NASA Research Engineer Mahmooda Sultana has been named the 2017 ‘IRAD Innovator of the Year’ by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The organisation funds and manages the breakthrough technological developments that could advance NASA’s goals of scientific advancement, exploration and helping others.
“Mahmooda has distinguished herself as a tenacious, creative thinker, impressing virtually everyone with her technical acumen and drive,” Goddard Chief Technologist Peter Hughes said in a statement.
“In her relatively short time here, she has successfully competed for 10 awards under our IRAD programme, compiling an impressive list of accomplishments, including the creation of advanced sensors for which a patent is pending,” he said.
“Perhaps most notable is her emergence as one of NASA’s experts in nanotechnology. I can only imagine what she’ll do in the future. She embodies the very essence of innovation.”
Sultana’s ‘groundbreaking’ work on nanomaterials and processes to make detectors and device that could have ‘revolutionary’ uses in space, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center said.
Sultana took the lead in developing grapheme based sensors soon after she joined NASA in 2010. Graphene is a one atom thick material made of carbon atoms arranged in tight hexagons and is 200 times stronger than structural steel and highly sensitive and stable at extreme temperatures.
“When I came to NASA Goddard in 2010, no one at the centre was doing substantial work on graphene, but there was a lot of excitement,” Sultana explained.
“Everything was still at a very early stage; people around the world were coming up with new applications of graphene every day. I wanted to explore what graphene had to offer for space applications.”
Sultana and her team are also working on a number of other projects, including collaborations with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT to develop a quantum-dot technology prototype image spectrometer and the manufacture of a multifunctional sensor platform of different materials in collaboration with Northeastern University.
“She is a real go-getter,” said Senior Technologist for Strategic Integration at Goddard’s Office of the Chief Technologist Ted Swanson.
“Mahmooda always has stayed current with new developments. She leverages the expertise of her colleagues, constantly looks for ways to advance the readiness of our technologies, and isn’t afraid to seek vehicles for financial support — the hallmark of a successful innovator.”