Headshot of Smith

Sonya Smith, PhD


Dr. Smith obtained her Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from The University of Virginia (UVA) in 1995 and was the first African-American woman to do so.  Dr. Sonya T. Smith joined the Howard University faculty in 1995 and has established an interdisciplinary theoretical and computational research laboratory entitled the Applied Fluids-Thermal Research Laboratory (@FTERLab). She has received support for her research from NSF, NIH, NASA, DOD and industry.

Dr. Smith is President of Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society. She has also a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).  Her memberships in other professional societies include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the American Physical Society-Division of Fluid Dynamics (APS-DFD), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

Dr. Smith is Principal Investigator for the Howard University ADVANCE-IT (HU ADVANCE-IT) award. HU ADVANCE-IT is committed to solving the institutional and national problem of Advancement and Leadership of Women in STEM. This award funded by the National Science Foundation will enable Howard University to develop an innovative and strategic model for institutional transformation that increases the number of female leaders in the STEM disciplines.

Her work for women’s leadership in STEM is both a national and international initiative. Dr. Smith works with the South Africa Department of Science and Technology (DST) on several initiatives that include the Gender Summit 5 held in April 2015.  She also organized the DST/HU ADVANCE-IT Women in STEM Conference held in Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa in October 2015.  A second conference was held in October 2017 at the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine in Washington, DC.

Dr. Smith’s personal goal is to be a mentor and resource to all students and young faculty/professionals, but especially to those underrepresented in STEM.

Research Interest

  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
  • Satellite

NOAA Collaborators

  • Dr. LaToya Miles, Deputy Director of the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division in the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory
  • Albert (Benji) Spencer, Chief Engineer, NOAA National Weather Service