marilyn smith
Marilyn Smith
Professor, Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering
Director, Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence

Marilyn Smith


The Early Days:

“I was a first-year student in 1977 and graduated in 1982. When I arrived, there were only about seven women studying aerospace engineering in a class of about 100 students. There were jokes about us being here just to get our ‘MRS’ degree. It hurt when applying for scholarships because men didn’t believe we were serious about our studies. Being a first-generation scholar and having worked my way through my undergraduate degree as a coop student, I entered industry. I earned a master’s degree in 1985, then a Ph.D. in 1994, all while working as a full-time engineer. I joined the academic faculty in 1997 as the first woman faculty member in the AE school. The school chair, Bob Loewy, took a chance on me, but it was clear that some faculty and students didn’t want me here and didn’t think I could succeed. But I have a personality trait, some may call it a flaw, that if you tell me I can’t do something, my response is ‘watch me.’ When dealing with bias and discrimination, that response has served me well.”

Proudest Achievements:

“I apply for awards, not because I’m interested in accolades, but to be a role model and to show young women in aerospace that they can be a success in the face of continuing bias even in 2022. I am most proud that my research has been integrated by the U.S. military for rotorcraft design and analysis. If my research has helped to save even one U.S. soldier’s life, then I count my career a success. That’s the reason I became an engineer.”

Advice for Next Generation:

“Don’t give up. When you are criticized or when somebody says you can’t do something because you are a woman, adopt the ‘watch me’ attitude, and rock that boat!”

marilyn smith coop at lockheed 1979
Marilyn Smith coop at lockheed 1979


Celebrating 70 years of Women at Tech