FAU Alumna Nicole Cummings: Empowering the Next Generation of Female Engineers

Accomplished alumna Nicole Cummings, B.S. ’03, is helping to build one of the engines that powers NASA’s Artemis II rocket — part of a historic mission that will launch next year and take the first woman and first person of color to the moon. She is among only two percent of Black female engineers working in the United States and spends her spare time fueling a more diverse generation of future engineers.

Nicole Cummings Nicole is the deputy program manager at Aerojet Rocketdyne in Jupiter, Florida, where she leads the team currently building the RL10 rocket engine. This engine will power the Exploration Upper Stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1B rocket on the Artemis II mission, sending astronauts farther away from Earth than any previous mission.

“I always say that engineering chose me,” shared Nicole. “I had a teacher in high school who motivated us to get into engineering. At the time, we thought we were just getting into the SECME club for fun and making new friends.”

That same club offered a SECME scholarship to Florida Atlantic University. And that same teacher required her students to fill out the scholarship application. When Nicole’s acceptance letter arrived in the mail, her father, a first-generation immigrant, encouraged her to accept FAU’s scholarship to study engineering, feeling it would provide excellent career opportunities.

Today, Nicole inspires young minds to pursue engineering whenever she has the opportunity. She travels to local schools, sharing her passion about space and engineering with young women. It’s within these classroom settings that Nicole stresses how important it is for women in STEM fields to stimulate interest among girls to pursue science and engineering.

“I believe it is important for children to be exposed to the fun of math and science careers,” said Nicole. “So many careers have math and science as a core element. Most students who have the potential don’t really think they love math and science, and therefore don’t give careers like engineering a chance.”

Nicole has been honored with several recognitions throughout her career, but the one she received 20 years after graduating from FAU holds special meaning. Nicole received the FAU Alumni Association’s 2023 Hall of Fame award — honoring distinguished alumni who demonstrate exceptional service and commitment to their profession and community.

Nicole’s advice to female students: “When you go out in the field, just think about being the best at whatever you do. You belong there!” she stated. “Define who you are through your skills, your drive and most importantly, your impact. Don’t let anyone else define who you are or define your value.”

To learn more about how Florida Atlantic is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of scientists, as well as how Transcend Tomorrow: The Campaign for Florida Atlantic University is working to provide scholarships to propel access to higher education, create a healthier environment, and train more health care workers, visit transcendtomorrow.fau.edu.

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