Sonya Smith earned her doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia and was the first African American woman to do so. She joined the Howard University faculty in 1995 and has established an interdisciplinary theoretical and computational research laboratory, the Applied Fluids-Thermal Research Laboratory. She has received support for her research from NSF, NIH, NASA, DOD and industry.
Smith is president of Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society. She is also a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Her memberships in other professional societies include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, the American Society of Engineering Education, the Society of Women Engineers, and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Smith is one of the co-PIs for the Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems and leads it packaging and integration thrust. Called P.O.E.T.S., the ERC attacks the thermal and electrical challenges surrounding mobile electronics and vehicle design as a single system. P.O.E.T.S. enables the manufacture of lighter, more compact and more efficient power electronic systems for electric vehicles, airplanes, construction equipment, handheld tools and other mobile applications
Smith is PI for the Howard University 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.
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.