Mahmooda Sultana, a Bangladeshi born NASA scientist has recently been awarded the IRAD Innovator of the Year from NASA for her exceptional work advancing nanomaterials and processes to create small, potentially revolutionary detectors and devices for use in space.
Mahmooda immigrated to California from Bangladesh with her family as a teen and earned a PhD in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. She became a lead in the development of graphene-based censors within a few months of joining NASA.
According to Mahmooda, enough work wasn’t being done with graphene when she joined NASA Goddard in 2010, and this was field she was curious about and wanted to look into. Graphene, which is just one atom thick and composed of carbon atoms arranged in tightly bound hexagons best visualized as atomic-scale chicken wire, is 200 times stronger than structural steel and highly sensitive and stable at extreme temperatures.
She has successfully competed for 10 awards under IRAD program, compiling an impressive list of accomplishments. Currently, Mahmooda and her team are collaborating with MIT to develop a prototype imaging spectrometer. In another collaboration, she and her team are experimenting with Boston’s Northeastern University-created Nanoscale Offset Printing System to manufacture a multifunctional sensor platform.
Sultana now represents NASA on national and regional nanotech councils and has received numerous NASA awards and honours. She also has shown her knack for management, recently having been named as the associate branch head of Goddard’s Instrument Systems Branch — a position that will allow her to apply her detector expertise to the creation of next-generation instruments and missions.
Mahmooda Sultana is one of the hundreds of Bangladeshis who have been excelling on the global platform through sheer intelligence and talent. It’s indicative of how much our country’s youth has to offer, and should be an eye-opener for the authorities to be more open to introducing more diverse subject fields in the country’s education system.