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 14-15th, 2020 online! Conference activities include keynote speakers, panels, workshops, and the Aerospace Career Fair on Sunday. 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.

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. Since launching its autonomous drone inspection product in April 2017, SkySpecs has safely inspected over 100,000 wind turbine blades - both onshore and offshore - at more than 750 wind farms on 5 continents; more flight hours per airframe than any other commercial drone startup in the world.

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.

Prior to SkySpecs, Ben was a Senior Systems Engineer and graduate of the Engineering Leadership Development Program at the famous Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, CA. While at the Skunk Works, Ben worked on a variety of revolutionary autonomous aircraft projects from conceptual design through flight test. He graduated from the University of Michigan in April 2011 with a BSE in Aerospace Engineering and from the University of Southern California in December 2014 with an MS in Product Development Engineering.

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.