proving its commitment to United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Goal 13, Climate Action, in addition to complying with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.”  In response to her, the Executive Director said the initiative has significantly helped the bank reduce its overall carbon footprints and drive energy efficiency.

V4 Advisors is a UAE-based provider of advisory and consulting solutions on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The firm’s calculation and reporting tool has been reviewed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) for conformance with the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard.

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Lagos Matters

Senate okays bill seeking to upgrade Yabatech to varsity status

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The Senate, on Thursday, passed the City University of Technology (Est, etc) Yaba Bill, 2018 for second reading.

The decision followed a motion by Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) at the plenary presided over by Senate President, Bukola Saraki in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill essentially sought to transform the Yaba College Technology (YabaTech) in Lagos State, to the City University of Technology Yaba.

Leading the debate, Ashafa, who represents Lagos East Senatorial District, argued that if the bill is considered, it would enhance the capability of the institution to achieve its objectives.
”Nigeria’s steady march towards education for all in the shortest possible time has taken a giant leap with the introduction of this bill.

”I am personally excited by the prospect of transforming this polytechnic to a university of technology because it will motivate both students and academic staff.
”It will also upgrade the facilities and enhance it capability to achieve its objectives.
”Similarly, the new university of technology will encourage the advancement of learning and hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction the opportunity of acquiring a higher and liberal education,” he said.

Citing instances, the lawmaker noted that in similar circumstances in the United Kingdom, most of the polytechnics were upgraded to universities.
”If Nigeria has plan to become one of the world’s leading economies as currently being pursued by government, we must be ready to adjust and position our educational institutions so that its products are geared for the technological challenges inherent in such projections,” he said.

According to him, the attainment of university status would definitely enhance the operations of the Yaba Polytechnic and clarify its mission and vision.
Lawmakers, who contributed to the motion, also supported it.

When the motion was put on a voice vote, it was unanimously adopted by the legislators.
Saraki, therefore, referred the bill to Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further legislative action and report back within a week.
Similarly, the Senate also passed a Bill for the Establishment of Federal Polytechnic Iwerekun, Ibeju-Lekki Lagos, sponsored by Ashafa for second reading.

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