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Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Contributions to Mobility

Posted: May 25, 2023

SAE International knows our industry thrives through collaboration and contributions from a diverse group of professionals. That has been true throughout the course of history, and in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month, we’re recognizing the critical role AAPI professionals have played in advancing our industry.


Wong Tsu – Aviation Pioneer


Commercial aviation could look very different today if not for Wong Tsu. After immigrating from China to study at MIT, Wong was hired as Boeing’s first aeronautical engineer, where he was a crucial part of designing the company’s first commercially successful plane, the Boeing Model C, of which the U.S. Navy bough more than 50. Wong brought his expertise to wind tunnel testing at Boeing, and his efforts were credited to helping the company take off. 

After about 10 months with Boeing, Wong moved back to China where he founded China’s first airplane factory. A permanent exhibit on Wong—including lecture notes from his time as a professor at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan—is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.


Norman Mineta—Groundbreaking Policy Maker 

AAPI Heritage Month might not even exist without Norman Mineta, long-time U.S. politician and eventual Secretary of Transportation and Founder of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Mineta began his career in politics after his family had been forcibly removed from their homes and were held in internment camp when he was just a boy. As a member of Congress, he made many strides toward getting an apology and compensation for Japanese Americans who were forced into these camps, and in 1977, Mineta asked President Jimmy Carter to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Carter declared a recognition week which became a month-long observation in 1990.

Mineta helped advance hundreds of bills for transportation improvement during his 21-year tenure as a congressman. As Mineta’s political career continued, he became the first Asian American member of a presidential cabinet under Bill Clinton and stayed on with the Bush Administration as Secretary of Transportation from 2001-2006, where he became the longest-serving Secretary in the history of the Department of Transportation. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda, Mineta guided the creation of the TSA.


Margaret Wu – Fuels and Lubricants Innovator 

Synthetic lubricants may seem commonplace now, but that wasn’t always the case. Margaret Wu’s innovation in how automobile and industrial lubricants are designed revolutionized the field.

Wu was born and raised in Taiwan and received her bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering at the National Taipai University of Technology before coming to the United States where she achieved a doctorate in physical organic chemistry at the University of Rochester. Following graduation, Wu joined the ExxonMobil Research team, where she was the first woman with advanced degrees to work in their touted Edison, New Jersey, facility.

Wu’s work with Exxon secured her authorship of more than 100 U.S. patents and lead to a breakthrough in synthetic lubricants. Changes to the lubricant’s molecular composition created an oil with improved lubricating properties, thus enhancing engine performance while reducing oil waste. Wu later became the first woman named senior scientific adviser for Exxonmobil—the highest technical rank in the company—and has since been inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and National Inventors Hall of Fame.


We thank these pioneers and the community of AAPI engineers for their contributions to the field and celebrate the strides we can achieve when we lift up diverse voices.