THE YCEO: Meet the First Black Woman to Ever Earn A Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Michigan - YCEO Africa

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THE YCEO: Meet the First Black Woman to Ever Earn A Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Michigan

At the age of 27, Blavity reports that Ciara Sivels has made history for herself and for all black women, being the first black woman to earn a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan. Part of the significance of her earning this degree here is that the University of Michigan’s nuclear engineering program is considered to be the top in the whole country.

A native of Chesapeake, Virginia, Sivels successfully presented her thesis on “Development of an Advanced Radioxenon Detector for Nuclear Explosion Monitoring,” back in October, but notably, she wasn’t always interested in pursuing a career in the sciences. When she graduated from high school, her original goal was to try and work in culinary arts, and it wouldn’t be until her teacher suggested STEM as a path that she would find her own passion for engineering.

“I remember the teacher from that class saying, ‘Oh, you’re really smart, you should think about doing something other than culinary,’” she shared in an interview with Huffington Post. “So that’s kinda how I switched over into engineering and eventually ended up at MIT and ended up in the nuclear program.” Someone who also gave her support along the way was Dr. Sara Pozzi, the academic advisor for her thesis.

“This project was initiated by Ciara and represents a significant advance in nuclear explosion monitoring,” she told Huffington Post. Pozzi explained that representation matters, especially with the lack of diversity in science. Sivels also understands the importance of trying to get more black women involved in STEM.

“My two big things are representation and exposure,” Sivel’s shared. “I feel like my path could have been a lot easier if I would’ve been exposed to things at a different time. I still feel like exposure is key, and representation also helps because you have people that look like you that can help pull you up when you’re failing.” Her next plan is to move to Baltimore and work in the physics lab at Johns Hopkins University.

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