Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Michigan

2020 Women in Aerospace Conference


Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics (WAA) is thrilled to present the Elsie MacGill Women in Aerospace Conference! This event is part of WAA's continuous effort to help women and minorities involved in aerospace and related fields expand their personal and professional networks in both an academic and professional setting. In addition to networking opportunities, we hope that this conference will emphasize both the issues and advancements of some of the social and cultural aspects of this field while addressing ways in which to facilitate positive change. Lastly, we hope to present some of the amazing research and emerging technology associated with aerospace sciences and engineering!

The Elsie MacGill Women in Aerospace Conference will be held November 14th, 2020 online! Conference activities include keynote speakers, panels, workshops, and the Aerospace Career Fair throughout the day. There will be a Speed Mentoring session on Saturday evening. The conference is FREE to everyone. We strive to make this conference inclusive and accessable to anyone that would like to attend. This is our second annual conference, following last year's Dawn Seymour Women in Aerospace Conference. More information about Elsie MacGill can be found on the "About Elsie" tab.

Thank you so much to our donors and the University of Michigan for your help in making this event possible!

Registration for the Elsie MacGill Women in Aerospace Conference is now open!

Confirmed Speakers

Clayton Turner

Clayton Turner is the Director of NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. He leads a diverse group of civil servant and contractor scientists, researchers, engineers and support staff, who work to make revolutionary improvements to aviation, expand understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, develop new technologies for space exploration, and contribute to NASA’s broader exploration mission.

Turner has served the agency for more than 29 years. He has held several roles at NASA Langley, including systems engineer, Chief Engineer, Engineering Director, Associate Center Director, and Deputy Center Director.

After graduation from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1990, Turner began his career with NASA serving as a design engineer with the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment project, where he spearheaded development of the laser aligning, bore-sight limit system.

Through his career, he has worked on many projects for the Agency including the Earth Science Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation Project; the Earth observing technology development Gas and Aerosol Monitoring Sensorcraft Project; the materials technology development Gas Permeable Polymer Materials Project; the Space Shuttle Program Return-to-Flight; the flight test of the Ares 1-X rocket; the flight test of the Orion Launch Abort System; and the entry, decent and landing segment of the Mars Science Laboratory.

Prior to joining NASA, Turner was the chief engineer at Dynamic Recording Studio in Rochester, New York, where he was responsible for technical and artistic recording of audio and video content spanning multiple musical and instructional styles.

Turner lives in Hampton, Virginia, with his wife and has two sons. He is active in community outreach coaching youth sports and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

Amanda Simpson

Amanda Simpson, Vice President, Research and Technology (R&T) at Airbus Americas, is responsible for establishing the strategic direction and funding opportunities for partnerships with scientific and research communities in North America. She holds a Master of Science degree in Engineering from California State University, Northridge and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Arizona. She is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where she served on the Systems Engineering Technical Committee.

Paula Bontempi

Dr. Paula Bontempi has been a biological oceanographer for over 25 years. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography. She moved from the faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Marine Science to NASA Headquarters in 2003. She spent over 16 years as the program manager for Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry at NASA Headquarters, before becoming the Earth Science Division's Acting Deputy Director in 2019. She is Program Scientist for the MODIS instrument, Suomi NPP and PACE missions, and the GLIMR instrument. She has taught the Earth Science module of NASA's astronaut training class. In 2019 she received the biennially-awarded AGU Ocean Sciences award that recognizes outstanding leadership or service to the ocean sciences, and was elected a Fellow of The Oceanography Society in 2019 for outstanding and sustained contributions to oceanography and educating and mentoring students and early career scientists. She moves to a new position in August 2020 as the Dean for the Graduate School of Oceanogrphy at the University of Rhode Island.

Nikole Collins-Puri

Nikole Collins-Puri is a social justice visionary, strategist, advocate and mentor who has committed her life to unleashing the potential of untapped communities. She’s the CEO of Techbridge Girls, a nonprofit organization that excites, educates and equips girls from low-income communities through STEM, empowering them to pursue STEM careers and achieve economic mobility and financial security as adults.

Nikole is a master collaborator who is able to leverage her rich professional experiences in tech, philanthropy and education to bring diverse groups of stakeholders together to urge social change in our communities. She’s committed to removing barriers and increasing access and opportunities for all those who are often left behind but essential to the success and growth of our society.

Prior to Techbridge Girls, Nikole worked at AT&T where she spearheaded their diversity and inclusion efforts, at the College Board where she advised states on their college completion strategy for Black and Latinx students, and at the Women’s Foundation of California where she advanced women’s economic security by supporting and awarding grants to visionary grassroots organizations.

Nikole holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of South Florida and MPA from City University of New York.

Julia Chu

Julia Chu is the Program Management Director for Enterprise Performance within Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (LMMFC). In this role, she is responsible for program performance of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Line of Business; as well as for Affordability and Cost Competitiveness initiatives across LMMFC.

Julia joined Lockheed Martin after graduation and has worked in five Business Areas across the company. She has supported multiple programs for the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Julia has held various Program Management and Engineering roles on programs including Space Shuttle, Aerial Common Sensor, Orion, and Commercial Nuclear Systems.

Julia has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University.

Confirmed Panelists

"Navigating your Early Career"

Martha Neubauer

Martha Neubauer is a Senior Analyst at AeroDynamic Advisory, where she conducts comprehensive market research for a broad range of aerospace engagements. Through developing a strategy for composite recycling during her internship at Boeing, Martha developed a passion for aerospace. Martha then joined Boeing full-time through their Engineering Career Foundation Program and gained experience in all stages of the product life cycle, spanning both commercial and defense. While at Boeing, Martha built skills in manufacturing operations, market analysis, customer relations, interiors configuration, and new airplane development. In her free time she enjoys trying new recipes and playing with her dog, Rosco.

Richa Jolly

Richa Jolly is a Systems Engineer at General Atomics in San Diego, working on various programs, such as the SkyGuardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (MQ-9B) Ground Control System. While UAV payload capabilities are growing to collect more and more sensor data, the ground consoles need to provide the end-user the advanced tools that enable the operators to make sense of the data and exploit it for their particular needs. Richa’s work ensures that the requirements, architecture, integration, and test of these ground systems meet the needs of the customers. Prior to working at General Atomics, Richa Jolly was a Manager in Systems Engineering at Northrop Grumman, working on the Global Hawk UAV and variants for international customers like NATO. Prior to Northrop, Richa worked at The Aerospace Corporation on Space Systems for the USAF. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a BSE in Aerospace Engineering in 2005 and has an MSE from University of Southern California in Systems Architecture and Engineering.

Ben Marchionna

Ben is currently the Director of Global Operations at SkySpecs, a venture-backed (Series C) commercial drone startup in Ann Arbor, MI focused on at-scale autonomous robotics technologies, machine learning, and data analytics in the wind energy industry. In his current role, Ben is honored to lead a stellar team of 150+ pilots, engineers, technicians, analysts, and operations specialists around the world in the planning, execution, and global scaling of SkySpecs programs and products - encompassing Field Operations, Flight Operations, Technical Operations, Data Operations, and Special Projects. Outside of work, Ben serves on the Industry Advisory Board of the University of Michigan's Department of Aerospace Engineering. Ben was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) in 2015, making him the youngest Director in AIAA's 85-year history. He has also served as Vice President of the nonprofit Los Angeles County Air Show, Inc.

Jessica Horaney

Jessica Horaney leads the Achieving Competitive Excellence for Engineering (A4E) initiative at Collins Aerospace. She is responsible for developing strategic initiatives, leads the A4E architecture and framework development, and facilitation of special projects in order to improve execution and create a culture of Continuous Improvement across the Collins Aerospace engineering organizations. Jessica has held various engineering and leadership roles of increasing responsibility in both the Avionics and Mission Systems organizations, where she has experience in engineering leadership and technical project management in the Navigation, Communication, Flight Management Systems, and Avionics Systems engineering teams. When not working, Jessica is a passionate volunteer and enjoys different hobbies with her husband, three kids, and friends.

Tess Hatch

Tess is a Vice President at Bessemer Venture Partners office fostering entrepreneurship of frontier technology, specifically the commercialization of space, drones, autonomous vehicles, and the future of agriculture and food technology. She wants to invest in technology and people who believe as strongly as she does that frontier technology will develop solutions for societal problems. Tess earned a Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering from Stanford. She went on to work for Boeing and then SpaceX where she worked with the government on integrating its payloads with the Falcon9 rocket. Tess was recently named Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Venture Capital. Tess is passionate about space exploration and imagines a future where we all travel to space. She hopes to one day take a trip herself.

"How to Land the Dream Job"

Valerie Chen

Valerie Chen graduated from the University of Michigan with a BSME ’17, MSME ’18, and a minor in computer science. While at the University of Michigan, she was on the Michigan Baja Racing team and worked in the Michigan eXploration Laboratory. After completing a one-year new graduate rotation program at Blue Origin, she now works as a Fluid Systems Engineer on the second stage of Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle.

Rosalind Duma

Rosalind is a Mechanical Engineer for Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, CO. Currently, she is supporting satellite structure and thermal product design for Military Space. Prior to Rosalind’s current role, she worked at Skunk Works in Palmdale, CA as an airframe designer on X-59, NASA’s quiet supersonic demonstrator. She was one of two composite designers for the program, and is excited for its first flight in the next few years. Rosalind is currently working on her MSE in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado – Boulder and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2018 with a BSE in Aerospace Engineering. You probably saw her in the FXB or the Wilson Center “working on M-Fly stuff”.

Rebecca Stoner

Sara Spangelo

Dr. Sara Spangelo is the co-founder and CEO of Swarm, the company that is developing the world's lowest-cost global communications network with breakthrough satellite technology and ground hardware for customers in remote locations. Before starting Swarm, Sara worked on small satellites and autonomous aircraft at the University of Michigan and was a lead systems engineer at both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and Google X. Her expertise is in modeling and optimizing satellite constellations to maximize impact and business opportunities. Sara holds a PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan and in 2017 was a Top 32 Canadian astronaut candidate.

Dawn Charleston

Dawn Charleston is currently the Director, Operations responsible for SIOP and Operational Excellence across the Interiors business in Winston Salem, NC. Utilizing lean principles and industry standards for material management, Dawn leads efforts to develop, standardize and optimize operational processes that will support the business in the management of material across the product life cycle. Dawn began her career with Collins Aerospace in July 2012 and has held a variety of technical leadership roles in the areas of: Product Cost Reduction, Program Quality Assurance, Operations Quality and Engineering Product Quality. Prior to joining Collins Aerospace, Dawn worked in a number of roles of increasing responsibility for other Aerospace and Defense Companies across operations and engineering. Positions ranging from Strategic Program Development Manager at ITT Space System to Mechanical Engineering Design Manager at Rockwell Collins Simulation and Test Solutions. Dawn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from Rochester Institute of Technology. Dawn holds a Six Sigma Green Belt certification and is on track to become an ACE practitioner within Raytheon Technologies.