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HomecareerWanjiku Chebet Kanjumba: Meet The First Kenyan Scientist-Astronaut 

Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba: Meet The First Kenyan Scientist-Astronaut 

Kenya has produced some of the sharpest brains in the world who end up achieving greatness in their various capacities. From Oscar-award winner Lupita Nyong’o to the first black president of the United States of America (who had deep Kenyan roots) and the late Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai just to name a few.

And now Kenya is proud after it recently produced the first Scientist-Astronaut who graduated from the advanced possum Space Academy in America.

In this article, WoK highlights the story of 25 year old Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba.

Wanjiku’s Education Journey

Wanjiku’s journey began in 2016 when she enrolled for a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, aeronautical/space engineering at the prestigious Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University situated in Chicago, Illinois.

While doing her degree she also enrolled for a minor space studies course in Spaceflight operations at the university. 

After completing her undergraduate and successfully graduating in 2020, Wanjiku didn’t stop there but enrolled for a Master of Science in Aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical/space engineering at the same institution and successfully graduated in December 2021.

At the university, she completed courses in Fluid mechanics, statics, solid mechanics, spacecraft preliminary design, macroeconomics, aerodynamics, engineering materials, space station operations, turbine and rocket engines, satellite, space mechanics, optimal control, adaptive control, computational biomechanics and modern control systems among many other critical subjects.

Licenses and Certifications held by Wanjiku

Some of the licenses and certificates she holds include a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt and Green Belt Certifications from e-MRI, a Remote (Drone) – a small unmanned aircraft systems certification from Federal Aviation Administration that was issued in May 2020.

Data visualization and Cartography (DVAC) certification from Furman University that was issued in December 2020, Trusted Operator Program (TOP) Remote Pilot Certification from AUVSI that was issued in February 2021 and finally, a certificate of Drone and Data Technology (CDDT) Level 1 from Virginia Tech and was issued in February 2021.

Wanjiku’s Skills and Experience

According to her Linked in profile, Wanjiku is skilled in Technical and analytical skills.

This includes Geographic Information System (GIS) operations, Percipient Personal Strengths, Computer-aided Design (CAD), Computer- Aided Engineering (CAE), Finite Element Analysis (FAE), Spacecraft and Satellite design.

She has in the past worked with Tata Africa Holdings (Kenya) as a Mechanical Assembler from January to August 2014, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as an Engineering Assistant lecturer from January to April 2017.

Wanjiku also had a stint at the SouthWest Airlines as a Maintenance and Aircraft Performance engineering intern from January to May 2019 and at STEM 2030 Limited as a Design consultant from July to August 2019

She was a Flight Operations Intern (UAS Project Manager) at Birds Eye Aerial Drones, LLC from May to August 2020 and lastly at Switched Source LLC as an Aerospace Controls Engineer from July 2021 to January 2022. 

Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba has also previously volunteered in organizations and companies such as Give Kids the World Village, Halifax Humane Society, Inc., Kappa Mu Epsilon and AIAA Science and Technology.

She currently works at SPARC (K) – East Africa’s first independent space company, as a Director, Aerospace Engineer and Assistant head of Strategy and Communication.

She is also the co-founder and Chair of Vicillion limited – a technology research and development company that was incorporated in February 2021 and currently has over 30 professionals from the six continents.

Wanjiku’s Achievements and Accomplishments

The 25 year old has published a Biomechanical analysis of the Support Leg during an Instep Soccer Kick with varying hip rotations via optoelectronic motion capture.

She has completed 33 courses on adaptive control of aerospace structures as well as getting her three projects into the 2019 RASC-AL NASA Competition.

She is a member of 11 international honor society organizations and has successfully won 13 awards and honors from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She also became the first Kenyan Scientist-astronaut after graduating from Advanced poSSUM Space Academy in the United States of America.

Challenges during the journey and overcoming them

While speaking to africanews.space, Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba revealed that her journey hasn’t been free from challenges and that she had her own fair share of struggles. She also shared how she was able to overcome the challenges and gave advice to everyone looking up to her.

“Pursuing my education has not been free of obstacles. Studying in the United States is very expensive, and I was supported only by my widowed mother; my father died from cancer when I was 12.

She had to sacrifice a lot to educate me, and there were times when things were challenging when I did not have enough money for food or was not sure I would even graduate. It was not easy, but God has been faithful to us immensely and saw me through my Bachelor’s and Master’s program in Aerospace engineering. I am also working on my own company, aiming to write my name in the sands of time,” revealed Wanjiku.

“If you live with limitations on yourself, you won’t accomplish much, but the world is your oyster if you put no limits. There’s nothing worse than living in regret, so take a chance on yourself; you are capable of a lot more than you think,” she added.